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Robert Trout, Don Lang and Toughie Robert Trout with Toughie at WJSV Radio in Washington, DC, 1935.
Robert Trout Remembered

Broadcast pioneer Robert Trout witnessed and reported on many of the 20th Century's landmark events, from the repeal of prohibition to Alan Shepherd's 1961 journey into space.

He anchored CBS News coverage of World War II and coined the phrase "fireside chat" to describe President Franklin D. Roosevelt's radio addresses to the nation. He flew on the first trans-Atlantic passenger flight and covered Gen. Douglas MacArthur's "old soldiers never die" speech in 1951.

audio button Trout's rich baritone finally gave out Tuesday. He was 91. Listen to an appreciation from All Things Considered.

Robert Trout on NPR
For the last four years of a career that spanned seven decades, Trout offered commentary and vivid recollections of his career for NPR listeners. A selection follows.

Battle of Britain (14.4 | 28.8) -- Veteran broadcaster and commentator Robert Trout recalls when the tide of the Battle of Britain turned. The aerial bombardment of London by Germany during World War Two -- known as the Blitz -- was thought to be a prelude to Nazi invasion. After the war, it was learned that on this date Adolf Hitler decided to abandon plans to take over England. Trout narrates a story about anchoring CBS Radio Network News during this period. We hear his colleague in London, Edward R. Murrow reporting on the air raids, Trout's own broadcasts, and the voice of Winston Churchill after the war. Trout tells how the addition of an evening newscast in radio prime time angered advertisers. (12:30)

France Falls (14.4 | 28.8) -- Robert Trout recalls this day sixty years ago when France surrendered to Nazi Germany. At the time, the Allies feared Germany was unbeatable, and the fall of France cast a pall over the free world. Trout uses the voices of his colleagues Eric Sevareid, William Shirer, and others to illustrate the approach and victory of Germany in the spring of 1940. Nazi troops circumvented the defense line France built on its northern border. We hear a recording made inside the railway car where the terms of surrender were debated and signed. (12:30)

Remembering Austria (14.4 | 28.8) -- Robert Trout, who worked for CBS news in its early days, says one lesson he has learned is that history does not really look back. It delights in repeating itself in little ways, all the while diverting our eyes from the fresh plots and villains it is inventing. He uses Austria as his example and the recent rise of the Freedom Party and Joerg Haider. The political temperature today is far different from when he reported on it in March 1938. The Vienna of 1938 displayed a frightening fanaticism in its welcoming of the Germans. CBS news was in the city. But Correspondent Edward Murrow could not broadcast from there, because the Germans had taken over the radio station. CBS choose not to carry Germany's own coverage -- a staged propaganda event. Germany used radio as a great propaganda tool. Berlin fed a broadcast in perfect English. CBS boycotted the broadcasts, but the Mutual Broadcasting System did not. As Trout points out, the decision not to air this in America meant that Americans never heard the enthusiasm of the Austrians for the Nazis. (12:30)

Pearl Harbor Anniversary (14.4 | 28.8) -- Robert Trout was on the air from London on this day 58 years ago when the Japanese bombed the American Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He tells us what it was like being part of the newscast that first told Americans they had entered the Second World War. (12:30)

The Last Days of Peace (14.4 | 28.8) -- Robert Trout recalls the 10 days leading up to the start of the Second World War. Trout was a news anchor for CBS Radio at the time. Sixty years ago this day (September 1, 1939) Germany invaded Poland, triggering World War two. The invasion caused France and England to enter the war. Trout was on the air almost continuously during the days prior to the outbreak. He recounts the various trouble getting correspondents on the air: line failures, missing scripts, mangled German word pronunciations. His gripping tale is interspersed with his own recorded from the live broadcasts from New York City. We hear Edward R. Murrow, William Shirer and others coming on the line with Trout to capture moment by moment the growing tension as war loomed. Produced by John McDonough and mixed by Lorna White. (12:30)

Lost and Found Sound: Studio Nine (14.4 | 28.8) -- As part of our year-long collaboration with independent producers, Lost and Found Sound today turns to Robert Trout for a look back at CBS Studio Nine. The New York newsroom was the source of much of the century's news for millions of Americans. During the studio's operation from 1938 to 1964, Trout was one of the men who spent the most time there. He recently discovered some of his tapes. (12:30)

The Pan American Clipper (14.4 | 28.8) -- Regular transatlantic airline service began 60 years ago today. Robert Trout covered the press preview flight a few days earlier in 1939 -- and in the process scored a broadcast first: the premier live report from an airplane. Trout recounts the details of the flight and we hear his actual words broadcast that day. Trout is a veteran broadcaster, long associated with CBS Radio. (7:34)

Dewey and Truman (14.4) -- Robert Trout recalls what it was like on Election Night in 1948 at NBC News. He tells how he and his colleague H.V.Kaltenborn seemed unwilling to admit, in the face of the poll results coming in, that Republican Thomas Dewey was losing to Democrat incumbent Harry Truman in the Presidential Race. Later, Truman would mock Kaltenborn's mannerisms and the newsman's attempts to rationalize the figures that were coming in from the voting districts around the country. Trout was the anchor -- on the air until late the following morning. (8:00)

War of the Worlds (14.4) -- Robert Trout tells about the atmosphere at CBS in the days and weeks preceding the infamous October 30, 1938 broadcastof the Mercury Theater's version of H.G. Wells "The War of the Worlds." The broadcast conventions that director Orson Welles employed echoed the feverish coverage a month earlier of the Nazi's moves against the Sudetenland. Trout concludes that the people of 1938 were no more gullible than today's alien-fixated X-Files viewers and other present-day believers in the supernatural. (4:00)

Covering D-Day (14.4) -- Robert Trout recalls how he and his colleagues at CBS radio covered the Allied invasion of Europe. At the time, no one really knew how to cover a war on the radio...and during the early hours of the invasion, as information was trickling out of Europe, the correspondents were desperate to simply fill air time. Trout says it was an amazing experience made all the more remarkable by the fact that all of the reporters were basically making up the procedures for coverage as they went along. (8:00)

Anscluss Anniversary (14.4) -- Sixty years ago tonight, a new era of broadcasting was born. As Hitler marched toward Vienna, several men in New York scrambled to put together a live radio broadcast for CBS that would allow the audience to hear reports from correspondents in five of the world's capitals. Robert Trout was the anchor for that broadcast -- and he remembers the doubt they had that night that they could pull it off. (10:00)

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