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Rileys veteran returns to scene of 6 hours of ‘hell’ at Dieppe

Post by Teentitan on Thu 16 Aug 2012, 10:58

Fred Engelbrecht makes a little joke about how many times he’s been to Dieppe since he took part in the disastrous 1942 raid that cost 1,000 Allied servicemen their lives and saw 2,300 captured by the Germans.

He is returning to the beaches of the French town this Sunday — the 70th anniversary of the raid — as a guest of the Canadian government, and says it will be his fifth time there. He was there twice before for memorial services.

“The other time I was there was in ’42,” notes the 92-year-old former corporal in the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. “They didn’t invite me that time.”

But, the humour doesn’t impugn the seriousness he sees in the trip, and his experiences in the raid, which saw him dodging gunfire, mortars and artillery and watching friends die in the carnage that morning. He describes it as six hours of “hell” and he ended up being captured on the beach, along with 173 other members of the Rileys.

The attack was one of a series of raids to answer calls, especially from the Russians, to open a second front and help ease the pressure in fighting the Germans on the Eastern front. The 6,100-strong Allied force consisted of 5,000 Canadians, including 600 members of the Rileys, who were largely between the ages of 18 and 25. The raid, called Operation Jubilee, was overseen by Lord Louis Mountbatten.

The Rileys had trained with their tanks and equipment to land on sandy beaches. The Dieppe beach was covered with shingle rock and tanks bogged down. About 200 Rileys were killed. Naval support and aerial bombardment were dropped as part of the raid.

After his capture, the Germans put Engelbrecht and others in a large courtyard and surrounded it with heavy-machine guns. The Hamilton Mountain resident recalls he broke down and cried for hours.

“I went into shock,” said the retired Hamilton firefighter who was, after all, just 22 at the time.

“People keep asking me ‘Why are you going back?” he said, choking up. “That seems to be the main question. Why are you going back? I owe it to the people I left behind. I owe it to the ones who didn’t come home.”

Engelbrecht was a PoW for three years, escaping once for a week. He was also one of the Dieppe prisoners shackled by the Germans for many months in response to reports the British had tied up German PoWs.
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Japanese POW cannot forget, cannot forgive

Post by Teentitan on Sun 12 Aug 2012, 23:02

By Dave Brown, The Ottawa Citizen

There was barely a rumble as the Aug. 9 anniversary of the 1945 destruction of the Japanese city of Nagasaki by atom bomb rolled by last week, but the impact of that event was still strongly felt in a retirement home in suburban Ottawa.

In it sat a 90-year-old man who is living proof that an old proverb: Time heals all wounds. is wrong.

John Franken, Dutch-born Canadian and survivor of 1,288 days as a wartime slave of Japan, is still wounded in that he can’t forgive. The reason for that, he says, is that he can’t forget.

“As long as I live I can serve as a reminder that everybody, including nations, has to be accountable.”

For the last 16 years, I’ve chronicled Franken’s pilgrimages of protest from his home in Montreal to Ottawa, twice a year, to stand as a silent reminder in front of the Japanese Embassy on Sussex Drive. His time points were Pearl Harbor Day (Dec. 7) and Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs Aug. 6 and 9. He recently moved to the capital to be near family.

He was preparing to return to embassy Monday for one last kick at the issue. He would personally drop off his last letter of protest.

“I’m getting too old for this,” he said.

In December last year in Tokyo, Japan formally apologized to a delegation from the Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada. That organization started asking for an apology in 1947. It was made up of Canadian soldiers captured at the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. More than 1,600 became prisoners of war, and more than 30 per cent of them didn’t survive the brutal conditions and slavery.

The HKVA accepted the apology, and if Japan thought it was over at last, they forgot about John Franken and his memories of wartime “comfort stations” where he was put to work as a teenager, cleaning up the messes left by institutional rape. Women in conquered countries were rounded up and forced into service in comfort stations, a plan to keep Japanese soldiers relaxed. Franken says they were rape stations, and he has never been able to stop the memories of the screams.

Japanese scholars put the number of such women at 20,000, but Chinese scholars claim it was close to 410,000. Whatever the number, the academics seem to agree that three-quarters of them died, and most of those who survived were infertile due to sexual trauma.

Franken always insisted that his protests were not aimed at the Japanese people, but the country. Governments carry a different kind of responsibility, he said. Japan caused horrific suffering not only to its enemies, but to its own people.

Pressure from Canadian survivors of Japanese enslavement finally got government reaction in 1998, but many believe it was from the wrong government. Canada’s government compensated Hong Kong vets by a lump sum average of $24,000 each.

By then it was hard to back away, because the government of Brian Mulroney had compensated the families of 23,000 Japanese Canadians moved into internment camps during the war. It cost Canadian taxpayers $200 million.

Many Hong Kong vets said it showed a government trying to do the right thing, but Japan still refused. The vets wanted pressure to continue to seek payment from the country that benefited from their years of slavery.

In preparation for his last appearance at the Japanese Embassy, he asked for an appointment to have his protest officially received. As usual, he was treated with polite acceptance. On occasion in past protests, usually the winter ones, the embassy has invited him in for tea and a chance to warm up.

The same cordial treatment has been offered this writer who has been asked more than once to accept that war issues were long gone and should no longer be of interest to a news organization.

One of the reasons I couldn’t was Len Birchall, one of Canada’s most decorated warriors of that war. He spent the same years as Franken in captivity, after he radioed the location of a Japanese invasion fleet heading for Ceylon. Although he knew his signal would result in his being shot down, he sent it, and his Catalina flying boat was quickly pounced on by fighters.

