By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 6, 2013 - 0 Comments
Speaking with Radio-Canada—near the end of the video here—Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney demonstrates how to explain the importance of
World War II Canada’s military history to kids these days.
“We talk about Gangnam Style. There’d be no Gangnam Style if there hadn’t been sacrifices on the part of Canadians [and] members of the United Nations who united behind a resolution to repel communism.”
Perhaps this will form the basis of a chapter in the study of Canadian history that the Heritage Committee is preparing.
Update 12:18pm. Though the occasion was to mark the Battle of the Atlantic, it seems possibly (likely?) that Mr. Blaney wasn’t referring to World War II. Maybe he was referring to the Korean War. Absent the full context of the comment, it is open to interpretation.
Update 1:51pm. Mr. Blaney’s press secretary tweets.
Thanks to the sacrifices of Cdn
#Vets, S.Korea is now economically strong & democratic. Clearly it’s also a cultural superpower
By Bookmarked and Michael Petrou - Friday, April 12, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
“It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered,” U.S. president Harry S. Truman confided to his diary as he contemplated unleashing an atomic bomb against Japan in 1945, “but it can be made the most useful.”
It was the promise of making a useful, if undefined, contribution to the war effort that drew thousands of women to a newly created factory complex at Oak Ridge, Tenn. They were clerks, chemists, machine operators and cleaners. They came from all over America to live in trailers and prefabricated homes in a town that didn’t officially exist, and to work on a project none of them were allowed to understand. Their job, they learned after atomic bombs obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was to enrich the uranium that made these weapons so destructive.
This is a social rather than a scientific history. Its focus is on previously voiceless women who worked together at a time when Americans shared a common purpose but were still divided by race. Black employees lived segregated lives under poorer conditions than their white counterparts, without their children and apart from their spouses.
By Bookmarked and Brian Bethune - Friday, February 8, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s presents part three in a series with the five Charles Taylor Prize nominees. The prize for literary non-fiction, which recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing, will award $25,000 to the winning author on March 4.
- Join Maclean’s and the five finalists Feb. 27 for a panel discussion at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.
Heading off to Trent University two decades ago, Tim Cook didn’t think there was anything inevitable about him becoming a Canadian historian—let alone acquiring one of the profession’s coolest job titles, Great War historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa—even if he was the son of parents who each had a Ph.D. in the field. “Anything but,” was his guiding principle, says Cook. But then there was that absorbing Second World War course, and the memory of the trip to Vimy Ridge his parents brought him on when he was 17. “It all turned me on to history, especially military history,” he says. And with a vengeance. Cook, 41, has been crafting muscular, critically acclaimed and bestselling volumes about the First World War—including Shock Troops, which won the 2009 Charles Taylor prize—at a pace that will soon write him out of his job description. (“Yes, my next book,” he laughs, “will be on the Second World War.) Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Repeating that war settles nothing, Mr. Woodsworth declared: “I rejoice that it is possible to say these things in a Canadian Parliament under British institutions. It would not be possible in Germany, I recognize that … and I want to maintain the very essence of our British institutions of real liberty. I believe that the only way to do it is by an appeal to the moral forces which are still resident among our people, and not by another resort to brute force.”
… In the end, addressing his own historic motion for war, the prime minister said: “There are few men in this Parliament for whom I have greater respect than the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. I admire him in my heart, because time and again he has had the courage to say what lays on his conscience, regardless of what the world might think of him. A man of that calibre is an ornament to any Parliament.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 2:44 PM - 0 Comments
Further to this, astute tweeter Steve Lloyd points out that Stephen Harper was specifically addressed in the House about this matter of the CCF and World War II. “The leader of the CCF at the time, who was a pacifist on principle, voted against the declaration of war on Germany in 1939,” Bill Blaikie informed him, “but the rest of the CCF caucus at the time voted for it.” Mr. Harper responded as follows.
