Don Deveraux, a well-known and respected journalist who investigated the Arrow Air 1285 crash for several years for both the print media and TV series like “Investigative Reports” and “Unsolved Mysteries,” said that informed sources told him that the crash was done by a CIA faction or their cutouts to prevent the public disclosure of an aborted covert mission by Special Forces to use a nuclear backpack to destroy an Iraqi nuclear research facility.
Since this happened over 30 years ago, many of the participants are presumed to be dead, but others may be still alive. Given the positions of both the Canadian and US governments that the crash was due to icing on the wings and fuselage, it is highly unlikely that any attempt will be made to pursue a homicide investigation today unless one of the participants speaks-out.
INCENDIARY DEVICE SOLD TO CIA
Support for the use of an incendiary device and an explosion on Arrow Air 1285 comes from a conversation in January 1986 between Arleigh McCree, the head of the LA Bomb Squad and recognized international expert on explosives, and Charles “Chuck” Byers, President of Accuracy Systems Ordinance Corporation, Phoenix. Both men were friends, had common interests in munitions and guns and knew each other for a number of years.
Don Deveraux, an investigative reporter for both print and electronic media, field producer for A&E-TV’s “Investigative Reports, decade-long assignment with NBC-TV’s “Unsolved Mysteries,” followed the Arrow Air 1285 crash for several years. Deveraux reported a discussion between Byers and Arleigh McCree in January 1986:
On the shelves in a company office, Byers had arranged a display of the various specialized products being manufactured and marketed, mostly going to defense, intelligence, and law enforcement customers.
While walking past the display, McCree suddenly stopped and reached out to pick up one object.
Obviously startled by what he held in his hands, he exclaimed, “This is what brought down a plane we’re investigating!”
The object in question was a transparent plastic packet with three sealed pockets.
Two of the pockets contained chemical compounds—one white, one black—which when combined became highly volatile, and the third pocket included a folded aluminum foil cup in which to mix them.
Once combined, the chemicals could be ignited by a simple burning fuse, by a trigger, or even by remote control.
The device had various names in the trade; a “flash” compound, an “incendiary trigger,” a fire starter.”
Detonated in association with such inflammatory materials as napalm, it very quickly could produce one hell of a conflagration, easily sufficient to bring down an aircraft.
McCree asked Byers who had been buying the device.
Byers answered that he only had one customer for it, indicating that the single purchaser was, in fact, the Central Intelligence Agency.
McCree in turn told Byers that he was going to be writing a report about his discovery at Byers’ place and that someone would be getting back to him about it.[i]
The discussion was witnessed by Todd Cremeans, an employee of Accuracy Systems.[ii]
LA BOMB SQUAD DETECTIVE KILLED
McCree and his partner Ronald Ball were both killed trying to disarm a pipe bomb on Saturday, February 8, 1986 in North Hollywood. The pipe bomb had been booby trapped. Did McCree file a report on the Arrow Air 1285 crash with the CIA or another federal agency as indicated in his discussion with Charles Byers and the booby trapped pipe bomb was intended to kill McCree?
In a telephone discussion with Don Deveraux, he said McCree and his partner could have used a robot to remove the pipe bomb and destroy it without exposing themselves to harm. Deveraux thinks that someone asked McCree to not destroy the pipe bomb found in a garage in North Hollywood but to disarm it and report his findings. In Deveraux’s opinion, McCree was killed by the government. Donald Lee Morse, 39 in 1989, a film and television makeup artist, denied knowing the explosives were in the home. Morse was convicted of the murder.
