Major Air Disaster Linked to the CIA and the Deaths of Hundreds of 101st Airborne Troops

(GANDER, NF) – A US government covert mission to use a nuclear backpack to blowup an Iraqi nuclear facility in 1985 led to the death of hundreds of 101st Airborne troops returning from a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai when the aircraft was deliberately destroyed in Gander with the loss of 248 Army personnel and 8 crew members on take-off from Gander on December 12, 1985. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the crash but neither Canada or the US pursued a sabotage investigation. Instead, the Canadian Air Safety Board (CASB) in a 5 to 4 split decision found that icing on the DC-8CF’s wing surfaces caused the crash. The four professionals (all pilots and several aeronautical engineers) in a minority report wrote the crash was not caused by icing but probably by fire and explosion on the airborne aircraft.

The Arrow DC-8CF fully loaded with 45,000 liters of jet fuel took off from Gander and seem to have difficulty gaining altitude, according to witnesses. Witnesses on the highway saw a “bright glow emanating from the aircraft before it struck terrain just short of Gander Lake and crashed…3,000 feet from the end of the runway.” [1] Several witnesses reported the plane on fire as it took off from Gander.

The unexplained loss in speed before the aircraft impacted the trees and ground could have been caused by an explosion. “At 95 seconds after takeoff it was traveling at 140 knots, and two seconds later, only 30 knots. The crash did not impact with the trees until 105 seconds” (Joel Bainerman, The Crimes of a President, 1992).

Arrow Air 1285, a military chartered flight from Cairo to Fort Campbell, KY, was the worst air crash in Canadian history. The RCMP didn’t conduct a sabotage investigation. US Major General John Crosby, who arrived at Gander the same day as the crash, pushed for a burial of aircraft debris to keep it from souvenir hunters. General Crosby had no authority to order anyone at Gander to do anything. He later denied it but Gene Wheaton, a retired US Army criminal investigator, confirmed the order with Canadians at Gander.

Under international law, Canada was responsible for investigating the cause of the crash. Despite available hangar space at Gander, no attempt was made to reconstruct aircraft debris in contrast to the reconstruction of Pam Am 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 and other major aircraft disasters.

The evidence supports that the crash was not accidental but caused by an incendiary device linked to Iran/Contra and a failed covert mission. The professionals on the CASB reported “massive destruction of the aircraft suggests unsurvivable decelerative forces.” Autopsy reports showed carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide (a product of combustion of plastics) in the blood of victims, supporting a fire in the airborne aircraft. Eye witnesses Cecil Mackie, Gerald MacWhirter, Leonard Loughren, Judith Parsons, and Gander Airport Manager John Pitman saw fire on the airborne aircraft. Irving Pinkel, consulting engineer and private insurance investigator, reported evidence of a foot-long elliptical hole “with a pronounced outward pucker” in the fuselage, supporting an on-board explosion. Clarence Bowering, the official weather observer at Gander, reported to the CASB that there was no significant precipitation when the aircraft was on the ground (Les Filotas, Improbable Cause). The ground staff at Gander reported no ice on the wings and Paul Garrett and Ray Folley, the aircraft refuelers at Gander, reported no ice on the wings (Joel Bainerman, The Crimes of a President).

Public disclosure of an aborted covert mission and CIA involvement would have been breaking news and resulted in calls for the impeachments of Vice President George H. W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan.

There are several scenarios of the cause of the crash: (1) the aircraft crash was caused by wing icing, mechanical failure, and human error; (2) terrorists planted a bomb in the aircraft at the Cairo Airport where there was no check of the cargo by US Army personnel; and (3) CIA rouge operatives planted incendiary chemicals and napalm in soda cans at Gander and remotely blew-up the aircraft on take-off to prevent a Special Operations team on the aircraft from blowing-the-whistle on an aborted a mission to detonate a nuclear backpack at an Iraqi nuclear facility. The National Security Council, the CIA and Ollie North’s Enterprise are linked to this tragedy.[2]

Caskets containing the bodies from Arrow Air 1285, Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The icing and mechanical cause of the crash was dismissed by the professionals on the Canadian Air Safety Board who concluded that the evidence showed an on-board fire and a massive loss of power. The fire was caused by explosive or incendiary device. Who planted the explosive or incendiary device?

An Islamic Jihad terrorist group claimed responsibility for the explosion, which was summarily dismissed by the White House the same day of the crash without any follow-up FBI investigation of terrorist involvement; the FBI report on the crash had hundreds of pages redacted for national security reasons.

