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Cronauer was 11 credits short of graduating from American University, where he majored in broadcasting, when he joined the Air Force in 1962. In the space of a few years, he went from working at radio stations and studying to serving in Vietnam. Cronauer remembers Saigon as a peaceful outpost when he arrived in 1965. But then the North Vietnamese attacked American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin and the war escalated, turning Saigon into a frenetic danger zone.

Airman Cronauer spent a year in Vietnam as a disc jockey for a military radio station. To boost the morale of homesick kids, he mimicked an American radio station by playing rock ‘n roll music, doing weather forecasts (abruptly discontinued when the military discovered enemy forces were using them to plan operations), and giving news reports. Sometimes, the reports hit close to home.

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