3D Spies of WWII: Destroying Hitler’s Top Secret Rockets is an excellent 2011 documentary film produced jointly by the BBC and WGBH Educational Foundation for airing on BBC Television channels PBS stations. The film tells the fascinating and largely unknown story of the importance of aerial photo intelligence and the critical role Photo Interpreters (PIs) played during the conflict.
Brave British, Commonwealth and American pilots plied enemy skies on missions to photograph sites and targets of interest. More specifically, viewers learn of modified Supermarine Spitfires that were provided with extra fuel capacity and armed only with cameras.
Several former pilots of these flying machines provide first-hand details of some of their intrepid solo sorties, including the low-level photographing of the Bismarck-class battleship Tirpitz and Ruhr dams which were breached during the famous Dam Raids of 1943 undertaken by Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Other major topics addressed include the search for German V-1 flying bombs and V-2 ballistic missiles, which rained down upon England and caused such death and destruction.
The producers furthermore interview a number of former PIs to obtain insights into the recruiting of those who would be tasked with examining the millions of images, the methods of analysis, and the special equipment.
Spectacular contemporary footage of a Spitfire painted in Photo Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) livery is prominent. One is treated to exterior and in-cockpit shots of the Spit in flight. Interwoven are short segments reordered during the conflict of airmen just prior to strapping into their aeroplanes.
The only shortcoming of 3D Spies of WWII: Destroying Hitler’s Top Secret Rockets is that the production is so engrossing one is unhappily when it ends.