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Angelo State CSS Director Goes International

January 23, 2012

Dr. Robert Ehlers is certainly getting good mileage out of his doctoral dissertation. In addition to helping Ehlers earn his Ph.D., the dissertation has been expanded into a book that has won a national award and landed its author roles in both U.S. and British national television programs.

3916093_19305576_trimmedDirector of ASU’s Center for Security Studies, Ehlers published his book, titled Targeting the Third Reich: Air Intelligence and the Allied Bombing Campaign, through University Press of Kansas in 2010. It subsequently won the 2010 Best Air Power History Book Award from the U.S. Air Force Historical Foundation. Later that year, it brought Ehlers to the attention of Bob Holloway, a senior producer at the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), when he was looking for experts for an upcoming documentary. The show featuring Ehlers, along with several other scholars and many World War II veterans, aired last spring on the BBC and then earlier this year in the U.S. as an episode of the PBS program “Nova.”

Titled “Operation Crossbow,” the documentary examines the role air intelligence and photo reconnaissance played in the Allied forces’ hunt for the German V-1 and V-2 weapons toward the end of World War II. Ehlers interviewed for the show at Edwards AFB, Calif., in December.

“This documentary was a very useful opportunity to get the word out to a broad audience about the value of air intelligence.”

Robert Ehlers

“My role was really pretty simple,” Ehlers said. “They interviewed me, and my speaking parts were incorporated along with those of a large number of veterans who flew the photo reconnaissance aircraft, who did the analysis of the film those pilots brought back, and who were involved in senior leadership positions and had to make recommendations up the chain of command about how to go after these weapons.”

The V-1 “buzz bombs” and V-2 rockets were manufactured at the Peenemünde research center, and were made a strategic priority by the German High command, who believed the revolutionary technology could help turn the tide of war. In an ongoing and intensive effort, a top secret photographic interpretation unit based at RAF Medmenham in Buckingshire, England, analyzed 3-D photos taken on photo reconnaissance missions by British Spitfire aircraft to help locate and destroy the weapons before they could be launched against Britain and its European allies. Once the intelligence personnel had located the main launch facilities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, Allied bombers went after them in a major campaign codenamed “Operation Crossbow.” This campaign reduced the number of V-1 “buzz bombs” launched at Britain and the D-Day invasion beaches by 90 percent, and it had a similar effect on V-2 launch rates.

“This documentary was a very useful opportunity to get the word out to a broad audience about the value of air intelligence, specifically, and how intelligence really shapes and drives operations,” Ehlers said. “Also, in this case, how it saved thousands of Allied civilians and troops from V-1s and V-2s, and how it, in that sense, preserved Allied morale, decreased German operational effectiveness and brought us one step closer to winning the war.”

The “Operation Crossbow” documentary first aired on BBC2 in May of 2011. It was then acquired by the PBS program “Nova,” renamed “3-D Spies of World War II” and aired throughout the U.S. this year on Jan. 18 and 19.

Anyone wishing to view the program can go online to or The program may be purchased on DVD from the “Nova” website.

Ehlers’ book can be purchased through and several other online sources.