An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

A Look Back…Peacemaker Personnel

  • Published
  • By Tony Landis
  • Air Force Materiel Command History Office

The history of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker is well documented in books such as ‘Convair B-36-A Compre-hensive History of America’s “Big Stick” by Meyers K. Jacobson, ‘Magnesium Overcast’ by Dennis R. Jenkins and ‘Cold War Peacemaker’ by Don Pyeatt and Dennis R. Jenkins. While most take an in-depth look at the air-craft, often overlooked are the men and women who built, maintained and flew this magnificent vehicle. This document, where possible, puts names to the faces of the personnel whose recognition is long overdue.

The requirement for an intercontinental bomber became apparent during WWII. With the stability of over-seas bases in question, the Army Air Corps felt it needed a bomber that could attack Europe from bases in North America. The requirements set forth by the Army Air Corps were very ambitious for the day; an aircraft with a 275-mph cruising speed, service ceiling of 25,000 feet and a range of 12,000 miles with the ability to carry a 10,000 pound bomb load over a radius of 5,000 miles.

In November 1941, Consolidated’s Model 36 design won out over Boeing’s Model 385 to become the Army Air Corp’s new bomber. With a wingspan of 230 feet, powered by six 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360 “X-Wasp” air-cooled radial engines, a fuselage length of 163 feet equipped with four bomb bays with a maxi-mum capacity of 72,000 pounds the new aircraft was unlike anything that came before.

First flown in August 1946, just one year after the end of WWII, the XB-36 was the largest and heaviest air-craft ever flown at the time. The size, weight and complexity of the aircraft created many new problems to be overcome by the talented engineers and technicians working the program. It took another two years before the newly-created Strategic Air Command (SAC) received their first operationally-equipped B-36.

About the time the B-36 became operational, SAC received a new commanding officer, Lt Gen Curtis E. LeMay. Lt Gen LeMay quickly found SAC to be in complete disarray with less than half of the available aircraft operational, crews under-trained, low moral with minimal base and security standards. Lt. Gen LeMay quickly set new high standards of performance for all personnel including rigorous training for officers and enlisted alike. Also known for his concern for the comfort and well-being of personnel under his command. Receiving his fourth star in 1951, at age 44, LeMay became the youngest four-star General since Ulysses S. Grant.

The B-36 remained in operation for the next decade. Keeping these complex aircraft operational became a monumental undertaking for the engineers and maintainers assigned to the task. Flying missions over all points of the globe, in all weather conditions, day and night, with some missions lasting two days or more without refueling, the B-36 truly earned its unofficial nickname ‘Peacemaker’. A tribute to the men and women whose sacrifice made it all possible.

The B-36 retired from operational service with little fanfare in 1958 and all surviving flyable airframes flown to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ for reclamation. Of the 385 B-36 aircraft constructed, only four intact airframes survived the scrappers torch. The last flight of the B-36 saw B-36J (52-2220) flown from Davis-Monthan AFB to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH on April 30, 1959. This aircraft as well the three other survivors stand in recognition of the efforts put forth by every-one involved in keeping the peace during a stressful period of the Cold War.