Heroes And Villains

Heroes and Villains: MacGill & Messerschmitt
Heroes And Villains

Heroes and Villains: MacGill & Messerschmitt

ELIZABETH (ELSIE) MacGILL In 1939, Britain and the Commonwealth lacked a fighter plane to match the German Bf-109. In aerial combat over northwestern Europe in 1940, the 109, created by German aircraft designer Wilhelm (Willy) Messerschmitt, easily outfought existing Royal Air Force fighters. In its pursuit of a competitive fighter plane, the RAF sent thousands of Hawker Hurricane blueprints on microfilm to the Canadian Car and Foundry Company in Fort William, Ont. (now Thunder Bay). Transforming the blueprints into a functional fighter and creating an aircraft assembly line fell to 35-year-old Elizabeth (Elsie) MacGill. In 1938, MacGill had been the first woman admitted to the Engineering Institute of Canada. Joining CanCar that same year, she oversaw the company’s conversion to aircr...
Heroes and Villains: Gandhi & Godse
Heroes And Villains

Heroes and Villains: Gandhi & Godse

Hero: Mahatma Gandhi Two days before his assassination, Mahatma Gandhi said, “If I’m to die by the bullet of a madman, I must do so smiling. God must be in my heart and on my lips. And if anything happens, you are not to shed a single tear.” In 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi—already reverently known as Mahatma for his spiritual lifestyle and beliefs—returned to India after 21 years in South Africa. During his years away, Gandhi had practised law and, more importantly, earned an international reputation as a leading proponent for Indian self-rule. Back home, Gandhi’s status quickly made him a key figure in the Indian independence movement. Advocating moderate, pacifist resistance to British rule, Gandhi was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1920. On January 26, 1930,...
Heroes and Villains: Smith & 26th Panzers
Heroes And Villains

Heroes and Villains: Smith & 26th Panzers

HERO: PRIVATE ERNEST ALVIA (SMOKEY) SMITH Having crossed Italy’s Savio River on the night of Oct. 21-22, 1944, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada’s ‘C’ Company and newly formed tank-hunting platoon cut the Cesena–Ravenna road alongside a badly damaged church. The force numbered just 50 men. Twenty were tank hunters, heavily armed with four PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) launchers. Among these men was 30-year-old Private Ernest Alvia (Smokey) Smith. His nickname harkened back to school sprinting races where he always “smoked” the competition. Just as the ambush was set, a 26th Panzer Division armoured column approached. The Germans retreating from Cesena expected a clear run. Instead, the lead command car was shot up and the column’s officer killed. That left three Panther t...
Heroes and Villains
Heroes And Villains

Heroes and Villains

HERO: MALALA YOUSAFZAI On Oct. 9, 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was returning from school when a man jumped onto the van’s tailboard and shouted, “Who is Malala?” One of three bullets fired struck Yousafzai in the left side of the head, rendering her unconscious. The shooting was the culmination of Yousafzai’s refusal to be silenced by Taliban oppression. Four years earlier, Yousafzai had given her first speech protesting forced school closures, entitled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” It was a courageous but dangerous defiance of the Taliban, the Sunni Islamic political movement and military organization which had overrun Pakistan’s Swat Valley in July 2007. Led by Mullah Fazlullah, 4,500 militants had captured key villages, killed local leaders ...
Eisenhower & Rommel
Heroes And Villains

Eisenhower & Rommel

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER In the end, everything depended on the weather. On the evening of June 3, 1944—with 150,000 men, nearly 12,000 aircraft and almost 7,000 sea vessels awaiting his command—Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower had to measure the reliability of his chief meteorologist. The Normandy invasion was to have launched on June 5, but now Group Captain J.M. Stagg predicted that a storm would create seas too rough for launching landing craft and thick clouds would prevent the preparatory air bombardment. Reluctantly, Eisenhower decided on a day’s postponement. The following evening, a Sunday, Eisenhower, his senior commanders, and Stagg’s weather team gathered again at 9:30 in the conference room of Southwick House in Plymouth on England’s southern coast. S...
Heroes and Villains: Doherty and Booth
Heroes And Villains

Heroes and Villains: Doherty and Booth

Born to Irish immigrants in Wickham, Canada East, on Sept. 26, 1838, Edward P. Doherty moved to New York City in 1860. When the American Civil War erupted the following April, he immediately enlisted in the Union Army as a private. Captured at the First Battle of Bull Run, Doherty managed a daring escape and by war’s end he was a first lieutenant with the 16th New York Cavalry, a unit charged with defending Washington. Ten days after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on Good Friday, April 14, 1865—acting on information that assassin John Wilkes Booth and accomplice David E. Herold were somewhere between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers—Doherty was sent to apprehend them. With 25 soldiers under his command and accompanied by two detectives, Doherty had little success until a f...

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