The Newfoundland Airport opened here in the 1930's to serve as a refueling point for the newly forming transatlantic air corridor. The base developed steadily over the years until the outbreak of WWII led to rapid growth and development by the US Army Air Force. The site was once one of the largest air bases in North America, serving as a refueling stop for nearly all fighters, reconnaissance and bomber aircraft heading to the European theater. The notoriously poor weather in the region and lack of advanced weather and radar systems at the time speed disaster for many aircraft and crews.
While warming up in the public library, I met Craig Hicks, a life-long resident who began to relay a history of the area and the numerous plane wrecks still abandoned in the woods nearby. His rudimentary maps were crucial in my discovery of a few sites which made me pause in reverence and respect for the men and women who lost their lives.
The largest and most controversial of these was the Arrow Air disaster in 1985 when a plane load of 101st Airborne on a peacekeeping mission from Egypt exploded just after take off. The plane crashed just short of Gander Lake and the full tanks of fuel burst into flames killing all 250 aboard. It remains the greatest single loss of life aboard a peace keeping mission in US history. There is some controversy as to the source of the explosion and the rapid security and bull - dozing of the wreckage 10 days thereafter, with many pointing to a time bomb or sabatoge as the cause. We will likely never know the true story but what remains is a somber monument to the crew and soldiers who gave their life on that fateful day.