Written by Phil Walsh
These are the words we heard from Maj. Gen. Bob “Rosie” Rosenberg, USAF (Ret.), as he began telling us the history of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) at the Gathering on Feb. 9. And, indeed, for well over an hour, Rosie recounted a unique and riveting story to his fellow Falcons Landing residents about our nation’s efforts over a period of 65 years to develop and deploy the most ambitious and technologically advanced space-based reconnaissance systems ever conceived – a story shrouded in utmost secrecy by the U.S. Government for most of those 65 years. Rosie told that story from the perspective of a dedicated Air Force officer who actually lived it much of his 30-year career and who, over those many years, was personally responsible for many NRO mission successes.
We were joined in the Ballroom for Rosie’s NRO presentation by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, author of The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell, a recently published true story about a traitor who stole thousands of NRO photos and intelligence reports to sell to our enemies, the subject of the subsequent Gathering on February 16th, and his wife Jen Demascio.
As told by Rosie, the impetus for developing breakthrough U.S. reconnaissance capabilities, and subsequently establishing the NRO, was the launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite system in 1957. Despite immense technical challenges and almost equally daunting bureaucratic obstacles, the long-term U.S. response eventually achieved worldwide, space-based land and sea surveillance capabilities. It is truly a remarkable story of American ingenuity and technical prowess. The successes of programs like Corona, SAMOS, MIDAS, Gambit, and Hexagon were all the direct result of the dedication, skill, and perseverance of a cadre of military and civilian space engineers who are unsung heroes in the annals of U.S. military history. Rosie pointed out that many of these distinguished government servants did or still do reside at Falcons Landing – people named were Lew Allen, Bob Geiger, Paul Kaminski, Bruce Brown, Richard Picanso, Howard Schue; Jack Chain and, of course, someone worthy of special recognition and thanks, Rosie’s wonderful wife of almost 60 years, Marge.
Thank you, Rosie, for such a superb history lesson – and for your life-long dedication to making the work of the NRO truly the pride of a grateful nation and the envy of the world.