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ENFANT TERRIBLE: The Times and Schemes of General Elliott Roosevelt

This profusely illustrated and annotated 824-page paperback is a detailed study of a number of public (and some private) scandals, controversies and exploits in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second son, Elliott, was involved during his extraordinarily eventful and adventurous life. Based on painstaking archival research, the book describes for the first time a number of historical controversies involving FDR’s administration, and especially emphasizes the role Elliott played in the development of aviation in general and American air reconnaissance in specific.

Authored by Chris Hansen, August 2012.


List Price: $35.00

6.69" x 9.61" (16.993 x 24.409 cm)
824 pages

Able Baker Press
ISBN-13: 978-0615668925 (Custom Universal)
ISBN-10: 0615668925
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Military



Elliott Roosevelt was the second surviving son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Scandal trailed him like wake turbulence all his life. Congress investigated him eight times, from 1934 to 1973. He skated every time.
In ribald detail, this book describes:

·          The “Texas Cabal” – How Elliott helped Texas oil oligarchs buy FDR’s favors and set the direction of American “pay-to-play” politics for decades;

·          The “Air Mail Fiasco” – Elliott’s plan to create an American “Aeroflot” to control all air travel and make himself rich as Croesus;

·          “I Wanna be a Captain Too” – the 1940 election controversy over Elliott’s sudden commission in the Air Corps;

·          Elliott’s secret reconnaissance flights over Greenland and the Sahara;

·          The best work he ever did: the birth of photographic reconnaissance in North Africa, Italy, and England – by a non-pilot in draft category 4F (unfit);

·          “Bombers for Stalin” – how Elliott secured the Soviet-American shuttle-bombing project – and how initial Allied euphoria turned into Cold War;

·          “Babes, Booze, and Brass” – how Howard Hughes purchased and used Elliott;

·          How Elliott talked his father into buying the ill-fated Hughes F-11 spy plane;

·          “Blaze the Flying Dog” – the 1945 scandal that enraged the nation;

·          Elliott’s disputed role in the death of Joe Kennedy, Junior;

·          The Hartford Loan Scandal, a de facto extortion racket that could have run FDR out of office if the details had become known;

·          The true story of the 1947 Hughes-Roosevelt hearings that transfixed the nation;

·          “Four out of Five can’t be wrong” said his enemies, referring to his wives; but Elliott’s “fifth term” was the charm;

·          How assorted thugs from foreign dictators to the Mafia used Elliott Roosevelt;

·          The alleged plot to kill the Bahamian prime minister over a casino deal;

·          A Great Mystery: Elliott the dead murder mystery writer;

·          …and more Schemes, Scams, Scandals never told before.






The Immaculate Commission

I wanna be a captain too!

Elliott’s sudden commission in the Air Corps during the 1940 election caused a furious political row, but closer examination shows that it was justifiable.

An auspicious meeting

At Wright Field, Ohio, Elliott and FDR met Captain George Goddard, a pioneer of aerial photography. This meeting would set Elliott’s direction for the war.

Oil, Tequila, and Airplanes

Privilege and Entitlement

A charmed childhood on the Hudson River, unmarred by responsibility or restraint. Eleanor’s losing struggle to keep her sons under control.

Early Career

Refusing college, brash Elliott sought riches in advertisement. Despite accounts brought in due to political influence, his firm did not survive.

Wife nr. 1: Betty Donner

The demure, beautiful, and super-rich heiress of Donner Steel didn’t hold Elliott’s attention for more than a few months. He ignored their young son.

Striking Oil in Texas

After FDR’s inauguration, Elliott drove to Arizona for new adventures. The new “big rich” in Fort Worth derailed him and tempted him with big dreams.

The Hidden Meaning of Texas Hospitality

Why the Texas oil tycoons ingratiated themselves with the new administration. The influence of Sid Richardson, Charlie Roeser, and Clint Murchison, and of C.R. Smith.

Running Gilpin Airlines

Finally in Tucson, Elliott took over as manager of “Aunt Isabella” Greenway’s small airline. It served the party crowd heading for the riotous fun in Tijuana.

