This is an investigative narrative of the events that followed the crash in 1950 of a USA Air Force B-36 intercontinental bomber whose wreckage was found in the rugged mountains of northern British Columbia accidently, four years later. What is amazing is that this plane was carrying a nuclear weapon, a fact concealed from Canadians and from general public knowledge for years. It appears from Geiger counter readings there was no radioactive bomb material at the crash site; the Mark1V bomb contained both plutonium and uranium. So where did the bomb go? Only unofficial reports say it may have been dropped off the coast of Haida Gwai and 62 years later not much more is known.
That is not all of it. From the beginning there was a trail of lies and denials that ensured that even civilians like my geology class partner did not speak out about the discovery of the wreckage. Official military word was that the plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean. The crew parachuted out in the darkness and raging west coast winter weather off the BC coast. Ten crew members were picked up by a Canadian fishing vessel that had heard the SOS on the coast; later, two others were found in the dense rainforest jungle by Canadian ground crews. Even during the rescue information was incorrect and concealed adding to delays, expense and the dangers of the effort. In spite of an intense search by Canadian and USA civilians and military, the remaining five crew members were never found.
Septer, an aviation historian and photographer, has done intensive research into the incident; the book is loaded with technical and military detail. He was also involved in the making of a TV documentary â€˜Lost Nukeâ€™ and has researched the loss of this nuclear weapon and the plane crash for more than 20 years. Much of his detail may be only of interest to war and aviation buffs, but with it he weaves a story of interest and importance to all those who are concerned about the supremacy of militarism in our supposedly peaceful and democratic society.
When the plane was found, local residents were sworn to secrecy if they were involved in the trek to the crash, others were told nothing. No one in the Smithers region knew if a nuclear bomb was lying somewhere in their neighbourhood. The high–handed military mode of command and secrecy continued when the USA went into the site, retrieving what they wanted and destroyed the remains of the crashed plane.
These are the final words of the author, “The mystery surrounding Bomber 075´s last flight may never be unravelled. The real truth may remain hidden in a shroud of deceit, misinformation and myth.”
Given the decades of complicity of Canada´s government with the USA military, we will probably never know about this incident on our soil and many more we have never heard of. Peace activists rightly can be suspicious and wary of official statements on many subjects by both these governments. How many other lost nukes, bombs, toxins and bodies are hidden away from us?Â Of course elitism and secrecy have always been and still are the privileged stuff of militarism. The Cold War may have ended, but we are now entrenched in a “war against terrorism” and Canada is still active in the production, testing and transport of nuclear weapons – and maybe there are still some cached deliberately or accidently in this vast land of ours.
Other books to read about military and government intrigues which include the efforts of activists to expose government lies and more political background and analysis are Atomic Accomplice: How Canada deals in deadly deceit by Paul McKay and The Firecracker Boys: H-bombs, Inupiat Eskimos and the Roots of the Environmental Movement by Dan O´Neill; both are reviewed on bookreviews.bbcf.ca