As bizarre as it sounds, the aircraft was blown up to prevent a Delta Force team, who boarded the aircraft at the last minute, from blowing the whistle on an aborted suicide mission to use a nuclear backpack to blow up an Iraqi nuclear facility, according to a report from Charles Beyers and confirmed by a journalist with military contacts.

Gene Wheaton had evidence that there were two nuclear backpacks and likely TWO anti-tank missiles and HAWK anti-aircraft missiles in the belly of the DC-8.

The Arrow Air Flight 1285 had 3 legs: 1. Cairo to Cologne, changed crews and refueled, 2. Cologne to Gander, refueled and 3. Gander to Fort Campbell.[3]

The aircraft fully loaded with jet fuel burned for hours after the crash. What was not consumed by the fire, the US Army bulldozed. At the scene, US Army Major John Crosby ordered the debris buried. Why would the US Army order the bulldozing of aircraft wreckage on Canadian soil is an unanswered question? Crosby disputed the bulldozing order but Gene Wheaton, a skilled criminal investigator, interviewed personnel on site and had a copy of the hand-written note from a Canadian supporting the order.

There were two empty hangars on the airfield that could have pieced the remaining wreckage together, which is the normal practice followed to determine the cause of a major air disasters. From what little wreckage remained, there are blast holes inside to the outside, which supports proof of explosion in the aircraft. Nothing in any official Canadian report or US report would indicate that explosives were involved in the crash of Arrow Air 1285 except for the minority report from the professionals on the CASB.

Why would the US government send a US Army Major General with no background in air crash investigations to Gander? MG Crosby had been the Commanding General of Fort Sill, OK, before his selection in June 1985 for a third star and a new assignment in Washington. Fort Sill is the home of US artillerymen but that’s a long way from aircraft and aircraft crash investigations.
Arrow Air was one of Ollie North’s favorite airlines and carried munitions for the Contras in the bellies of their aircraft, which was a violation of federal law to carry any explosives in passenger aircraft. It’s within reason to believe that MG Crosby’s primary mission was to destroy debris that could be identified as TOWs and other munitions destined for the Nicaraguan Contras taken from the US cache in the Sinai. Public disclosure of the use of Arrow Air to fly munitions for the Contras could have led to impeachment of President Reagan.

Gene Wheaton became involved in the Gander crash at the request of families of troopers killed. In an interview with “Declassified” on Public Radio uplinked to Public Radio Satellite System on 8/22/2001, Wheaton said that he had evidence that there were two nuclear backpacks aboard the plane, one had not been destroyed in the crash; Gander firefighters became “permanently disabled from blood, liver, and kidney diseases” linked to radiation exposure. [4]

Wheaton said that, “They [the families of dead servicemen] hired Dr. Cyril Wecht, a world-famous pathologist to analyze the pathology reports on the bodies…. somewhere up to 75 to 100 of the passengers on the airplane had inhaled lethal doses of carbon monoxide and HCN, hydrogen cyanide…you cannot get that into your system unless it’s inhaled in your lungs…meaning that those troops breathed those poison gases while the plane was in the air, while they were still alive.”

According to Wheaton, there was opportunity to plant a bomb at Cairo and the plane flew out without clearing US customs available from the US Army team who were prevented from getting ramp passes to observe the loading of the aircraft by the peacekeeping forces on the aircraft. No doubt the nuclear backpacks would have caused some concern on both the part of customs and the Arrow Air 1285 pilot. Easy answer: don’t give ramp passes to the US Army team responsible for ‘clearing customs’. The nuclear backpacks give support that a Special Operation team was on the aircraft as alleged by Charles Byers (see below).[5]

This and other evidence support a pre-crash explosion, according to Wheaton. This includes sworn statements taken by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stating that Arrow Air 1285 was on fire as it lifted on the runway and that “it exploded in the air”.[6]

Wheaton obtained a copy of the roster of the troops aboard the aircraft. It included a nonexistent Company “E.” All the men in Company E, except one, had the same military occupational specialty, which was TOW operators. TOWs were sold to Iran as part of an operation run by Lt. Colonel Oliver North, the White House staffer who was the point man for the Iran/Contra.
The Iranians knew they were paying too much for the weapons but they were at war with Iraq and needed the weapons. Under these circumstances, it’s unlikely that the Iranians would plant a bomb on the flight that could cut off weapon sales with the US.

