Broken Arrow

At 4:27 p.m. on 13 February 1950, B-36B #44-92075 with 17 crew members onboard departed Eielsen A.F.B. near Fairbanks, Alaska along with a large armada of B-36's that were engaged in a secret mission.

The aircraft was assigned to the 7th Bomb Wing at Carswell AFB, Fort Worth Texas.

The planes were part of the first full-scale practice of an all-out nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.  The planes were to have returned to their home bases after making simulated bombing strikes on American cities.

One purpose of the operation was to determine if the outfitting and arming of the planes could be accomplished in weather conditions so harsh that the engines had to be kept running at all times because they could not be re-started if they were shut down.   The ground temperature at Eielsen A.F.B. was minus 40 degrees F.

Six hours after leaving Eielsen this B-36, #2075, was losing altitude because it had lost more than half of its power and three of its engines were burning.  The crew jettisoned a MK IV "Fat Man" plutonium bomb into the Pacific Ocean and bailed out over one of the many islands along the coast of British Columbia.  Five of the seventeen crew members perished after bailing out.  The plane vanished and was presumed to have sunk in the ocean, but was found accidentally four years later where it had crashed after gaining several thousand feet of altitude and flying inland over two hundred miles.

The extreme secrecy of the mission and the subsequent demolition of the wreck when it was found in 1954 has left the historic record of the event begging for answers to some very basic questions.  Not until after an environmental hazard survey of the wreck was undertaken by the Canadian government were some of those lingering questions answered.  This report will attempt to provide those answers.

This section of the B-36 story has been included for several reasons.  The primary purpose it is hoped to serve is to pay tribute to those men and women who have given their lives during the service of their countries.  Without the contributions of these valiant soldiers the rest of us would be living in an entirely different sort of world.  It would likely be a world of oppression and despair.

Secondly, it is to acknowledge the efforts of the present-day guardians of our safety who help to assure the protection of ourselves and future generations from environmental hazards and from those who would plunder our heritages.  In this story, the protagonists are the men and women who undertook the challenge of locating and surveying the site of a Cold War accident to investigate the possibility of a latent nuclear hazard and to help assure the preservation of a historic site that belongs to us all.

Thirdly, this story will illustrate the fact that any wreck of a military nature can result in death or injury to anyone who encounters it.  The site of this crashed B-36 held live explosives and munitions for nearly a half-century before they were discovered, and it still does today.  These sites are equally as dangerous as uncleared landmine fields that are left over from military conflicts.

As a direct result of the survey made of the crash site by the Canadian government, and through the preparation of the accounting of that survey, a survivor of the crash has been located and interviewed.  A transcript of that interview is included in this account.


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3-01-2005