Announcement from CBS News, Dec. 17, 2014:
Richard C. Hottelet, the last living member of the famed “Murrow’s Boys,” whose World War II radio reports for CBS under the direction of Edward R. Murrow set the standard for broadcast journalism, has died. The former CBS News correspondent was 97 and passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home early this morning (17) in Wilton, Conn.
“Richard C. Hottelet was the ultimate CBS News reporter,” said Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and executive producer of 60 MINUTES. “He was one of the true gentleman reporters, a real ‘Murrow boy,’ an elegant combination of reporter and storyteller.”
Hottelet had a distinguished 40-year career on CBS News radio and television contributing countless foreign reports, most as the United Nations correspondent for 25 years. He also covered domestic news, including political conventions, campaigns and elections and the civil rights movement. His status as one of “Murrow’s boys” – a clique of World War II broadcast journalists all hired and favored by the legendary CBS newsman – put him in a revered group whose battlefield radio reports formed the template for electronic news reporting.
Hottelet was the last to join the team when he presented himself to Murrow in London and was hired in January 1944 to help report the imminent Allied invasion of Europe. His first war reports for CBS were from the air; he is believed to have made the first recording for broadcast on a warplane while flying on a bombing mission over France in the spring of 1944. On D-Day, Hottelet was in a bomber again, this one attacked German defenses on Utah Beach and returned to London safely in time for him to broadcast the first eyewitness report of the Allied invasion. Hottelet continued his assignments aloft and then covered some of the bloodiest fighting on the ground, including Huertgen Forest and the German counterattack that became the Battle of the Bulge – delivering the first eyewitness report of that famous battle, too.
He reported from Paris for a time before going up in a bomber again to cover the final Allied push into Germany at the Rhine River crossing. His plane, a B-17, was set afire by flak during the assault and Hottelet was forced to parachute to safety. Narrow escapes like these were just part of the beat. “It wasn’t that we were supermen,” he told the Hartford Courant in a 2003 interview. “We were competent reporters and we were sending back our stuff, as we would if we were covering a statehouse or a fire.”
Another close call came before joining CBS News, when he was arrested by the German Gestapo on trumped up espionage charges in 1941. Reporting for United Press in Berlin in his first journalism job, Hottelet’s dispatches did not please the Nazi regime. He got away with his reporting for three years until the Germans finally put him in solitary. His case became a cause célèbre, even mentioned by President Franklin Roosevelt. Hottelet was released after four months in exchange for a Nazi reporter held in the U.S.
He covered the biggest stories leading up to the war for the United Press wire service, including German re-armament, the Czech crisis and the Jewish pogroms, and was with German troops entering Czechoslovakia and Poland and during their advance across the Western Front to Dunkirk. After his arrest and release, he spent the next two years working for the U.S. Department of War Information in London, Africa and Italy, before joining CBS in 1944.
Hottelet was sent to Moscow after the war, where he reported on Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin’s dismantling of the alliance with the West. The Soviet government soon withdrew broadcasting rights for Hottelet and Murrow recalled him after it refused to restore those rights.
Hottelet returned to the U.S. and remained covering domestic news until assigned to open the CBS News bureau in Bonn in 1951. From West Germany, the new Bonn correspondent covered the move to democracy in that country and the troubles over the wall in Communist East Berlin, where Soviet tanks crushed the first workers’ uprising in Eastern Europe. He went to Warsaw in 1956 to report on the Polish uprising there.
He came back to the States that year and put his international experience to work on CBS Cold War-era foreign news specials. He participated in “The Ruble War: The Crisis and Beyond” (Aug. 1958), “Where We Stand II” (Jan. 1959) and the annual “Years of Crisis” broadcasts, in which a roundtable of foreign correspondents discussed the important international events of the past year. The specials were broadcast on television and radio. During this time he also reported domestic news on elections and civil rights and was sent to South America to cover the Soviet penetration of that part of the world.
In 1957, he was given his own daily television news broadcast, “Richard C. Hottelet with the News,” a 15-minute weekday morning program he anchored until September 1961; he also did a regular 25-minute Sunday radio broadcast in early 1957. He was named United Nations correspondent in 1960, just in time to report the famous shoe-banging incident involving Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
For the next 25 years, Hottelet appeared regularly on CBS News television programs such as the CBS EVENING NEWS and FACE THE NATION, covering the diplomatic aspects of the biggest stories of the day, including the conflicts concerning Cuba, Congo, Bangladesh, Vietnam and the American hostage crisis in Iran.
Hottelet retired from CBS News in 1985 and became the public affairs counselor for the U.S Mission to the U.N. for a short time. He then began a new career as a commentator on America’s foreign affairs, moderating “America and the World” for National Public Radio, appearing on panel discussions, lecturing and writing articles.
Hottelet continued to speak publicly into his later years, accepting, at age 88, a two-year appointment as a G.W. Welling Presidential Fellow at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he had guest lectured previously. He continued to guest lecture each semester at George Washington up until the time of his death. His last lecture, delivered via phone to a journalism class there was in September 2014, the month he was born. The class sang him happy birthday. As he did in all of his lectures to journalism students, Hottelet urged the students to be objective. “Play it straight, do not tell them what you think. Do not tell them what you feel. Just tell them what you know.” He donated his papers to the University in 2007.
In 2011, he received two recognitions. He was given the Distinguished Service award from the Radio, Television and Digital News Directors Association at a New York event. Later in the year, he went to Washington to accept a Presidential Citation from the National Press Club. His acceptance speeches at both gatherings reflected his famous modesty and consisted of two words: “I tried.” A hale, spry nonagenarian, Hottelet attended both events by himself, requiring no assistance.
The other “Murrow’s Boys” – and one woman – all of whom reported from Europe in World War II, are: Mary “Marvin” Breckinridge Patterson, Cecil Brown, Winston Burdett, Larry LeSueur, Charles Collingwood, William Downs, Thomas Grandin, Eric Sevareid, William L. Shirer and Howard K. Smith.
Richard Curt Hottelet was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 22, 1917. He was educated in New York schools and was graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. degree. He moved to Germany to attend Berlin University in 1938, where he began his journalism career with United Press.
In 1941 he married Ann Delafield, a British woman he met in Berlin. She pre-deceased him in early 2013. They had a daughter, Antonia Guzman and a son, Richard Peter Hottelet, both of whom predeceased Hottelet. He is survived by four grandchildren: Maria Hottelet Foley of Cambridge, Henry Hottelet, Pete Hottelet of Oakland, Calif., and Caleb Hottelet; and two great grandchildren.
The family has tentative plans for a memorial service in the spring.