Wheaton claimed that ‘the Enterprise’ operated by Ollie North diverted weapons from US military stockpiles; the inventory procedures in the Sinai peacekeeping force were weak and allowed TOWs and other weapons to be taken from stock and sold to the Iranians. Arrow Air pilots told Wheaton that they illegally few weapons in the bellies of aircraft all over the world in DC-8s. While that may be factual, it still doesn’t answer why TOWs may have been in the belly of Arrow Air 1285 on a flight back to the states, unless the TOWs were rejected by the Iranians as defective or intended for use by the Contra forces in Nicaraguan.

The men assigned to the nonexistent Company E may have been part of a contingent of Special Operations personnel who boarded the aircraft in Cairo at the last minute who aborted a mission to destroy an Iraqi nuclear weapons facility with a nuclear backpack. In fact, that’s the explanation provided by the manufacture of incendiary devices sold exclusively to the CIA and confirmed by Don Devereux, who worked for TV series “Investigative Reports” and “Unsolved Mysteries” and for the print media, earning two Pulitzer nominations. Devereux reported that a CIA team was at Gander and remotely detonated soda cans filled with incendiary devices and napalm on the aircraft’s take-off.

Charles Byers, president of Accuracy Systems Ordinance Corporation, New River, AZ, in a letter to the US House Intelligence Oversight Committee alleged that the CIA planted a device to blow up the Arrow flight at the Gander airfield. The device was manufactured by Byers’ company and sold exclusively to the CIA.

Special Operations personnel boarded the flight in Cairo with two nuclear backpacks, according to Byers.

Byers alleged that the Special Operations personnel aborted a suicide mission to blow up an Iraqi nuclear weapons development facility to make it seem like an Iraqi nuclear accident. This mission “seems to have been under the direction of Lt. Colonel Oliver North.” It may have been aborted when the Special Operations personnel realized they had no chance to outrun the blast from the nuclear explosion.[7]

Did these men abort the mission on their own authority and now were expendable? A nuclear backpack to blow-up the Iraqi nuclear facility would not only destroy the facility but kill many others and cause an international uproar.

Byers said that orders were given by the US Government to destroy the plane before it reached the United States. “A bomb was planted during a stop at Gander and remotely detonated shortly after the landing gear retracted upon takeoff…” Who gave the order to kill?

Byers’ letter, dated February 14, 1998, to Congressman Porter Goss, Chairman, Chairman, House Intelligence Oversight Committee said the CIA planted the explosive device at Gander to murder everyone on the aircraft. The motive was to prevent a group of Special Operations personnel [9] from returning to the US and blowing the whistle on the aborted suicide mission to destroy an Iraqi nuclear weapons development facility to make it seem like an Iraqi nuclear accident. Byers’s letter stated that the Special Operations Force was under orders from NSC staffer Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North.

Byers had no idea that Congressman Goss had been a CIA Director and a CIA operative. It’s not inconceivable that Goss passed Byers’ letter to the CIA. Subsequently, a bomb was mailed to Byers and opened by his plant manager who was killed. Byers was charged with running an unsafe workplace. That was only the beginning of Byers’ troubles. He was later accused of a bogus assassination plot to kill the Philippines’ president. Following that failed effort, Byers bit on the bait by a Navy contracting officer to send the unexpended funds under a Defense Department contract to another individual instead of to the US Treasury. Byers, who never received any compensation for this ‘favor,’ was convicted of procurement fraud and spent 20 months in a federal prison.

Sergeant Arleigh McCree, the head of the LAPD bomb squad and a friend of Byers, visited him in his Phoenix plant. Byers had samples of his special ordinance devices on display. After McCree “saw these items, he excitedly proclaimed that it was the device that blew up the plane [this was about three weeks after the Arrow Air 1285 crash]. McCree told Byers that he would have to “get federal clearance to discuss this in more detail with me.”

McCree and Ron Ball, his LAPD Bomb Squad partner were killed in a bobby-trapped pipe bomb four weeks later. Byers said that he started to ask questions and this led to “difficulties with federal agencies.” Following this, a bomb was mailed to Byers but opened by his plant manage who was killed in the explosion. The ‘kicker’ is that Byers said his company manufactured and sold the explosive device identified by McCree exclusively to the CIA.[10]

The professionals on the CASB concluded that an on-board explosive or incendiary device caused the Arrow Air 1285 crash. Terrorists claimed responsibility for the crash. The US quickly dismissed the terrorist’s claim without any follow-up by the FBI. The FBI report on the crash contained hundreds of redacted pages, which is a strong clue that the politically correct term “national security interests” was in play. Arrow Air was a charter airline that the NSC used to run guns to the Contras and used to ship TWOs and HAWKs to the Iranians in the Iran/Contra guns-for-hostages scandal. A few weeks before the crash, the Iranians complained loudly about being over-charged for defective HAWK missiles. The security at the Cairo airport was inadequate and could have allowed the planting of an explosive or incendiary device on the aircraft in retaliation for the defective HAWKs.

