Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Hindenburg Disaster Broadcast

Hindenburg Disaster is understood as a historical event, but few know it was also historical for it's radio news coverage. Herbert Morrison and engineer Charlie Nehlsen (Neilsen) were assigned by radio station WLS-AM in Chicago to cover the arrival of the airship in New Jersey to record a news story. They got more than they bargained for when the shop crashed and burned killing 36 people. But the story was not carried live.

Hsi engineer, Nehlsen, recorded the monologue to 16-inch green lacquer disks which were flown hurriedly to Chicago and broadcast in full later that night. Portions were rebroadcast nationally by NBC network the following day. It has been claimed that the Hindenburg Disaster was the first recorded news event broadcast coast-to-coast radio broadcast. that's probably an exaggeration, but before WWII live on-the-scene news reporting was much less common.

It's also worth noting historians have generally accepted the recording speed was about three percent off which inadvertently turned Morrison into a falsetto. [SOURCE] The transcription is as follows:
"It's starting to rain again; it's—the rain has slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it just, just enough to keep it from — It burst into flames! It burst into flames, and it's falling, it's crashing! Watch it, watch it! Get out of the way! 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 agree that this is terrible, this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world. [Indecipherable] It's–it's–it's the flames, [indecipherable] oh, four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it ... it's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It's smoke, and it'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, I can't even talk to people whose friends are on there. Ah! It's–it's–it's–it's ... o–ohhh! 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. Lady, 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. I, 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."