Cold War Tech War
Cold War Tech War explores the geo-political, technical and economic aspects of the Avro Canada story. Author Randall Whitcomb reveals for the first time anywhere several exciting design proposals of the Avro company while putting the company and its technology into an international context.
Global intelligence angles are explored from pre-WW II through the Cold War period. Focus is on bi-lateral issues with the Americans, with some pertinent American statesmen and industrialists receiving special attention for their roles in issues at the heart of our story. Recently released official information on the Avro C-102 Jetliner and CF-105 Arrow present their cancellations in a new light. Over a half-Century of deception by various governments, intelligence agencies and individuals is documented and given relevance in view of today's geo-political mileau. As in the author's first book, Avro's engineering is shown to have been visionary--and still inspiring in the 21st Century.
Randall Whitcomb, the author of this book passed away in early 2008. He was only 44 years old. I didnít get to know Randall very well, we only met about a year before he submitted this manuscript for publication. However, I knew Randall by reputation. I owned his previous book Avro Aircraft and Cold War Aviation, and hanging proudly in my house is a print of one of Randallís remarkable portraits of the Avro Arrow CF-105 aircraft.
Being an editor can often be a difficult task. You read a manuscript and you try to divine the authorís intentions while sifting for mistakes, both grammatical and otherwise. As an editor of non-fiction you are often also held responsible for errors of fact. Frequently you find yourself riding a fine line between what you believe is right and what the author wants. Iíve never been comfortable with censoring a manuscript, in fact in 25 years only once or twice have I persuaded an author to remove something from their original draft (usually for legal reasons.) This book presented an entirely new set of problems for me. It is the only time that I have found myself with a contract, a finished manuscript, and no author. Randall was waiting for me to read it and provide some input. I never had the chance.
Randallís unexpected death just weeks after completing this book was a shock to us at Apogee Books. We had spent time with him at an open house in late 2007 at the Toronto Aerospace Museum. We watched as people flocked to him to buy his extraordinary array of aircraft paintings and to ask him questions. He evidently had a formidable store of knowledge. I didnít realise it at the time but Randall was more than just another aviation enthusiast, he was an excellent artist and one of the most respected authorities in Canada on the history of the Avro Arrow. In this book you will find that he also had a deep interest in the political significance of that ill-fated and superlative aircraft, and that he had a complex vision of its legacy inside the bigger picture of the Cold War.
In the following pages you will find a dazzling array of data and facts, but sadly no one will ever be able to challenge Randall to elaborate further on those facts. Thankfully, I can say that because Randall was an enthusiast, a meticulous researcher AND a technically adept Air Force pilot, his grasp of the complexities of this most controversial story may have been unparalleled. Randall dug deep into government documents in three countries, he interviewed the key players and analysed the hardware with a pilotís eye. It may be that no one will ever be able to do as much again, with so much palpable enthusiasm.
Randall was obviously a passionately patriotic Canadian, his willingness to sign up to defend his country clearly demonstrates this fact. The pages ahead will reveal a man who was evidently upset. He was upset because he could see, thanks to his extensive research, that lies have been told which hurt his country. Even more upsetting were that the lies were told by many of his own countrymen, and those same lies apparently continue to be perpetuated today; either through ignorance or malice. Since politicians can rarely be relied upon for their candour, it becomes the job of the historian to try to unravel the truth, but as we know history is often only reported by the victorious. In this observerís eye, there is much truth to be found in the pages of this book.
This may be an important breakthrough book particularly for the average Canadian, who for decades have been fed the "evil American cabal" story as the principal reason for the Arrow's demise. As much as Randy clearly concludes that some prominent American politicians had dirty hands in this story, he also proves, for the first time, that the US Air Force was quite happy to buy planes from Canada (a major recent discovery which he was particularly pleased about) and that Howard Hughes (the prototypical American capitalist industrialist) was also a very smart and generous man who tried to support Avro. Randy also makes no attempt to shy away from blaming no less than four prominent Canadians for their wilful negligence and flip-flopping (Howe, Foulkes, Pearkes and Diefenbaker). An American reading this book is likely to be upset, especially if they donít read it through to the end, but the average Canadian is likely to be completely surprised to find plain evidence of dirty hands in their own country. One thing is certain, as is so often the case with politics, this is not a simple story.