Airlines and Politics

In 1933, the airline industry was dependent on political largesse and mail contracts. The scheming and horse-trading spilled over to the “border barons.”

New Deal for Matrimony

In the first White House divorce, Elliott ditched poor little rich Betty Donner in a quick, surgical Reno operation. He also abandoned his airline job.

Wife nr. 2: Ruth Googins

Prime bait dangled by the Fort Worth “nomenklatura,” Ruth was a savvy, well-educated young heiress. For a while, she was able to keep Elliott under control.

A Crack at the Movies

Both elder brother James and Elliott tried to gain entrée to the Hollywood film industry. Despite arranging audiences with FDR, Elliott soon wore out his welcome.

Hearst’s Roosevelts

The newspaper magnate offered FDR’s son a high-paying job as “aviation editor.” For a year, Elliott hung out with the “Conquistadores del Cielo.”

The Nourmahal Incident

In an episode unexplained until now, FDR lost his temper with Elliott when he and his co-conspirators tried to talk him into forming an aviation cartel for them.

The Air Mail Fiasco

Government and Industry, in Bed

The difficult, corrupt dance of government and the new airline companies. How the 1933 regime change edged out some and paved the way for others.

One Swift Coup against Aviation

“A day that lives in infamy in U.S. aviation history.” On 9 February 1934, FDR cancelled all air mail contracts, thus executing the airlines, and told the Army to carry the mail.

Army Air Mail

The first really bad miscalculation of the FDR regime. FDR blamed the military for the disaster. Elliott publicly split with him on this issue.

“Legalized Murder”

With twelve quick casualties, the Air Mail Fiasco led to furious denunciations of the president, but he would not budge, and had secure majorities in Congress.

The Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce

Thru high-up intervention, Elliott was given a sinecure as vice-president of the ACCA, thus removing him from the industry manipulations he had attempted.

Bombers for Stalin (I)

“God! What a family they turned out to be!”

This long-forgotten scandal had Elliott and a few friends involved in a secret and illegal scheme to export Lockheed Electra bombers to the Soviet Union.

Behind the Scenes of the Aviation Industry

Elliott’s machinations collapsed, earning him the enmity of the industry (Lockheed and Fokker in particular) as well as that of the Soviet Union’s trade organization Amtorg.

A Failed Aviation Coup

What did the President know, and when did he know it?

FDR was far better informed of Elliott’s activities than he let on. He also checked his son when his plans got too dangerous.

Autopsy on the Aviation Industry

FDR’s 1934 coup crippled the airlines, then restored them under new names and new leadership. A contrite Postmaster Farley saw to it that little changed in fact.

Washington Lobbyist to Texas Exile

First Transoceanic Foray

Elliott’s collaboration with Juan Trippe and the Navy resulted in U.S. territorial expansion in the central Pacific and the route monopoly going to Pan Am.

Lobbyist or Not?

To his enemies, Elliott was a lobbyist exploiting his “access.” In fact, his lobbying was seldom successful. But he infuriated the industry with his “money-making ideas.”

The Crown Prince from the East

Banished to Texas, FDR’s son used his oil tycoon connections to establish his prominence in the radio business. He realized he was being used, but too late.

First Shot at Politics

Elliott tried to get a foothold in the Young Democrats. Furious resistance among hard-right Democrats finally shot him down. By 1936, the New Deal was not popular there.

From Airways to Airwaves

The Matagorda Pact

In a secret meeting on deserted Matagorda Island, FDR, Elliott and the indicted oil barons cut a deal for mutual benefit. Elliott proved himself very useful.

The LBJ Connection

Did Elliott take a bribe to get Lyndon Johnson started in politics? Lyndon would soon take over Elliott’s role as bagman for the big money guys.

Radio Mogul

Initially, the oil barons financed Elliott, covering their own backs in the process. Then they allowed Hearst into the broadcasting market, using Elliott as a front.

