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The Boys of '36 | Audio

Radio Coverage of the 1936 Olympics

Radios across the world were tuned in on August 14, 1936 when nine working-class boys from the University of Washington took gold at Hitler's Olympics. Listen to the original radio broadcast featuring reporter Bill Henry.

Credit: NBC Olympics


Bill Henry, NBC Radio: They have now gone nearly 800 meters and again the lead has switched and Italy is now leading, with Germany second, and Switzerland third, and the United States dragging along...not out of the race by any means but not in the first three. I should say that there's not over one length space dividing the six crews, which are followed closely now by the various judges as they come down in the boats...the crowds are beginning to get a little bit excited here now...as each race has approached its finish.

The crowd has begun to yell, particularly when the German crews are up near the start. They begin to yell Deutschland, Deutschland, Deutschland...keeping time to the strokes and they are now approaching the 1,000-meter-mark and in just a second I will give you their exact standing, I can see that the Washington crew, the American crew, is right up close now, at a thousand meters, I can see that Italy is leading, Germany is second, Switzerland third, and the American crew is trailing just a trifle, but is pretty close up as they are now passing the 1000-meter-mark and moving up towards 1,100 meters, there cannot possibly be more than a length or a length and a half between the first crew, the Italian crew, as it is very easily seen and the American crew which is on the outside, and which from this point appears to be fairly well in the rear...however I am quite certain they are ahead of Great Britain...they are a little bit behind Hungary and Switzerland is about even with Hungary, the Italian crew I should say had, uh, half a length from here and the German crew is very close to Italy. They are now up to the 1,100-meter-mark and they are coming up now very close...the United States is beginning to pick up quite rapidly now that good old Washington rush at the finish, they have been bringing up is coming up very rapidly now...I can see that they have passed Great Britain. I should say that they have passed Hungary, without any question they are coming up very close now to the Italian crew which is still in the lead. Germany is on the inside, fairly close to Italy, and it looks now as though the race were between Italy, Germany, the United States, and Great Britain.

It looks as though the United States were beginning to pour it on now, the Washington crew is driving hard on the outside of the course, they are coming very close now to getting into the lead. They have about 500 meters to go, perhaps little less than 500 meters.

And there's no question in the world what Washington has made up a tremendous amount of distance, it is very difficult to see from here now exactly the standing, but they have moved up definitely into the third place. Italy is still leading, Germany is second, and Washington...the United States...has come up very rapidly on the outside, they are crowding up for the finish now with less than a quarter of a mile to go.

The British crew is a little bit back of the American crew, and unquestionably the United States is now right up even, if not ahead of, the Germans and very close to the Italian crew in their blue shirts. The crowd is beginning to yell, they are now very close to the end of the grandstand. The American crew is coming up very, very fast. They are coming very close to being in the lead now. I think that they have passed Germany...Germany and Italy are pushing hard, very close on this side and I believe the United States is going into the lead...they will soon be abreast of us with about 200 yards to go, the United States is definitely ahead of Great Britain, definitely ahead of Hungary, definitely ahead of Switzerland...they are now ahead of Italy...the American crew is in the lead now...with Germany second, Italy third, Hungary fourth, and Great Britain fifth! And there's not one length difference between the first five crews.

The American crew is in front, they are not leading by more than a deck's length it's very, very close, hear them yell for Germany but the United States is in front with 50 meters to go...40 meters to go...they have half a boat length on Italy...20 meters to go...10 meters to go and the United States wins! With Italy second, and Germany third, Great Britain fourth, and Hungary fifth, and not one boat length between the first five crews and Don Hume, the very light stroke on the American crew who has lost something like 12 or 15 pounds and is down to where you can hardly see him...stroked that great crew from the northwest to the outstanding victory of the Olympic games and keeps the American record of winning the eights, now for five straight Olympiads completed, was one of the most thrilling races I have ever seen in my life and once more the American crew as they have done every time this year and every race came steaming up from behind with a terrific rush. Pulled into the lead with perhaps 100 meters to go, and slowly pulled their way ahead...there's some Americans down here having a fit, everybody's looking at them, they are yelling at the top of the their voices...it looked for a while as though they would never get a chance to yell at all, until a few of them half-heartedly sang "God Save the King" when Great Britain finally broke the streak of German victories and now the American crew has pulled itself together...some of the other crews...the German stroke is still collapsed, a couple of the fella's in the Hungarian crew are laying out flat on the boat, a couple of the Swiss boys are out, the English crew is sitting up in good shape, and the American crew is apparently now in good condition although...there's the cheer for the official announcement that the United States has won the Olympic 8-oared championship for the fifth consecutive time.

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