Face to Face

Should Canada have gone to war in September 1939?
Face to Face

Should Canada have gone to war in September 1939?

In 1939, Canada was the only independent nation in North America to declare war on Germany. A member of the British Commonwealth, Canada was nonetheless independent in foreign and defence policy and had been so since the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The British colonies in the Caribbean and in South America were not independent, and they went to war automatically as soon as Britain did on Sept. 3. But Canada waited until Sept. 10 to declare war. It should not have done so. Why? Because Canada’s national interests were not directly threatened by Germany. It was protected by the vast distances of the Atlantic Ocean from any attempts at major landings by German forces; no aircraft yet developed could attack Canada from Europe and there were no missiles that could do so. If such attacks ...
Face to Face: Should space be weaponized?
Face to Face

Face to Face: Should space be weaponized?

In late March, India announced that it had successfully shot down one of its own satellites using an interceptor fired from the ground. In doing so, India became only the fourth nation to gain this capacity after the United States, Russia and China. The move brought the weaponization of space even closer, adding to steps that have been taken ever since the launch of the first military communications and reconnaissance satellites in the 1960s. As much as any of us may have wished this would not happen, it was almost inevitable. Few human inventions have been brought to fruition without military purposes in mind. Whatever new technologies humans invent and for whatever purpose, military applications and weapons are not far behind. Take the weaponization of the airplane as an example. Fol...
Was D-Day perfectly timed?
Face to Face

Was D-Day perfectly timed?

  On the eve of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, prepared two statements about Operation Overlord, the assault on Fortress Europe. Despite the horrendous weather, Eisenhower gave the go-ahead, delaying the landings for one day. We know the eventual result, but it is worth remembering how Eisenhower pondered the real possibility that Overlord would fail, and that he would have to withdraw his forces. In the message he wrote but never used, Eisenhower said, “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.” “Time and place.” A crucial phrase, for only in 1944 did Eisenhower have operational and strategic control over the many elements that would make Overlord a success. Th...
Face to face: Is the Spitfire the most elegant aircraft ever built?
Face to Face

Face to face: Is the Spitfire the most elegant aircraft ever built?

Elegance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and highly subjective. One could ask the same question about scotch, wine or cars. And superlatives are dangerously inflexible words: terms like ‘most,’ ‘always’ and ‘forever’ should be avoided (especially in matters of the heart). Moreover, pilots (like sailors) are notoriously romantic; why else are ships and aircraft referred to as ‘she’? The Spitfire was undoubtedly an attractive aircraft, especially before its wings were mutilated by 20-millimetre cannon and its wingtips shortened and squared off in the low-altitude versions. Yet was it the “most” of anything? It was certainly not the most comfortable. Many pilots, having flown in the cramped quarters of a Spitfire, expressed delight at the roominess of American fighter aircraft....
Face to face: Is it time to redesign and replace the Canadian Army’s combat uniform?
Face to Face

Face to face: Is it time to redesign and replace the Canadian Army’s combat uniform?

Back in 2002 and into 2003, a tempest swirled in an Ottawa teapot over the combat fatigues Canadian troops were wearing to a war 10,600 kilometres away. Here were our soldiers, God forbid, wearing green in the arid climes of Afghanistan. The uniforms were an embarrassment, declared the pundits and politicians, none of whom had set foot in Afghanistan or anyplace remotely like it. Their case, countered one Afghanistan veteran, “was more political than it was tactical.” The fact was, at least half the armies of the coalition—Middle East included—were wearing green. And, in a stroke of serendipity, the Canucks’ crisp new fatigues faded after a couple of washings. The diluted green, combined with the powdery desert dust, proved ideal camouflage in much of the Afghan terrain, with its li...
Face to Face: Should the Allies have ceased their attacks on Nov. 10?
Face to Face

Face to Face: Should the Allies have ceased their attacks on Nov. 10?

  On Sept. 28, 1918, General Erich Ludendorff, commander of the German army, admitted that the war was lost. “If we had the strength to reverse the situation in the West, then of course nothing would yet have been lost,” he stated. “But we had no means for that.… We had to count on being beaten back again and again.” Insisting that “every hour of delay is dangerous,” Ludendorff led an effort to create a new German government and issue an immediate call for an end to the fighting. A new chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden, was appointed on Oct. 4, and claiming that he wished “to avoid further bloodshed,” asked American President Woodrow Wilson for an immediate armistice. Wilson’s reply on Oct. 8 demanded the immediate “withdrawal of their forces everywhere from invaded territ...
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