The Writing 69th
The Writing 69th was so christened by one of the 8th Air Force's public relations officers, perhaps Hal Leyshon or Joe Maher. The group also considered the name The Flying Typewriters or the Legion of the Doomed. The Writing 69th included the likes of Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney and Robert Post.
The Writing 69th included:
- Paul Manning: correspondent for CBS Radio
- Robert Post: correspondent for the New York Times
- Walter Cronkite: correspondent for United Press
- Andy Rooney: correspondent for Stars and Stripes
- Denton Scott: correspondent for Yank magazine
- Homer Bigart: correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune
- William Wade: correspondent for the International News Service
- Gladwin Hill: correspondent for the Associated Press
In addition to the writers of the 69th, five newsreel cameramen took part in the training with the Flying Typewriters. They and their affiliations were:
- George B. Oswald: Universal Newsreel
- Ernest J.H. Wright: Paramount News
- J.L. Ransden: Movietone News
- Robert K.L. Gordon: Pathé Gazette News
- Harold J. Morley: Gaumont British
The reporters who accompanied the 8th Air Force were required to undergo a rigorous training course in just one week. They trained in a multitude of tasks, including how to shoot weapons, despite rules barring non-combatants from carrying a weapon into combat. The men were also trained on how to adjust to high altitudes, parachuting and enemy identification.
The first and last mission
The first and last mission for the Writing 69th would come on Feb. 26, 1943. A group of American B-24s and B-17s was dispatched to take out the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory in Bremen, Germany. As fate would have it, the skies over Bremen were overcast, and the bombing run had to be diverted to a secondary target, the submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven.
Of the eight journalists who comprised the Legion of the Doomed, only six went on that fateful mission; Post, Cronkite, Rooney, Wade, Bigart, and Hill. Over Oldenburg, Germany, the American bomber group encountered German fighters. Post's B-24 was shot down and exploded in mid-air. Eight Air Force crew members were killed, along with Post. The other planes returned safely, though the plane Rooney was on sustained some flak (anti-aircraft) damage. Post's death effectively ended the days of reporters flying on bombing missions. Others, including Scott and Manning (who both missed the Wilhelmshaven raid), did fly after this mission, but it was not nearly as widespread as it may have been save for Post's death.
- Hamilton, Jim (1999). The Writing 69th: Civilian war correspondents accompany a U.S. bombing raid on Germany during World War II. Green Harbor Publications. p. 172. ISBN 0971721106. Retrieved December 25, 2014.