Category Archives: Cold War

CANAV announces 2 new titles: The Canadair Argus and … Night Fighters!

When I launched The Canadair North Star in 1982, I mentioned that I hoped to publish a book about the Canadair Argus and Yukon. I carried on to produce The De Havilland Canada Story the following year, then 30+other books, including Sixty Years, Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace (Vol. 3) and Canadair: The First 50 Years each with some decent Argus content. But I failed in the end to do the Argus book.

Here are a few Argus photos (not shown in the book) that I took in years gone by. To begin, check out the shadow of 407 Sqn Argus 20718 as we scorched low over Eagle River crossing in the Yukon during a NORPAT (Northern Patrol) of March 22, 1977. The crew had me along as a freeloader that week. Needless to say, a great time was had be all.

In the end some ex-RCAF Argus folks got themselves organized “committee-wise” to gather enough material to turn out The Canadair Argus: The Untold Story of Canada’s Cold War Maritime Hunter. And a fair effort it is — all things considered (lots of anecdotes, tons of photos, etc.). The book gives some basic background about RCAF Maritime Air Command in its early postwar days, when the Lancaster and Neptune “held the fort” against a formidable Soviet submarine fleet. As the Cold War heated, a more capable anti-submarine plane was needed and that gave rise to the Argus.

August 29, 1968 and Argus 20732 flies through its maritime patrol demo over the Toronto waterfront during the Canadian International Airshow.

There follows the story in good detail of this grand RCAF legend in service with the Argus Conversion Unit, 404, 405, 407, 415 and 449 squadrons, on test and evaluation tasks, etc. Amazing stuff about training & tactics, weapons and the previously secret guts of the operation. Through the 1960s-70s the Soviet submarine service knew it would take a beating if push came to shove in the cat-and-mouse game that went on 24-365 on Canada’s coasts. The Argus would ensure that.

Andy Graham photographed 415 Sqn Argus 20712 taxying at Greenwood on a rainy day in April 1969.

20723 seen along the Lake Ontario shore from RCN Tracker 1545 on August 28, 1969 during a CIAS practice flight.

Besides the ASW game, the book mentions Argus squadrons on such special taskings as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Also “Fincastle — the Commonwealth ASW championship exercise, where the Argus always shone. Search and rescue, Arctic patrols and mishaps also are covered.

The “committee” part of the book comes through with the lack of so much as a table of contents, let alone an index (forget about a bibliography, eh!). As for typos? Well, they are always a real bugger to chase down. We scramble like mad at CANAV to put out a clean book and haven’t yet succeeded to perfection. However, the Argus committee don’t appear to have bothered at all with copy editing, and don’t seem to realize that there is such a thing as photo-shopping to clean all the dust and crap from a photo. From what I can see, they went 90% – 95% of the distance, then pooped out. Oh well … if you’re an RCAF bibliophile, you still need this one. So says ye olde scribe.


NB … The Argus book is no longer being carried by CANAV. Please order from Aviation World in Toronto (check their website for the details).

Tracker 12131 and Argus 10739 on gate guardian duty at Summerside in January 1987.

Right behind the Argus book … here comes Night Fighters: Stories from the Flyers of Canada’s All-Weather Fighter Force, Canada and Europe 1953 to 1984. Compiled by an all-weather committee headed by John Eggenberger, Bob Merrick, and Doug Munro, this new title focuses on CF-100 and CF-101 days.

CF-100 100784 as a gate guardian at Baden-Soellingen. The photo was taken from a 444 Kiowa on July 8, 1982. '784 now resides in the heritage air park at CFB Winnipeg. (Both pix by Larry Milberry)

Very cleanly done, very much worth the price of admission, Night Fighters is packed with “True stories told by those who watched over Canada’s and NATO’s airspace during the crucial years of the Cold War. Whether scrambling to intercept a Bear, taking part in realistic exercises to maintain their combat readiness, flying in the daily training adventures, or thrilling airshow crowds with thunderous formation displays, these flyers were constantly honing their arcane skills.”

The last CanForces Voodoos. Tail numbers 101006 and 101067 operated from CFB North Bay with 414 (EW) Sqn -- '067 as an electronic warfare trainer, '006 as a pilot proficiency trainer. Retired in 1987, '006 ended on display at Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, while '067 today is in Minneapolis in USAF markings. Photo taken from T-bird '473 on April 3, 1987.

