The Peacemaker is a post-apocalyptic piece that depicts an alternate history of the 21st century. The Peacemaker is a story about a man who is able to alter the course of history. In a world where the United States is now a socialist nation and the Middle East has been destroyed, a man named John Taylor was able to change the outcome of history. He built a weapon, the Peacemaker, which can stop a nuclear attack and destroy the missile.

The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is regarded as the most important event in European history, and the key to the subsequent peace and prosperity that characterizes the present. Its importance is not just that it brought an end to a costly and uncertain series of wars, but also that it marked the end of a long process of formation that had begun in the early 16th century. This process had been marked by a number of wars and revolutions in the preceding centuries, with the result that Europe and its rulers were in a state of perpetual instability. The Peace of Westphalia symbolized a new way of thinking about Europe’s political future. It provided a model for how relations between the different European peoples could be structured so as to ensure

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Convair’s massive B-36 bomber never saw combat, which was its primary goal.

The Soviet Union has long been the world’s leading expert on aviation’s gigantism. In 1913, Igor Sikorsky’s Ilya Muromets, a massive stork of an airplane famously seen with two crewmen strolling on its fuselage, took to the skies for the first time. The Tupolev ANT-20 Maxim Gorky, TB-3 bomber, and Kalinin K-7 were among the Russian titans that followed it. The Antonov An-225 Mriya is still the world’s heaviest airplane, with a maximum takeoff weight of 705 tons.

But there was one blip in the constant stream of Soviet behemoths, and it came at a time when that terrible empire was the US’s most vehement foe. Convair created the six-engine—and subsequently ten-engine—B-36 long-range heavy bomber when America needed a club with which to threaten the Russians. It was the world’s largest and heaviest piston-engine airplane ever built. 

With a reference to the historic Colt six-shooter, the B-36 was dubbed the Peacemaker. Some religious organizations objected, claiming that Jesus was the only real Peacemaker. The Air Force was put off by this, and the plane was never referred to as anything other than the B-36.

Many people believe the B-36 was built to be a nuclear bomber, however the plane’s origins predate any such mission. The large bomber was first envisaged during World War II with the intention of reaching Germany from the United States in the event that Britain collapsed. The B-36 was highly lauded for its capability to bomb Japan from Hawaii or Alaska throughout its construction.

When the B-36s were scheduled to be nuclear-capable in the late 1940s, atomic bombs were under the control of the civilian Atomic Energy Commission, and transferring them to the military was a lengthy procedure. It was necessary to build up pre-strike bases where a B-36 could land, refuel, and pick up its bomb, the fissionable core of which had apparently been flown in by the AEC. Certainly not a striking force capable of reacting quickly. 

These bases were all in isolated northern locales, with technicians assembling and loading bombs outside in the freezing weather. Some B-36 bombers were fitted with studded snow tires. Strategic Air Command took over control of nuclear weapons in 1951, although SAC’s B-36 bombers were still supposed to stage and refuel from facilities in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska.

The Peacemaker In August 1946, the XB-36 makes its first flight. (Air Force of the United States of America)

The single-wheel main landing gear on the first XB-36 prototype was mounted with the largest airplane tires ever made—9 feet 2 inches in diameter. It was designed in such a way that it could quickly retract into the wings. Due to the tremendous pressure of the tires’ footprint, only three runways in the world could support the weight of the prototype: Carswell, Eglin, and Fairfield (later Travis) Air Force bases. The bomber’s single tires also meant that a blowout may cause it to crash. To spread the weight, four-wheel bogies were swiftly engineered on either side of the plane.

Before landing, crewmen had to enter each wing—which were 712 feet thick at the root—and clamber out to the cavernous wheel well to check that the landing-gear downlocks were properly adjusted. “I was terrified the first time,” ex-crewman Dick Graf said. “I could see the prop turning behind me and knew that if I slipped, I’d be hamburger.”

“We were meant to hold on, reach down between the aircraft and oblivion, and kick the [drag link] knuckle until a down lock was indicated,” said retired Captain Reginald Beuttel Jr. “Talk about a thrilling adventure.” The up and down locks were shortly replaced with microswitches with cockpit indications.

The walk-in wings also allowed for minor accessory-section maintenance on the inboard engines. “Doing the actual repair was simple, though it was always a memorable event, between the walkaround air bottle, the fresh-air rush, fuel and oil odors, and the boom of the engines,” recounted Staff Sgt. Bill Holding.