Deveraux followed-up with an interview with Mrs. Edie McCree, the wife of Arleigh McCree, who said “their home in [the] San Fernando Valley was placed under LAPD guard on the day her husband died. The security was necessary because her husband was thought to have a copy of a top secret report in his possession and authorities wanted to be sure that it didn’t get lost or misplaced in the confusion.”[iii]
Several days later four men showed up to retrieve the document. Mrs. McCree told Deveraux that “two were ex-military officers…both with apparent links to the CIA, as she recalled.” The third man was an LAPD representative and the fourth man a locksmith. She was excluded from the room while the search went on for several hours. Mrs. McCree said they left without telling her what they found.[iv]
Deveraux followed-up with one man who confirmed the search for a top secret document but declined to say whether they found it or the topic but did say that it had nothing to do with Gander; a Phoenix private investigator and friend of Deveraux, followed up with second man who said they were looking for dangerous munitions. Apparently, they hadn’t gotten their stories straight. Deveraux was “suspicious” that they were looking for McCree’s Gander Report.[v]
INCENDIARY DEVICE AND NAPALM
There was opportunity to plant a bomb at Cairo or Cologne. Gene Wheaton interviewed Captain Gerald DePorter, a US Army officer, in charge of a Military Customs Inspection Team who were trained and certified by US Customs whose mission was to clear military personnel overseas to fly directly into a US military base without having to clear Customs in the US. The aircraft flew out Cairo without clearing Customs; Captain DePorter’s team was denied ramp passes by the peacekeeping forces; Captain DePorter sent a message to Fort Campbell that the aircraft had not clear Customs.[vi]
There were six wooden crates loaded on the aircraft, requiring that 41 duffel bags be offloaded to make room for them. Lt. Col. Marvin Jeffcoat, the battalion commander, said that the boxes contained important military material.[vii] We don’t know the contents of the wooden crates. Munitions like TOWs and HAWKs? Bodies of Special Forces troopers killed in an aborted covert operation to explode a nuclear backpack in Iraqi? The two nuclear backpacks reported by Wheaton on the aircraft? Any of these items would have been red flags for Captain DePorter’s team. Easy solution was to deny ramp passes to the US Army team responsible for clearing customs.
Other evidence supports a pre-crash explosion, according to Wheaton. This includes “bodies hanging from trees, unburned trees with burnt bodies hanging from them, and we’ve uncovered documents, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took, that were not given to the
full board, uh, saying that the plane was on fire as it lifted off the runway and parts were falling off the plane and that it exploded in the air, including testimony of truck drivers, and civilian airplane pilots at that time.” [viii]
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. It’s obvious that the White House didn’t want a review of possible terrorist’s involvement in the crash.
ARROW AIR DID NOT CLEAR CUSTOMS
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 Wheaton and Charles Byers. Wheaton said that he had evidence that as many as twenty Special Forces were flying under cover on the aircraft.
Wheaton obtained a copy of the roster of the troops aboard the aircraft. It included a nonexistent Company “E.” All of the men in Company E, except one, had the same military occupational specialty, which was TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided, an American anti-tank missile) 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.
Wheaton claimed that ‘the Enterprise’ operated by Lt. Colonel 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, according to Wheaton. Arrow Air pilots told Wheaton that they illegally few weapons in the bellies of aircraft all over the world in DC-8s.[ix]
The TOWs were initially sent from Israeli stocks to the Iranians at a mark-up over cost with the proceeds used to support the Contras in Nicaragua. The US then replenished the Israeli stocks. Where TOWs in the crates loaded on Arrow Air 1285 destined for the Nicaragua Contras? Wheaton told TIME reporter Roy Rowan[x] that “TOW antitank missiles were stockpiled in the Sinai. When he scrutinized Arrow Air’s manifest, he discovered a mysterious Company E consisting of 22 men who were not part of the 101st Airborne. All had the same MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 11-11, indicating they were TOW gunners.” These men may have been instructors to the Iranians who were then at war with Iraq; the US sold thousands of TOWs to the Iranians at a mark-up over cost and Lt. Colonel Oliver North siphoned off the profits to support the Nicaraguan Contras. So, it made sense for the US to provide instructions to the Iranians on the use of TOWs.
BULLDOZE THE WRECKAGE
Major General John S. Crosby, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, led the Army’s Gander Response Team. The mission of the Gander Response Team was to assist the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in search and recovery operations and to arrange for shipment of the remains of the Army's dead to the United States. That’s the Army’s official story anyway.
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. There’s nothing to indicate that MG Crosby had any experience in aircraft investigations.
