OPERATIONS, 1946:1958



On 12 February 1959, Captain Leland H. Neville, a 5000-hour B-36 veteran, closed the mixture controls of his B-36 and brought to an end the "Era of the Peacemaker." With this shutdown of the engines, B-36J-III-10-CF 52-2827, the last B-36 made, had reached its final resting place--Amon Carter Field, Fort Worth, Texas, where it would become a permanent memorial.

In his address at the ceremonies, Lieutenant General Clarence S. Irvine, deputy chief of staff for Material, USAF, and a former B-36 commander, said that he preferred to think of the memorialization ceremony not as a last but a first: "For it is just that. In the era of modern defenses, this is the first major weapon system to come into the operational inventory, superbly perform its deterrent mission, and be retired without firing a shot in anger".

The history of this great airplane goes back to 11 April 1941, when the successes of the German army in Europe dictated the requirements for an intercontinental bomber. This bomber was to be our primary strike weapon in the event we lost our European allies and the use of bases outside the western hemisphere.

On 15 November 1941, Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was awarded a contract for two experimental models. Due to the pressure of the times, the emphasis was placed on the production of B-24 "Liberators" sorely needed in both the Pacific and in Europe. The work on the B-36 proceeded at a slow pace.

The impending collapse of China in 1943 brought the need for a long-range bomber back to the front. A weapon was needed to strike at the Japanese homeland, and consequently an order for 100 B-36s was placed with the newly-merged Consolidate-Vultee Aircraft Company.

With the end of the war many warplane contracts were cancelled or sharpley curtailed, but the emphasis was maintained on the B-36 development. Convair rolled the first model, the XB-36, out of the hanger at Fort Worth on 8 September 1945. Less than a year later Gus Green and B. A. Erickson, Convair test pilots, lifted the world's largest bomber from the runway and cruised over the Texas countryside for 37 minutes.

On 26 June 1948, the first production B-36A was towed across the runway and delivered to the 7th Bomb Wing at Carswell AFB. For the next six years the B-36s continued to roll off the production line, with the last aircraft rolling off on 14 August 1954. It was this same B-36 which returned to Amon Carter Field to be enshrined.

Looking back over the years we operated the aircraft, it is evident that flying safety was indeed a problem at times. The accident rate for the B-36 in 1952 reached a staggering 23 per 100,000 flying hours. It is also evident that someone did something to correct the problem: the rate decreased steadily through the years and reached zero for the last two years the B-36 was in operation.

Starting in early 1958, the B-36s of the 7th began leaving the Carswell flightline one by one until they no longer graced the skies over Fort Worth. Beginning as an idea long before the atomic bomb was a weapon in anyone's arsenal, the B-36 served throughout a period of tremendous technological advance, finally being pushed out by the advent of the all jet-engine bomber. By June 1958 the wing began a new era in strategic bombardment, transitioning into the all-jet Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. Gone was the Peacemaker--but not the legend it left behind. For over a decade North Texas residents lived hand-in-hand with the thundering multi-engined silver birds, safe and secure. Secure that if a war ever threatened their way of life the Peacemaker would thunder off in their defense. It flew with an accompanying rumbling thunder that will never be forgotten by those who were within earshot.

The B-36 was the ultimate development of the piston-engine, long-range heavy bomber. It represented Strategic Air Command's intercontinental striking power in the 1940s and 50s. The primary nuclear deterrent for the nation during those years, it was the forerunner of today's TRIAD. Single handedly, it protected an entire nation while preserving the American way of life. Those who maintained, supported and flew her were a proud and daring group. They faced hard work, extreme cold and heat, long flight hours, separation from friends and loved ones and even death pioneering the B-36 in its effort to maintain a deterrent force second to none in the world.

During its years with the 7th, crews operated from all parts of world such as Alaska, Canada, Puerto Rico, England, the Azores, and French Morocco. It was used in testing new weapons, aircraft endurance, gunnery systems, and bombing techniques. Changes throughout the life of the aircraft reflected improved technology and changing tactics. The 7th either flew or tested every model B-36 produced at Fort Worth, excluding some reconnaissance models, from the A to J, and including the only XC-99 ever built. In addition to testing, the wing took part in numerous air show flyovers, static displays, Presidential Inaugurations and even a goodwill flight to Nicaraguara. All the while never loosing sight of what its mission was--peace. But it didn't stop there. Famous aviators, dignitaries from home and abroad and crown heads of Europe viewed the B-36 up-close at Carswell, with many flying in it.

All in all, the B-36 was the single most force in its day that symbolized America's strategic defense. It ranged as far as 8,000 miles and flew with impunity where jet fighters of the day could barely operate. The massive, rumbling B-36 never dropped a bomb in combat, although tensions with Russia and China in the 50s made the presence of the global-ranging B-36s comforting to military planners in the United States. With American bases abroad, virtually any spot in the world came under the thundering domain of the bomber. Despite a service life of 10 years, which covered the height of the Cold War and all of the Korean War, the B-36 never fired a shot, preserving the peace, richly earning its unofficial name-Peacemaker. For the men and women of the 7th, the B-36 won a permanent place in their hearts.

It was with heavy hearts that the personnel of the 95th Bombardment Wing at Biggs AFB, Texas watched the departure of the last B-36 for Fort Worth. The "queen" had won a permanent place in the hearts of those who had built, maintained and flown her over the years. She never fired a shot in anger, but she accomplished her job. Peace was her profession.



  7th Bombardment Group/Wing, 1919-1948

7th Bombardment Wing Operations at Carswell AFB, 1946-1948
7th Bombardment Wing Operations at Carswell AFB, 1949-1951
7th Bombardment Wing Operations at Carswell AFB, 1952-1954
7th Bombardment Wing Operations at Carswell AFB, 1955-1958


Squadron Histories:

    9th Bombardment Squadron
  436th Bombardment Squadron
  492nd Bombardment Squadron