Convair decided early in the manufacturing process that the wings needed to be swept back further three degrees to remedy a center of gravity issue. The nacelles had already been installed, and the engine centerlines had been determined. The nacelles and mounts were left alone rather than reengineered, thus the B-36 flew with the propellers of its six pusher engines pointing three degrees inboard.

The Peacemaker The remote-controlled turret cannons on the B-36 were upgraded from the B-29’s system. They were later deleted after proving to be untrustworthy. (Getty Images/Joseph Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection)

The B-36 was designed to be a carpet bomber, dropping the most iron bombs across the largest area possible. A B-36 dropped a stick of 132 500-pound bombs in a line 212 miles long in a 1956 demonstration for congressmen and senators at Eglin AFB—a firestorm that wouldn’t be seen again until the arrival of the B-52D “Big Bellies” over Vietnam. The 66,000-pound load was much in excess of the B-36’s maximum capacity (87,200 pounds for later models) and even a B-52’s.

After a long, contentious and problematic development phase, the XB-36 made its first flight on August 8, 1946. Until the arrival of the B-36D in 1951, however, the airplane was not considered fit for combat. Its deeply buried Pratt & Whitney R-4360 pusher engines were difficult to cool, for the bitter-cold air at cruising altitude was too thin to get the job done. Carburetors would literally ice over, causing uncontained fuel spillage and fires. (One advantage of the pusher engines was that the crew could simply shut off the fuel feeding an engine fire and wait for it to blow out, with no damage to the wing’s primary structure.) There were also constant propeller-vibration problems, and throughout the B-36’s career some pilots would shut down the two inboard engines to prevent the hammering of propwash against the fuselage and the huge horizontal stabilizer. 

“It was a nightmare keeping the B-36 in commission and battle-ready,” recalled former Staff Sgt. Manfred Wiest. “It would come back after missions with pages and pages of reports. It’s debatable whether it would have been useful in a war situation.”

The advanced, radar-guided remote cannons on the plane—a scaled-up B-29 system—were rendered worthless. At altitude, the guns froze, their electronics interfered with every radio on the plane, and only a few guns could discharge a single belt of ammunition without malfunctioning. Convair boasted that it was the most extensive defensive armament ever installed on a warplane, omitting to note that it was ineffective. All but the tail weapons were removed from B-36s soon after.

The B-36’s designers didn’t intend for the bomber to be armed with 20mm cannons. The objective was for the plane to gently climb to altitude—40,000 feet at first, then 45,000 feet—where its thick wing would continue to provide superb handling. Fighters would struggle to match its ascent, if not its moderate cruise speed of 250 miles per hour, and once the bomber and interceptor were engaged, all the B-36 needed to do was turn away from the fighter, which would be unable to follow the move.

Former B-36 pilot David Flaming remembered, “We could dodge them merely by making a little spin.” “They couldn’t move at those heights, whereas we could easily fly at 40, 45,000 feet. They couldn’t compensate if you merely changed your orientation a little.”

Chuck Yeager got a few gun-camera hits in a test intercept against a B-36, but stated that holding a Sabre steady enough for accurate firing at 40,000 feet was difficult. Late-model B-36s known as Featherweights were stripped and lightened to fly as high as 50,000 feet, with one rumored to fly as high as 59,000 feet.

With the appearance of the MiG-17 and later the MiG-19, as well as the first ground-to-air missiles, things would alter by the mid-1950s. The B-36’s operating life was only about four years.

The B-36’s main engine was the R-4360 Wasp Major, a ridiculously large 28-cylinder radial with four rows of cylinders, earning it the nickname Corncob. Despite its 3,000 horsepower—which increased to 3,800 horsepower in the B-36H’s most advanced, fuel-injected version—even six of them left the bomber underpowered. Convair sought to work on a more powerful engine, possibly a turboprop, but the Air Force’s budget didn’t allow it. 

The Peacemaker The B-36D was the first variant to be equipped with a jet engine. (Getty Images/Universal Images Group)

As a result, Convair equipped the B-36D with four General Electric J47 turbojets. They were B-47 engines, still attached to B-36s in their original two-engine Stratojet pods, and they ran on avgas rather than jet fuel. The jets were used to help with takeoff, but their true mission was to increase dash speed over a Soviet target by 60 to 75 mph. A bombing run’s catchphrases were “get in, get out, and go home,” implying that fighters and anti-aircraft guns would have as little time as possible to detect and track an attacking B-36. To avoid interception, start the jets, two-block all ten throttles, and take advantage of the plane’s impressive top speed—435 mph for a large bomber— The idea that Soviet radar would have painted the ponderous aircraft somewhere between the North Pole and the Barents Sea appears to have been overlooked by military strategists.