A resident of Kingston and a former commandant of the Military College there, he died in 2004. Although the two men never met, they used the same words to explain why they wouldn’t stop.

“I remember, so I can’t stop being angry.”

Read more:
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D-Day spies galore

Post by Teentitan on Sun 12 Aug 2012, 12:21

Since the end of World War II, there’s been no shortage of tales about individuals of courage, innovation and intelligence whose war on behalf of the Allies was behind the scenes, in the Resistance, or linked with the Intelligence and Espionage.

The clandestine world of Pssst and Shhh.

But until now little has been told of Double Cross – the British “turning” of Nazi agents against Germany and feeding false information that led Hitler to believe an Allied invasion was planned at Calais and Norway, and not Normandy.

A book on five of these double agents -- Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies -- by Ben Macintyre of the London Times, is fascinating for a lot of reasons.

As Macintyre points out, these “turned” German agents “were, variously, courageous, treacherous, capricious, greedy and inspired.” They had to be handled carefully, never fully trusted, but it the end the disinformation they funneled to German Intelligence hoodwinked the enemy and led to the successful invasion of Normandy.

But it was a near thing. Macintyre says Allied casualties topped 6,600 per day for the 77 days of the Normandy campaign, while other sources say it was 3,000 casualties a day. Either way, it was a lot. Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff, worried that the invasion “may well be the most ghastly disaster of the whole war.”

While I (and most readers) have no idea as to the authenticity of Macintyre’s book, it rings true and is loaded with photographs to complement the stories of the five double-crossers, each of which is the stuff of novels and derring-do.

The one that particularly interested me was Lily Sergeyev, who volunteered in Paris to spy for the Germans, with the intent on betraying them. Yet he came close to sabotaging the invasion -- all because of her dog, an apparent Jack Russell terrier named Babs, and the bureaucratic stubbornness of the British who, often in history, seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by their own stupidity.

Lily was French with White Russian roots. At the time (1943) German Intelligence was frantic for spies in England to find info about the coming invasion.

Lily was taught Morse code and spy craft, and assigned to go to England with her dog.

En route through Madrid she dropped in on the British embassy and told Kenneth Benton, Britain’s passport control officer (but also MI6) that she was a spy, and wanted to change sides. After some doubts, she was recruited as a double agent.

Before departing for England she asked one favour from Benton and the British – that her dog, Babs, go to England with her. As she wrote in her diary, Babs was the only creature she could really trust.

Benton told her quarantine laws prevented her dog from going to England with her. Without Babs, she said she wouldn’t leave the continent. “I have worked for you; I will continue to work for you; I don’t ask for any payment. I have one favour to ask: I want to keep Babs with me.”

After much back and forth, Benton said he’d see what he could do.

Lily was adamant. If no Babs, then there’d be no Lily.

Despite her considerable value as a pipeline into German Intelligence, the British would not bend on their damn fool quarantine rules for dogs-- not even in a war for survival. Benton promised to do his best to bend rules, but it was all words.

Lily believed he’d promised to get Babs to England.

She went to Gibraltar en route to England and left Babs to follow later. He never did. In Gibraltar she met an American pilot who was puzzled at British intransigence and offered to fly the dog to England, since no one checked the Americans.

His flight was diverted to Algiers, where Babs was off-loaded.

In England, Lily sent phony messages to the Germans about invasion plans. When she learned Babs had been taken to Algeria, she was furious.

Before coming to Britain, German Intelligence had arranged a “control signal” in Mores code in case the British caught her and forced her to sent disinformation. Abwehr Intelligence trusted her implicitly.

If the British reneged on what she thought was their promise to deliver Babs, Lily was prepared to send the signal to alert the Germans to the false invasion plans. All because of British inflexibility about a dog entering Britain and avoiding six months quarantine.

Lily’s code name with the British was “Treasure,” (the Germans knew her as Solange, or Trap) and her British control was one Mary Sherer who was tough, demanding, but sympathetic.

Lily wrote in her diary that she found the English “cold, uncommunicative, undemonstrative, impenetrable.” MI5 was even considering sending a submarine to Algeria to pick up the dog and deliver it illegally to placate their volatile double-agent.

By Christmas Eve, 1943, Mary was threatening not to work unless her dog arrived. Then she received word that in Algiers that Babs had been run over and was dead – “probably the only thing Lily had ever truly loved, the only creature to have shown her unconditional love.”

Lily believed Babs had been sacrificed by MI5 – had been killed as a convenient solution to Lily’s nagging and threats about ceasing to mislead German Intelligence.

The code which would inform the Germans that Lily had been caught was two dashes in the text of her messages. She intended this as revenge and wrote in her diary: “I was ready to love the British, so eager to help them. I admired them; I trusted them; I had faith in British fair play. I worked readily for them; I took risks on their behalf. In return I asked only for one thing: to keep my dog. It wasn’t asking much, but it was too much for them . . . . I’ll hand them over everything . . . except for the dash. A dash that will enable me to destroy all my work, all their work, the minute I want to . . . . I have them at my mercy!”

Never underestimate the vengeance of a betrayed dog-lover!

British Intelligence was fed up with their star Double Cross agent’s temperament. While German Intelligence was praising her work, the Brits were charging her rent, expecting her to take the subway rather than driving her to assignments, refusing to reimburse her 128 pounds for a lost suitcase, and belittling her.