Behind the Scenes of the Radio Racket

Horsetrading among the wealthy over radio stations was a popular pastime. Newcomers were sharkbait in this corrupt game. LBJ wound up on top. Elliott lost all.

A Tightrope on the Air

Becoming “aggressively Texan,” Elliott split with his father over much of the New Deal and tried to establish himself as a Texas conservative Democrat.

Politically Derailed

In opposing a third term for his father, Elliott backed Vice President Garner, FDR’s new rival. It turned out to be the wrong horse. He was soon left out in the cold.

The Ghost-to-Ghost Network

Leveraging off ever increasing debt, Elliott tried to create a radio network to rival the big shots. It failed and left him pennyless and out of political and financial favor.

Residual Texas Scandalettes

Elliott was involved in numerous minor skirmishes in which he fronted for interests he did not understand.

How Elliott short-circuited the Electric Cooperatives

One of the lesser scandals hinged on Elliott’s fronting for the powerful electric  companies, securing White House favors for his benefactors.

The Sacrifice

Joining the Army in September 1940 was a major financial sacrifice, said Elliott. It also got him out of reach of his creditors and out of the bankrupt radio network.



A Circus in the Northland

Newfies and Yankees

Elliott joined the first Americans to descend upon Newfoundland in 1941. It left him cold, miserable, and dejected. But he found a way out of his troubles.

Escaped Countries, Roaming Wild

Talking his father into a new assignment, Elliott began surveying the North Atlantic “stepping stones” being prepared for lend-lease deliveries to the UK.

At the Misty Edge of the World

In 1941, the North Atlantic was heating up. The U.S. was inching into the war by establishing protectorates in Greenland and Iceland, and leasing bases from the UK.

The Wingless Pilot

Much controversy attached to Elliott’s flying status. Despite being unable to see “more than ten feet,” he managed to get plenty of stick time.

An Old Quest

Bases and Stations

The establishment of the North Atlantic bases was a major American initiative. Thanks to his father’s orders, Elliott was at the center of the quest.

Goose Bay, Labrador

Elliott took credit for founding this giant air base in 1941. In fact, Canadian Eric Fry preceded his survey by a few days and ensured Canadian control of the site.

Greenland Bases

Surveys of several locations in Greenland preceded Elliott’s reconnaissance, but he brought top-level visibility to the project.

The Mysterious Origins of Bluie East Two

His air reconnaissance from Iceland failed to locate a suitable site in East Greenland, but over the winter the local weather station crew found a workable site.

The Roosevelt Sites in Retrospect

Elliott took credit for Goose Bay, Frobisher, Fort Chimo, Padloping, and BE-2. His reports to General Arnold, the Prime Minister, and the President ensured maximum attention.

The Crimson Project

The alternate northern air route, proposed by Elliott, failed to work out in practice, but established several expensive airfields much useful to Canadian Arctic sovereignty later.

The Atlantic Summit

Sleep-over at Chequers

Winston Churchill cultivated FDR’s sons as more leverage on U.S. foreign policy. Elliott and Franklin Jr. helped out at Argentia as well as in Britain. WC listened to Elliott’s ideas.



From Cold to Hot: Project Rusty

Interlude at Muroc Dry Lake

After training as a navigator, cut short by Pearl Harbor, Elliott spent a few weeks patrolling the North Pacific before his father found an intriguing job for him.

Africa’s Blue B-17

A top secret mission to the Sahara resulted in thousands of reconnaissance images of Axis and Vichy installations in French West Africa, and some close calls.

Results of Rusty

The operation paved the way both for the trans-African air ferry as well as the invasion of North Africa. Elliott returned to the White House in ill health.

Rusty Secrecy

The flights were not as secret to careful observers as to the public, but the featherweighted B-17 “Blue Goose” set a precedent in covert reconnaissance.

Build-up in England

In a disorganized frenzy, the U.S. Air Corps built an embryonic reconnaissance capability around the then troubled P-38 Lightning. Eleanor came for a visit to her son’s UK base.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Reconnaissance

And whose Side are You on?

In North Africa in 1942-3, telling friend from foe could get very complicated.