The New York Central Railroad set an American rail speed record—183.68 mph—in 1966 by mounting a surplus B-36 dual-engine pod upside-down atop a Buddliner self-propelled diesel car.

During its ten-year run, the Peacemaker was mostly used as a public relations tool. Even when the only B-36s in the air were still in beta testing, the Air Force dispatched them on low-altitude flights that exposed their droning formations to every major city in the country. The objective of the drill was to make sure Stalin knew we had a “huge stick,” as Teddy Roosevelt put it. Soviet spies were welcome to look at the plane on airshow ramps.

Certainly, the Soviets were quick to notice the plane’s numerous flaws. Only five to eight B-36s were ever genuinely flyable in the late 1940s, when only 40 B-36s were in squadron duty. Despite this, the Soviets never developed a B-36 replacement. The four-turbojet Myasishchev M-4 Bison strategic bomber was the best they could achieve, with enough range to reach the United States but not enough to return home. (When the designer of the Bison told Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that the bomber might land in Mexico, Khrushchev replied, “Do you think Mexico is our mother-in-law?”) Do you think we can call whenever we want?”)

Yes, B-36 bombers did drone. I used to hear a B-36’s baritone as contrails traced the path of a tiny silver cross seven miles aloft when I was a teenager in Yorktown Heights, New York. Nobody has ever definitively identified the source of the low-frequency, felt-as-well-as-heard growl, but the best guesses seem to be that it was caused by the hum of the near-supersonic prop tips, or the sound of 18 prop blades cutting through the wash of air over the wings, or perhaps slicing through the engine exhausts. 

The B-36 was the subject of various parasite-fighter trials because no fighter had the range to escort it and aerial refueling was still being developed. The most famous was the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin, which was designed to be carried in one of the B-36’s bomb bays and launched and recovered by a hooklike trapeze. A Goblin was never carried by a B-36, but it was tried (unsuccessfully) on a B-29. The best that could have been hoped for if the XF-85 had ever been produced was that MiG pilots would have perished laughing.

Other trials included fighters being dragged along by the wingtips of a B-36, an idea that failed when wingtip turbulence caused two Republic F-84s and their B-29 towplane to crash in a ball of aluminum, killing all of the participants. The most successful parasite used a full-size RF-84 tucked into the belly of a B-36. It was sent out not to fight, but to conduct high-speed reconnaissance while its mother ship remained on the Soviet side of the border. Combinations of the RB-36/RF-84 FICON (Fighter Conveyor) were temporarily operational.

The Peacemaker During testing of the FICON (Fighter Conveyor) concept, a Republic RF-84 links with its RB-36 mother ship. (Air Force of the United States of America)

The engineers knew the B-36 would be flying 30- to 40-hour missions, so they made the crew accommodations as comfortable as possible: well-padded seats with armrests, carpeting, extensive soundproofing and insulation, built-in ashtrays, food heating facilities, washbasins, beds, food-storage units, and other luxuries never seen before on a plane. These fripperies were the first to disappear when the lighter B-36 Featherweights were introduced in 1954. The Featherweights were created to increase range to the point that the Arctic staging bases were no longer required. They also boosted the bombing altitude and speed of the B-36 above the target.

Convair was tasked by the Air Force with designing room for the T-12 “bunker-buster” bomb, which weighed 43,600 pounds and measured just over 30 feet long and 412 feet in circumference. They ensured that the B-36 could carry the greatest postwar atomic and hydrogen weapons by doing so. The Peacemaker was the only SAC bomber capable of carrying every conventional and nuclear bomb in the country’s arsenal during its time in service.

B-36 bombers occasionally carried nuclear weapons, which were typically deactivated, and a group of them took part in a series of nuclear tests between 1952 and 1957. The majority of the tests were aimed at determining the effects of huge ground or low-altitude explosions on B-36 bombers at altitude, with the fear that unless the nuclear warhead was parachute-retarded, the bombers would be too sluggish to avoid catastrophic shock-wave damage. During Operation Teapot in 1955, B-36 bombers successfully dropped low-yield 1.5- and 3.5-megaton warheads over a Nevada test range three times.

The Peacemaker The Peacemaker’s large bomb bays could hold the Mark 17 thermonuclear weapon, which weighs 21 tons. (Getty Images/Margaret Bourke-White/The LIFE Picture Collection) )

A B-36’s fuselage was almost entirely devoted to its two massive bomb bays, with a small pressurized flight deck and crew compartment at the nose and another for gunners and spotters deep rear, joined by a pressurized center tunnel. The pressurized fuselage sections are visible because they are made of bright aluminum, but the rest of the hull is made of drab magnesium, which does not respond to the skin flexing caused by pressurization. The B-36 is the first airplane or spacecraft to use magnesium in such a huge quantity.