Was his mission to ensure that only ‘the right dots’ were connected and any incriminating evidence was buried on the site? 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 General John Crosby ordered the debris buried. Why the US Army ordered the bulldozing of aircraft wreckage on Canadian soil is an unanswered question? MG Crosby disputed the bulldozing order but Gene Wheaton interviewed personnel on site and had a copy of the hand written note from a Canadian supporting the order.[xi]
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. Could the unexplained loss in speed before the aircraft impacted the trees and ground 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,” according to Joel Bainerman. [xii]
ARMY DENIES SPECIAL FORCES IN THE SAINI
The official Army history of Arrow Air 1285 made no mention of Special Forces personnel on board:
The passengers on the ill-fated charter were U.S. soldiers. All but twelve were members of 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), most of whom were from the 3d Battalion, 502d Infantry; eleven were from other Forces Command units; and one was a CID agent from the Criminal Investigations Command. They were returning to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home station of the 101st Airborne Division, after completing a six-month tour of duty in the Sinai with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). This international peacekeeping organization, made up of contingents from ten nations, had been established under terms of a protocol between Egypt and Israel signed on 3 August 1981. The MFO has had the mission of implementing security provisions contained in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.[xiii]
The official government statement is that 248 Army 101st Airborne (including 12 other Army personnel) were the only military personnel on the aircraft. Gene Wheaton obtained a list of twenty Special Forces warrant officers from Task Force 160 who he said were on Arrow Air 1285.[xiv] Our review of the memorials of the dead from the crash didn’t show any more than three or four Army warrant officers among the reported 248 dead. The DC-8-63 could seat 269 passengers so there’s no question that the aircraft could seat an additional twenty personnel.
Why would the Army not report the death of twenty warrant officers from the Task Force 160 (predecessor to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)? Wheaton’s list was not published and with his death in 2015, it’s impossible to obtain a copy of the list. At this point, the numbers just don’t add up. But, it does raise some interesting questions about the presence of Special Operations forces in the Saini.
Task Force 160 was a special operations force that provided helicopter aviation support for special operations forces. Its missions included attack, assault, and reconnaissance, and were usually conducted at night, at high speeds, low altitudes, and on short notice. As one person reported, the 160th was the type of outfit that left in the middle of the night without leaving a forwarding address.
If the government admitted 268 deaths on Arrow Air 1285, including twenty Special Forces troopers, then it could raise questions about a covert operation, even one whose mission it was to rescue hostages and use nuclear backpack to destroy an Iraqi nuclear weapons research facility. These troopers on a charter flight out of Caro would act like a magnet for terrorists or, in a worst case scenario, threaten the administration with a leak of a breaking news story of a failed covert operation and American deaths to use a nuclear weapon since the first time since WW II. Did the Army slam the door shut by not admitting to twenty additional deaths?
It would make sense if you're running a top secret covert ops in the Middle East with deployment of tactical nukes, then you would use your very best. A review of Army occupational specialties showed MOS 180A, Special Forces Warrant Officer. Wheaton's list of twenty warrant officers on Arrow Air 1285 makes sense, if the mission was to deploy a nuclear backpack in Iraqi and blame the nuclear explosion on the Iraqis.
The military was in control of the autopsies, the death notifications and the disposition of remains. An intentional deception of the deaths of Special Forces from the Arrow Air 1285 would not be hard to pull off. The first step would be to not list them on the aircraft’s manifest or any memorial dedicated to the Arrow Air 1285 crash. The dead Special Forces remains could be held in a military mortuary like the one at Dover AFB, released weeks or months later, survivors notified that their loved ones died in the line of duty on a top secret covert operation. The $50,000 life insurance check could be hand delivered with appropriate condolences and a reminder that this was a national security matter whose disclosure would result in severe penalties.
WHO DID IT?
Charles Byers sent copies of a letter to all members of Congress that a Special Operations team 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 was a suicide mission and may have been aborted when the team realized they had no chance to outrun the blast from the nuclear explosion.
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, according to the Don Devereux. They were told to treat the crash site “as a nuclear accident.” The EOD team used dosimeters. The readings ranged from “very low” where the aircraft where the aircraft hit the ground to “much higher readings” where the crash came to a halt. 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.
It's not hard to believe that there was real anger among the Special Forces team. This was an extremely well trained and highly motivated military force and the loss of three or more of their team members (the aircraft had six wooden crates on board) had to go down hard.
Devereux received an explanation of why a CIA team may have been at Gander from Richard “Rick” Sherrow who had worked for the Army as a demolition expert and retired after some additional years of contract work for the CIA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms:
If a U.S. military unit was engaged anywhere in the world in the covert transport of a nuclear device, acting completely outside the usual and legal procedures for nuclear shipments, special CIA and/or military teams would be placed at all refueling stops along the flight path to deal with any contingencies which might arise.[xv]
That’s one explanation of why the CIA team was at Gander. The other is that a CIA team may have been ordered to detonate the incendiary devices planted on the aircraft. Whoever ordered the take down may have concluded that there was a high risk that Special Forces team members would leak information on the illegal covert operation to the media when they got back to the 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 with Special Forces team member killed and the mission aborted; if made public, this would have had severe political repercussion. Political repercussions would be their least concerns since everyone involved in the deliberate destruction of Arrow Air 1285 could be charged with murder.
