|Died||January 10, 1989 83) (aged|
Herbert Oglevee "Herb" Morrison (May 14, 1905 – January 10, 1989) was an American radio journalist best known for his dramatic report of the Hindenburg disaster, a catastrophic fire that destroyed the LZ 129 Hindenburg zeppelin on May 6, 1937, killing 36 people.
Broadcast journalism is the field of news and journals which are "broadcast", that is, published by electrical methods instead of the older methods, such as printed newspapers and posters. Broadcast methods include radio, television and the World Wide Web. Such media disperse pictures, visual text and sounds.
The Hindenburg disaster occurred on May 6, 1937, in Manchester Township, New Jersey, United States. The German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at Naval Air Station Lakehurst. On board were 97 people ; there were 36 fatalities.
LZ 129 Hindenburg was a large German commercial passenger-carrying rigid airship, the lead ship of the Hindenburg class, the longest class of flying machine and the largest airship by envelope volume. It was designed and built by the Zeppelin Company on the shores of Lake Constance in Friedrichshafen and was operated by the German Zeppelin Airline Company. The airship flew from March 1936 until it was destroyed by fire 14 months later on May 6, 1937 while attempting to land at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey, at the end of the first North American transatlantic journey of its second season of service with the loss of 36 lives. This was the last of the great airship disasters; it was preceded by the crashes of the British R38 in 1921, the US airship Roma in 1922, the French Dixmude in 1923, the British R101 in 1930, and the USS Akron in 1933.
Little is known of Morrison's early life, his career prior to the on-site report he gave of the Hindenburg's fiery destruction, and of his career subsequent to the tragedy.
Morrison and engineer Charlie Nehlsenhad been assigned by station WLS in Chicago to cover the arrival of the Hindenburg in New Jersey for delayed broadcast.
WLS is a commercial AM radio station in Chicago, Illinois. Owned by Cumulus Media, through licensee Radio License Holdings LLC, the station airs a talk radio format. WLS has its studios in the NBC Tower on North Columbus Drive in the city's Streeterville neighborhood, and its non-directional broadcast tower is located on the southern edge of Tinley Park, Illinois.
New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is a peninsula, bordered on the north and east by the state of New York; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware River and Pennsylvania; and on the southwest by the Delaware Bay and Delaware. New Jersey is the fourth-smallest state by area but the 11th-most populous, with 9 million residents as of 2017, making it the most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states with its biggest city being Newark. New Jersey lies completely within the combined statistical areas of New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey was the second-wealthiest U.S. state by median household income as of 2017.
Radio network policy in those days forbade the use of any other recorded material than that used for sound effects, and Morrison and Nehlsen had no facilities for live broadcast. Even so, the results still became the prototype for news broadcasting in the war years that followed. The event had no effect on this policy, and recordings were not regularly used until after the end of World War II.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Morrison's description began routinely, but it changed instantly as the airship burst into flames:
(Complete recording here.)
It's practically standing still now they've dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship; and (uh) they've been taken ahold of down on the field by a number of men. It's starting to rain again; it's... the rain had (uh) slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it (uh) just enough to keep it from...It's burst into flames! Get this, Charlie; get this, Charlie! It's fire... and it's crashing! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my! Get out of the way, please! It's burning and bursting into flames and the... and it's falling on the mooring mast and all the folks between it. This is terrible; this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world. Oh it's... [unintelligible] its flames... Crashing, oh! oh, four or five hundred feet into the sky, and it’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. There’s smoke, and there’s flames, now, and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity, and all the passengers screaming around here! I told you; it – I can't even talk to people, their friends are on there! Ah! It's... it... it's a... ah! I... I can't talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest: it's just laying there, a mass of smoking wreckage. Ah! And everybody can hardly breathe and talk and the screaming. I... I... I'm sorry. Honest: I... I can hardly breathe. I... I'm going to step inside, where I cannot see it. Charlie, that's terrible. Ah, ah... I can't. Listen, folks; I... I'm gonna have to stop for a minute because I've lost my voice. This is the worst thing I've ever witnessed.
Morrison and Nehlsen continued their work, reporting at length on the rescue efforts and interviewing survivors, with several pauses while Morrison composed himself. A small and dashing-looking man, Morrison wore a blue serge suit and a topcoat. Morrison mistakenly thought there were 106 people aboard the flight, when in reality there were 97 aboard. Thirty-five people died in addition to one fatality on the ground. The 16-inch green lacquer disk recordings were rushed back to Chicago by airplane and broadcast in full later that night. Portions were rebroadcast nationally by the NBC Radio network the next day. It was the first time that recordings of a news event were ever broadcast, and also the first coast-to-coast radio broadcast. Morrison's quick professional response and accurate description combined with his own emotional reaction have made the recordings a classic of audio history.
An acetate disc is a type of phonograph (gramophone) record, a mechanical sound storage medium, widely used from the 1930s to the late 1950s for recording and broadcast purposes and still in limited use today.
Several people believe that this classic recording is not an accurate reflection of Morrison's speech. These people theorize that Nehlsen's Presto 6D recorder ran about 3% slow, causing Morrison's voice to sound different from how it actually was, and that Morrison's normal speaking and radio announcer voice was actually quite deep as evidenced by other recordings of his voice from the same era.
