The First World News Roundup
On the CBS network, if you were tuning in that Sunday night, Bob Trout's familiar voice was the one you heard first. Imagine hearing these somber words as you crowded around the radio in your home, or in a store, or at a bar. "Tonight the world trembles," Trout said in a stern tone, "torn by conflicting forces. Throughout this day event has crowded upon event in tumultuous Austria. Meanwhile, the outside world, gravely shaken by the Austrian crisis, moves cautiously through a maze of diplomatic perils." He continued:
As German troops swarm across frontiers in their first offensive since 1914, momentous decisions are being reached in the capitals outside Germany. And so the world spotlight, for three days fastened upon Austria, is shared tonight by London's tiny Downing Street, by the Quai d'Orsay, whose buildings of state line the Seine River in Paris, by other chancellories throughout the world. To bring you the picture of Europe tonight, Columbia now presents a special broadcast, which will include pickups direct from London, from Paris, and such other European capitals as this late hour abroad have communication channels available...
Then Trout, reading from wire copy, offered the grim details of the Nazi push, which are simply heartbreaking in retrospect:
Jews, Catholic leaders and former Austrian government officials are being jailed. Hitler, protected by a bodyguard of nearly 4,000 troops and police, is preparing tonight to go from Linz to Salzberg and from there to Vienna on a roundabout triumphal tour of the land of his birth... Italy has apparently given Germany an okay and Hitler has almost fervently thanked Mussolini.
In Berlin, Field Marshal Herman Goering has served notice that Germany intends to go after the Germans in Czechoslovakia, already ringed on several sides by German troops. Czechoslovakia has protested to Germany. It claims that German planes have flown over Czech boundaries and so Germany promises an investigation. Czechoslovakian diplomatic circles argue that Czechoslovakia is going to be a much tougher nut to crack than Austria was, their attitude, of course, reinforced by the very strong position France is taking tonight.
Can you imagine? On and on Trout went with facts which today seem so patently ominous. Later, Murrow then gave his report from the Austrian capital. This is how he began:
This is Edward Murrow speaking from Vienna. It's now nearly 2:30 in the morning and Herr Hitler has not yet arrived. No one seems to know just when he will get here, but most people expect him sometime after 10 o'clock tomorrow morning. It's, of course, obvious after one glance at Vienna that a tremendous reception is being prepared.
This is what he said in the middle of it:
From the air, Vienna didn't look much different than it has before, but, nevertheless, it's changed. The crowds are courteous as they've always been, but many people are in holiday mood; they lift the right arm a little higher here than in Berlin and the "Heil Hitler" is said a little more loudly. There isn't a great deal of hilarity, but at the same time there doesn't seem to be much feeling of tension.
And this is how Murrow finished:
There are still huge crowds along the Ringstrasse and people still stand outside the principal hotels, just waiting and watching for some famous man to come in or out. As I said, everything is quiet in Vienna tonight. There's a certain air of expectancy about the city, everyone waiting and wondering where and at what time Herr Hitler will arrive.
It was, as they put it, a big news day. And as far as broadcast news goes, it was also the first day of the rest of everyone's lives. I am thankful to be a small part of the World News Roundup. I am thankful for all the men and women who have worked on it through the years. But, more important, I am thankful the Roundup is still around, when there is big news and when there isn't, reminding us all that most things become tradition by earning the distinction.