Convair B-36

The B-36, an intercontinental bomber, was designed during WW II. The airplane made its maiden flight on August 8, 1946 and on June 26, 1948 the Strategic Air Command received its first B-36 for operational use. By August 1954, when production ended, more than 380 B-36s had been built for the USAF.

In 1958-59, the B-36 was replaced by the more modern B-52. During the years it was in service, the airplane was one of America's major deterrents to aggression by a potential enemy. The fact that the B-36 was never used in combat was indicative of its value in "keeping the peace." 

Span: 230 ft.
Length: 162 ft. 1 in.
Height: 46 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 410,000 lbs. loaded
Armament: Sixteen M24 20mm cannons in eight nose, tail and fuselage turrets; plus bombs--nuclear or 86,000 lbs. of conventional
Engines: Six Pratt & Whitney R-4360s of 3,800 hp. ea. and four General Electric J-47s of 5,200 lbs. thrust ea.
Cost: $3,701,000
Serial number: 52-2220

Maximum speed: 435 mph.
Cruising speed: 230 mph.
Range: 10,000 miles
Service Ceiling: 45,700 ft.

A plane with no name
By Raul Colon 

Convair’s B-36 long range bomber is well recognized by many attributes. It was America’s first true intercontinental heavy bombing platform and the Strategic Air Command’s initial deterrence weapon. Although its service life of just 10 operational years (1949 to 1959) was short in comparison to other aircraft conceived during the same time, such as the U-2, SR-71 and B-52, which still flies today; the B-36 was the first symbol of US air power during the early stages of the Cold War.  

Unlike the U-2 Dragon Lady, the SR-71 Blackbird and B-52 Stratofortress, its eventual replacement, the massive B-36 was never assigned an official name by the US Air Force. Despite this sobering fact, today much of the world recognized the huge propellant pusher bomber as the ‘Peacemaker’. The history behind the name is as interesting as the aircraft’s own life cycle. It all started back in December 1948, when the Convairiety, the Consolidated Vaultee Aircraft Corporation’s newsletter, announced a dedication and naming contest for the new plane. 

“Needed is a name appropriate to their size and purpose. A name which will be in keeping with the fine, historic traditions of Convair’s fighting ships in days gone by, the Liberators, Catalinas, Coronados and Vengeance dive bombers”, read the headlines of the piece. Further instructions were provided, “the name should be one word and should not be a ‘made-up’ combination. Duplication or possible confusion with another Army or Navy aircraft names should be avoided. Preference will be given to names which relates to the size, weight, power, range, purpose and mission of the B-36”.  

Accordingly to the statement, entries will be allowed from 5th January until the 28th of February 1949, after which a judging committee composed of Amon Carter, the editor of the Dallas-based Fort Worth Star, Major General Rodger M. Ramey, the head of the Eight Air Force and Lamotte T. Cohu, Convair’s president; would pick a winner. Prize for the selected one was settled at 50 dollars, plus a barrage of publicity appearance. 

In late 1949, the Air Force Munitions Board Aircraft Committee, the organization in charge of matters such as name tagging, gave the contest a passive approval, but with a caveat. In a January 1949 memo, the Board stated that “The MBAC reserve the right to chose any other name if desired”. Because of this, Convair modified the rules adding that “if some name submitted by a Convair employee other than the winner of the contest is subsequently selected by the Munitions Board, the employee who submitted the name chosen will also be awarded $50”.

Although the contest was not limited to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the plane was actually developed, the region accounted for more than 95% of the entrees, the rest came from the San Diego assembly plant section. Overall, 813 submissions were received, six hundred and forty (640) ballots from Texas and 173 out of California. Among the most popular proposed names out of Dallas were ‘Longhorn’, ‘Texas’, ‘Texans’, and ‘Gardua’. Others such as ‘Condor’ and ‘Crusader’ topped the San Diego-area submissions. Interesting enough, 60 entries (49 from Dallas, 11 out of San Diego) called for the name ‘Pacemaker’. 

The word ‘Peacemaker’ has its roots in the Texas’ Old West. It was use to describe the powerful Colt .45 caliber revolver, often use as a deterrence mechanism. Most of the people who conjured the word did so believing that the B-36 would serve in a similar matter. “I think that this incredible plane will be like a Colt. A weapon people respect and feared. It maintained the peace in an un-settling time. So will the B-36”, said J.G. Bohn, a Fort Worth toolmaker who, along with J.L. McDaniels, L.R. Harris, C.W. Cannon, E.M. Wilson and  G.E. McKenzie were chosen to represent all the winners.  

Originally the announcement of the winner was slated for 30th March 1949. But due to a logistical mix up the judging committee did not receive the final ballots until the last week of February. The revelation of the selection was made on the April 1949 issue of Convairiety. “Convair proudly announce that….have won the B-36 naming contest. This would be forwarded to the AF Munitions Board Aircraft Committee for approval”, expressed the editorial section of the paper. 

Sadly for Cohu, Bohn, McKenzie and all involved with the program, religious objections by various groups dissuaded the Air Force from branding the B-36, the Peacemaker, deferring the decision to a later date. But like most bureaucratic actions that are postponed, the official name-tagging of this amazing bomber was lost in the time. As of today, the AF Arsenal Registry has no official name is listed beside the B-36. 

The Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft, Robert Jackson, Parragon Publishing Books 2006
International Air Power Review
, 24th volume, AIRtime Publishing 2008
Concept Aircraft: Prototypes, X-planes and Experimental Aircraft
, Editor Jim Winchester, Thunder Bay Press 2005