One of these people is audio historian Michael Biel of Morehead State University, who studied the original recordings and analyzed Nehlsen's vital contribution as an engineer as well as the playback speed issue:
I have closely examined the original discs and photographed the grooves at the point of the explosion. You can see several deep digs in the lacquer before the groove disappears. Then almost immediately there is a faint groove for about two revolutions while Charlie Nehlsen gently lowered the cutting head back to the disc. Fortunately the cutting stylus never cut through the lacquer to the aluminum base. If that had happened the most dramatic part of the recording would not have been made because the stylus would have been ruined. The digs and the bouncing off of the cutting head were caused by the shock wave of the explosion which reached the machine just after Morrison said "It burst into flames…"
I and several others believe that the originals were recorded slightly slow, and that all replays have been at too fast a speed. Comparison with the now two other known contemporary recordings of Morrison demonstrate this conclusion.
Morrison's description has been dubbed onto the newsreel film of the crash, giving the impression of a modern television-style broadcast. However, at the time, newsreels were separately narrated in a studio, and Morrison's words were not heard in theaters.
The availability of newsreel films, photographs and Morrison's description was a result of heavy promotion of the arrival by the Zeppelin Company, making the crash a media event and raising its importance far beyond other less well-reported and documented disasters.
Morrison's usual broadcast work was as an announcer on live musical programs, but his earlier successful reporting of Midwestern floods from an airplane led to his assignment at Lakehurst that day.
Morrison later served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and was the first news director at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh. He also ran for Congress three times as a Pennsylvania Republican. Prior to retirement he served as a technical adviser for the 1975 film The Hindenburg and developed a radio and television section at West Virginia University.
An audio tape recorder, tape deck, or tape machine is a sound recording and reproduction device that records and plays back sounds usually using magnetic tape for storage. In its present-day form, it records a fluctuating signal by moving the tape across a tape head that polarizes the magnetic domains in the tape in proportion to the audio signal. Tape-recording devices include the reel-to-reel tape deck and the cassette deck, which uses a cassette for storage.
Newsreel footage of the 6 May 1937 Hindenburg disaster, where the zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg crashed and burned down, was filmed by several companies.
Patsy Cline was an American country music singer and part of the Nashville sound during the late 1950s and early 1960s. She successfully "crossed over" to pop music and was one of the most influential, successful, and acclaimed vocalists of the 20th century. She died at age 30 in the crash of a private airplane.
The Hindenburg is a 1975 American Technicolor film based on the disaster of the German airship Hindenburg. The film stars George C. Scott. It was produced and directed by Robert Wise, and was written by Nelson Gidding, Richard Levinson and William Link, based on the 1972 book of the same title by Michael M. Mooney.
RCS, originally Radio Computing Services, is a provider of scheduling and broadcast software for radio, Internet and television stations.
The year 1937 saw a number of significant events in radio broadcasting history.
Hindenburg: The Untold Story known in Germany as Das Geheimnis der Hindenburg and Die Hindenburg: die ungeklärte Katastrophe, is a two-hour docudrama about the disaster of the Hindenburg, and the investigation that followed. It aired on May 6, 2007, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the disaster. It was commissioned by Channel 4, ZDF, and the Smithsonian Networks to be produced by Pioneer Productions and has also aired on Discovery Channel Canada. Its original working title was Hindenburg and is also known as Hindenburg: Titanic of the skies. The British version is narrated by Malcolm Tierney who plays the role of Hugo Eckener, while John Shrapnel narrates an alternative version which features interviews with survivors.
In the field of audio recording, an aluminum disc is a phonograph record made of bare aluminum, a medium introduced in the late 1920s for making one-off recordings. Although sometimes used for making amateur studio or home recordings or in coin-operated "record-your-voice" booths at fairs and arcades, during the first half of the 1930s bare aluminum discs were primarily used to record radio broadcasts for the private transcription disc archives of performers or sponsors.
Radio Recorders, Inc. located at 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard, was a recording studio based in Los Angeles, California.
Captain John Owen Donaldson was a World War I flying ace credited with seven aerial victories.
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Frederick R. "Chubby" Parker (1876–1940) was an American old-time and folk musician and early radio entertainer.
The Hindenburg disaster has featured in a variety of popular culture films, TV programs and books.
Electrical transcriptions are special phonograph recordings made exclusively for radio broadcasting, which were widely used during the "Golden Age of Radio". They provided material—from station-identification jingles and commercials to full-length programs—for use by local stations, which were affiliates of one of the radio networks.
The March of Time is an American radio news documentary and dramatization series sponsored by Time Inc. and broadcast from 1931 to 1945. Created by broadcasting pioneer Fred Smith and Time magazine executive Roy E. Larsen, the program combined actual news events with reenactments. The "voice" of The March of Time was Westbrook Van Voorhis. The radio series was the basis of the famed March of Time newsreel series shown in movie theaters from 1935 to 1951.
Frank Marvin Readick Jr. was an American radio and film actor.