San Diego-Moscow TV Link : U.S., Soviet Vets Cross ‘Space Bridge’ for Peace

Times Staff Writer

Soviet pilot Vladimir Roshenko, who flew bombers over Europe during World War II, said he formed close friendships with many American airmen.

William Beswick, an American veteran who fought his way to the Elbe River in Germany, where he first met Soviet soldiers who had fought from the other direction, said the camaraderie was strong despite the language barrier.

Other veterans recalled sharing medical supplies and rations.

They were among about 40 World War II veterans who gathered Tuesday in San Diego and Moscow to mark the 40th anniversary of VE Day and renew their friendships via a live satellite “space bridge.”


The two-hour simultaneous telecast between the two nations, “Remembering War,” was held to allow veterans from the two countries to reflect upon their wartime experiences and to assess the war’s effect on their societies, said Frederick Starr, president of Oberlin College and moderator of the program.

“It is important for us to recall our experiences as allies when we joined together for a common goal,” Starr said. “Remembering our wartime experiences will guide us to a more peaceful future.”

Seated a few feet from a large screen in the KPBS-TV studios at San Diego State University, U.S. veterans leaned forward as Moscow beamed in. In silence, they searched for familiar faces among those seated in decorated uniforms thousands of miles away.

Vladimir Pozner, the moderator from Gosterleradio in Moscow, speaking through a translator, greeted the American audience. A film clip of Soviet soldiers dragging machinery through the snow flashed on the screen, followed by clips of young women boarding bombers.


A gray-haired Soviet woman recalled the scene to the Allied veterans.

“I was only 17,” she said. “We would fly at night and I see girls burning there, but we could not help. It was very difficult, but the enemy was all over the Motherland.”

Lauretta Beaty Foy in San Diego, who flew bombers from Long Beach to Newark for eventual delivery to the Soviets, assured the woman in Moscow that she was not alone.

The dialogue continued as film clips depicting the home front and the end of the war were shown.

Agrippina Khromova in Moscow told the audience that as a teen-ager she worked in a wartime factory.

“We were turners,” Khromova said. “We were not high enough to reach the lathe. One boy had to stand on a ladder. The emulsion was cold, and our fingers stuck to the emulsion.

“In the name of all mothers, may the hands of our children make only things for peace.”

Heads nodded in both audiences and hands reached up to wipe away tears. Others sobbed as they remembered the grief and the friendships.


Historians and war correspondents were on hand to explain what led to the war.

Georgiy Arbatov, a Soviet historian in Moscow, said there would have been less suffering if there had been cooperation between the two countries sooner.

“People did not do anything until there was a great necessity,” Arbatov said. “Our need now is no lesser.”

Elliott Roosevelt, son of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who participated as a veteran, said in an interview after the event that the satellite visit with Moscow may have been more effective than any official summit meetings.

“My assessment is that Gorbachev is carrying on the same policies as his predecessor and our President has a record of distrust of Soviet intentions. All of their meetings are doomed before they start,” Roosevelt said.

“We demonstrated today that we are still trying to build a bridge of understanding. And the Soviets have shown that they are just as anxious to eliminate the threat of annihilation. This forum is a message from the people to the leaders of the two countries.”

The telecasts, the first in a series of five Space Bridges, is scheduled to be broadcast by American public television stations and Soviet television in October.