The Vietnam War is known as the “first televised war” due to the graphic nature of the images seen by American viewers. Chronologically, however, the Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950, was the first war of the TV era, when the medium was still in its infancy.
Just as the television networks were entertaining viewers with the likes of Milton Berle and “Marty” in the early days of TV, they also strove to fulfill the medium’s potential for news. One of the most preeminent newsmen in television was CBS correspondent Edward R. Murrow, who built his reputation in radio during World War II. His signature TV documentary series See It Now (“Good night, and good luck”) began in November 1951. This series is famed for Murrow’s expose of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954; its first notable show was the “Christmas in Korea” broadcast in December 1952.
EDWARD R. MURROW: “This is Korea, where a war is going on. That’s a Marine digging a hole in the ground. They dig an awful lot of holes in the ground in Korea. This is the front….”
MURROW: Who’s the man first to be released from here? Who’s got his points coming up first?
MARINE: Here he is. Corporal Black.
MURROW: How long do you have to go, Corporal?
CORPORAL BLACK: Well, I’ve got two months to go— if I stay here twelve months.
MURROW: Are you counting it by months or days?
BLACK: I’m counting it by hours. Never get home soon enough.
MURROW to MARINES: What would you fellows like to be doing if you were home right now?
MARINE: Are you kidding?
Variety described this See It Now broadcast as “an historic chapter on the new American journalism.” The program was praised by Variety for allowing honest (occasionally negative) opinions about the war, including a Frenchman whose “shrug of shoulder and graphic facial expression spoke more than the words he uttered.” The broadcast was most noted for giving voice to the American soldiers on the front lines, who described their circumstances and offered Christmas wishes to their families back home.
See it Now film editor Mili Lerner Bonsignori spoke about this classic broadcast in her Archive interview. Click here to watch her interview and an excerpt from “Christmas in Korea.”