Shifty Powers and Walter Cronkite – Farewell to Two American Heroes

Since Michael Jackson died on June 25th, the news has dedicated hours of broadcast time to his life, his death, his children, his addictions, and his quirks.

During 2009 more than 100 American servicemen have been killed in action in Iraq, with more than 4300 since the conflict started.

Silently on the 17th of June another true American hero died.

Darrell “Shifty” Powers, Easy Company, 2/506, 101st Airborne

General Douglas McArthur once said “old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away.” Darrell “Shifty” Powers is one of those soldiers, whom we really didn’t know, never knew his sacrifices or contributions to America, and did not even acknowledge him in death.

Shifty Powers Shifty Powers volunteered for the Army at 17, shortly after hearing news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Powers joined the paratroops of the 101st Airborne at the young age of 18. By the time of the allied attack on D-Day, Powers had already distinguished himself as a warrior, and had worked his way to the non-commissioned officer rank of Staff Sergeant.

Staff Sergeant Darrell Powers, one of hundreds of paratroopers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, jumped into Normandy on June 6th, 1944. He eventually became part of the famed “Easy” Company, portrayed in the HBO serial “Band of Brothers,” originally screened in 2001. Powers character was played by Peter Youngblood Hills, and Powers himself gave interviews throughout the series to ensure viewers understood that the series was an honest attempt at representing the horror, bravery, and even humanity of war.

shofty3Shifty Powers also participated in Operation Market Garden, freeing the Netherlands from German occupation. He ended the war supporting the liberation of concentration camps, and returned to the US following recuperation from injuries suffered at the point of discharge.

A veteran of every battle Easy Company fought, Powers left the Army with many impressive awards, including a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, one of the highest awards for valor received by soldiers in combat. He was one of a million brave Americans who faced death, serving without remorse to ensure the American people would prevail in a war with countries determined to bring harm to our shores.

(Tri-Cities News) by ( LMcClain ) on July 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm

“I just learned today of SGT Powers’ passing.  As a veteran myself, I can only imagine the sacrifices he, and the other men of Easy company made.  My eyes filled with tears as I read the story.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.  We have lost a TRUE American hero and yet another member of the greatest generation.  Thank you SGT Powers, you will truly be missed.”

Shifty Powers was not only a soldier, he was a father, a machinist, and an advocate for the rights of soldiers – both American and his former enemies. We must never forget the contributions of Shifty Powers, or any of the other brave Americans who put their lives on the line for us every day.

Growing Up with Walter Cronkite

Marty Plotnick, a young man growing up near Fairfield, Connecticut, lived in one of the few households in the neighborhood with a television. 64 miles as the crow flies from the WCBS transmission tower atop the Empire State Building, watching a “Dumont” small screen television, Marty, like much of the rest of America, listened to the daily news with Walter Cronkite. Walter Cronkite took him through the Nuremberg trials, the Korean War, the Eisenhower years, the Cold War, and all the trials of the Kennedy Era, Vietnam War, moon landings, and the resignation of Richard Nixon.

WalterCronkite1-797145Walter Cronkite was a lifelong journalist, starting his career writing for his University of Texas newspaper the Daily Texan. Mentored by a United Press journalist named Gordon Shearer, Cronkite eventually developed his skills through years of reporting for Midwestern radio stations.

Walter Cronkite joined United Press International in 1937, and as a war correspondent covered the European Theater. Notable activities in his war reporting included joining crews in B-17 bomb missions over European targets, landing in a glider in the Netherlands (Operation Market Garden), and the Battle of the Bulge.

Following the Nuremberg trials, Cronkite did a tour with UPI in Moscow, and then returned to the US to take a position with CBS news.

My first memories of Walter Cronkite came as a young man, while at elementary school on a Friday in November of 1963, when the principle came on the intercom and patched the voice of Cronkite through the speakers, saying:

“From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”

As a young man I was not even sure what it meant, but I did know the announcement was so important the principle was willing to disrupt classes to ensure we heard the news. I was at home during the weekend following Kennedy’s death, when I witnessed on TV the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, suspected as the person who shot Kennedy. Again, even through the country was mourning the death of Kennedy, as a nation we still needed somebody to help us understand what was happening. Cronkite tried to help the nation cope with all the news, understand the news, and get on with our lives.

Walter Cronkite Discussing Space TechI also remember another occasion while on my summer vacation, 40 years ago this week, that Walter Cronkite walked us through the first landing on the moon. As a young man, thrilled with the drama and fantasy of technology of space, Cronkite’s detailed descriptions and explanations of the technologies used in the landing inspired me to make engineering new technologies my goal in life.

Walter_CronkiteCronkite went back to his roots as a war correspondent by visiting and reporting on location from Vietnam, and was one of the first journalists to publically share his opinion that the Vietnam War could not be won on the battlefield, but would rather come to conclusion through diplomacy. Many still believe this ended the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, and may have been a major factor in the US beginning to negotiate their way out of the conflict.

Cronkite left CBS News in 1980 at 65 years. CBS had a mandatory retirement in place, and Cronkite did not fight the system.

“This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News; for me, it’s a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades, after all, we’ve been meeting like this in the evenings, and I’ll miss that. But those who have made anything of this departure, I’m afraid have made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton…” YouTube Video Broadcast of Cronkite’s Farewell Speech

His career continued for many years after leaving CBS, with direct support and consulting to the US government and United Nations on many topics, as well as production of documentaries, voiceovers, and partnership in the development of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Walter Cronkite died on July 17th, 2009

As I finish another day, much as I have quipped times after time throughout my life, the immortal trademark of Walter Cronkite ends my day with a “and that’s the way it is, 18 July, 2009.”

Walter Cronkite joins Ernie Pyle, Joe Rosenthal,  Bill Mauldin,  and Edward R. Murrow as one of the true voices of America.

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

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