Due to several factors, actual eyewitness accounts of the invasion were slow in coming. First of all, the military maintained a media control of most events. Secondly, technology was primitive by today's standards. Broadcasters had to wait until the reporter returned from the event before it could be told. Then it was broadcast via shortwave making conditions of receipt dependent upon the weather. Many of the reports in the early stages were pool reports. That is, a reporter's broadcast was heard by all networks regardless of his/her normal station affiliation. This allowed important reports to be heard by all regardless of who was making the report.
Until a report came in, the networks relied on their wire services for details or new reports. These were generally short due to the need to get them typed in and transmitted as soon as possible. The first eyewitness report to come back was Wright Bryan's description of the first parachute drop behind enemy lines he witnessed aboard a C-14. This was a pool broadcast, but NBC introduced the reporter and his background as an NBC affiliate broadcaster. CBS handled it simply as a report from a reporter. But for some reason that cannot be explained, CBS interrupted this fascinating report twice. First to identify the speaker and secondly to read a bulletin both of which could have waited. The pressure to provide details first was obviously important. Since the broadcast was a pool report and the bulletin could potentially be more of a scoop (first on the air), it might explain CBS' action.
The second eyewitness account rolled in about 15 minutes later. James Willard, a British reporter had just returned to SHAEF headquarters and filed an account of the invasion as seen by air. The networks handled it as one more piece of information about what was actually happening.
Another pool report of the air invasion was filed by reporter David Anderson. Anderson describes how "the Germans were caught napping."
Not made available for Pool broadcast was an eyewitness report by CBS reporter Charles Collingwood who was aboard a troop ship - LST - interviewing some of the soldiers who were heading toward the beach. You'll note the reference to security of information. Despite that the Collingwood report was being recorded and not live broadcast, the soldiers were very specifically doing as they were told not to talk openly about the invasion.
Stanley Richardson reported on the invasion fleet. His report is a good example of how different the technology for reporting was compared to today. All reports overseas came via shortwave. If the reception was not good, the broadcast could not continue. With this report you will hear some failure followed by fading and some noise.Back to D-Day Home Page