World War II
Canada had proved itself internationally as a brave and courageous nation on the battle fields of World War One. It was rewarded with a table at the Treaty of Versailles as well as at the League of Nations. This was a big step in the morale of Canadians at home. It showed the sacrifices that we made during World War One would not go unrewarded. Canada had finally gained sovereignty from Great Britain. With this Canada would be in charge of its own foreign affairs and could declare war if the opportunity should rise again but only after diplomatic methods failed. On September 10 1939 Canada once again answered the call to send some of her population back over to Europe to help fight for the freedom of people and countries who had been taken over by Nazi Germany. This was the first time since World War One that Canada had seen and used military intervention as well as this was the first time Canada declared war on its own terms. This was the first time Canada entered war on its own terms and ideals. Much like WWI this war would not only be fought on European soil but in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Again this was a true global war which would last from 1939 to 1945.
Although not seeing much action Canadians would help in the battle of Britain in which the German air force on a nightly basis would bomb targets over cities and townships in Great Britain. The first combat the Canadians would see was the defense of Hong Kong from the invading Japanese in 1941. This was a nightmare as the Canadians and other British soldiers were very outnumbered and suffered heavy casualties as well as many being taken prisoner and held as prisoners until near the end of the war.
From the outbreak of war to the end of the war there was a vital importance in shipping. This is where Canada’s Merchant Navy came into play. With German U-boats sinking or attacking every ship coming into Britain something had to be done. This is how and why the convoy system had been adopted for shipping routes. Ships would travel in a convoy often with fighters and bomber planes as well as warships such as destroyers and smaller attack vessels. This way if any merchant was attacked the military vessels could step in. Also there would be several merchant ships as well giving a better chance for the ships and supplies to reach their goals.
Over in Europe Germany and its allies had pretty well taken control of the continent. This meant Britain and her allies would have to cross the water and make a beach or coast landing which is near impossible especially with well fortified troops. The British learned this at Dunkirk and the Canadians would learn this in 1942 with operation Jubilee better known as Dieppe. This was a huge failure by the attacking allies. They had to climb up a beach where Germans had the higher ground. The Canadians suffered heavy casualties with many being killed, wounded and being taken as prisoner. The lessons and tactics learned here would be later used with greater success in 1944 in the Normandy invasion.
In 1943 Canada was involved in another important role as the Italian Campaign was about to start. Prior to Dieppe this was the first active combat the Canadian army would face. Canada once again showed the world the bravery and courage they had showed in WWI by doing what was asked of them as well as doing the near impossible like the taking Ortona in late 1943. This battle saw open but more so urban combat within the city. This made it very difficult as the Canadians could not use their tanks effectively. The urban aspect was very difficult as the opposition forces would have the buildings to take cover in as well as using buildings for combative purposes. Both armies would have a very difficult time trying to clear the streets as well as individual buildings and most times each building room by room.
June 6th 1944 would single handily be the most important date of the war. Operation Overlord was about to take place. This was the codename for the Normandy Invasion. Preparations had begun almost a year before in northern England and parts of Ireland. Every soldier had photos and maps of the area and knew every little detail of what part they were going to attack. For Canada this was Juno Beach. Other than Vimy Ridge in the First World War Juno Beach is probably the most important battle for the Canadian Army. Despite facing heavy opposition during the Normandy Invasion Canada actually achieved more of their goals and advanced further than any other allied troops on the first day of Operation Overlord. With ongoing fighting for nearly 3 months Operation Overlord would be huge and important success as it liberated France and gave the allies ports along the English Channel enabling them to go on a European offensive with new lines of supplies coming in from the ports of France.
With the landings at Normandy now the process of liberating the rest of Nazi occupied Europe was underway. For Canadians this was in the Belgium and Netherlands regions being involved at the battle of Antwerp which was part of the Scheldt campaign in the fall of 1944. This gave the allies another deepwater port which was very crucial for the resupplying of troops as well as the citizens of these occupied cities and regions. From the beginning of the Scheldt campaign to the actual liberation of the Netherlands, the Canadian soldiers played a very important role and to this day are still remembered for their actions both in the Netherland and in Canada by which the Dutch royal family sends thousands of tulip bulbs every year.
Canada had once again established itself as an accomplished army in the eyes of the world. The soldiers were given near impossible tasks and took them and had some great successes but also some failures. But they always stormed back and wouldn’t back down or give up. This time Canada went to war as its own country. With the end of the war there was a new group formed which Canada played a significant role in founding the United Nations. This would replace the League of Nations that was formed after World War One. Unlike the League of Nations the newly formed United Nations would become a permanent officiating body in many aspects of the world and would also provide very important governance in areas like that of peace keeping. This part of the United Nations Canada would excel in for years to come.