Soldiers coming ashore in Normandy, France. (Photo: National Archives)
Today, as many know, is the 75th anniversary of the World War II battle in Normandy, France, known to history as D-Day. “Operation Overlord,” as D-Day was code named, without doubt, was one of the key turning points of World War II.
But many may not know that D-Day was also one of the first events that brought continuous news coverage via radio on the home front.
“In addition to what it meant as a great turning point in world history, D-Day is also unique in how it was broadcast by American radio networks, as CBS, NBC, and what would become ABC pooled their reporters, engineers and other resources, and cooperated closely with military officials to present, for the first time, what would now be called “wall-to-wall” coverage of a developing major international news event for American audiences.
It’s something we take for granted now in the age of the internet and cable news, but this kind of media coverage can be traced back to D-Day.”
But the widely-covered event was originally top secret. So secret, in fact, that news agencies in the US first learned about Operation Overlord via not Allied news, but Axis news sources. Thus the information was delivered with caution, since the source wasn’t the War Department of Allied Forces.
A little after 3:30 AM (Eastern War Time), the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in London produced Communiqué #1, a short statement read twice by Colonel R. Ernest Dupuy, confirming that Allied naval forces, with the support of the air forces, and under the command of General Eisenhower, began landing Allied armies that morning on the northern coast of France.
Here is the actual recording via the Miller Center at UVA:
Thomas – I know you’ve posted before about the NBC chimes, so I thought you might be interested to know that CHRS, the California Historical Radio Society, has acquired one of 8 original NBC chime machines. They don’t think that more than a dozen were ever made. CHRS have their own building on the island of Alameda, CA, and are putting a huge amount of time and work into amassing an impressive collection of vintage radio gear. [I]f you scroll about 1/3 way down this page, you’ll see the news, along with a brief history of an NBC chime machine, and pictures of the one they now have in their collection. It is a rare find indeed!
Made during WWII by RKO Radio Pictures, AIR WAVES gives a brief history of the radio, and shows the development of the technology as it progressed from a crystal set novelty to an indispensable part of American life. Radio City Music Hall and the Rockefeller Center are seen at the 2:00 mark, with the largest radio studios in the world. At 2:30, the NBC studios are seen and at 3:10 a demonstration is made of how sound effects are made using cellophane, wooden blocks, and rubber spheres. At 4:10, a studio is seen with actors rehearsing their lines, and an engineer working with the actors to make sure everything is technically okay. At 5:41, announcers Milton Cross is seen with Jack Costello and Calvin Keach. “Twin gods of radio broadcasting are the clock and the conference…” says the narrator, and at 6:00 you’ll see the discussions that lead up to the broadcast of any network show on radio (and today, on TV). At 7:15, records are played on the air, scripts are produced on steno and mimeograph machines, and all sorted… The music library is seen at 7:48 with sheet music laid out. At 8:06, all stations are notified of the latest information with the new program and a dress rehearsal undertaken. The stopwatch commands the attention of everyone, and the program is finally on the air at the 9:10 mark.
At 10:00, the film dramatically shifts to show December 7th in Hawaii, and speaks about the work of NBC to sell war bonds and promote national defense and “do its share unflinchingly”. The war effort is shown with men and women working on the air to help people working “at war” and boosting their morale. Lowell Thomas is shown at the 11:30 mark, keeping the public informed of the latest developments.
Thanks for the tip, Mike! It’s truly amazing to see the amount of effort that went into live radio broadcasts.
When things went dark and quiet in Puerto Rico, a cadre of amateur radio operators became a lifeline on the island.
About two dozen amateur radio operators on the island helped police and first responders communicate when their radio networks failed completely. Some of the radio operators, or hams traveled on trucks to provide communications to the power company, PREPA.
“It’s a less than ideal solution, but it works and that’s the essence of amateur radio – make it work,” said Tom Gallagher, CEO of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.
Now the ranks of operator are about to get reinforcements.
At the request of the Red Cross, the league planned to send 50 radio operators into Puerto Rico with “enormous” radio gear in water proof containers, their own power supplies, new generators and solar arrays. The crew and equipment were to leave Thursday from Atlanta.
Their job, once set up and in place, will be to be the communication pipeline for the Red Cross Safe and Well program, helping people on the mainland trying to connect with loved ones on the island or get news of their status.
“You can relieve a lot of misery by telling people their relatives are okay,” said Gallagher, whose call sign is NY2RF.[…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Patalon, who shares the following story from The Smithsonian:
The Forgotten Man Who Transformed Journalism in America
Lowell Thomas was the first host of a TV broadcast news program, and adopted a number of other new technologies to make his mark in the 20th century
By the time Lowell Thomas turned 25, he’d already worked as a journalist, earned multiple degrees, and found a place on the faculty at Princeton University. But seizing a rare opportunity during World War I changed him from youthful overachiever to media heavyweight. During that conflict he met T.E. Lawrence, soon-to-be famous as “Lawrence of Arabia”—and Thomas played a large part in giving Lawrence that fame. The encounter launched Thomas into the media stratosphere with a groundbreaking multimedia presentation that captivated millions.
But while Lawrence’s work ended abruptly with his untimely death, Thomas went on to live a long, remarkable life. He traveled Europe, the Middle East, India, Afghanistan, New Guinea and Tibet, even meeting the Dalai Lama. He made fans out of Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill and led a prolific career in the news, making reports by print, radio, and TV—and reshaping them all into more formal, serious mediums.
Yet for a man with such a hyperbolic life, his legacy has been largely forgotten. Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism at New York University, set out to remedy that lapse in public memory with his new biography, The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism. Smithsonian.com talked with Stephens about his book, and why Thomas still matters today. […]
NBC’s three little chimes didn’t just define a television network, they defined a generation. Where did they come from and what is the surprising impact they have had on current and future media? Featuring the last person to play the NBC chimes on the NBC radio network, broadcaster Rick Greenhut, and radio historian, John Schneider.