Now available … basic book specs: 216 pages, 8.5 x 8.5 in., softcover, photos. List price $24.95, CANAV price $22.50 + $10.00 postage +$1.62 GST = $34.12 . Cheque or PayPal only, as usual.

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Typhoons and CF-100s: 440 Squadron Gets Together in Ottawa, September 2010

 

Jay Hunt (orange shirt) of Vintage Wings has the attention of a crowd of 440 CF-100 era guests during the squadron reunion. A Finch, Beaver, Tiger Moth and Fox Moth form the backdrop. (Photos by Larry Milberry unless noted).

One of the RCAF‘s renowned combat squadrons of WWII and Cold War days was 440, which had its beginnings as 11 (Army Co-operation) Squadron in Vancouver in October 1932. Initially without airplanes, the squadron didn’t get airborne until delivery of its first D.H.60 Moths in October 1934. It carried on with training through the Thirties to the eve of war, when it received its first combat types — the Atlas and Lysander. On June 29, 1940 F/L W.J. McFarlane flew 11 AC’s first wartime operation — a patrol in Lysander 428 scouting for a reported Japanese submarine from RCAF Station Patricia Bay, near Victoria.

440 Sqn grew out of 11 (AC) Sqn, which formed in 1932. One of the squadron's first combat types (1939) was the Westland Lysander, still a frontline plane at the time. This fine "Lizzie" greeted the 440 old timers for their visit to Vintage Wings.

11 (AC) Sqn disbanded on February 1, 1941. Its successor, 111 (Fighter) Sqn, formed the following November 3 at Rockcliffe under S/L A.D. Nesbitt, DFC, a Battle of Britain veteran. Equipped with Kittyhawks, 111 went to the Pacific far northwest to bolster defences against the Japanese, who had occupied the Aleutian Islands. 111 flew its first “ops” on September 25, 1942, when four of its Kittyhawks escorted USAAC B-24s bombing Japanese positions at Kiska. On this mission S/L K.A. Boomer, 111’s CO, shot down a Japanese fighter — the first and only RCAF kill in this theatre.

Veteran Canadian aviation artist Graham Wragg created this lively scene depicting S/L Boomer's Aleutian kill. The painting appears in 440 Squadron History.

111 withdrew from Alaska in August 1943 to resume operations at Patricia Bay. It disbanded in January 1944, then proceeded overseas, where it formed anew, this time as 440 Squadron at Ayr, Scotland. It briefly flew Hurricanes, then converted to the mighty Typhoon. Along with 438 and 439, 440 was one of three RCAF Typhoon squadrons comprising 143 (RCAF) Wing, part of RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force. 440 soon moved south to Hurn to begin tactical operations against German targets in France in the lead-up to D-Day.

A 440 Squadron Typhoon taxies on operations at Eindhoven, Holland over the spring of 1945. Minutes later it would have been delivering its two 1000-lb bombs. Typhoon I8-P/RD389 was Harry Hardy's last Tiffie of the war -- he christened it "Pulverizer IV". Harry attended this reunion. (RCAF)

440 Squadron flew to the Normandy Beachhead at B.9 Lantheuil on June 28, 1944. Moving frequently hereafter, it operated non-stop to war’s end, busy days seeing each of its dozen or so “Tiffies” flying 4, 5, 6 or more sorties daily. Many aircraft fell to German flak and far too many 440 pilots were lost. The squadron disbanded at B.166 Flensburg on August 26, 1945. Its record included 4213 operational sorties with 2215 tons of bombs dropped. These efforts resulted in 420 rail cuts and hundreds of enemy troops, vehicles, barges, etc. blasted. The brutal cost? 32 Typhoons lost, 28 pilots killed. Five 440 pilots received the DFC for their good efforts. The details of this amazing RCAF era are best read in Hugh A. Halliday’s 1992 book, Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story, which anyone with an interest in 440 will want.

440 Squadron CF-100 Mk.III fighters on the flightline in Bagotville circa 1954. Then, a 440 Mk.IV during NATO years. (RCAF)

With the Cold War, 440 re-formed in October 1953. Stationed initially at Bagotville with the machine-gun armed CF-100 Mk.III, in February 1955 it re-equipped with the Mk.4B, which added air-to-air rockets to the arsenal. In May 1957, 440 flew that Atlantic to take up residence at RCAF 3 Wing at Zweibrucken, West Germany. There it bolstered NATO’s all-weather fighter bastion against the Warsaw Pact forces. The squadron again disbanded in December 1962. 440s CF-100 era is covered in good detail in Larry Milberry’s 1981 book The Avro CF-100. This classic title is out-of-print, but copies can be found on such used book internet sites as abebooks.com or bookfinder.com. Another essential book is 440 Squadron History published in 1983 by The Hangar Bookshelf.

