This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Susan Edwards and Jeffrey Wedding
Submerged for the last 70 years after ditching into the waters of Nevada’s Hoover Dam reservoir, the tale of the Lake Mead B-29 grows more interesting with each passing decade. Although constructed in 1945 to join the war in the Pacific, this Superfortress never flew a single hostile mission. Instead, the aircraft spent its brief (1946-1948) working career as a Cold War flying laboratory in search of cosmic rays and other high altitude phenomenon.
Tasked with preparing a National Historic Landmark nomination for the aircraft, the authors sought fresh insight into the plane’s history by consulting some previously overlooked material including mid-century professional journals and conference proceedings, popular literature and newspapers, and family genealogies. This multi-pronged methodology relied heavily on the Internet to scrutinize often neglected source material that can be extremely labor–intensive or expensive to obtain through traditional means. It reflects our version of a state-of-the-art approach to documenting, preserving, and expanding our understanding of WWII and Cold War resources like the Lake Mead B-29.
Susan R. Edwards, M.A., R.P.A, is an Associate Research Archaeologist and Historian with the Desert Research Institute in Nevada. With 35 years of experience, Ms. Edwards has spent much of her career engaged in documenting and interpreting science-related resources of the Cold War period. She is currently working on several articles on the archaeology of nuclear testing and a book on the B-29 Superfortress submerged at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Jeffrey R. Wedding is an Assistant Research Scientist with the Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas, NV. His historical archaeology work has documented World War II and Cold War era military facilities and training complexes, hard rock mining camps, and transportation resources (particularly aviation and railroading). He also serves on the staff of the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame, and as an Associate Researcher at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.