Defence Today

‘Snowmageddon’ and the military’s role in fighting disasters
Defence Today, Front Lines

‘Snowmageddon’ and the military’s role in fighting disasters

Twenty-three years ago, on Jan. 13, 1999, Toronto was under siege. More than 118 centimetres of snow had fallen since Jan. 2 in what became known as “Snowmageddon.” With the latest dump of 27 centimetres, then-mayor Mel Lastman called his second emergency in 10 days and, with that, appealed to defence minister Art Eggleton, himself a former Toronto mayor, for military relief. 538 green-clad soldiers, armed with shovels, descended on the city. With municipal snow-clearing costs destined to exceed $70 million for the month—more than double the annual budget—538 green-clad soldiers, armed with shovels, descended on the city aboard armoured vehicles in one of the Canadian military’s most ignominious moments. Another 800 more were on call.   The 1990s were a bad time to be a sol...
Focus on change, says Canada’s defence intelligence chief
Defence Today, Front Lines

Focus on change, says Canada’s defence intelligence chief

The new head of Canada’s military intelligence command says the Five Eyes security partnership is robust in spite of public rumblings over a new Indo-Pacific intelligence-sharing agreement that omits Canada and New Zealand. Major-General Michael Wright, who earned a Medal of Military Valour (MMV) leading his infantry company out of a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan, says defence intelligence needs to focus on change and interoperability with its allies as well as national security. The latter includes Russia and China, the “enduring threat” of violent extremist organizations and even climate change. “It might be something you might not be used to hearing from a defence intelligence organization but climate change can cause food insecurity; it can cause migration,” Wright said in an ...
December 1946: A season of hope
Defence Today, Front Lines

December 1946: A season of hope

Seventy-five years ago, the lights of Christmas 1946 twinkled and danced across Canada and throughout the Western world as they had for no other Yuletide celebration in what must have seemed, to many, an eternity. Loved ones, families and friends had a lot to celebrate. The war was over, with any luck the boys were home, and 8.2 million babies had already started arriving in what would become known as the postwar baby boom. It lasted two decades. Some servicemen were meeting their children for the first time after long years overseas. It could be an awkward process, getting to know the dad whose life was so altered by such extraordinary circumstances. They didn’t tend to talk about it much and the getting-to-know-you part would be, for some, a lifelong pursuit. The consequences of...
A merry little Christmas: The wartime boom in holiday songs
Defence Today, Front Lines

A merry little Christmas: The wartime boom in holiday songs

They were dark and uncertain times in 1943 when two American composers, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, wrote a hopeful little song that would become an all-time hit of musical cinema—and of the ever-expanding Christmas season. Crafted for the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis, in which it was first sung by Judy Garland, the bittersweet “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” it turns out, is at its heart a more hopeful treatise on war and loneliness than the movie storyline would suggest. Around the time the song was written, a desperate Soviet Red Army was beating down German troops in Stalingrad, Jews mounted a doomed uprising in Poland’s Warsaw Ghetto, the war in the Pacific had begun its long march north to Japan, British forces captured Tripoli, and HMCS Ville de Quebec sank U-...
Hirohito backed U.S. war months before Pearl Harbor attack, says aide’s diary
Defence Today, Front Lines

Hirohito backed U.S. war months before Pearl Harbor attack, says aide’s diary

Japanese Emperor Hirohito was long depicted as a naïve pacifist who reluctantly acceded to the wishes of his hawkish military leaders. But the newly released diaries of one of his closest aides suggest the emperor posthumously known as Shōwa thought war with the West was inevitable and was preparing for it earnestly two months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Relatives of Admiral Saburō Hyakutake, who served as the emperor’s grand chamberlain and managed the royal household, deposited 25 of his diaries and pocket notebooks, along with memos he wrote, to the library at the University of Tokyo’s graduate schools for law and politics. They became available to the public in September. Hirohito escaped a war crimes trial based on the public premise that he had resisted ratcheting up...
How mission creep undermined NATO’s mission in Afghanistan
Defence Today, Front Lines

How mission creep undermined NATO’s mission in Afghanistan

Eighteen years of alliance operations in Afghanistan were doomed by “mission creep,” as allied nations poured undue effort and resources into helping rebuild the country rather than focus on their core mission of defeating terrorism, says the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Dec. 1 that NATO went into Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from continuing to use the country as an operations and training base. On that score, it succeeded—at least for now. But Stoltenberg said it must be recognized that “over the years, the international community set a level of ambition that went well beyond the original aim of fighting terrorism. And, on that, we were not able to deliver.” U.S.-led forces, including Canadians, entered the countr...

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