“She has no legal claim,” said her superiors. “She is trying to bully us. We owe her nothing .” Marty Sherer was appalled and noted that “Treasure” (Lily) was not a money grubber, had accomplished everything asked of her, and that her grudge against the department was based on their crummy behaviour towards her.

And Lily had the two-dash Morse code signal that would tell the Germans that the expected D-Day landing on Calais was fake.

After seeing a movie (Gone With the Wind) with Mary Sherer, Lily was convinced she had a terminal kidney illness, and confessed she had a control signal to alert the Germans. She wouldn’t tell what it was, but the British decided to fire her and threatened to turn her over to French authorities. After D-Day she told Mary Sherer of the two-dash signal would alert the Germans.

She never exercised her threat.

After the war she had British Intelligence “in a lather” by saying she intended to write a book – which she never did. She married, moved to Detroit where her neighbors “had no inkling that Mrs. Collings, the excitable French woman with many dogs . . . was really Agent Treasure, a spy of the highest value whose life, in her own words, had been one of ‘unbelievable reality’”.

Lily died in 1950 of Kidney failure.

Her story is unusual, but British perfidy in her case, was typical.

The moral: Never underestimate the vengeance of a betrayed dog-lover.
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Re: History / Topics & Posted Articles

Post by F foundry on Tue 07 Aug 2012, 15:59

No you dont have to be an officer but it would help along with a well rounded education with a law degree, a boat load of cash a squeaky clean past and a pictuer perfect family, and a long list of other items oh yah and a great spin doctor. yes it would be a nice change, Hey maybe Rick mercer. sorry not trying to make fun of the idea, the PMO is all about the job from what I see and under stand so who ever gets in always becomes the job sonner or later and seems to forget about Canadians. What would be realy nice would be to see some one in any level of goverment keep their word for a change or to show a little guts when it comes to the little guys as opposed to big buisness and share the wealth when they waste money make them pay dont give us the bill, change for the better would be nice. for real this time....
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Re: History / Topics & Posted Articles

Post by Guest on Tue 07 Aug 2012, 13:45

do they have to be officers???


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Let’s see some military officers in political office

Post by Teentitan on Tue 07 Aug 2012, 11:31

Roderick Benns

The only two prime ministers of Canada who have had overseas military experience were John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson. Neither had what would be called distinguished military careers.

Diefenbaker suffered what was most likely a nervous breakdown in England and was discharged before seeing action. Pearson served two years as an orderly in a military hospital in Greece. After transferring to the Royal Flying Corps, he survived a crash during his first flight. Two months later, by his own admission, his career ended “ingloriously” when a bus struck him during a London blackout. The accident did not disable him, but he had an emotional breakdown in the hospital and was invalided home in 1918.

Of the four Canadian prime ministers with just militia experience – John A. Macdonald, Mackenzie Bowell, Alexander Mackenzie and John Abbott – only Macdonald and Bowell were actually posted anywhere. Macdonald saw action during the Rebellions of 1837, and Bowell served in Upper Canada at Amherstburg during the American Civil War and at Prescott amid the Fenian incursions of 1866.

Contrast this with the United States, where 31 of 43 presidents have served. Perhaps the U.S. is not a good comparison, for its size and different political system. Instead, consider Australia, where eight of 27 prime ministers have had some kind of military service.

The time is right for Canada’s military to cultivate its best to run for office, as MPs and for party leadership positions. I can think of some excellent candidates. From the retired pool, former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier and lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie. From the active pool, Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison and Major-General Mike Day.

Some of these men are still at the top of their game. But if they were to put out feelers in advance with whatever party they were most comfortable with, their eventual retirement could yield a political renaissance.

Perhaps the men and women in uniform have little interest in such a career move. Perhaps there is lingering disappointment at the run by retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie, one of Canada’s most famous modern soldiers. He ran for a seat in Parry Sound-Muskoka in 1997 for the Progressive Conservatives but was bested by incumbent Liberal Andy Mitchell. In politics, everything is timing – the PCs were still tremendously weakened after the devastation of the 1993 election.

Having former military leaders in office isn’t just about ensuring that the military is looked after. Successful men and women in uniform have unique skills that would benefit any party or country. A soldier’s work ethic is unparallelled, a soldier’s sense of social justice is usually finely honed, and a soldier’s ability to weigh important decisions with due gravitas is ingrained. Most officers at this level tend to have advanced degrees in history, political science or other applicable subjects. Add international experience in complex situations and de facto diplomacy to get a blend of leader and statesman.

There are relatively few areas of federal jurisdiction in our decentralized country, but a credible military is one of them. The recent experiences of Afghanistan, Libya, Haiti and beyond have given Canada a moment to leverage its credible military leaders into potential political leaders. The only question is whether they will consider the challenge.
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Veteran learns fate of friend 60 years after wartime capture

Post by Teentitan on Sun 05 Aug 2012, 11:43

FOR SIX DECADES, Second World War veteran Roy Walker wondered what happened to the soldier he knew as Moose.

As the driver of a Bren gun carrier, Walker watched helplessly as Moose, the wireless operator and the corporal dived into a farmhouse to avoid two enemy tanks that had pinned the reconnaissance team in an orchard at the Normandy village of Tilly-la-Campagne.

Minutes later, Walker heard gunfire.

“That was July 25, 1944,” the 90-year-old retired truck driver and farmer said in a July 22 telephone conversation from his home in Grandview, Manitoba. “I found out Moose got shot trying to go out another door of the farmhouse, and I figured he was dead, but I didn’t know.”

The Germans nabbed Walker as he disentangled from the driver’s seat. He spent the rest of the war in a prison camp, separated from the rest of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, the regiment where he’d been assigned as a replacement just five weeks earlier.

