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The Crisis of 1938 – the dispute between Germany and Czechoslovakia over land claims by the Germans marked a significant change in what was going on in the world and how it was being received. First, it represented the introduction of Shuttle Diplomacy. As was mentioned by the breathless announcer, waiting for the arrival of Prime Minister Chamberlain, this was the second time in his life the Prime Minister flew by airplane to a summit conference. The marvel of the age was the fact that a head of State could fly to an emergency summit conference, and do it in less than 2 hours and fly back home to report about it. It was unheard of before then.
Secondly, this was the first time a crisis of any magnitude was actively reported by the broadcast media to the world while it was happening. Prior to this it was covered by newspapers, magazines and newsreels. And most of the time the actual event wouldn’t be known about for days or even weeks after it happened.
So we have a breathless announcer from the BBC, broadcasting live from the airport in London to a shortwave station and beamed out to the rest of the world, where it was picked up by the American radio networks, and now everyone knew what was going on in the same place at the same time. Suddenly the crisis seemed very real and the future seemed very precarious.
And rightfully so. This was the second of three trips Chamberlain would make to Munich in an attempt to avert War. It’s interesting to note that, it’s been historically assumed Chamberlain made the “Peace In Our Time” quote after the third and final trip to Munich, where he arrived home with a written agreement regarding Germany’s demands. But it was this trip, the second one, where Chamberlain gives a variation on the much-printed quote, and it was a newspaper editor to take the original quote on this day and be creative with it a few days later.
Here is the Shortwave broadcast from the BBC of the arrival, live as it happened on the morning of September 24, 1938. The sound is a little muddled in places, but pretend you’ve never heard live news-as-it-was-happening before.