Operation TORCH: Down to our last airplane

Weather and Jerries brought Elliott’s planes down to Earth within a few panicked weeks.

Reclaiming the Sky

Hard-won experience and new planes brought gradual relief from the February nadir.

Losses, Real and Imagined

Losses were high at first, but a close look reveals interesting trends.

The Lightning: Eagle or Dodo?

The P-38 (F-4 recon) was much maligned, but steady improvement finally redeemed it.

Family Summits

FDR would gather his children for his summits; so would Churchill.


Elliott proved himself useful at the conference, and was appropriately rewarded.

Unconditional Surrender

Elliott’s later story of how “U/S” was decided enraged Churchill.

Overhearing the War Plans

A mere lieutenant colonel, Elliott got a head start by listening to the top guys.

A Trap Snaps on the Hill

FDR engineered a smartly executed ambush against a troublesome congressman.

The Multinational Reconnaissance Wing

Elliott’s new command also included British, French, and NZ and SA squadrons.

Mosquito Envy

Elliott, who had Arnold’s ear, fixated on the de Havilland Mosquito as the answer to his reconnaissance dreams. He could fly the two-seater legally – not so the P-38.

Reconnaissance Expert

In 1943, the NAPRW developed the foundations of combat air reconnaissance.

New Reconnaissance Tactics

They had to learn the hard way. Surprisingly, the “completely fearless” Elliott survived.

The Wackiest Ship in the Air Force

The boxy old Potez 530 was a war booty put to an ingenious new use in the NAPRW.

Extracurricular Activities

A Ruth Here and a Ruth There

Like many officers, Elliott kept a concubine in Africa. It was not well-received at home.

The Hughes-Roosevelt Caper

Off to Hollywood

Elliott was sent stateside to evaluate new reconnaissance aircraft. Much else to see!

Hughes Aircraft Company: It’s going to blow up in your face!

Howard Hughes knew exactly how to turn Elliott’s head. Faye Emerson and Jane Russell.

The Hughes D-2, DX-2, DX-2A, D-3, D-5, DX-5, XA-37, XP-73 and… F-11

This unsolicited design became a tremendous headache for the USAAC.

Elliott Rescues the D-2

Hughes’s new airplane would “win the war in six months” said Elliott. USAAC LOL’ed

Arnold’s Dilemma

FDR and the White House powerful put Gen. Arnold in an awkward spot. He gave in.

Female Reconnaissance

Lots of fun in Hollywood and New York CIty with Hughes’s harem. The wife was devastated.

Close Calls in the Sky

Papa Hated Flying – Bunny Loved It

A survey of the Roosevelts’ attitudes and experiences with flying. FDR went up in 1918.


Cairo I

Elliott briefly attended the pre-Teheran conference and was mesmerized by M. Chiang.

EUREKA – The Teheran Summit

How Elliott became Stalin’s friend and vocal supporter. Uncle Joe had his number alrdy.

50,000 Germans must be Shot!

For the first time, the real story behind this famous travesty. Stalin had set Elliott up for it. Churchill couldn’t explode at FDR, but he could at his son, and he did.

Cairo II

Ike fretted about his next job to his well-connected subordinate. Elliott had a plan.

Eisenhower’s new Assignment

Ike had an inside source for his OVERLORD job. He made sure to take him with him.

Operation Frantic, or Bombers for Stalin II

The Shuttle Bombing Project

Direct help for the Soviet Union was not wanted. Tons of Equipment was.

Agreement “in Principle”

Finally, Elliott and Harriman got a break-through with Stalin.

Early Reconnaissance via the USSR

The 325th PRW’s reconnaissance operations preceded the air offensive.

Shuttle Bombing Operations

It started out so well. US-USSR friendship at the peak, June 1944.

Happy Hour for the Luftwaffe

The annihilation of the American bombers in the Ukraine. The back-lash begins.

Warsaw Betrayed

Stalin was not about to allow help to reach Warsaw. So began the Cold War.

A Missed Opportunity

With Soviet help, air action might have succeeded against the death camps.