After the war he went home to the Prairies to drive buses and trucks, work on the oil rigs, and finally settled with his wife on a Manitoba farm where he could indulge his love for the smell of fresh-turned soil.

“All that time, in the back of my mind I thought of Moose,” said Walker, who visited France in the hopes he could find some clue to what happened to his friend. “I could count on my hand all the men I have known in my life that I felt comfortable with, and he was one of them. He was my definition of a friend.”

Meanwhile in Nova Scotia, a war history buff and freelance television producer also thought often of Moose but, to Alan Cameron, the man was his maternal grandmother’s brother, great-uncle Ernie.

Ernest Glenmore Hill, from Point Edward in Cape Breton, was a machine-gunner with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, a regiment that first interested Cameron through his paternal great-uncle Perley Cameron. The younger Cameron established Veterans’ Voices of Canada ( to compile and distribute historical information about veterans’ experiences, so far covering the Second World War and Korean war. Then he heard about his great-uncle Ernie, who hadn’t returned from France.

None of his family knew exactly where or how Ernie Hill had been killed, or the location of his grave, but Cameron soon discovered that his great-uncle was buried at Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian war cemetery.

He wrote a story about his quest that was published with a photo of Ernie Hill in Our Canada magazine in November, 2010. Walker recognized the photo.

“That was the first I knew what had actually happened to him,” Walker said. “I didn’t even know his name was Ernie.”

He called Cameron and asked if he knew that his uncle had a nickname.

“Then he said ‘I was there the morning he was killed,’” said Cameron, who now lives in Alberta. “The hair on the back of my neck just stood right up.”

After a lengthy phone conversation, Cameron drove 14 hours to Grandview to visit the Walkers, staying three days to tape interviews with Walker and other veterans in the area.

Earlier this summer Cameron visited Tilley-la-Campagne, where a single tree still grows in the orchard where the Bren carrier was ambushed; and the place where his uncle died is now the mayor’s home. He visited his great-uncle’s grave and interviewed an older resident who remembered dead Canadian soldiers stacked in the ditches awaiting burial.

For both Cameron and Walker, their meeting filled in the blanks in their lives. Walker marvels that he was ever able to solve the mystery that haunted him since 1944.

“I’m not a religious man, and I’m not an atheist either,” he said. “But why was I allowed to get closure after that many years?”

Walker expects that many other veterans are still looking for comrades-in-arms, making Cameron’s work to record their stories even more important.

As well as completing a chapter in his own family saga, Cameron’s search for Ernie Hill will form part of his documentary film about the North Nova Scotia Highlanders; a heroic history that Cameron feels is not as well-known as it should be. He hopes to complete the project this fall, hold public showings sometime before Remembrance Day, and provide copies to Highlander units in Sydney, Truro and Amherst.

He is also planning to make prints of a charcoal sketch, by Alberta artist Nathan Evans, of the moment the Bren carrier met the Panzer tank at Tilly. He will donate them to the Highlanders’ archives.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” Cameron said.

And it’s not over yet. Cameron continues to seek photos, film footage, documentation and other information about the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. He can be reached at 403-887-7114 or
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Re: History / Topics & Posted Articles

Post by OldZipperhead on Mon 30 Jul 2012, 18:55

In a sense we still have that attitude throughout Canada, the recruit can still be old enough to join (17), get trained to carry a gun and be sent off to war. Old enough to die for the country, but not old enough to drink, vote or buy cigarettes. If the individual is holding a DND ID card saying they are in the military, then the rules for such should not apply.
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Old enough for war, too young to be a cop

Post by Teentitan on Mon 30 Jul 2012, 10:44

Ottawa Police told the young applicant to come back in a year and try again, because he was not only too young to legally drink, but he was too young to carry a gun.

That was in 1945 and the memory still delights the rejected candidate, now 87.

He is Lloyd Hyde, and he’s sitting near the window of his 20th-floor condominium in Britannia, finding the recall so funny that he has to wipe his eyes. “It was January and the war was almost over. Too young to carry a gun? I had just spent years at the controls of four heavy machine guns.”

He had sent off more bullets with genuine intent to kill than the entire Ottawa Police force would in decades.

Early in the war the Royal Canadian Air Force was accepting applicants at 17, with the understanding they couldn’t go overseas until they were 18. Born July 15, 1925, Lloyd Bernard Hyde was the son of an Ottawa streetcar driver, and one of the first in line. Like his buddies from Ottawa Technical High School, his thinking was split between serving his country and getting a free ride in an airplane.

On the other side of the desk the recruiter would have seen these teenagers as perfect for the job. By the time they were trained and ready, they would still be teenagers. They would do as they were told, and they would ride into the jaws of Hell because being that young, they would believe themselves to be indestructible.

As for being too young to drink or be a cop? Hyde’s suppressed laughter again made his eyes water. The age limit for drinking in the military is flexible. If you’re old enough to kill or be killed, you’re old enough to drink. You are a warrior.

So did he drink? He suppresses laughter, and this time he had to fish out a hanky to wipe his eyes. But his suppressor failed. He has a delightful laugh.

He flew 33 wartime operations as a tail gunner in a Halifax bomber. Or as he says: “I saw the war backwards.”

His worst fright? “During the Normandy landings. We came in low over the beach. Unbelievable numbers of ships and men. I could see men running and falling. Then we started our bomb run and then there was the impact of hits on the airplane. I was convinced we couldn’t survive that many hits and I was sure we were going down. It turned out we were so low we were feeling the blast from our own bombs.”

