So there I was, sitting in the lounge at my timeshare in Las Vegas. Poker hadn’t been treating me too well so I decided to get drunk instead. It just shows how dumb I can be sometimes. The casino provides complimentary drinks if you’re gambling. I don’t drink when I play poker because I want to win. If I just knew when I was going to lose, I could drink for free. Instead I end up losing sober and then paying for my own drinks.
But that’s not the story. The story happened after I’d had a few. A few Guiness. A few scotch. You get the idea. I was sitting at the bar watching this guy. Buzz cut. Military type about 45 years old. He was drinking like he just discovered alcohol and was trying to catch up.
I’m a people person and this guy was making me curious. I like to know what’s going on, so I slide over and introduce myself. We do the usual “what do you do and where do you live” thing. Turns out he’s a general. That’s cool. I’ve never met a general before. He had mentioned that he was stationed “in Colorado”. “Academy”, I asked? He smiled and shook his head. I guessed NORAD next and he just smiled. When I told him that I was from Canada, my life changed forever.
I wasn’t sure if he was going to cry or punch me. He probably wasn’t sure himself. If he had told me his story when he was sober, I would have been sure he was pulling my leg. But drunk, there’s no way he was acting.
He starts telling me about how the goddamn Canadian Air Force was going to death of him. I figured he was complaining about how Canada doesn’t pull its own weight. Everybody knows we don’t have a real Air Force. But this is where his story got downright weird.
He claimed that Canada had a better air force than the US. He said it was because of this SuperJet we had. I don’t remember what the fancy name for it was. (I had been drinking). He said that Canada had absolute air supremacy day or night.
Now, I’m as patriotic as the next guy but there was no way I was going to swallow this load of… Well, it just didn’t make sense. We laugh about our air force in Canada. I told him so. He just looked at me like I was the crazy one. I said, “Convince me”.
”Have you ever heard of the Avro Arrow?”
“Sure. Lots of Canadians know that story. It’s not top secret.”
“Everybody knows what happened up to 1959. What happened after 1959 is still a secret.”
“What do you mean?”
“The US government pressured Canada to scrub the Arrow. We didn’t want anybody, not even an ally, to have a better plane than we did. We sold your country on the B.S. that the world didn’t need a fighter, it needed missiles. And we sold you guys a whole whack of missiles in those days.”
The General was slowing down his story and getting more coherent. There was only one thing to do. I ordered another round of doubles. He looked at me like he knew what I was doing. I guess he decided he didn’t care and downed his. I gave him mine and reordered.
“Go on,” I encouraged.
“You have to go back to WWII for the rest of it. There was a Canadian spymaster by the name of William Stephenson. He was a successful businessman as well. Rich. Contacts up the wazoo. Ended up getting knighted by the Brits. Even though he’d been retired by ’59, he saw the value of the Arrow and pulled some strings privately.
“He ‘obtained’ plans for the Arrow. He didn’t work with any of the original design team. Put together his own crew with his own money. That was his way.”
“It was in 1970 that things went wrong for us. During your FLQ crisis in Quebec, my government started getting worried that your guys were losing control of the country. We started doing fly-overs, kinda flying the flag, so to speak. Your government had no way to stop us and didn’t want to make a big deal about it. That’s why Trudeau hit back so hard against the terrorists. He knew the antes were going up.”
“Then December 3 comes along. The Canadian government decided to send those stinking terrorists on a free trip to Cuba where they were going to be treated like heroes. We didn’t like that a bit and were doing a lot of flying over Canada that day. Canadian fighters stayed on the ground for safety.”
“All of a sudden, we get radio chatter from our pilots saying that they were taking fire. They were being shot to pieces. All together over 13 of our fighters were shot down and 7 limped home with damage. Only 2 returned without getting hurt because they were told to turn around. We had some of the best pilots in the best airplanes (we thought) and we had our asses handed to us by an enemy we couldn’t even see.”
“What? You couldn’t see them?”
“Nope. Not visual. Not radar. Nothing. Not a damn thing we could do about it. Just tucked our tails between our legs and ran for home. We didn’t like it much. We threatened your government that day. But we all knew that none of your planes had left the ground. We got that much from our satellite intel.”
to be continued