Closing the Soviet Bases

Come fall 1944, the Americans were no longer wanted. U.S. officers were furious.

A Clear Winner: Elliott Roosevelt

After two trips to Moscow, Elliott was entranced with Stalin and the USSR.

Master of Reconnaissance

The details of operations from Britain. Until January, Elliott “flew without wings.”

Operation Anvil/Aphrodite

12 August 1944

The reckless robot bomb mission that killed Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

Where was Elliott?

He said he flew thru the fireball. One Mosquito did, but Elliott was not in it.


The FDR-JPK enmity and JPK’s further use of the Roosevelt sons.

Wedding at the Abyss

Wife nr. 3: Faye Emerson

The bait Hughes dangled was snapped up quickly. Faye did as HH told her.

Jack Frye and the Washington Kleptocracy

Frye was then Hughes’s airline boss at TWA. He made out fine after getting fired.

Everyone wants Married

Elliott’s friends stopped by Hyde Park and partook of Hughes’s lavish expense account.

Who let the Dogs Out?

Colonel Roosevelt wanted the biggest, meanest dogs that ever lived. He got’em.

Blaze, Terror of the Skies

In January 1945, the war took second-stage to Elliott’s flying dog in US newspapers.

Buddy makes Brigadier

“The less said about this the better….”

After pressure from “very high topside,”, the USAAF made Elliot a pilot and a general.

War Hero or Impostor?

Elliott had an impressive, bona-fide war record. He couldn’t resist buffing it up.

Medals and Ribbons and Wounds

So, was he wounded or not? No official evidence; a VA claim rejection.

A Bloody Brawl over Purple Hearts

He couldn’t stand it when others claimed it. Finally, he invented one for himself.

Mysterious Sidelines

Elliott ran with the wild Erroll Flynn crowd in Hollywood. What were they into?

Winding Down the War

Home for his father’s funeral, Elliott never returned to war. “No suitable opening”.



Twilight of the Generals

WMCA New York: An Offer You Cannot Refuse

How White House operatives stole a radio station and founded ABC. How Judge Sirica just missed his first “Watergate-like” triumph. Thomas Corcoran was behind it all.

WMCA: The Cover-Up

The probe discovered Elliott’s pre-war radio extortion racket. According to “Tommy the Cork,” it had to be suppressed at all costs or FDR would have been out in 1944.

The Great Chain Store Robbery

Deliberate, Infamous Lies…

After FDR died, the lid came off. Now important people were ready to sing.

The Roosevelt’s “Lend-Lose” Program

It wasn’t only the A&P’s Hartford who was shaken down. A Bureau of Revenue audit.

Let’s get Dad on the Phone!

Elliott and FDR gave Hartford “an offer” to invest $200,000. Can’t lose on this deal!

The Muckraker Who Got Stuck in the Muck

Westbrook Pegler went after the Roosevelts until he lost his bearings, and after.

The FBI File

J. Edgar Hoover knew perfectly well what was going on. And he kept his mouth shut.

What did the President Know, and when did he know it? – II

The transcripts, audits, wiretaps and FBI files make no doubt of the racket.

Trouble at the Civil Aeronautics Board


Retirement at 35 was an unsettled experience, especially with Blaze the dog from Hell.

Clipping Pan American’s Wings

Juan Trippe lost his overseas monopoly. Howard Hughes muscled in. Elliott tried to help.

Empire Airlines

A failed NY regional tried to buy Elliott’s help with the CAB. It didn’t work any more.

I am not a Communist, but…

Ambush in Moscow

In 1946, Elliott went to Moscow to interview his powerful friend.

Hell hath no Fury like a…

The previously discarded Major Ruth Briggs was also in Moscow. Bad news for Elliott.

Audience with the Generalissimo

Stalin’s answers reassured the Roosevelts – not so many others. Accusations of treason.

Back to the Farm

As a Hyde Park farmer, dashed dreams. Selling Christmas trees on the sidewalk. Really.

