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Murrow file photo [5277]

Edward Murrow

Given NameEdward
Born25 Apr 1908
Died27 Apr 1965
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseEdward Roscoe Murrow, born Egbert Roscoe Murrow, was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, United States to poor Quaker farmers as the youngest of three children. When he was six years old, his family moved to Blanchard, Washington, United States near the Canadian border. In high school and college, he excelled in both academics as well as sports. During his second year at Washington State College, he legally changed his name from Egbert to Edward. Upon receiving his degree in speech in 1930, he moved to New York City, New York, United States. Between 1932 and 1935, he worked as the Assistant Secretary of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, which helped prominent German scholars, many of which were Jewish, who had been dismissed from academic positions by the Nazi German government. He married Janet Huntington Brewster on 12 Mar 1935; they would eventually raise one son, who was born in 1945.

ww2dbaseIn 1935, Murrow applied for a job with Columbia Broadcasting System, better known as the acronym CBS. The résumé he submitted was outrageously over-embellished; he gave himself five years in age, claimed he had a Master's Degree from Stanford University, and even changed his major. Luckily for him, the lies were never detected, and Murrow got the job. At the time, radio news reporting tended to mimic that was the newspaper, which lacked a fresh feeling. Murrow had the revolutionary vision of reporting on location; "Why report news after the fact?" he thought, "[w]hy not report it from the scene?" In 1937, he got his chance to carry out his vision as he was appointed a director in CBS' European operations. Together with British journalist William L. Shirer, whom Murrow recruited, the duo first gained fame when Murrow sent Shirer to Austria to witness the German annexation of that country, then fly to London to report the news to the public as soon as he could, sharing first-hand accounts that no competing radio news programs could deliver. Immediately following Shirer's successful initial report of the Anschluss, Murrow chartered a plane to Vienna, Austria to continue monitoring the situation in person, which resulted in the radio broadcast first on 13 Mar 1938, in which journalists from different locations (New York City, Washington, London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin) all participated in a single radio broadcast. "This is Edward Murrow speaking from Vienna.... It's now nearly 2:30 in the morning, and Herr Hitler has not yet arrived...", he opened the multi-point news cast. This news cast, titled "European News Roundup", formed the basis for the radio show "World News Roundup" that is still in the CBS Radio Network's daily lineup as of 2007. This innovative, and soon to be standard, reporting format was extended to cover the German annexation of Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia.

ww2dbaseAs the European War began, Murrow reported from London, England, United Kingdom, providing listeners live radio reports during the London Blitz. "This is London", he would often say to start his broadcast, putting stress on the word "this" followed by a brief pause before "is". The grammatical and vocal construction of this introduction would soon become CBS' standard "this is CBS" tag line, and later imitated by other news shows, some of competitors. "One observer noted that although Blitz newsreel footage was in black and white, 'Ed's radio reports were in color.'" After his return to the United States in 1941, the Librarian of the Library of the United States Congress Archibald MacLeish told him that "[y]ou burned the city of London in our houses and we felt the flames.... You laid the dead of London at our doors and we knew that the dead were our dead", referring to Murrow's accomplishment of bringing distant news to the living rooms of American households.

ww2dbaseAs the United States entered WW2, Murrow continued to report in person. To get his audience as close to the front as possible, he visited interviewed pilots just returning from missions, and at times even boarded Allied aircraft on combat missions, recording his voice so that the tape could be played on the air when he returned. Below was a recording he made from Paris, vividly speaking of an American fighter pilot.

ww2dbaseThis is Edward R. Murrow in Paris. And this is going to be mostly about Captain William E. "Curly" Rodgers, a short, smiling fighter pilot who flies with the 365th Fighter Group, and who thinks that train-busting is the most fun ever invented by anyone. He flies a P-47 Thunderbolt, has about 250 combat hours, comes from Hartselle, Alabama, thinks the Ninth Air Force is doing a great job, and that his outfit is the sharpest one over here. As fighter pilots go, he's old: twenty-three.

