Saturday, October 14, 1961: Operation Sky Shield II

Military forces from the United States, Canada and England conduct the second in a series of tests of North American air defenses. From United Press International:

A mock but mighty aerial war flared high in the skies over the North American continent today. At noon hundreds of jet interceptor planes began screaming aloft from runways in the United States and Canada. Antiaircraft missile launchers pointed toward targets, although they fired no actual missiles. Jet bombers headed down from near the polar regions. They flew far aloft or hugged the terrain to escape radar detection, over routes Soviet pilots likely would take in strikes toward targets.

From noon to midnight no airline, no civilian plane would be airborne while the air maneuvers soared above over 14 million square miles of the continent and its seaward environs.

Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, chief of the North American Air Defense Command -- a combined organization of U.S. and Canadian defense systems -- directed the defenders from his headquarters at Colorado Springs, Colo. He announced the start of exercise Sky Shield II at noon, EST. ... Kuter declared that this operation involving hundreds of fighter planes and B52 and B47 bombers of the Strategic Air Command was "not a contest" between offensive and defensive forces. The position of the bombers will be known at all times.

It would be the largest and longest such flight stoppage until the attacks of September 11, 2001.

(The photo, from the New York Journal American newspaper, shows a TWA plane on public display that day.)

* Summary (from Mitchell Gallery of Flight): @
* "The Day Nobody Flew" (Air & Space magazine, 2006): @
* "This Is Only a Test" (Air & Space magazine, 2002): @
* Newsreel: @
* "U.S. Air Defense to Test Muscle in Sky Shield II" (The Leader-Herald, October 11): @
* "Defense: Testing the Shield" (Time magazine, 1961): @

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