“The Five-Hour War”: The Royal Canadian Air Force and Nuclear War, 1961


I thought I’d move this one over to Atomic Express. During the course of my work on Canada and nuclear weapons, I found an RCAF command post exercise file called Exercise BOOK CHECK. Dated 1961, BOOK CHECK contained a detailed master events list with specific timings that essentially depicted how RCAF planners saw a nuclear war unfolding during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. There was, of course, some artificiality as a wide variety of RCAF units had to be able to report in as part of the exercise, but for the most part BOOK CHECK is a very interesting window in how we thought a Soviet bomber attack would take place against North America, what the targets were, and how the air defence system would continue to operate under attack conditions. To give the piece the flavour it demands, I took the BOOK CHECK master events list and wrote a narrative around it, adding in detail as required from the period drawn on other primary sources and my observations. The piece came out as “The Five-Hour War: The RCAF, Exercise BOOK CHECK, and Nuclear War, 1960-1963.” It appeared in RCAF Journal in the Winter 2012 issue.


PS: Hope you like the pic. It’s a rare one from my collection that shows an RCAF CF-101 VooDoo on Quick Reaction Alert sometime before 1966. You can see  two conventional Falcon missile uploaded. The nuclear-tipped MB-1 Genies are either stored in Griffiss AFB near Rome, New York and had to be flown in if it’s before 1964, or in a Special Ammunition Storage ‘igloo’ near the QRA area if it’s 1964 or after.