Monday, September 19, 2011

Broken Arrow: America's First Lost Nuclear Weapon

Broken Arrow: America's First Lost Nuclear Weapon
By Norman Leach

History / Military / Aviation History / Nuclear Warfare History / United States / 20th Century
224 pages, 9 x 6"
50+ b&w Photos
ISBN 0–88995–348–1 paper • 19.95

On the eve of Valentine's Day, 1950, an American Strategic Air Command B-36 bomber-loaded with an atomic bomb-flew into the frozen night on a simulated bombing run from Alaska to San Francisco. The engines suddenly failed on this notoriously unreliable aircraft and the crew, before parachuting into the rugged terrain of northern British Columbia, set the autopilot to take the aircraft far out to sea.
Years later the wreckage of the bomber was accidentally discovered on a remote northern British Columbia mountaintop hundreds of miles from its presumed location deep beneath the Pacific Ocean.
Before reading this book I was unfamiliar with author Norman Leach. From this first impression it seems Canada has a stellar addition to the historical community.
Broken Arrow examines the tragic loss of a US Air Force bomber in the early days of the Cold War over British Columbia, with most of the crew baling out over Princess Royal Island. This definitive historical record of the event effectively debunks urban legends and conspiracy theories, all done in a thorough and highly readable fashion, I look forward to reading the next work of Mr Leach.

Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton, and the Atlantic Wars

Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton, and the Atlantic Wars
Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton, and the Atlantic Wars

By Brian Tennyson, Roger Sarty University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2002 World Rights 534 Pages Paper ISBN 9780802085450 Published May 2002 $36.95

This book covers the military history of Cape Breton from the 17th Century until today. Traditionally the island was home of two strategic assets: the Canso waterway and the coal mines of the northeast.
Through times of international tensions through the years, the island's military facilities varied from a personnel and defensive equipment perspective. Often both of these duties fell on the coal miners and later the adjancent steel millworkers.
From Conferation, Canada has been averse to spending on money on defense justifying it as the nation was either protected by the US Monroe Doctrine, Imperial allegiance to Britain or the 1990s "Peacekeeping Nation." These were all methods employed by national government to mask the distaste for military spending.
The growth of the RCN, RCAF and Coast Artillery on the island in the Second World War is documented to an extensive degree. Some excellent photos were used (but left me wanting more of them) with one of my favorites being the marine railway in Sydney, one of the outcomes from the disgraceful corvette refit crisis brought on by the ineptitude of the Chief of Naval Staff in Ottawa, Percy Nelles.
The authors have done a good job the most part; however my biggest disappointment was the scant amount of information of the Point Edward Naval Base, a facility which has been all but ignored by historians to date.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Bridge of Ships


A Bridge of Ships
Canadian Shipbuilding during the Second World War
James Pritchard
A ground-breaking work about the challenges and achievements of creating Canada's largest shipbuilding industry ever.
Cloth (0773538240) 9780773538245 Release date: 2011-05-20 CA $59.95  |  US $59.95 
8.5x10 464pp 45 tables

Before 1939, Canada's shipbuilding industry had been moribund for nearly two decades - no steel-hulled, ocean-going vessel had been built since 1921. During the Second World War, however, Canada's shipbuilding program became a major part of the nation's industrial effort. Shipyards were expanded and more than a thousand warships and cargo ships were constructed as well as many more thousands of auxiliary vessels, small boats, and other craft. A large ship-repair program also began.
In A Bridge of Ships James Pritchard tells the story of the rapidly changing circumstances and forceful personalities that shaped government shipbuilding policy. He examines the ownership and expansion of the shipyards and the role of ship repairing, as well as recruitment and training of the labour force. He also tells the story of the struggle for steel and the expansion of ancillary industries. Pritchard provides a definitive picture of Canada's wartime ship production, assesses the cost (more than $1.2 billion), and explains why such an enormous effort left such a short-lived legacy.
The story of Canada's shipbuilding industry is as astonishing as that of the nation's wartime navy. The personnel of both expanded more than fifty times, yet the history of wartime shipbuilding remains virtually unknown. With the disappearance of the Canadian shipbuilding industry from both the land and memory, it is time to recall and assess its contribution to Allied victory.
This book is a fairly exhaustive history and the author is commended for taking on this daunting task. Shipbuilding and repair is covered from a political, labor and economic perspective.

The only real complaint I have with the book is the author's unfamiliarity with naval weapons which are often confused in the text. Apart from that, the book is highly recommended.