Most hated assignment? “Those damned 30 seconds. Bomber Command figured too many planes were shortcutting. Dropping their bombs short of a heavily protected target and heading home. So a mission didn’t count unless you brought back film of your bombs falling on the target. That meant you had to release your load, and then fly straight and steady while the camera recorded the drop. It took 30 seconds. We all counted them off in our heads. Thirty seconds is a long time.”

A personal hero? “We were on our way home alone after a mission. We were shot up and flying above heavy cloud cover. Our navigation equipment had been shot away and an engine was out. We were lost and I figured we’d end up in the North Sea. The bomb aimer went into the upper turret and started taking star shots. He shouted down directions, but we didn’t think he could do it. Then he said: “There! Just beyond the cloud cover we’ll see the coast of England! Sure enough. The White Cliffs of Dover.”

The boy that still lives in the old warrior surfaced. “When you got back from a mission first thing on your mind was breakfast. It was a race to the mess, because they’d run out of eggs. If somebody came back after being considered lost, everybody gave them their eggs. We had lots of eggs that morning!”

His crew was led by pilot Peter Lefebvre, who gave up the priesthood to go to war. Was prayer a factor in their survival? “We never talked about it. I wasn’t a Catholic. But Catholic or not, I think we all carried rosaries.” No tears of mirth.

He never really wanted to be a cop. He joined the Canadian Bank Note Co. and spent his career printing money. He outlived two wives and has two daughters. He has been spending his retirement seeing the world.
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U.S. recovers bodies of WW2 airmen from Quebec waters

Post by Teentitan on Sun 29 Jul 2012, 11:28

UNDATED, - The wind was fierce and the waves were surging on Josephine Vibert's wedding day, 70 years ago in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, a small fishing village on Quebec's north shore.

In 1942, the village became the site of an emergency airstrip on the U.S. military's so-called "Crimson Route," a strategic air corridor to Europe through Maine and Newfoundland.

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 2, 1942, not long before the wedding reception, Vibert and most of the village stopped to watch a U.S. Army seaplane taxi from the harbour.

But the plane — a PBY Catalina — struggled to clear the water. Vibert recalls the towering waves of the Gulf lashing at the cockpit during its second take-off attempt.

"I counted five waves, but there may have been more," she says from her home, still in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan. "After the last one, water started entering their plane."

The town's fishermen braved the frothing waters to find four crew members clinging to the fuselage.

Just moments after the survivors were hauled aboard the local fishing boats, the plane, along with the five remaining crew members, slipped beneath waves, never to be seen again.

That is until 2009, when underground divers from Parks Canada found the barnacled, upside-down fuselage of the Catalina some 40 meters below the surface.

"We worked from shore until we hit the plane," said Marc-Andre Bernier, the chief underwater archeologist for Parks Canada.

"When we actually saw that the fuselage was in one piece, we immediately stopped operations and contacted the American authorities."

With the prospect of the remains of American soldiers inside, Canadian officials contacted a joint civilian-military unit in the U.S. that specializes in the identification of citizens lost in war.

Earlier this month the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) dispatched a 50-person team to investigate the site. They arrived on a 78-meter salvage ship, the USNS Grapple. Their 30-day mission is close to wrapping up.

Divers have already found what appear to be the remains of the missing airmen, which will be sent to a DNA lab for identification.

But they have also found a trove of artifacts so perfectly preserved they might have been taken from a time warp.

From the floor of the Gulf, divers managed to find a Listerine bottle intact, complete with air bubbles and something resembling its original scent.

They also discovered film negatives, aviator glasses and, perhaps most remarkably, paper believed to be from the crew's log.

Bernier says a number of conditions combined to keep so many of the objects in good condition, including near-freezing waters and a depth which allows for little oxygen and light to reach the wreckage.

"To find, intact, a plane from the Second World War underwater is already something remarkable," he told reporters who visited the Grapple last week.

"It's an oasis, an underwater receptacle because lots of organisms have attached themselves to the plane."

He added that finding the personal artifacts of the airmen was "like diving back into time."

For the moment, there are no plans to raise the fuselage itself. JPAC's mandate is limited to recovering items associated with the individual airmen who went down with the plane.

"To be able to do this and bring some closure to families is pretty rewarding," said Stefan Claesson, a forensic archaeologist aboard the Grapple.

"As long as we find one remain it's a success for us. And in this case we have a significant number of remains to bring back home, so that's very exciting."

The salvage mission off the coast of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan has created a stir among the village's older residents — some of whom, like Vibert, still vividly remember that November day in 1942.

Up until then, Vibert says, the war had been a largely positive experience for the residents of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.

"Everyone had a job, everyone was happy," she said during a phone interview with The Canadian Press. "We only had one paved road then, and the American soldiers would parade down it."

Since the Grapple arrived in early July, she has kept a close eye on its movements from the shore.

Two of her brothers disappeared during a plane trip over Gulf waters during the 1950s, their bodies never found. Because of that, she says she understands the desire to bring closure to the families of the missing airmen.

"Every night I drive down to the shore and I give them (the Grapple's crew) a little signal with the lights of my car," she said.

-With files from Paul Chiasson in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.
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A memorial for Bomber Command – too late for many

Post by Teentitan on Fri 29 Jun 2012, 23:01

At the end of a long, hot, draining day, there was a tray of cold beer for the Canadian veterans of Bomber Command, and they fell on it like – well, like men who’d been waiting in the sun a long time without a beer. But then they’d been waiting much longer, for something much more important.