The F-11 flies home to roost

The Accident

Howard Hughes insisted on flying the first flight. To the USAAF’s fury, he blew it big.

Pandemonium in the U.S. Senate

Hughes and Roosevelt turn the tables on the Senate inquisitors.

Elliott Testifies

Much hilarity as “Abbott and Costello” entertain the Senate subcommittee.

Hughes Testifies

Senator Brewster suddenly in the hot seat. His well-planned end.The scandals unravel.

It was a Set-up…

Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson coached Hughes in how to handle Brewster.

Senate Hearings, Round Two

Details of the F-11 and how it was selected. The cross Materiel Command bore.

The Hughes Country Club

“Country Club” Hughes Aircraft Co. had a “certain reputation.” A House of Ill Repute?

Let Hughes Hang Himself!

Internal USAAF documents showed the exasperation of Materiel Command.

A Genius in his own Mind

Nothing could stop Hughes from worshipping himself. Not even reality.

God, aka Howard Hughes, speaks unto the Nations

The media lapped it up. And they couldn’t get enough. Elliott became second-rate news.

The Air Force Shamed

The USAAF’s vilest corruption scandal created the Office of Special Investigations.

The Lament of the Father of the Air Force

Near death, General Arnold apologized to the nation for having been hoodwinked.

Cross of Iron, or Duramold

Ike saw through the war industry, but what could he do?  Military officers’ cabals.



Second Shot at Politics

Wife nr. 4: Minnewa Bell

Faye tired of the circus, but there were plenty of replacement candidates.

Cancelling the President’s Stamps

FDR used the Post Office archives to supplement his collection. Elliott cashed it in.

Feefty-feefty, Señor Roosevelt!

Working with good friend General Batista was not as easy as initially expected.

The Roosevelt – Trujillo Axis

The sons “adopted” divers Caribbean dictators. They had similar interests.

The Kirschner Connection

A mysterious benefactor bankrolled the Roosevelts for a while. What was he up to?

A new Ranch

On principle, Elliott didn’t marry poor people. With Minnewa, living was good at first.

Do you know who I am?

How Arizona lawyer Richard Kleindienst got Elliott off the DUI hook. “Little Favor”.

Wife nr. 5: Patricia Peabody

A lively Phoenix real-estate agent rescues the aging “rakehell” from utter dissolution.

The Biggest Little Bank Heist in Iowa

Just when it couldn’t possibly get any worse….down and out in Sheldon.

Elliott and the Mob

How the Mafia bought the Bahamas

In Miami Beach, new friends and new interests. Same trouble. Bad company. Really bad.

“Unprovable Allegations”

They couldn’t prove a thing, or perhaps they weren’t trying too hard.

The Mob accuses Elliott

The low-lives who had associated with him had zero credibility when they spoke up.

I’m Not a Crook! (but some of my best friends are)

By 1973, Elliott was an absolute expert in explaining things away.

The Capital National Bank Swindle

Invoking a famous name helps when you’re running a con.

The Swiss Connection

James was in his own similar kind of trouble at the IOS. Vesco, Cornfeld, and the Mob.

Wriggling off the Hook

Senator Jackson’s committee gave up on the matter. Watergate was more fun.

You can’t Cheat an Honest Man

Why hang with these people? The purported plan to kill the Bahamian Prime Minister.

Follow the Money

Words count for nothing. Money talks. But tracing it raises more questions than answrs.

I never met a Dictator I didn’t like

Marcelo Caetano, Ian Smith, and Elliott’s private foreign policy. Interlude in Portugal.

Last Days

A death-bed conversion. Patty stuck with him to the end. Not so the siblings.

A Great Mystery: Roosevelt the Writer

Writing is a breeze when you have help.

Who wrote Elliott’s books? The FBI had a clue…







“Follow the Money”

Notations and Abbreviations


About the Author



In His Own Words

Col. Roosevelt’s Recommendation of the F-11

How the Hughes XF-11 Crashed

As Others Saw It: Interviews







The book was published using Createspace process and software, and is available from and designated other distribution channels. The suggested retail price is $35.

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