This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Irita Van Doren introduces Walter Lord, author of "A Night to Remember," about the sinking of the Titanic. Lord discusses his childhood fascination of the Titanic. He speaks of all the factors that contributed to the disastrous crash that caused so much death. As he finishes speaking, Van Doren encourages him to also tell the story of the Carpathia, a rescue ship that responded to the Titanic's S.O.S.
Next, Van Doren introduces William J. Keating, noting the five days he spent in jail as a result of not revealing his sources in the East Side Manhattan wire tapping case. She points out that most of his career has been in interaction with the criminal element. Keating goes on to discuss crime in New York City, discussing the Mafia - including Frank Costello and Vito Genovese. He also discusses how racketeers have taken a toll on all New Yorkers. He discusses his motivations for writing his autobiography, The Man Who Rocked the Boat, released the next year as the movie, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
Can Doren then announces that the planned third guest, Edwin O'Conner, was unable to attend due to the sudden death of his friend Fred Allen. In his place author Herbert Kubly, author of "American in Italy" speaks. He goes on to discuss international popularity, particularly regarding Russia. He discusses the Russian myth, which has won over the people of Europe and Asia by identifying itself with the humble and poor of the world. The United States has associated itself with the rich, alienating the poor people of the world. He notes that American motion pictures are in part responsible for this reputation.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71284
Municipal archives id: LT7238
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
During his relatively short writing life as practically no kind of writing that was a lot hasn't done for a living foreign newsletters business analyses a popular song even the Third Man theme Washington Doc sheets business magazines business books tax letters the Freemantle diaries which he edited label letters intelligence reports and advertising company by J. Walter Thompson where he is an editor and copywriter. With always busy business lives behind him Mr Lord has nevertheless unflaggingly pursued a private devotion it was on April fourteenth one thousand twelve but that unsinkable ship the Titanic struck an iceberg and in less than nine hours had sunk with only seven hundred and five survivors of the two thousand two hundred seven human beings on board as a child was alone was horrified and fascinated by the story when only ten years old indeed he persuaded his family to go abroad on the Olympic the sister ship of the Titanic so that he could familiarize himself with the general layout and performance of the last line up. I think grew older he learned that as a result of that terrible tragedy so you can face God but those of us who travel on the sea today have been put into effect. Never again will men fling a ship into an ice field heedless of warnings putting all their faith in her and sink ability no more do icebergs prowl the seas untended the American and British governments have starved the stablished and ice patrol and Coast Guard cutters shepherds stray icebergs the drift toward the steam a light lanes the wind a lane itself in fact has been shifted further south as an extra precaution all passenger ships now have a twenty four hour radio watch and never again time to ship only ten miles away be unaware of another's peril because it's radio operator had locked up shop and gone off duty never since that time has a line up put to sea without enough lifeboats by all the Titanic had lifeboats only half the people aboard she was unthinkable. This was the ending to a class distinctions in filling the boat the number of the Titanic second and third class passengers last compared with first class passengers were shocking. All of these things were important but it was a laboratory of human behavior that missed a lot continued to find the story absolving he's tracked down met and corresponded with scores of survivors rescuers relatives of victims steamship officials and any other person connected with the disaster with whom he could get in touch. He has read the thousands of pages of testimony given in the official investigation in Washington and London he has studied blueprints and builders specifications has plowed through cargo manifests and has caught the haunting quality of life aboard ship on that very first and final voyage from surviving a first class passengers and members of the crew. With the help of the few third class passengers who were saved he has recreated the atmosphere that prevailed in the steerage Baker's dogs and musicians gave him a picture of the intense pride of the men who manned and sailed that beautiful ship. From such sources has finally reconstructed minute by minute the nine fateful hours of the great ship sinking under the cap atheist gallant for our direction posting my head through the threatening ice floes to pick up the pitiful little girl. By skillfully and scrupulously placing these facts together Mr Lawlor has succeeded in giving us an exciting and moving picture of how human beings things the supreme test of their lives on that night of tragedy cowardice and heroism A Night To Remember I introduce to you Well hello. You saw the bad. Ladies and gentleman. Tough but last question the. Neighbor. Out of this formidable table was why on earth