September 6, 1972: World learns of Munich Olympics massacre

The 1972 Olympic Games in Munich were billed as “The Peaceful Games,” since it was the Germany’s first time hosting since the end of World War II.

But on September 5, Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village and killed two members of the Israeli delegation and abducted nine more.

The next day, the world learned that the hostages had been killed. Correspondent Morton Dean shared the sad news in a CBS News Special Report.

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Crowds gathered near the Olympic Village during the hostage situation

CBS News

Early in the morning on September 5, 1972, five members of a Palestinian faction called Black September, wearing track suits, scaled the walls around the mens housing complex. There, they killed an Israeli wrestler and a coach. Nine other Israelis were taken as hostages.

After hours of negotiations, “the Arab guerillas had been promised that they would be able to make their way by a German plane to Tunisia, and that all of their demands would be met,” Dean reported.

Among those demands was the release of more than 200 Arab prisoners being held by the Israeli government.

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German sharpshooters on a roof in the Olympic Village

CBS News

German authorities transported the terrorists and hostages by bus, and then helicopter, to a military airport roughly 25 miles from Munich. A Lufthansa jet was waiting for them there.

After the helicopters landed, two terrorists exited the helicopters to inspect the plane. When they emerged, German military sharpshooters started firing.

An operation to free the hostages had been set up at the airport, and a large gun battle ensued. An explosion went off during the chaos, as one of the terrorists detonated a grenade.

All five terrorists and nine hostages were killed in the gunfight. A German police officer was also killed.

“The news that all hostages were killed came as a terrible surprise. It had been reported by some authorities in Munich earlier this evening that 8 had survived, a report that had given some of the Israelis’ relatives a few moments of joyous expression,” Dean reported.

The massacre lead to security changes at subsequent Olympics, as the threat of terrorism has only increased.

At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazilian authorities spent more than $550 million on security. 47,000 police officers and 38,000 soldiers were on duty during the games, which was double the force of the London games in 2012.