Canada Corner

Arctic Mosquitoes
Canada Corner, Home Front

Arctic Mosquitoes

How a squadron of war surplus aircraft conquered the tundra and mapped Canada’s Far North It was 1946: the war was over, surplus airplanes were going for a song and entrepreneurial spirits were high. Some ambitious veteran pilots and navigators, still adventurous and in their prime, figured the stars were aligned for some kind of flying business.  Over its years, Spartan flew 22 types of aircraft. Three ex-flight lieutenants—John Roberts, Russell Hall and Joseph Kohut—were accomplished aviators and eventual business partners. Roberts had flown P-51 Mustangs with the Royal Canadian Air Force on photo-reconnaissance out of the U.K. over enemy-held Europe. Hall navigated Wellington bombers based in Egypt and the Bahamas. Pathfinder navigator Kohut earned a Distinguished Flying Cros...
Operation Yellow Ribbon
Canada Corner, O Canada

Operation Yellow Ribbon

On Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center towers fell, 2,871 people died, among them 24 Canadians. One of them was former NHL player Garnet (Ace) Bailey, who was on United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the South Tower. The last person out of that tower before it collapsed was believed to be Ron DiFrancesco of Hamilton, who worked on the 84th floor. When the American Airlines passenger plane hit the North Tower first, an announcement told everyone that the South Tower was secure; there was no need to evacuate. DiFrancesco decided to leave anyway. Before he could get to the elevators, the plane carrying Ace Bailey hit the tower between the 77th and 85th floors. DiFrancesco was able to run through smoke and burning debris and finally get to the ground floor. The building then began i...
Afghanistan goes to the Taliban
Canada Corner, Home Front

Afghanistan goes to the Taliban

Is this the end of nation-building wars?  The 20-year war to eliminate the Taliban that had sheltered and assisted Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist organization he led has come to an end.  After the stunning attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, America’s call for vengeance was immediate and strong. The Taliban was quickly driven from power thanks to U.S. support for the Northern Alliance that had been fighting the Islamist regime. Badly battered, the Taliban was relatively quiet for three or four years.  But by 2006, it was mounting large-scale attacks in Helmand Province, where British troops had the lead, and in Kandahar Province, where Canadians led operations. The Taliban lost heavily.  Canadian troops won in combat but then lacked sufficient numbers to...
Sub vs Schooner
Canada Corner, Home Front

Sub vs Schooner

In a U-boat rampage off the East Coast in 1918, the schooner Dornfontein was captured and burned On Aug. 3, 1918, a small boat carrying nine sailors arrived at Gannet Rock in the Bay of Fundy. They had a tale to tell.  The previous day, a submarine had stopped their schooner—looted it, and took the crew as prisoners. Then the raiders set the schooner on fire and turned its crew loose in their small boat. It had taken more than 12 hours to row to shore. It was not supposed to happen.  When the First World War started in 1914, submarines were a novelty weapon. Their range was short and everyone expected them to operate inshore, fully submerged and, in accordance with international law, to sink only warships. After all, submarines did not have enough crew to take ships as prizes, or spac...
Road to Confederation
Canada Corner, O Canada

Road to Confederation

In 1866, the Fathers of Confederation—among them John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, Alexander Galt and George Brown—were in London, staying at the Westminster Palace Hotel. They were fine-tuning the British North America Act which, when passed, would create the Dominion of Canada. At a different hotel was Joseph Howe, who was trying to get Nova Scotia out of Confederation, waving a petition with 30,000 signatures. “Macdonald was the ruling genius and spokesman,” according to Sir Frederic Rogers, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. But there were a few non-genius moments. Macdonald woke up in the middle of the night to find that both he and his bed were on fire. His hair and hands were singed and his shoulder was burned—but he carried on.    The road...
Enough ships?
Canada Corner, Home Front

Enough ships?

What kind of navy should Canada have? With just 8,300 regulars, the Royal Canadian Navy is the smallest branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. This has been reflected in the RCN’s inability to produce officers to fill the highest post in the Canadian Armed Forces: chief of the defence staff.  Since the brief appointment of Admiral John R. Anderson in 1993, the RCN has had only two such officers—Vice-Admiral Larry Murray, who was interim CDS in 1996-97 during the turmoil of the Somalia Affair, and Admiral Art McDonald, who was appointed in January 2021. McDonald stepped down after 41 days in the post and is the subject of an ongoing investigation after allegations of misconduct were raised against him.    The apparent lack of highly qualified naval officers to fill the top position...

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An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.