George Hicks and the network coverage
of the Pool Broadcast of D-Day.

George Hicks ReportingThe New York World Telegram called it "the greatest recording yet to come out of the war." This was the amazing recording made by George Hicks, London Bureau Chief for the Blue Network (soon to become ABC) of the beginning of the D-Day Normandy Invasion. To add to the amazement, until 1944 recordings of any kind on the air had been banned by the networks with few exceptions. The reason given was that they were a deception upon the public. But the New York Times concluded that "[transcriptions] can be more alive than a live program."

Using a 75lb ARC Commando model Recordgraph, a portable film recording device loaned by the Navy to pool broadcasts, George Hicks, on board the U.S.S. Ancon, a communications ship, began in a low monotone "We're lying some few miles off the coast of France where the invasion of Europe has begun..." Hicks was recording the beginning of the invasion for the news pool for later feed available to all the networks. This was pre-invasion late in the evening of June 5th.

At exactly 11:30pm, NBC aired the following announcement:

"In a few seconds, we will take you to London for the first eyewitness account of the actual invasion of France by sea -- of the landing of Allied troops on a French beachhead. War correspondent, George Hicks saw those landings from the bridge of an Allied warship, and thru the ingenuity of radio wire (sic) recording, the National Broadcasting Company is able to give you the story as witnessed by George Hicks in a pool broadcast. So, now, NBC takes you to London for the first eyewitness account of the actual invasion of Europe!"


At the exact same time over on CBS, Bob Trout came to the air with this statement:

"We are about to bring you from London the first eyewitness recording of the shore bombardment precening the actual landings of the invasion on D-Day, and a description of Allied landing craft going into the beach. A recording made by George Hicks representing the combined American networks. So, we take you now to London, to hear George Hicks in a recording made aboard an American warship at sea. Go ahead, London!"


The pool feed, which came via a BBC circuit only offers static and bursts of Morse code. CBS cuts away from the dead circuit just about 40 seconds into the switch returning to Trout in New York. NBC continues with the static a bit longer before cutting back for an explanatory statement.

A little over a minute later the listeners heard Hicks' voice describing the night sky and the landing craft. At this point static again overwhelms the feed. After a 15 second period, NBC breaks into the static with this announcement:

"Ladies and gentlemen, apparently atmospherics have again interfered with our rebroadcast of an account of the invasion by George Hicks from London. We again take you to London!"


When NBC switches back to London, listeners heard Charles Shaw with a closing announcement: "...you now to the United States." Then static again overwhelms the circuit. Again Charles Shaw is heard: "Hello, New York! Didn't you get that???" Angry voices are heard in the background and NBC quickly cuts off the feed, switching to Chicago for musical fill by Roy Shield and his Orchestra.

Over at CBS the same Hick's short clip is heard, but instead they cut off immediately when Hicks' voice is lost. They air the following announcement:

"We regret that due to conditions beyond our control the recording of the special broadcast for the American networks by George Hicks will be delayed for a few moments. We return you to the United States."


In New York, Robert Trout comes on explaining what a Pool Broadcast is and then reading late bulletins. About 2:33 minutes from the beginning, Hicks is finally heard describing the attack fleet concluding just after H-Hour arrives.

NBC broadcasts the same recording, but cutting away after a brief signal loss, thus losing Hicks' closing remarks.

At 11:15 Eastern War Time, the North American service of the BBC broadcast the second half of the Hicks recording, beginning with his statement that "We have yet to see a German plane." This is the most famous portion of the report (and the portion heard here), including an actual description of the bombardment.

Sources

Thanks to Elizabeth McLeod and Mike Biel.
American Scholar Magazine, Vol. 63, Issue 2, p.193: McDonough, John, "The Longest Night"
Special thanks to George Hick's daughter for use of the photo.