It had not been a particularly happy wait, either, and many of the 42 veterans arriving at Canada House in London’s Trafalgar Square muttered that it had come too late. Too many of their comrades were no longer around to celebrate what felt like a much-delayed vindication.

The vindication was this: Earlier in the day, the Queen had unveiled a memorial to the 125,000 men and women of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command, almost half of whom didn’t survive their late-night raids over Germany and occupied Europe during the Second World War. Some 50,000 of those fliers were Canadian, and 10,000 of them were lost; many more came from New Zealand and Australia, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

For decades, they lived without a memorial to their efforts, and you can still hear grinding of teeth over the fact that Winston Churchill failed to mention Bomber Command in his victory speech. Simply, the Allies were too embarrassed by the trail of flattened and charred German cities, and the number of dead civilians, to acknowledge the contribution of the men who’d flown and navigated the planes – and dropped their bombs when they were told to. As British veteran Harry Irons, rear gunner, told the BBC this week, “It was a kick in the teeth, the way we was completely forgotten.”

There was a similar mood at Canada House, as the 42 veterans and their carers settled down for lunch (and those well-deserved beers). “It was a wonderful ceremony, beautiful,” said Jack Watts, 91, a squadron leader who flew more than 100 missions and was shot down twice. “It’s just sad as hell that it came this late, and there are so few of us now to see it.”

He was 19 when he enlisted (the average age of the “bomber boys” was 22), and not much older than that when he had to ditch in the mine-filled North Atlantic and wait 12 hours for a minesweeper to pull him out of his rescue raft. The second time he was shot down, he landed in the slightly warmer Mediterranean.

Mr. Watts was cheered by the large crowd that gathered to watch the Bomber Command memorial being unveiled in Green Park: “I don’t think at home we would have had the same reaction,” he said. “I’m not sure people at home are so warm to remembering.”

This seems to contradict the current government’s attempts to valorize military efforts, especially those of the “greatest generation.” Indeed, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney was on hand to announce a new medal for Canadian Bomber Command vets, but Mr. Watts, listening to the minister’s speech, just shrugged: “How many people are left to wear it? It’s kind of … well, it’s just too political.”

You think of other veterans coming back from war to the cold shoulder of public opinion – soldiers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam. But the servicemen of the Second World War were meant to be lionized, blameless – weren’t they?

“I’ve been accused of being a murderer, of killing innocent women and children,” said Ed Carter-Edwards, 89. Like many of his colleagues, he mentions The Valour and the Horror, the 1992 CBC-NFB documentary, which cast doubt on some of Bomber Command’s practices, particularly at the end of the war, involving civilian populations. Mr. Carter-Edwards clearly feels he was mauled twice: once when he was shot down over Occupied France, beaten by the Gestapo and taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, and a second time, much later, at home. (In a truly bizarre twist, he and 167 other imprisoned airmen were busted out of Buchenwald by the Luftwaffe, only a few days before they were scheduled to hang.) On his chest sits a row of medals, and he raises the last one: the French Légion d’honneur. “This one is revered in France, but in Canada it doesn’t mean anything.”

The next day, just three days before Canada Day, the veterans will go back to look at the new memorial, which features a bronze sculpture of seven airmen, each nine feet tall. The roof is Canadian, made from melted bits of a Halifax bomber shot down in 1944. The inscription on the outside honours all the dead of the skies, airman and civilian alike. And Mr. Carter-Edwards may well be thinking about how often, as a 21-year-old wireless air gunner, he would wake up in his barracks to find another empty bed.
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Canada's meaningful sacrifice in Korean War

Post by Teentitan on Wed 27 Jun 2012, 15:19

This week, 62 years ago, the Korean war started.
Over the years, Korea has been dubbed the “Forgotten War,” even though some 26,000 Canadians served there, along with 63 other nations which mostly provided support, while 17 countries contributed fighting soldiers.

Korea is still a misunderstood war. For a long time, Canadian politicians called it a “police action,” which is a term once preferred by the UN which foolishly tries to avoid anything that might be viewed as “warfare.”

To mark ceremonies held in South Korea, Canada’s ambassador David Chatterson (who likely wasn’t born when the war was on), reflected that most of the Canadian soldiers who joined the Korean war “were 18 or 19 years old, 60 years ago.”

He added that what “tipped the scales towards our involvement” in defending South Korea against the invasion by the North, was our support of the UN. And recognition that with the Cold War, “there were issues much bigger than Korea at play.”

While true, there were other factors involved which historians tend to overlook.

Often unmentioned is that the Korean war appealed to the generation of Canadian youths who were marginally too young for World War II. Korea was their chance to experience what other Canadians young men had endured in the war.

What tends to be forgotten today — assuming it was ever known — is that joining the army (or navy or air force) World War II was as popular as, say, dodging the draft was in the Vietnam war. One was a war of survival, the other seen as unnecessary.

In WWII we would either win against Hitler (and Hirohito), or our way of life would be forever changed. During Vietnam, oddly, roughly as many Canadians enlisted in U.S. Forces, as U.S. Draft dodgers and deserters sought sanctuary in Canada.

To the young Canadians of 1950, Korea started out as an adventure.

As one of the volunteers in that war, I harboured no animosity towards communism per se, but felt it had no business being forced on a people who didn’t want it. My naive approach was that communism may be okay for Russians, but not us.

I can’t recall any soldiers who understood the malevolent and ruthless lust of the communist ideology as practiced by Russia and China.
I think where Ambassador Chatterson misses the boat is not recognizing that as well as 18 and 19-year-olds volunteering for adventure in Korea, many WWII veterans who’d left the military, also re-joined for various reasons.