The forensic evidence supports inhaled lethal doses of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) into the lungs of passengers. No one survived the impact of the crash landing so a fire on board the aircraft while it was in flight is the only reasonable explanation for the lethal doses of poisonous gases inhaled into the lungs. If terrorists were involved, then there’s no reason not to allow the FBI to conduct a thorough investigation to identify the terrorists so that the US could take punitive action.

The White House dismissed allegations of terrorists the same day of the crash. This brings more support to Charles Beyer’s allegation of CIA involvement and the deliberate destruction of the aircraft and the murder of 248 101st Airborne troopers and 8 crew members. The remains of a Special Operations nuclear backpack were reported by Gene Wheaton who interviewed Captain Tom Badcock who was the Gander Air Force Base’s nuclear officer. Badcock confirmed to Wheaton that he was called to the crash scene and found portions of one of the nuclear backpacks that had not been destroyed.


Don Devereux, Tempe, AZ, a retired investigative journalist with military contacts, provided information on the Arrow Air 1285 crash to me. He said that this was a joint Delta force/Israeli mission to blow up an Iraqi nuclear facility and blame it on the Iraqis. The mission was scrubbed. Casualties occurred with as many as three Delta force members killed. There was not a firefight with the Iraqis.

This was a CIA inspired operation in conjunction with Israeli intelligence. The investigative journalist said that an Explosive Ordinance Team (EOD) team from Andrews AFB flew to Gander the same day as the crash and were told to use their nuclear protection gear. The EOD team found a CIA team on the ground when they arrived at Gander. The CIA team had to be have been on the ground when the crash occurred and may have been the ones who set off the incendiary device on Arrow Air 1285, Canadian firemen not warned of the radiation exposure from the nuclear backpacks became sick from radiation exposure.

Who fired the first shots is unknown. Israelis? Delta Force? Accidental discharge? What is known is that there was a dispute within the CIA over those who supported the mission and those opposed to it. Whether the Army scrubbed the mission or the CIA did is unknown.

However, there was real anger among the Delta force and a high probability that they would go public when they got back to US. Family phone calls were made among some member of the US force that their lives were at risk and a number suspected that they could not get back to the US alive.

This was an extraordinary mission that went bad and if made public would have had severe political repercussion for the Army, the CIA and the White House. The Delta Force of 20 or so team members flew on the same aircraft with 101st Airborne troopers on their way home from a Sinai peacekeeping mission; their present on the aircraft unknowingly placed the entire aircraft in jeopardy.

If the Delta team leadership had reasons to believe that their lives were at risk, they could have taken the extraordinary step of going back on commercial air, splitting the team up and taking different flights out of Egypt, going public with US news bureaus while in Egypt, leaving the nuclear backpacks with the Sinai force in Egypt for transport later and shipped the three dead bodies back to the US on another charter flight. These steps would have been a career ending option but if the perceived risk of retaliation was high, then extraordinary steps outside of the chain of command were necessary. In all fairness, hindsight is always 20/20 and disobeying orders to return on Arrow Air 1285 had consequences, too.
The US government failed the Special Operations team by sending them on a mission impossible. The team had the legal right to disobey an illegal order to use a nuclear backpack without Presidential authorization under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). There’s no question that if actions were taken by the team to deviate from orders to return on Arrow Air 1285, they could have expected senior Army officers to threaten them with court martial. As it turned out, the suspicions of some that their lives and the lives of the other 101st Airborne troopers on Arrow Air Flight 1285 were at risk turned out to be real.

Arrow Air 1285 is the proverbial can of worms for both Canada and the US. An August 2016 letter from this reporter and Robert Romaine, retired Orange County, CA, homicide detective and US Marine Corps Sergeant Major, supporting the need for a sabotage investigation by Canadian authorities to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Traudeau was forwarded to Ralph Goodale, Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on April 19, 2017, for his information and consideration. Will Canada pursue an independent criminal investigation of the crash, even if the evidence supports that crash and the deaths of 256 Americans was caused by US covert operatives?