440 Typhoon pilots on the Vintage Wings tarmac on September 10, 2010: Alex "The Beast" Scott, Harry Hardy, John Flintoff, Ted Smith and Wally Ward with Michael Potter (in flying suit) and Pearl Hayes, whose late husband Bob, also flew Typhoons.

This illustrious squadron again re-surfaced in 1968, this time as a transport, and search and rescue unit operating the H-21, Dakota, Buffalo and Twin Otter over the decades. 440 still does good work with Twin Otters from its home in Yellowknife.

The 440 gang is briefed by Paul Manson at the start of their tour of the impressive new Canadian War Museum.

CF-100 era 440 aircrew Cliff Cassidy (All-weather interception navigator), Bob Hyndman (pilot) and Clive Loader (pilot). Clive had joined the RCAF in the 1950s following an RAF career flying such fighters as the Hunter. This weekend Cliff briefed the reunion about plans to permanently display the 440 Sqn crest in the Royal Air Force Club in London. On the spot this evening half the money needed to get this done was raised.

September 9 to 12, 2010 former squadron members gathered in Ottawa for what was one of the great RCAF squadron reunions. The 80 or so attendees included Typhoon pilots plus CF-100 pilots and navigators and their ladies. Excellent sessions were organized in some of Ottawa’s best military messes, the RCAF Gloucester Mess included. Half a day was spent at Vintage Wings in Gatineau, where we enjoyed informative guided tours in small groups. The icing on this cake was a wonderful air display put on by Michael Potter in his pristine P-51 Mustang.

CF-100 AI navs, Lonnie Maudsley and Ron Williams, meet at the bar of the Navy Mess in Ottawa. Their squadron mate Ron Leather (pilot) looks on. At the end of the bar Gord Smith (CF-100 pilot) chats with Ted Smith (Typhoons).

An afternoon was spent at the Canadian War Museum, where the new establishment’s first CEO, Gen Paul Manson, was our chief tour guide. Paul had flown CF-100s with 440, later flew CF-104s, then rose to be Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff. The reunion finished on another high note — a send-off breakfast back at the Gloucester Mess, from where everyone dispersed until next time.

Duane Sharpe as he was checking out some other memorabilia. His photo as a young CF-100 AI navigator is on the cover of Canada's Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3.

Ron Bell (AI nav), Jim Terry (AI nav) and Gord Smith (pilot) look over an old copy of the 440 history book as they reminisce about CF-100 days.

Fantasyland: The Arrowmaniacs Strike Again

Canada sure has its mythology under many a banner. Aviation myths involve Billy Bishop shooting down 72 enemy planes in WWI (not), the Beaver being the world’s greatest bushplane (not) and the Avro Arrow being the greatest everything ever made by anyone in the universe (not).

No one with any sense can besmirch the reputation of a Billy Bishop – read The Brave Young Wings, for example, to get a taste of the war in the air 1915-18. Anyone who died, got wounded, cracked up, or somehow survived in that cauldron of death is a special hero in my books. The only argument is with the statistics and some odd details. These things were manipulated by the generals and their PR lackeys far behind the lines where they were suffering no lack of anything – there was no mud but there were clean underwear, silk sheets and booze. These people could make Donald Rumsfeld look like a beginner at fact-twisting, and they didn’t need a Blackberry (no shortage of very effective, hi-tech communicating devices in WWI). Billy Bishop certainly scored high, but not likely anywhere near 72. But it suited “Colonel Rumsfeld i/c propaganda” back there to say that Bishop did so do all that and should have a Victoria Cross. Explanations for this are in the best of books, such as mentioned above, Canadian Airmen and the First World War, etc.

Of course, the 1948 Beaver is a tremendous little workhorse. Who would say no? But not even 2000 Beavers were ever built. Meanwhile, the DC-3 or Beech 18 had been working the bush since the late 1930s, and far exceeded the Beaver in numbers alone on every continent! Then came the Cessna 180/185. Well, Beaver, please stand aside.

