Monday, November 5, 2018

Broken Arrow - America's First Lost Nuclear Weapon by Norman S. Leach

by Norman S. Leach
published by Red Deer Press

America's First Broken Arrow : A True Story of the Cold War, A Doomed Bomber and America's First Lost Nuclear Weapon

Have you ever seen a B36 war plane? Have you ever had an opportunity to see the "Fat Boy" atomic weapon? I have, and both of these are huge in comparison with the size I thought they would be. We had taken a car trip south and part of our route included the Atomic Museum at Alamogordo and New Mexico where "Fat Boy" resides. The reason I know about these combined is because it's an interesting story and by some freak of nature the crash site ended up in British Columbia (the "bomb" was dumped in the ocean when the plane became unstable). For years it was never known where the crash site ultimately was, until it was basically stumbled upon years later where it shouldn't have landed, on Mt. Kologet, north of Smithers, east of the small border town of Stewart and Alaska panhandle, and some of what was recovered ended up in our Smithers museum. 

Were we at war with the US? No, it was a mystery for years what had happened to the flight of this huge plane. How could any of the debris end up there? For an estimate of size, the tail alone was the equivalent of a five-story building and to get it in and out of the hangar, or even sometimes for take-off, the nose had to be the hangar so the tail could dip down enough to get out, and on the tarmac to get enough speed for lift, because it was carrying so much weight, the weight of the very heavy atomic bomb, a very big bomb, "Fat Boy". Maybe not a complete one, but the equivalent weight and position. This was in the time of the "Cold War". The crash discovery was made 40 years after the event, but where was the bomb? Did it explode as a "dirty bomb"?

Because we had moved to Smithers, BC after the discovery of this crash site, it really intrigued us. It took so many years to be discovered, but that's not surprising because it was totally in the opposite direction than it should have been. It was assumed to have crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The good news is that several of the crew survived the terrible weather they had parachuted into on Princess Royal Island off the west coast of British Columbia.

This book is exceptionally well-written, Norman S. Leach wrote this with a passion and a lot of research and it immediately becomes a great non-fiction search and recovery, the product of an amazing piece of history between the flight from a frozen Alaska night, Valentine's Day, 1950 and during the years of the "Cold War".

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