In the minds of most people, the commemorations in May of this year
marking the 60th anniversary of VE-Day--the conclusion of the war in
The Canadian war effort against the Japanese Empire was minimal;
Nonetheless, about 10,000 Canadians fought against
Despite the overwhelming focus on
Two infantry battalions, the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of
Canada, plus a brigade headquarters, totaling some 2,000 soldiers known as
Force C, were committed to the defence of
In the fighting that followed, the under-trained Canadian units, along with their British and Indian counterparts, were virtually wiped out. After a stout defence, the garrison fell on Christmas Day.
The first Canadian Victoria Cross of the Second World War went to Company Sergeant-Major John Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. On December 19, during the Japanese attack, Osborn selflessly threw himself on an enemy grenade to save his comrades--shouting “Duck, lads!”--and was killed instantly.
Ironically, although Osborn’s action resulted in the first Canadian VC of the war, it was the last one to be announced because the surviving witnesses were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese until the end of the war.
Almost 300 Canadians were killed and 500 wounded, with hundreds of
others captured. Imprisoned in
The commitment of Canadian troops to
Ten weeks after the fall of
The government seized and sold off their
homes and businesses. In 1945, Japanese Canadians were given a choice:
deportation to war-torn
Fearful of a Japanese invasion, Canadians
and Americans rammed through the 2,450-kilometre long
Japanese attacks were made on
Despite these minor incidents, the
invasion threat was very real, and the Japanese even seized part of
Canada offered to help in the campaign,
and in August, 4,800 men of 13 Brigade Group, including a machine-gun company
from the Saint John Fusiliers, participated with US troops in the invasion of
another Aleutian Island, Kiska. Brigadier Harry Foster, from
In preparation for the assault, American and Canadian fighter aircraft flew several sorties over Kiska during the two weeks before the invasion. Although no Japanese were seen, the enemy’s well-known talent for camouflage was highly regarded.
So was his fanaticism: 30 percent casualties were expected in the invasion force.
On August 15, the 1st Canada-US Special
Service Force (later nicknamed the “Devil’s Brigade” by the Germans during
Despite a sense of relief, Foster’s men felt cheated of the only chance most of them would have for action. Foster’s comments in his diary echoed their sentiments: “I feel bloody silly coming all this way for nothing.”
Foster need not have worried; he returned
The Canadians remained on Kiska for more than three months, building roads and piers. Their only casualties were four killed by enemy booby traps or accidental explosions.
The Canadian Army expected to participate
fully in the war against
Lt-Col Victor deB Oland of Halifax, an
artillery officer, was in charge of one of the first groups of 10 Canadians
sent to the Americans, and saw action in the
In 1944, 336 members of No. 1 Canadian
Special Wireless Group set up their equipment near
Lauchie MacDonald, now living in
In the formal--and flowery--language of the Japanese military, the message read in part, “The time has passed either for looking with covetous admiration at countless foreign lands, or for advance preparations for every effort at stalwart defence. The time has come to lay down arms .... Troops serving with all armies must swallow their tears, and not allow their emotions to run to excess.”
Members of the group were sworn to secrecy and details of their activities have only recently been declassified, with the surviving members just receiving their campaign medals in 1996.
Another secret group operating in
Dedicated movie buffs may recall that the four-man commando team sent to destroy the bridge was from “Force 316,” and included a young Canadian, Lt Joyce.
On the air side, three Royal Canadian Air
Force squadrons served in
On April 4, a week after their arrival,
Squadron Leader Len Birchall and his crew sighted a Japanese battle fleet some
560 kilometres south of
Royal Air Force fighter squadrons on
Nos. 435 and 436 transport squadrons flew
It marked the first time in history that an entire army was supplied by air.
The two Canadian squadrons carried more than 56,000 tonnes of freight and over 27,000 soldiers and casualties, despite some of the worst flying weather in the world and totally inadequate facilities. Seven aircraft were lost on operations and 25 aircrew killed, missing or captured.
They were the last RCAF units to be actively engaged in operations during the war.
Given the Royal
Canadian Navy’s contribution to the
The cruiser HMCS
In one of the
strangest episodes of the war, because of the policy of the Mackenzie King
government with regard to volunteers for the Pacific Theatre, Uganda’s crew were allowed to choose to
A number of other
Canadians participated in the war against
Among these were some
of the 200 naval aviators and observers serving with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air
Arm. One of them, Robert Hampton Gray, earned
When the war ended in
Volunteers for 6th
Division--organized along American lines--were assembled at six concentration
areas across the country, including
Although the Canadian Army was integrated, in order to conform to the segregated nature of the US forces, “it was found necessary to impose a colour bar against Negroes” so as “not to embarrass the United States authorities and/or the soldiers concerned” and blacks were not allowed to serve in the Pacific Force.
In the end, none of
the units saw action once the