Richard C. Hottelet, the last living member of a group of CBS News correspondents whose work under Edward R. Murrow during World War II helped set a template for broadcast journalism, died Wednesday morning at the age of 97, according to information from CBS.
Hottelet was the last to join a group of what became known as “Murrow’s Boys,” a group of men — and one woman — who reported from Europe via radio. The others were 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 C. Hottelet was the ultimate CBS News reporter,” said Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” in a statement. “He was one of the true gentleman reporters, a real ‘Murrow boy,’ an elegant combination of reporter and storyteller.”
Hottelet was the last to join the team, 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, one that 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 went 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. Before joining CBS, he was imprisoned by Germany’s Nazi regime for four months while working for United Press. “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.”
After World War II, Hottelet reported from West Germany and Poland. 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.
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.
In 2011 he received two honors. 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 spry nonagenarian, Hottelet attended both events by himself, requiring no assistance.
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.
Richard Curt Hottelet was born in Brooklyn. He was educated in New York schools and graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. He moved to Germany in 1938 to attend Berlin University, 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, as did a daughter and a son. He is survived by four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
The family has tentative plans for a memorial service in the spring.