Morrison, Herbert Oglevee.

Back to all people

- Medals

united states

Morrison, Herbert Oglevee, born 14-05-1905, in Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, USA, the son of Walter Lindsay and Bertha Oglevee Morrison. By the time Morrison was five years old, the family was living on Market Street in nearby Scottdale Borough, three miles north of Connellsville. The family did not include his father, who passed away when Morrison was just a toddler. According to the 1910 U.S. census, the household included his widowed mother, his grandmother, an older brother, and an adult cousin, Nettie Herbert, who worked as a stenographer at a local “sheet mill.” In addition to the several members of his family, two boarders paid to live with the Morrisons and served to provide an extra source of income. Morrison’s brother, Walter, was four years his elder and sometimes went by his middle name, Franklin.

Herbert Morrison’s mother supported their family by holding several jobs over the ensuing years while continuing to welcome extended family and borders. When Morrison was fourteen years old, his mother was employed as a saleslady in a jewelry store. Ten years later, in 1930, she worked as a radiotrician in Scottdale. Little did she know that her position in communications foreshadowed Morrison’s future vocation. It’s surely possible that her job influenced Morrison who was now 24, still living at home, and working a dead-end job as a salesman in a shoe store. Seven years later, he would be working in a new profession that would change the course of his life.

At some point after 1930, Morrison was employed as a news reporter for WLS, a large AM radio station affiliated with NBC News, in Chicago, Illinois. Because radio technology was relatively primitive in the 1930s, radio broadcasts were either aired live or not at all. Morrison’s usual broadcast work was as an announcer on live musical programs, but his earlier successful reporting of Midwestern floods from an airplane led to his assignment. WLS reluctantly allowed Morrison to go to New Jersey to experiment with new recording technology that allowed audio reports to be aired at a later date.

On 06-05-1937, Herbert Morrison’s next assignment was to cover the landing of the Hindenburg  from creator Zeppelin, Ferdinand Adolf August Heinrich Graf von. , on it’s first flight to the United States of that year. He was accompanied by fellow co-worker Charlie Nehlsen to cover the landing of the giant airship at Lakehurst, New Jersey . Morrison wore a blue serge suit and a topcoat. Morrison arrived at the landing field early, as the Hindenburg had been expected to land that morning. However, the landing had been delayed by almost 12 hours due to stormy conditions over the Atlantic, which caused the airship to deal with crosswinds that slowed the ship down. The airship still flew through the storm without any major troubles though. However, another rainstorm had blown over Lakehurst. This ended up causing further delays in the landing. During the process, Morrison and Nehlsen set up their broadcasting equipment inside of a small station that was positioned in between the mooring mast and the hangar, which the Hindenburg would be docked to.

At some point after 1930, Morrison was employed as a news reporter for WLS, a large AM radio station affiliated with NBC News, in Chicago, Illinois. Because radio technology was relatively primitive in the 1930s, radio broadcasts were either aired live or not at all. Morrison’s usual broadcast work was as an announcer on live musical programs, but his earlier successful reporting of Midwestern floods from an airplane led to his assignment. WLS reluctantly allowed Morrison to go to New Jersey to experiment with new recording technology that allowed audio reports to be aired at a later date.

Morrison and Nehlsen waited for almost 10 hours. The Hindenburg circled around New York City and close to New Jersey. Eventually, Commander captain Max Pruss reported that the storm had passed, and the Hindenburg was clear to land. Morrison began his broadcast at 7:15 as the airship began to head towards the landing field. Morrison watched through his window as the airship appeared out of the clouds and over the landing field. Stepping outside, Morrison watched in awe as the massive airship circled over the landing field above his head. Morrison reported the efforts of the landing crew to land the vessel in the rain. Morrison mistakenly thought there were 106 people aboard the flight when in reality there were 97 aboard. As the ship began to dump water ballast, Morrison and Nehlsen noticed that the ship was tail-heavy by only a few degrees. After attempting to right itself out, the crew dropped the landing ropes for the ground crew to pull the ship towards the mooring mast, where Morrison was standing. Everything seemed to go fine until 7:25 when the unimaginable happened.

Suddenly, without warning the airship caught fire. Morrison was shocked and terrified and began to report the horror that was unfolding in front of his eyes. He watched as an entire hydrogen bag exploded, and the ship began to fall to the ground, beginning to be engulfed in fire. Nehlsen stayed by Morrison, watching in terror as well. Morrison, trying not to scream, reported every detail of the airship’s crash. He witnessed horrified passengers leaping for their lives, spectators underneath the airship screaming and running, and ground crew members scattering for cover. As the ship crashed to the ground, Morrison saw flaming people falling from the airship, causing him to break down in tears. As the airship was engulfed, Morrison feared the worst, that all of the people still trapped inside were killed (some were, while many others miraculously survived). As the airship collapsed to the ground in a pile of tangled metal, Morrison exclaimed “Oh the Humanity!” His most famous quote of the whole disaster. He was so distraught, he needed to take five to calm down. During his break, he openly sobbed along with Nehlsen, who was equally shaken.

After calming down, Morrison began to report the rescue efforts as the airfield’s rescue and ground crew members and the Lakehurst Fire Department arrived on the scene to extinguish the fire, as the diesel fuel was still burning.

Many people had been pulled from the airship, and Morrison witnessed injured passengers, airship crew members, spectators, and ground crew members being carried to the Hangar, to serve as a temporary hospital, until ambulances would transfer them to nearby hospitals close to the area. Morrison also told the viewers a clearer explanation of what happened, saying that four minutes after the landing lines were dropped, a fire broke out close to the tail fins, followed by a massive explosion, causing the ship to fall to the ground. Morrison still feared that over a hundred people could have been dead, and only a few passengers survived. Morrison had to take a few breaks for a few seconds, as he was still shaken by the events  After the broadcast was complete, Morrison and Nehlsen left Lakehurst and turned sent their tapes by airplane to Chicago. Morrison soon got relieving word that out of 97 on board, 62 survived. 35 people died in addition to one fatality on the ground. Captain Pruss survived the crash and died 28-11-1960, age 69, in Frankfurt am Main. Former Captain Ernst Lehmann

was the most senior officer on board, but was there only as an observer. He was severely burned when the ship caught fire at Lakehurst on 6 May 1937, and died the following day. The frightening broadcast was played that night in full length. Portions were rebroadcast nationally by the NBC Radio network the next day. It was the first time that recordings of a news event were ever broadcast, and also the first coast-to-coast radio broadcast. However, Nehlsen’s Presto 6D recorder ran about 3% slow, causing Morrison’s voice to sound different from how it actually was, and that Morrison’s normal speaking and radio announcer voice was actually quite deep as evidenced by other recordings of his voice from the same era. Despite this, Morrison’s quick professional response and accurate description combined with his own emotional reaction have made the recordings a classic of audio history.

Death and burial ground of Morrison, Herbert Oglevee.

 

Morrison later served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and was the first news director at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh. He also ran for Congress three times as a Pennsylvania Republican. Prior to retirement, he served as a technical adviser for the 1975 film, The Hindenburg and developed a radio and television section at West Virginia University. Morrison was maried with Bertha Oglevee Morrison, born 1880, who died in 1947 (age 66–67)  Herber himself died in his home on 10-01-1989, age 83, in Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia, USA.

Morrison, Herbert Oglevee, is buried at the Scottdale Cemetery Scottdale, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, VS.

 

Share on :

end