The ultimate bushplane in my view has to be the Antonov An-2 biplane: more than 10,000 built, service since 1947 on all continents, incalculable loads carried, current presence still in the many hundreds if not a few thousand, production life from pre-Beaver to post-Beaver, on and on. However, mention this in Canada and you make a new brigade of furious enemies wishing you every malevolence imaginable: “Puleeze, keep the facts to yourself, we Canadians prefer our myths!”

Then comes our beloved Arrow, Canada’s grandest aviation tall tale, and one that never goes away. Wonderful technology project that it was, it wasn’t to be and for all the good reasons. Even so, Arrow silliness again crops up in this April 3, 2009 Toronto Star article. Not surprisingly, the perpetrator is an academic – ironically, when it comes to history, these folks can be pretty sloppy with the facts.

In “Privatization of AECL Radioactive Issue for Ottawa”, Prof. Duane Bratt of Mount Royal College in Calgary, begins irrelevantly and erroneously by harkening back to the Arrow: “In 1959 the Diefenbaker government shut down the Arrow, the world’s most technologically advanced interceptor aircraft. Not only did it mean the demise of a uniquely Canadian high tech invention, but it also forced thousands of highly skilled scientists and engineers to leave the country.”

Well, talk about a crock of doggy doodoo (as I have commented before)! The Arrow was one of many similar advanced fighter projects underway throughout the world during the 1950s. Most of these aircraft concepts never reached production, and all the participant nations moved ahead. Only Canada created a myth out of its unsuccessful effort. Like the Arrow, all the other shelved projects had proved too costly or had been superseded by advancing science or geo-politics. (Two Cold War designs that did succeed in entering service were the superb US-built McDonnell F-4 Phantom II; and the SR-71 which, in speed alone, would leave an Arrow in its wake – so much for the generally unproven Arrow being the “mostest” of everything.)

Professor Bratt states that the Arrow cancellation “forced” ex-Avro workers to leave Canada — the alleged post-Arrow “brain drain”. However, nearly every worker worth his/her salt let go by Avro soon had a new and, often, better job in Canada. In researching history in the subsequent decades, I have interviewed many of these workers (and workers they were). Most moved quickly and naturally to other aviation or science-type employers, where they shone with their successes developing truly useful products for humanity — as opposed to fighters. (In the late 1950s, do you really think that the world needed yet another jet fighter?)

Development of the PT6 engine by Pratt & Whitney Canada, and of the
Dash 8 by de Havilland Canada are proof positive that fabulously important spin-off products resulted from the timely demise of the Arrow program. So the loss of the Arrow “forced thousands” of Canadians to flee the country in search of meaningful work, eh? In truth, but a handful of ex-Avro workers emigrated to the US or UK. Meanwhile, hundreds of the best minds behind the Arrow in its heyday circa 1952 to 1959 had been post-WWII immigrants to Canada from other nations. Now we’re talking brain drain, but into Canada.

Without these reverse brain-drain people there would have been no Avro Arrow. Canadians did not have the ability to single-handedly produce such an advanced airplane. Had it not been for WWII, they would still have been building wood and fabric airplanes by 1950. Typical of the reverse brain-drain genii were design team leader James C. Floyd from the UK; and Arrow test pilots Jan Zurakowski and “Spud” Potacki, and designer Waclaw Czerwinski, from Poland. Why is this important reality never mentioned in the Arrow nostalgia debates? Well, for one thing, it wouldn’t help book sales in Canada’s “Avro Arrow” publishing industry (there’s always a new Arrow book looming somewhere).

Bottom line on the brain drain? Canada gained immensely by draining brains from many countries in the post-WWII industrial boom, but contributed very few in terms of any outflow of brains to the US, etc. On top of that truth, some of the ex-Avro emigrants from 1959 returned later to Canada, as did James C. Floyd himself.

Some basic research into aviation history would reveal these and other facts – not as charming or exciting as our cherished myths, but true all the same.
Larry Milberry, publisher

PS … The never-ending lament for the Arrow includes one in the Montreal Gazette of January 23, 2012 reiterating the moronic old claim about John Diefenbaker, etc., and has the predictable anti-American crapola about some Washington conspiracy being behind the Arrow’s downfall, since Americans can’t stand anyone out-doing them, bla, bla, bla. Talk about pitiful! Here is what this simple-minded “reporter” says in the Gazette: “It was killed by John Diefenbaker’s government, presumably at the behest of Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower on behalf of his country’s aerospace industry (which hates competition).” Can you believe this garbage? Where does the Gazette find its muse? Maybe from the “Coast to Coast” loonie bins … or the National Enquirer?