ww2dbaseYesterday afternoon he folded me into a little seat behind him in a piggy-back Thunderbolt and took off for the Rhine.... We were going upstream, and soon Bonn and its broken bridges was below us. Suddenly Curly pointed out and said, "Look at that Junkers!" [probably an Arado 235 Blitz]. It was a German jet plane coasting in, just level with us. Its bomb dropped away, and Curly turned into the attacking plane saying, "You never want to show your tail to one of those babies!" With this, the German pilot veered off and poured on the coal and disappeared into the haze. Then we were bounced! Four red-nosed Mustangs (P-51s) were coming down on us, and Curly rolled up on one wing so they could identify us, and at the last minute they veered off.

ww2dbaseWe were almost to the bridge.... We could see our artillery shells bursting white across the Rhine River, and then we were over the bridge. The vehicles crossing looked like brown bedbugs crawling along a black string. A few German shells were landing on our side of the river....

ww2dbaseFrom the Buchenwald concentration camp, Murrow reported in vivid detail as Allied personnel uncovered the horrors of the Nazi atrocities.

Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died here during the last 12 years. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

ww2dbaseMurrow's harrowing description of Buchenwald brought criticism for that Americans were not ready to hear the amount of detail Murrow had delivered. "If I've offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald," he stated on 15 Apr 1945, "I'm not in the least sorry", for that he believed it was his job to relay the truth to his listeners. Meanwhile, on the administrative side, he also expanded the news staff at CBS, producing a new generation of reports who were collectively nick named "Murrow's Boys", despite the fact that one of them, Mary Marvin Breckinridge, was a woman. Another protégé of his, Daniel Schorr, is still heard on the National Public Radio at the time of this writing at the age of 91.

ww2dbaseBusiness politics, which included a controversial end of the working relationship with Shirer that was never recovered, led to Murrow's brief departure from CBS. He returned to CBS in Sep 1947, however, and became the host of the nightly news show. His second tenure at CBS was equally as successful, leaving behind legacies such as the show "This I Believe", which ran from 1951 to 1955 and is now heard on National Public Radio, among others. During this time, he also began to appear on CBS Television. His 9 Mar 1954 episode of "See It Now" television show, which criticized the communist-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy; although he was scrutinized for using his influence to attack an individual, this show was often referred to as a turning point in the history of television.

ww2dbaseMurrow resigned from CBS after becoming disillusioned with television; he though television was becoming too commercial, abandoning the mission of bringing truthful information to the public. He became the head of the United States Information Agency in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy, in which role he advised Kennedy on American public image abroad. Declining health, however, led him to his early resignation. In 1964, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and on 5 Mar 1965 he was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. He passed away at his home in Apr 1965.

ww2dbaseSources: Armchair Reader World War II, Hell Hawks!, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jan 2009

Edward Murrow Timeline

25 Apr 1908 Edward Murrow was born.
8 Dec 1941 Edward Murrow and his wife Janet had dinner at the White House in Washington DC, United States with Eleanor Roosevelt. The dinner was arranged prior to the Japanese attack, and Murrow had expected the invitation to be canceled, but surprisingly Franklin Roosevelt insisted that the plans be kept; although Roosevelt was too busy to join them at the meal, he would make sure to meet with Murrow for some time late in the evening.
2 Dec 1943 Four War Correspondents were given permission by Arthur Harris to go on the Berlin raid over Germany scheduled for the night. Two, Nordahl Greig of the Daily Mail and Norman Stocton of the Australian Associated News were among 30 men who died that night. The other two were Americans, Edward Murrow and Lowell Bennett who both flew with No. 50 Squadron. The badly shaken Murrow was the only one to return alive. His pilot had been Jock Abercrombie, notorious among the aircrews of No. 50 squadron for always fearlessly flying straight and level to the target area.
27 Apr 1965 Edward Murrow passed away.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
17 Nov 2007 12:35:00 PM

In July 1940 a War Office memo had stated "Under no circumstances should women be enrolled in the Home Guard." Ed Murrows reaction was "A few million women with rifles is the most frightening prospect a man could face."
2. Anonymous says:
22 Jan 2009 07:40:15 AM

I'm doing a National History day project on Edward Murrow and I'm wondering if there are any living family members i could posibly get an interview or just talk to them for a bit. That would be greatly appreciated, thanks, Joe
3. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
17 Feb 2009 01:15:37 PM

Edward R. Murrow started his radio report from England by saying, "THIS IS LONDON"

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Famous WW2 Quote
"All that silly talk about the advance of science and such leaves me cold. Give me peace and a retarded science."

Thomas Dodd, late 1945