The long nose of the Convair was flexible, and it hopped from side to side sufficiently in turbulence to make the ride uncomfortable. Colonel Richard George said, “It may become a little violent at times.” “The sideways motion gave me calluses on my buttocks.” The forward guns, which might become misaligned with their sighting stations, and the bombsight’s accuracy were also compromised. “They were never a lot of joy to fly,” said Lt. Gen. James Edmundson, an ex-B-36 pilot. “It was like flying your house around from your front porch.” 

The RB-36 reconnaissance version, for example, was designed to do follow-up photos of a recently struck target. The RB-36 was used to build a number of cameras, the most advanced of which was the single K-42 “Boston camera,” so named because it was created at Harvard and produced by Boston University. The Boston camera, which has a 20-foot focal length and can photograph a golf ball from 45,000 feet, is the world’s largest aerial camera. An oblique image of Manhattan obtained from a distance of 72 miles shows individual New Yorkers strolling in Central Park, as evidenced by a photo displayed alongside the camera in the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The Peacemakers began arriving at the Davis-Monthan AFB boneyard in 1956, when the first B-52s began replacing B-36s. They were made into aluminum and magnesium ingots right away. In February 1959, the last official B-36 flight was flown, and SAC became an all-jet bomber force.

Fewer than a third of the 385 B-36s built survive. The Air Force museum received one of the two original prototypes, but it was demolished. Walter Soplata, the late aviation hoarder, purchased the majority of the fuselage and cockpit for $760 and put it in his Ohio junkyard. It’s currently in the hands of a California company that transforms vintage planes into engraved metal “planetags” for collectors.

The Peacemaker Peacemakers parked at Davis-Monthan AFB are scrapped and melted down for aluminum and magnesium ingots. (Air Force of the United States of America)

Four Peacemakers are still intact, though none will ever fly again. In Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force museum has a B-36J; the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., displays a B-36J; the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb., owns a B-36J; and a B-36H is parked at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, Calif., east of San Francisco.

Was the B-36 an effective weapon, despite its brief and pacifistic operational career? Or was it just another military industry sham engulfed in scandal and corruption, born at the expense of the Navy’s demand for supercarriers while the bomber’s capabilities were exaggerated?

Despite the fact that the massive Convair was intended to be an attacking weapon, it ended up being the United States’ most powerful defensive against an adversary. During the first decade of the Cold War, the Soviet Union did not risk beginning a war in Europe since the B-36 existed. The B-36 was the first leg of what would become America’s nuclear deterrent triad: very long-range strategic bombers, intercontinental missiles, and nuclear-missile-equipped submarines, as flawed as they were. Legs two and three were still on their way, but the large Convair was blocking the way.

The Peacemaker’s message was simple—”don’t dare”—and it was delivered well.  

 

Contributing editor Stephan Wilkinson suggests Cold War Peacemaker by Don Pyeatt and Dennis R. Jenkins, Magnesium Overcast by Dennis R. Jenkins, and Convair B-36 by Meyers K. Jacobsen for more reading and viewing. In addition, the 1955 film Strategic Air Command, starring Jimmy Stewart, provides a stunning depiction of the B-36 in action.

This article was first published in the July 2022 issue of Aviation History. Make sure you don’t miss an issue by subscribing!

 

In the history of human conflict, there have been two types of people: Peacemakers and Warlords. Peacemakers are those who make things better for everybody, by bringing people together. Warlords are the opposite, who try to win over other people to support what they’re doing, and make people less happy.. Read more about the peacemaker gun and let us know what you think.

The Peacemaker is a movie starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Phillippe. It was released in 2007."}},{"@type":"Question","name":"Why is the peacemaker rated R?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":" The Peacemaker is rated R because it contains a lot of violence, blood, and gore."}},{"@type":"Question","name":"What is the movie The Peacemaker about?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":" The Peacemaker is a movie from 1999 about the life of United States Marine Corps Captain Robert McNamara."}}]}

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the peacemaker on Netflix?

The Peacemaker is a movie starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Phillippe. It was released in 2007.

Why is the peacemaker rated R?

The Peacemaker is rated R because it contains a lot of violence, blood, and gore.

What is the movie The Peacemaker about?

The Peacemaker is a movie from 1999 about the life of United States Marine Corps Captain Robert McNamara.

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