CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The old CBS Evening News show watched by millions of American when Walter Cronkie was in the anchor chair always closed the nightly broadcast with his trademark signoff, "And that's the way it is . . " Cronkite was gone -- probably on holiday -- when a story appeared on the network's national newscast two days after Christmas 1971. Charles Collingwood was subbing 36 years ago.
Collingwood introduced a piece about a Vietnam vet from a small town in Kansas. He had come home to a nation divided about the war in Southeast Asia.
The vet told CBS Correspondent Morton Dean he was spit upon in Seattle, and Dean put it on the air for millions to see. The story ran for nearly six minutes, a huge chunk of airtime in a 20-minute news window. The Monday, December 27, 1971, broadcast is in the Television News Archive at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. A summary of the story from the archive is HERE.
Why bring this up now? In recent days, some people have contended reports of such spitting incidents were urban myths. They say the myth seems to have started in the early 1980s, perhaps around the time of Sylvester Stallone's Rambo movie. They suggest that the recollections of spitting incidents are fabrications, or false memories.
Much of what they say is based upon the work of a professor at the College of the Holy Cross. In 1999 (see post immediately below) Jerry Lembcke authored a book based on his research that shows spitting incidents seem to be absent from media accounts during the years the Vietnam War was being fought.
But the newscast in the Vanderbilt archives appears to be clearly at odds with Lembcke's urban myth thesis. Ohio blogger Tom Blumer at Bizzyblog.com posted the archive's abstract about the 1971 newscast segment Sunday. (This blog was trying without success to track down the subject of the story, a medic who was one of 2.5 million Vietnam vets at the time of the 1971 CBS report.)
The medic who was the subject of the story went back to college from a small community in rural Kansas. He was described as a hero.
Let's all hope that life has gone well for him.