May 28, 2014

1944. Speaking With Colonel Elliott Roosevelt

Photo-Reconnaissance During World War II
Source: "Elliot Roosevelt and FDR Jr. (Date unknown) - Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, New York. - Reproduction number: 789(120)"
C.B.S. "Admiral Radio"
Sunday, 30th April, 1944.


DOWNS: Ever since the war began we've been hearing about fighter pilots and bombing heroes. Today we have a representative of what might be called the "mystery service" of the United States armed forces.

And to tell us about it is a man from Texas about whom you all know. He is Colonel Elliott Roosevelt of Fort Worth.

His father lives in the White House.

Colonel Roosevelt, you are commanding officer of a Reconnaissance Wing stationed here in Britain. Now, just why should Reconnaissance be called the "mystery service" of the air force?

ROOSEVELT: I don't know. Outside of certain secret equipment that we use, there's no particular mystery about our work. We send boys out in unarmed, fast planes who fly through every kind of opposition the enemy has. Their job is to get photographs and weather information and get back with them at any cost.

DOWNS: That's pretty dangerous, isn't it?

ROOSEVELT: Our missions are never joy rides. You see, when the Photo-Reconnaissance boys go out, they maybe have a score of targets to hit with their camera lens, not just one Me-109 or an aircraft plant. And their missions are never completed when they shoot the target with their cameras...they still have to get the photographs back. The weather boys have to range all parts of enemy territory every day.

DOWNS: What happens to this information?

ROOSEVELT: These pictures of enemy territory go to the highest Staffs of the Allied Command for study. This includes the air-force, the navy and the ground forces. They are invaluable in precision bombing...and for the navy and ground forces in the coming invasion.

DOWNS: Some of your Reconnaissance boys were in action in Africa, Sicily and Italy. What has become of them?

ROOSEVELT: A lot of them are now operating up here. Take Johnny Hoover from Cresson, Pa., for example. He's only 22 years old but is one of our veterans. He has 2 DFCs and 13 air medals. I believe he has completed more missions than any American reconnaissance pilot on this side of the Atlantic.

Then there's Walter Wightner from Yonkers, N.Y. He is 25 [possibly 24] years old. He was the first American reconnaissance pilot over Berlin. He recorded the Silver Star the other day.

Kids like these are top-notch pilots doing one of the most important jobs of the war. They will stand up with the best fighter and bomber pilots in any air force in the war. You have to be more than a specialized photographed to succeed in Photo-Reconnaissance. You have to be as good as the best fighter pilot in the world...and you have to be as steady and accurate as the best bomber pilot and navigator in the world. And you have to do the whole job with no more protection than a jack rabbit.

DOWNS: Then Photo-Reconnaissance is sort of the scouting service for a modern army.

ROOSEVELT: That's exactly it. My boys are the Buffalo Bills and Kit Carsons of this war. And we intend to scout Hitler clean out of business.

DOWNS: Thank you Colonel Roosevelt. That was Col. Elliott Roosevelt reporting on the work of the Photo-Reconnaissance branch of the air force. I return you now to CBS in New York.