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A Letter From The Publisher: Dec. 21, 1970

3 minute read

ADMIRAL Elmo (“Bud”) Zumwalt, who appears on this week’s cover, became a figure of special interest to TIME correspondents when he commanded U.S. naval forces in South Viet Nam. At a dinner in 1968, Zumwalt remarked casually that his wife was due in town next day. Recalls Correspondent John Wilhelm, who helped report this week’s cover story: “We were impending since MACV had just sounded the alarm of an impending enemy offensive Zumwalt, however, had seen Navy intelligence to the contrary, but the weekend passed quietly. “Thereafter,” says Wilhelm, “the bureau always checked out rumors of impending Viet Cong offensives by asking whether the admiral was bringing his wife to town.”

Primary reporting on this week’s story was handled by Washington Correspondent John Mulliken, who has also known Zumwalt for years. Mulliken’s earlier reportage resulted in a full-page story Nov. 9−the first in any national publication−describing the Navy’s new C.N.O. and how he planned to reshape his vast command. When we decided that both man and idea demanded even more thorough study, Mulliken flew to Hawaii to accompany the admiral on a brief mission, then flew home with him and his family “Zumwalt is a superb subject,” reports Mulliken. “His memory is his down to the exact words of a conversation held with his wife in Shanghai in 1945.”

Zumwalt’s increasingly mod Navy is a far cry from the spit-and-polish service that Cover Writer Ed Magnuson knew in the years from 1944 to 1946, and again during Korea. “After a year of advanced training in electronics,” he recalls, “my first assignments were to chip rust off the sides of a submarine tender and serve as a base telephone operator.”

And yet, plus ςa change, plus c’est . . . Assigned to report the changes in another service, Houston Correspondent Leo Janos visited Sheppard Air Force Base where General Jerry D. Page demonstrated the new informality by walking unannounced into a dormitory room picked at random. Inside, a single airman was sacked out on his bunk. “The airman opened one eye, then the other,” says Janos. “He squinted sleepily and saw two stars, reporter with bolted pad and a host of brass hovering in the background. He bolted from bed as if ejected from a smoking jet. His feet never touched the floor as he executed an incredible acrobatic loop off the mattress and landed upright in the the stiffest embrace I’ve ever seen−bent halfway backward. ‘Hi there,’ said General Page. ‘Just dropped by to say hello.’ The airman’s eyes were now two fried eggs. ‘Hi, sir,’ he said through clenched teeth. All in all, it was a helluva way to be called from one’s dreams.”

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