Skip to main content
^CANADIAN INCIDENT: WHITEHOUSE DEBRIEF'
© Patrick Bruskiewich
November 15, 2012
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Allen Dulles, Director of the C.I. A.
Richard Bissell, Head of the U-2 program
On September 17 th , 1956 Canadian CF-86 pilots inadvertently
downed an American U-2 spy plane returning from a mission
over Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean where it
has been taking pictures of the secret preparations for the
invasion of the Suez by The British, French and Israelis.
This is an excerpt from the script "the Canadian incident"
which is based on actual events (see "The Canadian
Incident" and the article "The U-2 and the Avro Arrow" by
the author at archive.org) .
INT OVAL OFFICE
President Eisenhower is sitting behind a desk in the oval
office. The calendar on the desk reads 18 September, 1956.
Behind him stands a US flag.
Eisenhower has his glasses on and is carefully reading a
document when the intercom on his desk buzzes. He presses a
button and speaks
CIA Director Allen Dulles and Richard
Bissell are here Mr. President.
Send them in.
The President takes off his glasses and tosses them on the
desk. He rubs his eyes before getting up to greet the two
men as they enter the Oval office.
Dulles is in a grey suit and is carrying a leather brief
case. Bissell is in a black suit and has an easel and a
large portfolio case he is carrying.
Mr. President we have come here to
brief you on the U-2 crash that
occurred yesterday in West Germany.
Yes, I have just been reading your
preliminary report and the messages I
have received so far. Here sit.
President Eisenhower motions that Dulles makes himself
comfortable on a sofa around a coffee table in the Oval
Office. Bissell sets up the easel and remains standing.
Richard Bissell is standing besides the easel he brought
and has set up with some pictures, maps and charts. Dulles
takes some documents out of his case and lays a model of
the U-2 out on the table.
Allen Dulles removes the unlit pipe from his lips.
May we begin Mr. President.
Yes, Allen please proceed.
Bissell places the first item on the easel. It is a map of
Germany with Wiesbaden and the U-2 flight clearly marked.
The U-2 came down on West German
territory. It was on its return from a
mission and coming into land at
Wiesbaden airbase when it crashed.
I see the pilot, Howard Carey, did not
eject and died in the crash.
That is correct Mr. President.
And the U-2?
Bissell places a more detailed map with a red circle
indicating the crash site and a series up pictures of a
plane wreck up on the easel.
The site has been secured and the
wreckage is being gathered as we speak.
Our preliminary report from the crash
site indicates that the U-2 was not
shot down. This was Carey's first
Dulles looks up at Bissell and points at him with his pipe
to continue. Bissell places a picture of a Canadair Sabre
Six on the easel as well as map that shows the air sector
that the Canadian jets were patrolling.
On its landing approach Carey' s U-2 was
intercepted by four Canadian Sabre
jets. They were the Zulu aircraft for
What happened then?
It appears the Canadian pilots followed
proper NATO intercept procedure. No
rounds were fired by the four Canadian
jets at the U-2 .
Dulles picks the U-2 model off the table and uses his hand
to indicate the jets intercepting the U-2 from behind
From what we have gathered so far, the
Canadian jets made a close pass of his
U-2 from behind.
Carey didn't know they were coming. We
think he just panicked and fucked up
. . . sorry Mr. President.
At this point we are focusing on pilot
I hadn't expected to lose an aircraft
and pilot so soon after starting our
overflights. We started the Aquatone
Missions only three months ago for god
sakes . Isn't the U-2 safe to fly?
I will let Richard answer that.
The U-2 is a fine aircraft, but you
need to keep on your toes when flying
We have lost three planes since the U-
2s began flying six months ago at Area
51 Groom Lake.
We believe that the pilots are the
weakest link in the program not the
The difference with Carey is that this
is our first loss on an operational
mission. The other crashes were
training exercises over the continental
United States .
And the pilots from these crashes?
Of the three, we lost one ... but two
walked away. One is still flying for
the program. The other pilot washed
Carey was brought in to replace him.
Is it possible that Carey did not have
enough experience for his mission?
Allen I want you to look into the
Yes Mr. President. We have already
flown in his replacement to Wiesbaden ...