One informed source is convinced that orders were given by the US Government to destroy the plane before it reached the United States. Charles Byers wrote in February 1998 to Congressman Portor Goss, Chairman House Intelligence Oversight Committee, on February 14, 1998: “A bomb was planted during a stop at Gander and remotely detonated shortly after the landing gear retracted upon takeoff…”
If Byers is correct, who gave the order to kill? Six wooden crates loaded at Cairo included the bodies of at least three Special Forces troopers killed in the aborted attempt to use nuclear backpacks. The crates took up so much space that 41 duffle bags had to be left behind in Cairo. Byers’s letter stated that the covert Special Force operation was under orders from NSC staffer Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North.
Deveraux’s sources told him that the CIA did it but that the explosives were loaded on the aircraft in Germany and remotely detonated by the CIA at Gander. His sources said that soda cans filled with an incendiary device and napalm were loaded on the aircraft at Cologne. Both men agreed that the incendiary device and napalm were set off by remote control at Gander after the aircraft was airborne.
After Arleigh McCree’s death, 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.
Byers was charged with a federal procurement fraud, convicted and spent time in prison. He said he was innocent and set-up by federal prosecutors. While in prison, he was under investigation for a bizarre plot to assassinate the president of the Philippines. The story was a fabrication; millions spent by three governments investigating the fraudulent scheme; the informant paid money by the federal government and no charges were made against the informant. This has the ring of a classic case of what can happened to a whistle blower when efforts are made to discredit and even kill him.
Byers wrote Representative Goss that his company, Accuracy Systems Ordinance Corporation, provided specialized explosive devices to law enforcement, the military, Special Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency. Byers told Goss that his company had manufactured a device exclusively for, and sold it only to, the Central Intelligence Agency, which had been responsible for the destruction of Arrow Air 1285.
Byers asked Representative Goss to initiate hearings before the House Intelligence Oversight Committee to thoroughly investigate these charges and to bring the guilty perpetrators to justice. No action was taken by Representative Goss who could easily deny any culpability of the CIA’s involvement by referring to icing as the CASB’s official cause of the crash. Byers never received a response from Representative Goss or the other members of Congress who were provided copies of Byers’ letter and attachments.
Portor Goss had been a CIA agent in the 1960s and later was appointed as the DCI (September 24, 2004 – April 21, 2005) by President George W. Bush. Byers didn’t know about Goss connections to the CIA.[xvi] I seriously doubt that Portor Goss gave Byers’ allegations any serious thought.
The remains of a Special Operations nuclear backpack were reported by Gene Wheaton who interviewed Captain Tom Badcock, the Canadian Gander Force Base’s nuclear officer. Badcock confirmed to Wheaton that he was called to the crash scene and found portions of one of a nuclear backpack that had not been completely destroyed.
Robert O'Dowd served in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings during 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. He teamed up with Tim King to write about the environmental contamination of two USMC bases (MCAS El Toro and MCB Camp Lejeune), the use of El Toro to ship weapons to the Contras and cocaine into the US, and the murder of Col. James E. Sabow and others who were threats to blow the whistle on illegal narotrafficking activity in Betrayal: Toxic Exposure of US Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up (2014).
[i] Don Deveraux Newsletter No. 36, dated September 14, 1992, “The Gander Crash: More Intrigue.”
[ii] Don Deveraux, op. cit., p. 3.
[iii] Don Deveraux, op. cit., p. 8-9.
[iv] Deveraux, op.cit., p. 10.
[v] Deveraux, op. cit., p. 9-10.
[vi] Ibid, p. 7.
[vii] Bainerman, op. cit., p. 175.
[viii] Declassified, op.cit., p. 5-6.
[ix] Roy Rowan, “Different Crash, Same Questions, TIME, April 27, 1992.
[x] Roy Rowan, op. cit., p. 34.
[xi] Declassified, op. cit., p. 6.
[xii] Bainerman, op. cit., p.168.
[xiii] Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1986, “Appendix A, Tragedy at Gander,” http://www.history.army.mil/books/DAHSUM/1986/appA.htm.
[xiv] Bainerman, op. cit., p. 178.
[xv] Don Devereux Newsletter No. 44, “Gander Crash Follow-up Suggest Nuclear Mishap, April 20, 1995, p. 10.
[xvi] Telecon with Charles Byers.