I’m a researcher at heart. First during my grad school and university researcher days, then and now in my applied consulting work, and even spilling over into my hobbies and interests. Sort of an OCD thing.
love certain facets of history and have read and researched for decades on the
topics surrounding WWI military aircraft.
But of late I’ve gotten hooked on the Cold War era; I’m not really sure
why. I remember the national tenseness
during the Cuban missile crisis and recall touring demonstration fallout
shelters set up on the edge of our local shopping center’s parking lot. Sort of a bizarre open house. “Wouldn’t you
lovely ladies like to see the latest style in annihilation avoidance?”
So of late I’ve been reading tons about Dew Lines, U-2 and SR-71 spy
planes. And before them a less-sophisticated era with re-purposed bombers and
cargo planes making near-constant forays
into Communist China and Russia to both photograph and to purposely test the
enemy’s radar systems. Dangerous work. I
can highly recommend a 2002 release: By Any Means Necessary by William E.
Burrows, for those who might have a further interest.
also been researching accidents and near-accidents with military aircraft
carrying nuclear bombs. During the Cold War, New England had more than its share
of active air bases due to its northern locale (defending both the North
Atlantic as well as the Arctic). Dow
(Bangor), ME, Loring (Limestone), ME, Pease, (Portsmouth) NH and Westover in central Mass. were just
some of the key facilities that were fully operational during those tense times.
a side note, when Dow was deactivated and turned over to civilian use, little
Bangor Airport could tout the longest commercial runway on the East Coast. The airport
was so underutilized that when the Boeing 747 was first coming out, airlines would use
Bangor to train new pilots. My wife and
I (poor newly married students with no $) would hike over there on a Sunday
afternoon to watch 747’s make touch-and-ago landings. One of Bangor’s other claims to fame is its
use as an aviation police station, especially once it became an international
airport with customs agents. When there are in-flight bomb scares, as just
happened with a Paris – Charlotte US Airways flight, or when a tipsy passenger
(seems often to be a Brit for some reason) causes trouble in the cabin, the
aircraft will land at Bangor to get things sorted out. The old SAC base has
found an odd but necessary niche in today’s air commerce.
Back to the nukes. The title of
this post refers to an incident in 1968 at the U.S. airbase in Thule Greenland
where a B-52 from Westover crashed on the ice and the fuel exploded. The plane was carrying four nuclear bombs and
the conventional explosives detonated but there was no nuclear explosion.
Almost from the get-go the rumors were that the Air Force had recovered three
of the nuclear devices but could not find the fourth, even searching with a
Scripps Institute of Oceanography submersible, and gave up trying. I have a CD ROM copy of the original Air Force
reports and photos (I told you, research OCD!). Long-story-short, the rumors
kept surfacing and so the Danish government (of which Greenland is a part)
commissioned an independent study just a few years ago to try and put the issue to rest. My
post's title is the sub-title of that report (yes, I have a full copy of that
too). But did the report settle the issue once and for all? Was the U.S. guilty of a Cold War cover up and is there a nuclear bomb unaccounted for in the far North? I’m writing more about that in the near future.