B-36 bomber mission anniversary Friday

On Feb. 14, 1950 an American U.S. B-36 Peacemaker bomber crashed into Mt. Kologet in the Kispiox area.

This Friday — Valentine’s Day — marks the  64th anniversary of the crash of an American B36 in the mountains north of Hazelton.

On Feb. 14, 1950 a U.S. B36 Peacemaker bomber crashed into Mt. Kologet in the Kispiox area while on a training flight originating from Eieleson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Shortly after take off, the plane suffered engine failure and was forced to drop its cargo of a Fat Man atomic bomb in the Hecate Strait between Haida Gwaii and mainland B.C.

The plane was on a mission that was part of the first full-scale practice nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.

The crew bailed out before it crashed in the Kispiox, according to U.S. government reports, but questions have remained as to whether all those on board survived and what happened to the bomb.

In 1954 the crash site was discovered and the remains destroyed by American special forces.

“It’s most unfortunate it happened on Valentine’s Day but it is an event that happened here and it’s part of our aeronautical history,” said Bulkley Valley Museum director Fergus Tomlin.

The Bulkley Valley Museum contains a permanent exhibition detailing the flight. It includes photos and artifacts and a set of 20mm machine guns that were salvaged from the wreckage.

“We have the story laid out here, with lots of pictures from the crash site in the Kispiox and a model of what the plane actually looked like,” Tomlin said.

The B36 Peacemaker display is a part of the Bulkley Valley Museum’s collection on aviation history in the Bulkley Valley.

With no roads north of Quesnel until 1911 and the railway not arriving until after that, Tomlin said airplanes have played a very important role in the settlement of the Bulkley Valley.

Today, the industry still plays an important role in the region.

“Aviation has played a huge part in the past and Smithers is well positioned to have a busy airport into the future,” Tomlin said. “Roads really followed the aircraft up here. Without the airplane we wouldn’t have had the same amount of development or the strong guide-outfitter and mining industriesz we have today.”