as a small boy did I ever get interested in the Titanic. And this doesn't surprise me because it was also the first question that was ever asked made after my book came out my own reaction to this question has always been the same instead of why on earth did I ever get interested in this story my own feeling has always been how on earth could anyone help but be interested in it who ever learned grew up with the fact that this was after all an incredibly fascinating news story Think of it just imagine it the largest ship in the world and on her maiden voyage with all the most glamorous and exciting people in the world hitting an iceberg and going down in the middle of the Atlantic it's a news editors green and. Easily the subject of fascination by any small boy but on top of this tremendous news element there's an aura of almost of practically the supernatural a curious haunting fate seemed to brood over the shed never have I ever come across a story of any thought where there were so many it if only that it happened if only that it happened everything would have come out all right yet they all went against this brand new unsinkable ship the first IF took place within ten minutes of her departure from Southampton from New York on this earth in the last voyage she was hardly away from her here before she almost collided with another ship they delay that followed was perhaps an hour or more but it had tremendous consequences for nights later because if it hadn't been for that the lie. The Titanic of the iceberg would not only have never come together at the same spot but perhaps and probably they would never have come together at all because the drift of the ocean currents would have completely changed the whole path of the sea that not for days after she left Southampton April the fourteenth one thousand and twelve a sparkling sunshine a calm Sunday day at as early as eight thirty in the morning while its message came in from the Corona warning her of ice ahead at one thirty as the passengers were going down for Sunday lunch another message came in from the Baltic at one forty another message came in from the Americans at seven thirty that evening as the passengers were dressing for dinner and getting ready to go down that Sunday night suffer another message came in from the Californian at nine thirty that night another message came in from this opera at all Evan across the night another message came in from the California if only If only the Titanic had hated and slowed down the length of the swellest message it could never have been the men destroyed the parable drives it but that was not to be so the sparkling Sunday afternoon turned into a glittering starlit Sunday night the sea flat calm as a mill pond and then later said they had never seen it so glassy If only there had been a wind if only there had been little bit of rough water to make surf at the base of the iceberg the accident could never have happened. Above the stars blaze in a black inky black sky if only there had been a moon the iceberg could have been seen in time but that didn't happen and so at eleven forty P.M. on that Sunday night look out fleet in the crow's nest so I third less than half a mile ahead everything was done to turn the ship but again fate was against it if only he had seen the ice fifteen seconds sooner but Titanic would have missed the iceberg completely if only he had seen it fifteen seconds later she would have hit the ice head on and the resulting conclude collision wouldn't have been fatal but it didn't happen that way she grazed the iceberg and like a can opener it sliced open her haul the three hundred feet opening up six watertight compartments If only it had only been five there might have been a chance but there was no chance if only her watertight bucket had been one deck higher perfectly easy to have done when she was building she would have stayed afloat but they weren't one deck higher and so as the water rose to the top of one balk at it overflowed into the one directly to the stern and gradually the ship sank lower and lower and succeeding watertight compartments also became ill the passengers were of course ordered up on deck and the loading of the boats began and here came the most tragic of all if only there had been enough lifeboats they would have been no question of saving everybody on board this great liner but there weren't enough lifeboats there are enough to conform to the law because the law said a ship only needed sixteen lifeboats the size of the Titanic there were sixteen life buds ironically enough by nine hundred sixty two and a half people worked up but what good did that do to a twenty two hundred seven people on board so the sixteen lifeboat and the four collapsible were enough for only a fraction of the. And the people on board the ship even seem to realize this although no one told them and with the quiet dignity about the way they handled themselves despite the fact there were of course occasional disturbances. And unfortunate incidents but far transcending the we're not doing this is a door Strath standing on the deck staying together refusing to be part of Benjamin Guggenheim the great mining King standing in full evening dress hundreds of rich and poor alike facing this tremendous supreme crisis in their lives with a quiet and almost unbelievable dignity ten miles away as they got into these pitifully few boats a light twinkled tantalizingly on the horizon it was the steamer California which it earlier warned the Titanic of an iceberg her operator after being brushed off