Mr. Speaker, I will not debate every historical point. I will just point out that the NDP’s tradition of pacifism has a tendency to go much farther than that. The NDP missed Saddam Hussein in 1991, just as it is missing him today. We all remember that. For much of the cold war, that party missed or downplayed the evil represented by the Soviet empire. As the member concedes, the NDP leader of the day did miss the threat posed by Adolf Hitler. I would concede the CCF voted for the war at the very end. I do not know what it did during the 1930s, but I do remember well my father and grandfather and relatives telling me how during the 1930s people of that persuasion ignored the evils of Adolf Hitler and told them that Adolf Hitler was just helping the German working man and this kind of thing. And it is even today. The NDP has a history of this. At these kinds of moments, it not only has a history of being on the wrong side of the issue, but as it has done in the House today, it targets all its criticisms at the good guys and all its criticisms at what they may do. I urge the NDP to reconsider, to consider how serious the threat of Saddam Hussein is for the world and for Iraq and to stand by the removal of that regime.
Mr. Harper was, that day, making the case for war with Iraq. Indeed, just moments before this exchange with Mr. Blaikie, Mr. Harper had finished delivering his famously plagiarized speech on the issue.
REVIEW: Five Days That Shocked the World: Eyewitness Accounts From Europe At the End of World War II
By Brian Bethune - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Nicholas Best
On May 1, 1945, Pte. Josef Ratzinger, 18, abandoned his Wehrmacht post in Bavaria and set off for home. There was an anxious moment when he ran into two soldiers with orders to shoot deserters, but they too, the future Pope Benedict XVI later recalled, “had had enough of war,” and let him go. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, always too outspoken for his own good, was in a Moscow prison, while 11-year-old orphan Roman Polanski was playing with grenades on the streets of Krakow. U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Bob Dole, his spine badly damaged by shrapnel, was lying in a hospital bed outside Florence. He had been paralyzed for two weeks, and his doctors expected his imminent death, but the man who would be Bill Clinton’s opponent in a presidential election 51 years later had just managed to wriggle his toes.
Best’s kaleidoscopic tale of individuals caught up in the chaotic final days of history’s greatest upheaval is utterly absorbing, made all the more compelling by the reader’s awareness the people in it just have to last a few days, a few hours more. Many do not, especially the infamous. There’s Hitler, having a last meal of spaghetti with two secretaries, their bizarre conversation focusing on dog breeding, and Mussolini and his mistress strung up by the heels in a Milan square.
But Five Days’ real power lies in the snapshots of moments in the lives of the later famous. Teenaged Audrey Hepburn, for one, starving in Holland with her Dutch mother and now vastly relieved she no longer ran the risk of ending up in an SS brothel. Or that other lieutenant and future leader of his church; Robert Runcie, a decorated warrior known as “Killer” to his men, was leading his three Churchill tanks toward the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Thirty-six years later, as archbishop of Canterbury, he officiated at the wedding of Charles and Diana. For all the millions killed in the Second World War, it reassembled the lives of millions more.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Plus, a memoir about accidentally killing a cyclist, an exhaustive Paul McCartney bio, an inventive new fantasy novel, the arms race historians forgot, and a commune for therapists
Few have written as perceptively, or as gracefully, about how the North American landscape—city and country—has come to look the way it does as Rybczynski, a Canadian-American architect and urbanist. Along the way, he has developed a reputation for crafting elegant little books on small topics, like the history of the screwdriver. This time, though, he’s written an elegant little book on a very large subject: the future of our cities. “Cities don’t grow in a vacuum” is Rybczynski’s motto, as he succinctly parses influential concepts from the past. He considers their critics, too, including Jane Jacobs, with whom he at times disagrees—mildly but bravely, considering she approaches the status of sainthood among urbanists, nowhere more so than in her adopted home of Toronto. Most importantly, Rybczynski contrasts the kind of cities North Americans seem to want and the kind our environmental crises suggest we need, “which turn out to be not at all the same.”
