Renowned journalist Richard C. Hottelet reflected on the turning point of World War II Sunday, the 60th anniversary of the allied D-Day invasion.
In a 90-minute conversation with Michael Freedman, GW’s vice president of Communications, Hottelet discussed his reporting on the largest invasion in history for CBS radio. Hottelet is the only surviving member of the “Murrow Boys,” a team of radio war correspondents headed by Edward R. Morrow.
“It was an armada of ships,” the soft-spoken journalist said of the allied attack on the beaches of Normandy. “To see it was almost miraculous. It was almost mythical, this concentration of power.”
Hottelet told the roughly 150 people in attendance that he used only his eyes and ears to report the invasion. While he tested early wire recording technology on a previous bombing raid, the 15-pound machine was too heavy and unreliable to bring on the airplane.
Following the invasion, Hottelet said he had time to collect his thoughts before returning to London to broadcast a report live to the United States.
“We were giving an anxious nation the information it wanted to have … In retrospect, they thought we were much better than we really were,” Hottelet said, chuckling.
Freedman played three montages of radio broadcasts, including Hottelet’s first-hand report on the D-Day invasion. The journalist described the “little balls of fire to our right and to our left.”
“Down below … it was a dead country,” Hottelet said during his original broadcast.
Hottelet said he was impressed by the power of the allied invasion, from which the United States emerged as a world superpower.
“We were the strongest, the richest, the biggest and were accepted as such,” Hottelet said.
“It was the relationship between a leader, whose leadership was respected, and followers who were accepted for what they could do,” he said of the United States’ relationship with its allies.
The reporter also discussed U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower’s responsibility for the invasion. Hottelet said the German army did not keep a large reserve force and could not assemble its response to the allied invasion quickly, a factor that Eisenhower could not predict.
“What he couldn’t anticipate worked out alright,” Hottelet said.
Following the discussion, Hottelet answered attendees’ questions for about 20 minutes.
One audience member pointed out President Bush’s comparisons of D-Day to the war on terrorism. Hottelet said the parallels are “not far-fetched” because both battles began with attacks on the U.S., “but that’s where the similarities end.”
Hottelet said the U.S. won World War II “because we didn’t try to do it ourselves.”
“(In the war on terror), if you’re not with us in every way … you’re against us … we’ve alienated our allies.”