Within these pages you will find all of the traditional excuses for the demise of Canadaís greatest aviation company. They include planes that were too expensive, didnít live up to specifications or were obsolescent. Characters with inadequate social skills. Markets that didnít exist, foreign tampering, incompetent politicians, scheming intelligence agents, devious Soviet spies, corporate greed and a host of other reasons. What becomes clear, however, is that the paper evidence dug up by Randall completely negates many of the shallow platitudes that are so frequently repeated ad infinitum by the media. My limited experience with the law and judicial system lead me to believe that there is enough evidence here to merit an official inquiry. Iím not fond of conspiracy theories, and I canít speak with authority to Randallís conclusions, some of them seem pretty harsh, but if I found myself on a jury in the court of public opinion and I was presented with so much documentary evidence, I would find many of his assertions difficult to rebut.
The security of the North American continent may well have been drastically improved had the forces at work in Ottawa in the late 1950ís operated differently. There seems little doubt that those who say the Avro Arrow would never have lived up to expectations need to read this book. Right or wrong, there is so much information here it would be an act of almost moronic hubris to dismiss the contents out of hand.
As for the history of commercial aviation? Well, after reading this book, I wanted to fly in the Avro Jetliner. Not only was it a thing of beauty, it was, thanks to the new evidence presented herein, apparently everything it was cracked up to be.
Avroís forays into flying discs, SSTs and hypersonic spacecraft, previously the stuff of legend, are only now being discussed and understood by space and aviation historians; thanks to the efforts of people like Randall who worked hard to get the paperwork declassified.
Posterity has already shown that the team who worked at Avro Canada were a formidable group who, once dismantled, went on to help the United States pull off what was probably the greatest technical accomplishment of the 20th century, the manned moon landings. They were also instrumental in bringing Concorde to the world. It hardly seems likely that given those qualifications, Jim Floyd, John Frost, Mario Pesando, Jim Chamberlin and the other geniuses who brought us the Arrow and the Jetliner would have built a lemon.
Whether you can stomach Randallís condemnations of the various players or not, it seems to me that this could be an important book, and if the truth is ever revealed, in years to come may even be seen to be an important work of history.
I deeply regret not having had the opportunity to engage in conversation with Randall about this book. I didnít have the usual opportunity to have an informed dialog. So like the rest of you I will have no occasion to challenge or question the things that confuse me. However, I will make no apologies to anyone for the content found herein. Out of respect to Randall and his family I have changed nothing of substance. All I can say is that Randall mentioned to me, more than once by email, that he was sincerely concerned that his conclusions might be perceived as being too tough on certain of the players, and that particularly, he thought the readers in the United States might misconstrue his intentions. It is my opinion that the reader should not jump to any conclusions without completing the entire book. In the end, even if Randy had lived, I think it would have been very difficult for me to have sorted this book out to make it work for everyone. If I had removed the politics it would have totally diluted the point of the book. If I had moved the anti-Canadian material to the front and moved the anti-American material to the back it would have required a complete re-write. And so it remains; as it was written.
If nothing else, I feel, speaking as neither a natural born Canadian or American, that the evidence shown in Randallís book clearly illustrates that somebody did the world a great disservice by gutting Avro Canada. It was a mistake, plain and simple, regardless of who was to blame. Although Randall places his pieces firmly in place and makes no attempt to shy away from his own verdict, I at least will leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about who might have benefitted from this mistake.
I would love to have seen an Arrow or a Jetliner in the air. In hindsight, I will have to settle for having stood shoulder to shoulder with the Arrowís most ardent fan, Randall Whitcomb, as he watched the full size Arrow replica roll out of its hangar in Toronto in October of 2006.
Robert Godwin (Editor: Apogee Books July 2008)
Click here to see the index for this book.