Bissell shuffles through his portfolio case until he finds
the picture he needs and places it up on the easel.
a Gary Powers ... one of Carey' s his
Let's hope he is more experienced.
Gentlemen, do we need to change our
Mr. President. As you know the U-2
flies at the very edge of space.
At 70,000 feet the autopilot flies the
aircraft. At altitude the difference
between stable flight and a stall is
only 12 knots .
Carey crashed on his descent at around
55,000 feet. This is an important
There is a switch that must be reset by
the pilot as he descends through 55,000
feet. Without a reset, the pilot can
still deploy full ailerons. Below
55,000 feet full ailerons over stresses
the wing causing them to fail.
Our preliminary crash investigation has
determined that the switch was in the
full aileron position ... we are focusing
on pilot error.
When the Canadian pilots buzzed him he
might have been distracted. We believe
Carey pulled back too hard on the yoke,
over stressing the wings and they
I don't understand ... how did the
Canadians get so high. Isn't the
ceiling on their jets around 45,000
Richard can answer that ...
They have this new engine, the Orenda 6
that is 20% more powerful and more
compact than anything we can put in our
It also looks like the lead pilot knew
what he was doing.
What do you mean?
The lead Canadian pilots name is John
McElroy. He's one of their better
world war two fighter aces with ten
wartime kills. He flew with their Buzz
Beurling who had 33 and a half kills to
Bissell puts a picture of John McElroy standing next to his
McElroy is a bit of a maverick ... after
the war he flew with the Israelis in
1948 and managed four more kills,
including two RAF photorecon Spitfires.
McElroy shot down two RAF Spitfires !
Whose side is he on?
The RAF had given the Egyptians some of
their old spitfires. Thinking they were
Egyptian, he didn't realize he was
engaging RAF aircraft.
I am surprised the Brits didn't have
his neck. Now with our U-2 does that
make fifteen for this McElroy fellow?
Our man at Wiesbaden has spoken with
the Canadians and they stand by their
As if I don't have enough headaches.
Now are own side is bringing our own
How did he get so high?
The nearest we can figure is that the
four Canadian Sabre jets got up into
the jet stream ... gained an extra 50
knots and a few thousand feet.
And the intelligence? The Suez pictures
... did we lose the film as well?
No ... the U-2 fell out of the sky in a
flat spin ... like a seed from a maple
Bissell takes a maple tree seed out of his pocket and
tosses it into the air. The seed spins slowly and lands
onto the table.
The camera, film and most of the
aircraft pretty much survived the crash
to earth, Mr. President.
Didn't Carey try to eject.
Our preliminary investigation shows
that the eject handle was pulled but
nothing happened. The self-destruct
also did not operate properly.
I figure someone may have forgotten to
pull the safety pin during the pre-
Allen, you told me that the self-
destruct would do a thorough job of
Dulles nodded but remains silent, puffing at his empty
Allen ... I need to ask you this and you
need to be perfectly candid with me
with your answer.
Yes Mr. President ... aren't I always?
Well, sometimes I don't know. Was
there any delay?
Delay Mr. President?
You know what I mean Allen, between the
time the pilot pulls the eject handle ...
and the self-destruct of the U-2?
Dulles turns to Bissell.
None ... Mr. President.
I guess the pilots know the risk they
Yes they do. They are all volunteers.
Allen ... I want your people to find a
better way to destroy the U-2
completely, especially the camera and
film when the self-destruct goes.
Yes Mr. President. We are working on
I don't think there is any need to
stand down the program.
The intercom on the desk buzzes. President Eisenhower gets
up, walks to his desk and presses the switch on the
intercom. Dulles and Bissell start to collect together
their things .
Your call has gone through to the
Canadian Prime Minister.
Put him on.
Eisenhower sits at his desk and picks up the telephone and
begins to speak into the telephone.
Mr. Prime Minister. How are things in
Eisenhower covers the mouthpiece of the phone and talks to
Dulles and Bissell.
Best you be on your way. This will
take some time. Keep me informed.
Dulles and Bissell nod, collect their things and leave the
oval office .
So you have heard ... listen Prime
Minister I need you to do me a big
favor ... keep your hotshot Sabre pilots
away from our aircraft.