He heaps praise on the City Beautiful movement that flourished before the Great War and was later slammed by Jacobs for the top-down nature of its planning and its imposing public structures. Yet take those buildings away, the author points out, and our cities would be vastly diminished. The best of them—the New York Public Library, for one—consistently top polls as North America’s favourite buildings. Jacobs didn’t like Garden Cities either, although the self-contained enclaves are highly energy-efficient, because she believed in a laissez-faire model for complex metropolises.
In Rybczynski’s opinion, Jacobs was quite right in arguing that government planning on the kind of Stalinesque scale that marked the 1950s and ’60s was destructive to American cities, but he also believes that without some planning, nothing lasting would ever get built. And good, livable results will never be one-size-fits-all. North Americans love low-density (i.e. suburban) living, but environmental logic (i.e. rising fuel prices) will exert densification pressure. The future city will play out this tension between our needs and wants.
- Brian Bethune
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 1 Comment
Heartbreaking and hair-raising stories from WWII veterans: excerpts from The Memory Project
Below is a sampling of testimonials by WWII veterans collected by The Memory Project. Some 1100 such interviews are available here. Canadian veterans interested in sharing their WWII stories should call 1-866-701-1867 or visit the thememoryproject.com
Aiming to save history
How the Memory Project keeps alive the stories of Canada’s war veterans
Maurice White – On the front line
Why Maurice White, an infantryman with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, will never forget the Christmas of 1943
Burton Harper – Battle of the Bulge
Burton Harper was on loan to the British army when he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge
Paul Dumaine – Love
Between getting engaged and his marriage, Paul Dumaine survived on the beach in Dieppe
Elizabeth (Betty) Dimock – Treating the wounded
Betty Dimock first saw service in 1942 treating the wounded in North Africa
Allan Smith – Survival
Allan Smith, a bomb aimer, found himself drifting toward occupied France in 1944
Donald Stewart – Homecoming
Donald Stewart, a naval gunner from Kelowna, B.C., on coming home after the war
Glenn Price – In battle
In 1945, Glenn Price joined the Canadian Army’s Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in the Netherlands
Bob Farquharson – Supplying the front
Bob Farquharson, a Canadian Air Force pilot, contended with the Japanese military, monsoons, and heavy cumulonimbus clouds
David Dickson – How tobacco saved a life
David Dickson recalls how a tin of tobacco may have saved his life
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
‘We flew in false teeth and eyeglasses’
Click play to hear Bob Farquharson’s complete audio story
Bob Farquharson, a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot born in Gleichen, Alta., dropped supplies into mountain-locked Burma, where he contended with the Japanese military, monsoons, and heavy cumulonimbus clouds.
There was no way to get supplies to the Allied army except to fly them to them. To make a drop, you have to fly around, the aircraft “low and slow,” maybe 300 feet above the ground. The kickers in the back piled the doorway with as many sacks of rice, or whatever we were dropping. And we dropped absolutely everything. I even dropped a crate of eggs packed in straw in a wicker basket, a big wicker basket. Now mind you, we always dropped eggs with a parachute. And the gasoline we dropped with a parachute. But rice was free-dropped, called “slack packed-double sacked.” It was packed slack, in a big hessian sack, and another sack over that, so that it didn’t burst immediately when it hit. In fact it bounced and skipped along quite a ways before it came to rest. We flew in everything: ammunition, clothing, rations. If somebody at the front lost his eyeglasses or false teeth, we flew in false teeth and eyeglasses.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, August 23, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
A site to commemorate displaced WWII Germans sparks controversy
“We have to throw them out,” said Wladyslaw Gomulka, deputy prime minister of Poland’s Soviet-backed provisional government, in May 1945. Gomulka was referring to ethnic Germans living on Polish land. There were millions of them. Some were colonists who had arrived during the war and took land previously belonging to now-slaughtered Poles. Some found themselves on newly Polish territory when borders were shifted west at the Potsdam Conference in the summer of 1945. Most had been there for generations. Almost all were “thrown out.”