I doubt many studies have been made of wartime veterans who, in civilian life, missed the comradeship and routine of army life. Also there were many WWII veterans who found they couldn’t hack it in civilian life, or found it too mundane and monotonous. Or who had broken marriages, with wife and husband too changed for reconciliation. That sort of thing.

The mixture of veterans and rookies in the Korean war, proved more effective than many expected. In general, Canadian soldiers in the Korean war never lost an inch of ground; it became a matter of pride, when attacked, to never retreat. Witness Kapyong and Hills 355 and 187. This theme was especially prevalent in the latter days of the war when the fluidity of the first year settled down to trench warfare.

Canadians were spared the casualties inflicted on the Americans in the early stages of the war — something approaching 50,000 killed when the Chinese entered the war and routed U.S. Forces at the the Yalu river on the border of China.

What frustrated many Canadian soldiers in Korea was always being on the defensive and no one in Canada giving a damn. What was the point in a stalemate?

Subsequently, with Korea sponsoring yearly return visits of those who fought there, the now-aging 18 and 19-year-olds invariably are awed by the progress made in that ravaged country they helped save as young men. And the appreciation showered on them by Koreans too young to have known war.

It may be true that the Korean war ended in stalemate in 1953.

It’s equally true that the peace has been decisively won by the South.

Canadians who were there, now recognize that their contribution was worthwhile.

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Bomber Command vets honoured

Post by Teentitan on Tue 26 Jun 2012, 11:19

OTTAWA — As a 19-year-old mid-under gunner fighting against the Nazis with the Canadian Bomber Command, John “Jack” McLean didn’t know he had about a 50-50 chance of returning home.

“Oh I was scared, you’re darn right,” McLean, 87, said. “But being scared would come and then disappear. When you’re 19, you’re indestructible.”

McLean is one of 55,000 Canadian Bomber Command veterans being honoured with a new, special bar, created to be worn on the ribbon of the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. On Thursday, Queen Elizabeth will unveil a new Bomber Command Memorial across from Buckingham Palace.

The Bomber Command flew at night and had few tools to help them navigate or locate targets.

McLean was part of a seven-member crew that flew the four-engine Halifax, bombing Europe between June and November 1944. As a mid-under gunner, McLean spent the flights sitting in a tiny compartment under the plane’s belly.

“The job of the air gunners is to protect the aircraft; the rest of the crew depended on us for their defence.”

Those flights weren’t just terrifying, they were cold. Under gunners weren’t inside the heated fuselage, but McLean said they were given heated socks and gloves.

McLean’s memories of the Second World War are all intact. His scariest experience was when “at least seven or eight” enemy searchlights found his plane.

“I thought that might be the last trip I’d ever make,” he said. “But the skipper put the nose down, built up speed and got out.”
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Canada's military pride: Worthington

Post by Teentitan on Sat 16 Jun 2012, 13:07

TORONTO - When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were first elected to form a minority government in 2006, the PM adopted refurbishing, updating and praising the military as a campaign and government priority.

The DND budget rose to top $21 billion, equipment and weaponry were diverted from other roles to support the mission in Afghanistan. The returns of this unprecedented attention were that morale in the army rose, and Canada’s prestige in the world that matters, reached heights unknown since the Second World War.

Our troops exceeded expectations in Afghanistan. The competence and spirit were mindful of Canadians in the First World War, where they never lost ground they didn’t recapture within 48 hours; and the Second World War, where Gen. Dwight Eisenhower called them the toughest troops in his command.

By the time our commitment was winding down in Afghanistan (a political rather than military decision), there were many who regarded this “new” Canadian army as the “finest small army in the world.” And that includes the Israelis, who do not have the logistical problems Canada has.

During the Second World War — and certainly not in the Korean war or in post-war peacekeeping — Canadian casualties weren’t publicized or mourned to the extent that those killed in Afghanistan were — 158 dead.

Ordinary Canadians are proud of their soldiers, and the Conservative government has benefited from this national approval.

Now that Afghanistan has entered a new phase that doesn’t involve Canadian soldiers in a combat role, coupled with America’s seemingly acceptance that it cannot win in Afghanistan and is in the process of pulling out and, claiming the Afghan National Army (ANA) can now do the job, the Canadian government is once again cutting back funding for the military.

Cutting the DND budget is also a Canadian tradition.

Already it’s been announced that recruiting centres across Canada are being reduced; the TOW2 missile system that cost around $100 million three years ago, is being scrapped (thus saving $20 million, we are told); some $3.5 billion in proposed military equipment purchases has been suspended for a few years.

DND is being trimmed of some civilian employees, and something like 1,000 DND jobs are supposed to be eliminated. For those in uniform, technical and specialist pay is being reduced; maintenance and repair costs are being cut back; the number of reservists — already pathetically low at 7,500 — are to be cut by close to 30%, to 4,500 members.

Progressively, for the next three years, the DND budget is to be reduced by around $1 billion a year. (None of these cutbacks applies to the aquiring F-35 fighter aircraft, presumably because these costs won’t apply for several years).

All this (and more) is nothing to get too excited about, although it’s depressing if Canada reverts to short-changing the military that has contributed so much to its national prestige (unless you are a hopeless pacifist who views soldiers as warmongers).

Historically, the Canadian military has always made do with less, yet always has exceeds expectations and succeeds in whatever is required of it.