[1] “Gander: The Untold Story,”
[2] “Gander, Newfoundland, Crash Remains a Mystery to Canadians and American Public,” House of Representatives, July 20, 1989, The Congressional Record, page H4025, stated that, “Four of nine members of the Board [Canadian Air Safety Board] released a dissenting opinion from which I [Mr. Tallon from South Carolina] will quote: “…We cannot agree–indeed, we categorically disagree—with the majority findings…The evidence shows that the Arrow Air DC-8 suffered an on-board fire and a massive loss of power before it crashed…The fire may have been associated with an in-flight detonation from an explosive or incendiary force.”
[3] Ibid.
[4] Declassified, “Transcript of Gander Crash Program,”
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Charles Byers, former Army veteran, wrote Representative Portor Goss on February 14, 1998,” …Their mission [Delta Force] included surreptitiously transporting and detonating a small, man-portable nuclear backpack bomb at an Iraqi nuclear weapons development facility to make it seem like an Iraqi nuclear accident. This mission seems to have been under the direction of Lt. Col. Oliver North who frequently utilized Arrow Air to smuggle arms and other contraband in conjunction with the Iran/Contra operation. The soldiers were not told that they would not have the chance to outrun the blast that would destroy them. Thank God it is the duty of every soldier to disobey an unlawful order or the world would have seen its third intentional tactical nuclear detonation and the mass destruction of innocent civilians by a nuclear bomb…”.
[8] Byers confirmed in a telephone interview that Delta force soldiers boarded the plane at Cairo. They were murdered by the government because of the risk of their disclosure of the aborted suicide mission and the negative political impact of this disclosure.
[9] Interview with Charles Byers.
[10] Joe Vialls “The Canadian Connection to Lockerbie & Pan Am 103,” Wikispooks:


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The Honourable Ralph Goodale

Minister of Pubic Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Dear Mr. Goodale:

The purpose of this email is to follow-up on the status of a letter of April 19, 2017, sent by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to you for your information and consideration (attached). 

I’m interested in knowing whether a decision was made to have the RCMP conduct a sabotage investigation of the crash, and whether the RCMP has any record of Arleigh McCree’s, head of the LAPD bomb squad, presence in Gander in January 1986.

I’ve been unable to confirm McCree’s visit to Gander prior to his death in February 1986.   McCree, as an internationally renown bomb disposal expert, had conducted a worship in Canada in 1985 so it’s within reason for the RCMP to reach out to him for his expertise.

A news story on the crash is attached.  It’s possible that the RCMP may know about the events described in this article. 

All of the information reported in this article came from individuals in the US and from others who wrote about the crash (e.g., Les Filotas, Gene Wheaton, Joel Bainerman).

Charles Byers, the owner of a munitions plant in Arizona in 1985 and friend of Arleigh McCree, the former head of the LAPD bomb squad, alleged that the aircraft was blown-up to prevent the leaking of information about an aborted mission to deploy a nuclear backpack in Iraq as a quid pro quo for the Israelis’ assistance in furnishing weapons to the Iranians.

Gene Wheaton, retired US Army criminal investigator, was hired by the families of service members killed in the crash.  Wheaton who died on December 31, 2015, believed that terrorists were responsible for the fire and explosion on the airborne DC 8-63CF.  Joel Bainerman, a Canadian-Israeli  journalist, wrote about the cover-up of the Gander crash in The Crimes of a President: New Revelations on Conspiracy & Cover-Up in the Bush & Reagan Administration. 

Donald Devereux, retired print and TV journalist, confirmed Byers’ story with both Israeli and US military contacts. Devereux has followed this story for 30 years.

Les Filotas, well-known Canadian expert on Arrow Air 1285 with a PhD in aeronautical engineering, told me that Charlie Greenwell, former Ottawa TV news personality, told him that Arleigh McCree, the head of the LAPD bomb squad, went to Gander in January 1986.  Filotas kept contemporeous notes of his discussion with Greenwell.  In my follow-up telephone call several weeks ago, Greenwell denied any knowledge of McCree’s presence in Gander. 

No response was made to my FOIA request to the CIA for records on Arleigh McCree for the years 1984-1986.  In accordance with US government policy, the CIA does not have to respond to FOIA requests when covert activities are involved. 

According to Charles Byers, McCree filed a report on the Gander crash with a US government agency.  Within a month, McCree and Ron Ball, his partner, were killed in a bobby-trapped pipe bomb in a North Hollywood garage.  The owner of the property was a Hollywood make-up artist and, at best, an alleged amateur bomb enthusiast.  He was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison and died there. 

The description of the slave and master pipe bombs that killed McCree and Ball were devices that had to be made by an explosive expert. 

Arrow Air 1285 is an incident that requires the expertise of RCMP professional investigators to determine who planted the incendiary devices and their motive.

I hope that his information is of some help to you.


Robert J. O’Dowd 



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