This Air Force video about the program tries to put a smile on the whole situation, describing how the post-flight bears hung out for a few days munching on food until they were subjected to "the usual complete medical examination." This white paper of the era makes it clear that the usual medical examination involved euthanasia and autopsy. (Note: if you are an animal lover, the video may be disturbing in some parts).


On one hand, using bears as human analogues for these tests was an extremely practical solution to the problem. The Air Force was working on a fix for something that had already caused human deaths, and they didn't have Buster to help them do the testing (if you want to get into the ethics of the fact that they were building a flying death machine intended to incinerate or irradiate Russians by the tens of thousands, that's a whole other story). On the other hand, it's hard not to cringe when you imagine the terror and confusion these animals experienced. Luckily, the bear testing program didn't last very long, and as a bonus we managed to not obliterate the planet with nuclear hellfire.

Sources: Ejection History. "Convair B-58 Hustler."

Griswold, Wesley S. "The back-seat driver of the B-58." Popular Science, July 1962.


National Academy of Sciences. "Impact Acceleration Stress." 1962.

Photos: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.