A recent letter in the National Post by Bob Orrick, a former executive with the Korean Veterans Association, deplores the cutbacks. He says a lesson can be learned by examining how Canada “dithered about how to fulfill Canada’s obligation under the UN Charter and assist South Korea in its most dire hour of need” when it was invaded by the North in 1950.

At the time, some five years after the end of the Second World War, Canada had already stripped the military of manpower, equipment and weapons of war.

Orrick says a lack of purpose and planning, compounded by poor equipment, led to increased casualties in Korea.

He says soldiers had to use “.303 Lee-Enfield rifles that dated back to the First World War . . . (and) tin hats . . . that also dated back to the First World War.” He asks, rhetorically: “Is Ottawa planning to walk that same route in its quest to reduce Canada’s Armed Forces to a shadow of their former greatness?”

Curiously, I was a soldier in Korea, and never felt particularly deprived by being inflicted with Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles. True, the brand was used in the First World War, and updated versions were used in The Second World War — like the “tin hats” we were ordered to wear.

A virtue of the Lee-Enfield was that it rarely jammed, and could take unconscionable abuse and still fire reliably and accurately. American carbines were automatic, but jammed and ran out of ammunition quickly.

We in front lines hated the British-style helmets. One virtue of night patrols in the valley was that you didn’t have to wear helmets.

The Chinese burp guns — sub-machineguns — fired more rapidly than our cheap, mass-produced Sten guns. But at close quarters the Sten was effective — providing you didn’t accidentally bang its butt, which caused it to fire unexpectedly into one of your own guys.

Mr. Orrick might also have mentioned the Vickers medium machinegun, which was used in the First and Second World Wars. Speaking personally, the steady chatter of the Vickers was the most reassuring sound in the world on certain occasions. It was another untempermental weapon that was reliable and accurate.

Canadian troops in Korea were better clothed for winter than the Americans, had better boots and better food. At the end it was trench warfare, and while the roughly 6,000 troops of Canada’s 25 Brigade felt abandoned by Canada, I doubt many soldiers felt over-matched or lacking in equipment or support.

When in trouble, Canada’s infantry regiments felt well supported by our tanks and especially our artillery which was uncannily accurate when needed. Like others in my battalion of the Princess Pats, I felt safest and most confident when with other Canadian units, and not dependent on Americans, Koreans, French, Turks, or even the British.

Other troops may have had more updated weapons, but we made do with what we had.

This month marks the 62nd anniversary of the start of the Korean war, and it’s not surprising that the government is once again cutting back the military to save money. Some things never change . . .
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Quebecers may view veterans, military past differently

Post by Teentitan on Sat 09 Jun 2012, 10:44

Quebecers are more keenly aware than other Canadians about events honouring war veterans, but they're far less likely to participate in them or take pride in the military's role in past conflicts, a newly released survey reveals.

The public opinion research report — prepared by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives for Veterans Affairs Canada — shows a wide disparity in the attitudes of Quebec residents compared to other Canadians when it comes to remembrance and Veterans' Week.

The survey, conducted after last Remembrance Day but just released by the government, found nearly all Canadians outside Quebec — 96 per cent — think veterans should be recognized for their sacrifices, compared to 85 per cent of Quebecers who hold that opinion. And while 89 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec believe vets have made significant contributions to the nation's development, only 66 per cent of Quebecers share that view.

The survey also found 82 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec say they’re proud of the role Canada's military has played in conflicts like the First and Second World wars, the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan — compared to 66 per cent of Quebecers. The province's residents are also less knowledgeable about Canada’s military role in the conflicts, according to the poll.

Jeremy Diamond, director of the Historica-Dominion Institute, said that while participation and appreciation for veterans lags behind in Quebec, he senses an upward trend.

“When it comes to military history and remembrance, I think that we often feel that in Quebec there is still quite a sensitivity about commemorating and celebrating the military, whether it’s anniversaries or our veterans, partly to do with the conscription crisis, partly because I think Quebec sees itself more focused on honouring the veterans in Quebec, as opposed to a national recognition, or as part of a week that would affect all Canadians," Diamond said.

Differences in awareness and participation
Diamond said the Institute's Memory Project has seen increasing participation and requests in schools and communities across Quebec in recent years — in both large cities and smaller francophone communities.

The survey found that while a high number of Quebecers are aware of remembrance events (77 per cent compared to 62 per cent for all Canadians) the participation rate is significantly lower — 53 per cent compared to 79 per cent. The survey also finds Quebecers are less likely to see Veterans' Week as important, and that they are far less likely to make an effort to show appreciation to veterans (47 per cent compared to 74 per cent of other Canadians).

A subsample survey that asked Quebecers to explain the disparity found that pacifism, a preferred focus on province-specific pride issues like language and identity, and a lack of connection to military through family members were some of the reasons.

Jean-Christophe de le Rue, press secretary to Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, said the government supports commemorative events that encourage participation from Canadians across the country to ensure sacrifices are never forgotten. Events in Quebec are also designed to "pass the torch" of remembrance.

"Today, Minister Blaney joined nearly 200 students and D-Day Veterans at École secondaire de l'Aubier, in Quebec," he said Friday. "Because of this event, nearly a dozen veterans were given the opportunity to share their past experiences while serving our great country. These veterans from Quebec stood up in the defence of values ​​that matter most to Canadians: peace, freedom, democracy, and rule of law."

The national Phoenix survey polled 1,003 adult Canadians, including 352 from Quebec, between Nov. 15 and Nov. 26, 2011 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The subsample questionnaire surveyed 350 residents of Quebec.
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