By George Balmer
We met in Whitehorse Tuesday evening (Jan. 20) for a pleasant evening of hanger flying, dinner and drinks. Fifteen people braved -30 Celsius and blowing snow to listen to Doug Davidge give a presentation on historic military crashes.
Davidge is a scientist from Environment Canada here in the Yukon and an amateur aviation historian who has been involved in some pretty interesting events over the years.
He was the government official who travelled to the B36 crash of the first "broken arrow" incident in 1996. This impressive aircraft crashed carrying a Mk.IV nuclear bomb (a "Fat Man") in 1950.
The military assumed it was lost in the Pacific Ocean until 1953 when another military search aircraft found it between Smithers and Dease Lake in Northern B.C. The USAF tried to blow it up but failed to complete the job.
A Yukon geologist named Doug Craig found it in 1956. He pursued the American Government until 1996 when they finally released the information concerning the presence of the MK IV. Davidge and his team from DND were the first people to visit the site since 1956.
Their visit revealed detonators for a nuclear weapon, drums of plastic explosive (dropped by the USAF to facilitate the destruction of the wreck in 1953 but apparently "lost"), 20 mm guns still in turrets, uniforms, personal gear, and more. Once it was established that there was no nuclear risk some of the other dangerous material was removed or destroyed.
Unfortunately, following their visit, knowledge of the site was spread around and successive visits by the public resulted in much disturbance and removal of much that must have appeared attractive.
Private film makers flew in the following years and re-enacted Davidge and his team’s visit, even claiming those discoveries for themselves. This demonstrates one of the main problems with these unguarded historic sites. Finally it was given protection as a historic archaeological site.
Davidge also helped us create a list of other military wreck sites. As most of you know the "Lend-Lease" agreement between the United States and the Russians during World War Two resulted in a chain of airstrips across the Yukon and Alaska to Russia, and thousands of aircraft travelled the route until well after the war ended. These flights continued regardless of weather and losses were inevitable.
If you are interested in finding out more about these or other sites I suggest you call Davidge at his office in Whitehorse 867-667-3400 or contact him at email@example.com.
Following Davidge great presentation we discuss some of the important issues facing private aviation and COPA Flight 106 decided to collect and forward $250.00 to the COPA Special Action Fund.