Richard C. Hottelet, one of several journalists hired by Edward R. Murrow before and during World War II, was 97 when he died Dec. 17, in his Wilton, Conn., home. Other Murrow Boys included Winston Burdett, Larry LeSueur, Charles Collingwood, Bill Downs, Eric Sevareid, William L. Shirer and Howard K. Smith. The group included one woman, Mary “Marvin” Breckinridge. Their names read like a “Who’s Who” of early broadcast journalism.
Murrow was director of the CBS European bureau when he began hiring staff in 1937. He wanted good reporters, not necessarily good announcers. Murrow biographer Stanley Cloud said, “Because they were live, they wrote first and spoke afterward. These guys were writers above all.”
"It was not our job to inspire people, to educate, to move them," Hottelet recalled in an interview with The Hartford Courant in 2003. "It was our job to tell them what was going on."
Three years before the United States entered the war in 1941, Hottelet was hired by the United Press to report from Berlin. He covered the German invasions of Belgium and France and watched British forces flee to the beaches of Dunkirk.
The Nazis arrested him in March 1941, and held him prisoner until July of that year. He was suspected of passing German military secrets to his girlfriend, Ann Delafield, a Briton who had worked in the British Embassy in Berlin.
The couple were married in January 1942, and were together until 2013 when Ann passed away.
In 1944, Hottelet became the last Murrow Boy hired. He went to work for CBS Radio (there was no TV then) in time to cover the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, and the Battle of the Bulge, in December that year.
On D-Day, he flew over Utah Beach in a B-26 Marauder twin-engine bomber as the first waves of troops waded ashore. He flew back to England and reported live to the US, “This is Richard C. Hottelet reporting from London. The Allied forces landed in France early this morning. I watched the first landing barges hit the beach exactly on the minute of H-Hour.”
In December, reporting on the Battle of the Bulge, Hottelet wrote, then broadcast, “It’s icy cold on the front tonight, and the muck on the roads and in the fields is frozen hard in wrinkles and folds. And the tire marks of trucks and jeeps and tanks that have been rolling forward have now hardened into regular corrugated patterns. The men digging new positions in the field have had to chop at the ground with their shovels and use axes.
“Out in the forward position, men are lying in holes beating their hands together, stamping their feet to get warm.”
In March 1945, he bailed out of a burning B-17 four-engine bomber that had been hit by antiaircraft fire. He landed in a French cow pasture where he was treated to liquor and tea by British troops.
At the historic linkup of American and Russian troops at the Elbe River on April 25, 1945, Hottelet reported “There were no brass bands, no sign of the titanic strength of both armies. The Americans who met the Red Army were a couple of dust-covered lieutenants and a handful of enlisted men in their jeeps on reconnaissance. That’s just the way it was, as simple and
After the war, Hottelet continued working for CBS on both radio and television and reported from the Soviet Union and West Germany during the Cold War. He covered the United Nations for 25 years beginning in 1960.
As noted, Murrow’s Boys were reporters first and mellifluous-voiced broadcasters second. Maybe that’s why their legacy of good journalism no matter what the medium is yet revered today.