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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...
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...
Super Heroes
Home Front

Super Heroes

Wartime restrictions accidentally created a golden age for Canadian comic book heroes with patriotic messages Torontonian Leo Bachle was just 16 in 1941 when he created Canadian wartime comic book superhero Johnny Canuck.  “I didn’t see it as propaganda at the time,” he said in a CBC interview in 1995. “I created Johnny to give Canada a hero. I really believed in the war effort. I felt very nationalistic.”  With typical Canadian reserve, these heroes didn’t always possess Superman-like powers. Bachle was in the right place at the right time with the right talent. Canada’s War Exchange Conservation Act of December 1940 banning non-essential imports had an unintended benefit to the war effort. Among paper products it barred were pulp magazines and comic books. In blocking popular A...
Rugged Workhorse
Home Front

Rugged Workhorse

From the Sahara to Normandy, Canadian Military Pattern trucks kept armies supplied and moving The Desert Fox, General Erwin Rommel, had to make a decision. It was June 1942 and after mauling Britain’s Eighth Army in the Western Desert campaign, the commander of Germany’s Panzer Army Africa was at the end of his logistical support.   Rommel was a brilliant tactician, but his strategic vision was dulled by the defeat he inflicted on the British in Libya, forcing them to retreat to El Alamein, Egypt, a shot-up railway station along the Mediterranean coast. He decided to make one last effort to crack British defences and have his Panzer forces roll through Egypt to the Nile. But first he had to capture Tobruk, Libya, and gain the stores and petrol left by the retreating British—supplies...
Canada’s Bletchley Park
Home Front, Military History

Canada’s Bletchley Park

Ottawa had its own top-secret code-breaking establishment In 1942, David Hayne, a recent University of Toronto graduate, was undergoing artillery training at Camp Niagara in Ontario when he received two mysterious letters that changed the course of his life and helped place Canada in the forefront of intelligence gathering. The first was from a professor of French who asked Hayne if he would fill an opening at the National Research Council (NRC). There was no indication of what the work involved, only that it was connected with the war and that the letter writer found it absorbing. The young grad concluded that the job related to the French language, his passion. Still, he dispatched a cautious reply, saying he expected to begin his military career almost immediately. That letter...

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