September 15, 2014

On September 15, 1940, CBS News radio correspondent Edward R. Murrow described the bombing of London during World War II’s Battle of Britain. Murrow usually opened his broadcasts with the words “This…is London.” During the war he often broadcast from rooftops as bombs fell on the city. But he also told countless stories about the daily life that goes on during a war. They were stories about ordinary people during extraordinary times.

“Even for those of us who live on the crest of London, life is dangerous. Some of the old buildings have gone, but the ghosts, sometimes a whole company of ghosts, remain. There is a thunder of gunfire at night. As these lines were written, as the window shook, there was a candle and matches beside the typewriter just in case the light went out.”

A week later he reported:

“I’m standing again tonight on a rooftop looking out over London, feeling rather large and lonesome. In the course of the last fifteen or twenty minutes there’s been considerable action up there, but at the moment there’s an ominous silence hanging over London. But at the same time a silence that has a great deal of dignity.”

One of Murrow’s most famous broadcasts came on the night of August 24, 1940. He began his report with the words, “This…is Trafalgar Square.”

Murrow described the scene from the steps of the St. Martin-in-the Fields church with the sound of air-raid sirens in the background.

A microphone captured the sound of footsteps on the sidewalk, as people walked slowly along the street to a bomb shelter below. He said the footsteps sounded “like ghosts shod with steel shoes.”

Murrow saw a red double decker bus driving by. In the darkness, the lights from inside the tall bus reminded him of a ship passing in the night. He observed a bright search light beam reaching straight up into the sky.

His CBS radio broadcasts continued until the end of the war in 1945. During the following decade, with a new technology called television, Murrow helped create the next chapter in broadcast journalism history.

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