by the Titanic's operator eleven o'clock had gone off duty he had been at work for sixteen hours but if only there had been a twenty four hour Wallace Watch it would have been no trouble whatsoever still at twelve fifteen her third officer sat in the while its operators shy and tinkered played with the headphones even put the gong he liked while it was a fascinating novelty at that very moment the Titanic that the West was frantically coming across the and what not the third officer not knowing about while equipment hadn't bothered to wind something called a detector and so he heard nothing if only he had wound it even though as the Titanic went down or rockets fired into the sky could be seen from the Californians bridge and there are two men not Chris that did not understanding then of good will but not conceiving of what was going on watched with idle curiosity as these rockets went up on the horizon they counted them one two three four up to eight and then they saw no more that night. The Titanic's had run out of there were no more thong at two twenty that morning their band flying she slid beneath the water and they when you add the tremendous news value of this star and combine it with the almost eerie haunting fatalistic touch the endless if only. You have what comes as close to the old time Greek tragedy as you can possibly get and yet even. As tremendous a new story as it is and is haunting it qualifies as these endless it contributed still it's not today the greatest and most important thing that came not of the whole Titanic story but not the aspect of it that fascinated me the months. To May looking at it contemplating it and thinking about it a great deal both before doing the book and since I thought to myself that if this was a night when humble lowly papal row of the noble heights and showed that they could stand alongside of the people of power and prestige and meet the end with great dignity if this was a night when the people of power and prestige showed sometimes lesser qualities it was also a night when poor people humble people lonely people could get panic stricken to get frightened and not too terribly admirable thing and it was also a night when the powerful in the great and the Mighty could fairly live up to their reputation and show what it was a night that decide both demagogues and socially ologist alive. It was a night that showed that economic status social position has nothing to do with weather and then it's good that it's nothing to do with whether it's bright or stupid it has nothing to do with whether it's GREAT perhaps not quite bright that shows that these that qualities that somehow come to us all and power are different for us and if the books in the story of the Titanic please that impression in that song in other people's minds then to need it more than served its purpose. This. Has spoken very briefly about this wonderful book there is an aspect of it that fascinated me. Just tell you a word or two more about and that is the great race of the rescue ships the cop you tell them just a little about. The Titanic that's the way with sand at twelve twenty five in the morning of April the fifteenth. It was picked up by ship all over the Atlantic and relate on to the land and relayed everywhere and then picked it up in Newfoundland and passed it on to Halifax to Cape Cod to New York where Interesting enough it was picked out the top of one to make a star David sign up. For the young Ross operate at the time far closer to the Titanic only fifty eight miles away if you know either small little line or down from the Mediterranean if you know the car to take it off the fact that the S.O.S. Well it's operator. Dash to the chart room where Captain roster and the line is captain with the slate working lot and I always thought the Captain Ross and reaction was in the finest traditions and none of that says he ordered the ship turned immediately and headed for the Titanic and then he turned to Wallace X. ray and said Are you sure that the Titanic it was no questioning the wireless operator the sign that whether he was sure first and then turned and allow us operated said he was sure. The little car tastiest meant to go only fourteen not the gap and get up steam for a trace through the night and then have told me who were on board that nobody had ever dreamed the ship could go so fast or so hard they did everything to get up steam they turned off the hot water they turned off all that he poured out the extra watch to get in all the extra cold they could and the little ship thundered along through the night and so as one of her crew has recently tell me the old boat was even more excited than all the rest of us. And so this little liner plunged on through the night through a nasal obstacles of icebergs and ice flows at the last minute in the last second the captain on the bridge barely steering dodging that way that way until finally he reached the Titanic's position at four in the morning and his navigation would so good that he figured he had reached the position for when he reached it. That time he turned off the the engine room telegraph looked out over the side and there three hundred yards away with the first the Titanic life this boat edged up to the side in the first survivors stumble to board with the news that the Titanic was gone when dawn came the following morning Captain Ross can look around saw the I thought over the. He didn't say anything at the time but two weeks later he turned to Captain Barr. Of another you know either when they were put together. And