Air Force

In and out of Southeast Asia
Air Force

In and out of Southeast Asia

Canada’s air force had a tentative role in defending Australia, Burma and India “What would have happened if…?” Wartime history is replete with speculative questions, and one example of this involves co-operation between the Royal Canadian Air Force and Australia, which was relatively modest during the Second World War. Yet it might have been greater. On Jan. 20, 1942, the Australian High Commissioner to Canada transmitted an appeal from Canberra for assistance “in its present emergency.” In order of priority, he requested (a) equipment, such as aircraft, anti-aircraft weapons, radio direction finding gear, armoured fighting vehicles, anti-tank weapons and torpedoes; (b) establishment in Australia of a Canadian Army force to act as a general headquarters mobile reserve; and (c) t...
Tiger In Waiting
Air Force

Tiger In Waiting

It was called Tiger Force, but the Second World War ended before this new strategic bombing formation could roar off into the Pacific. Canadians—in the air and on the ground—were among the thousands of Commonwealth personnel who volunteered to serve against Japan. In preparation for Royal Canadian Air Force participation in the 1945-46 air campaign against Japan, a number of Canadian officers were passing in and out of American units, ostensibly on liaison or observer duties. Precisely how they did so outside the continental United States is uncertain, but at least one—probably more—took their job description to the limit. In 1945, Group Captain Henry M. Carscallen, DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), was commuting regularly between Ottawa and Washington, D.C., on staff duties. ...
Drop Zone Burma
Air Force

Drop Zone Burma

Nasty weather, enemy fire and an unforgiving jungle—just some of the perils faced by the men who flew transport missions over Burma during the Second World War. The charismatic figure of Brigadier Orde Wingate haunts accounts of the Burma campaigns of 1943-44. He was a brilliant leader, innovative in training and tactics, yet careless with the lives of his men. In February 1943, he moved 3,100 troops and 1,100 mules—the first Chindit Operation—into Burma to wreak havoc behind Japanese lines. Above the jungle, the operation was supported by aircraft that dropped vital supplies to men whose mere survival was considered a victory. When the ground force was withdrawn in late March 1944, it had sustained 818 deaths. Many of those lucky enough to get out of the jungle were wracked with...
The Forgotten Flyers
Air Force

The Forgotten Flyers

In other theatres the RAF had spurned dive-bombers in general and the Vengeance in particular. But in India and Burma the Vengeance performed heroic service with nine squadrons. General William Slim’s leadership of XIV Army was brilliant, yet he is one of the least known of the Second World War leaders.   Slim recognized this when he wrote of his command as The Forgotten Army. His principal achievements were to defeat a Japanese invasion of India and then to reconquer Burma. Yet he was defending and recovering an empire already lost. The XIV Army was the last true British Imperial army, composed of divisions from Britain, East and West Africa, and an undivided India. Between March and June 1944, this force broke sieges at Imphal and Kohima and then launched a gruelling...
Snakes, Lice And Japanese Aircraft
Air Force

Snakes, Lice And Japanese Aircraft

By the monsoon season of 1942 the Japanese had taken as much of Burma (now Myanmar) as they wanted. They had achieved their primary goal of cutting off the land route to China, and it would be many months before they attempted to advance on India itself, and then primarily to forestall British efforts to recapture Burma. In the meantime, Canadians continued to arrive in the theatre of operations—some to No. 413 Squadron but most to Royal Air Force units. A routine muster dated Jan. 7, 1944, listed 48 Royal Canadian Air Force officers reporting to the Indian theatre in the previous week. Only four were headed for No. 413 Sqdn. Eight had not yet been assigned to a unit and 14 were being sent to training units. The balance was being sent to RAF flying boat, fighter reconnaissance and b...
Air Force, Army, Military History, Navy

70th Anniversary of D-Day, 1944-2014

Commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Campaign will soon be underway. Here are a few facts, quotes and graphics on D-Day. Author/historian Mark Zuehlke provides a detailed look at Canada’s contribution during the first week. READ THE FULL STORY AVAILABLE IN OUR MAY/JUNE 2014 NEWSSTAND ISSUE.

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