And not only from Poland, but also Czechoslovakia, Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. More than 10 million Germans were ethnically cleansed as the war on the eastern front turned against Germany, and in the months and years following the end of hostilities. Many who were not thrown out were killed—as many as 700,000 between 1943 and 1947. Those who survived arrived in Germany poor and resentful. Today, almost 70 years later, they and their descendents, who constitute a powerful political lobby in Germany, have secured government support for a documentation centre to commemorate their plight at the German Historical Museum in Berlin.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 22, 2010 at 10:29 AM - 56 Comments
After Gilles Duceppe used the term “resistance movement” to describe the cause of Quebec sovereignty, he explained himself to reporters.
Later grilled by journalists, Duceppe denied his comments were a direct comparison to France’s resistance movement, claiming his speech was inspired by prominent Quebec author and unionist Pierre Vadeboncoeur, who died last February. He also reportedly quipped the French resistance didn’t grant news conferences.
But he added that resistance movements—like the one in France during the Second World War—were necessary to establishing sovereignty. “Neither Quebec sovereignty nor the Liberation is possible, or would have been possible, without the work of ‘resistants,’“ Duceppe said.
Here, for the sake of argument, is Wikipedia’s entry for the French resistance.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 6, 2009 at 1:14 PM - 1 Comment
After Question Period yesterday, the House paused to mark Remembrance Day. Fine contributions from Greg Thompson, Rob Oliphant, Guy Andre and Peter Stoffer (shortly before he would be deemed a “faker” by the honourable senator on national television) can be read here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 11:52 AM - 31 Comments
The Finance Minister talks to Canadian Business.
OK, you say you’re a fiscal conservative, but I know you’ve heard a lot of criticism from the conservative base. People are starting to say that when the country is running $55-billion deficits, that term “fiscal conservative” has lost its meaning. Does it have any meaning anymore?
It does. I think the key is to have a commitment to a balanced budget and to always be moving in that direction, to have a plan to be there, and to have the discipline to do it. And we will show that discipline. I’ve certainly exercised that kind of discipline before at the provincial level in order to balance budgets, and we’ll do it again federally. But in the past year, we’ve faced the most serious economic crisis globally since the Second World War. The meetings we had in the middle of October last year in Washington were in a time of deep crisis. We weren’t even sure that the markets were going to open on Monday morning. I think there’s a tendency for people to forget very quickly, because we’re out of the time of crisis right now, how deep and dangerous this crisis was for the world economy. And when we made the decision to run large deficits in Canada, we made the decision to save General Motors and Chrysler in Canada at large expense. These decisions were made because of the seriousness of the crisis. That, to me, is being a good conservative economic manager.
By Katie Engelhart - Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
In a break with the postwar past, German troops step into combat
It’s the “war” that no one calls by name. Instead, the German government refers to its “stabilization mission” in northern Afghanistan. And the more than 4,000 German soldiers stationed there, precluded from using the word “attack,” will be careful only to speak of the “use of appropriate force.” Still, this guarded language—dubbed “an aggravating semantic farce” by a leading German newspaper—is not enough to hide a simple fact: the mission that ofﬁcials are too abashed to call a war is starting to look like just that.
The German government is ofﬁcially rewriting its rules of engagement in Afghanistan—allowing Bundeswehr forces to adopt a more offensive combat role. “The major change,” explains Christian Leuprecht, associate professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, “is that Germans no longer have to wait to be ﬁred upon before they can ﬁght back.” Until recently, German forces in Afghanistan could not operate offensively. They could not take pre-emptive measures to prevent assaults, or even pursue ﬂeeing rebels. Effectively, they had to wait until they came under attack. Another change addresses verbal warnings that German troops had to issue before ﬁring on enemies. “United Nations—stop, or I will ﬁre” was the ofﬁcial call: to be used ﬁrst in English, then Pashtu, and then Dari. Now, those rules have been changed to let soldiers return ﬁre—and give warnings later. Continue…