Remembrance Day – Reflection Post

Remembrance Day

This year, again, we will not be able to meet and parade on Remembrance Day as we have in the past. With hopes that in 2022, we will be able to parade again. In my full-time job, I work at TD and we have a Veterans Committee where we recently put up daily postings on joint operations that Canada and the US have shared as allies. With permission, I am also sharing the work and reflection we held over the past week. Hopefully we learn something about our unique, joint relationship with our closest allies and the interesting and shared history.

Lest we forget.

~ Capt Kim McKay

In It Together

Celebrating and remembering the strong ties as allies between American and Canadian veteran communities.  The collective sacrifices and service, the support and comradery with over a hundred years of history.

The United States and Canada share the world’s longest international border, 5,525 miles / 8,890 km with 120 land ports-of-entry, and our relationship as allies is one of the closest and most extensive.  The defense arrangements between Canada and the US are more extensive than with any other country. The United States and Canada share North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) collective defense commitments. The U.S. and Canadian military forces cooperate on continental defense through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the world’s only binational military command.

While NORAD is a larger protection grid over Canada and the US, it also plays an important role once a year – tracking Santa.  “NORAD has been tracking Santa since 1955 when a young child accidently dialed the unlisted phone number of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, believing she was calling Santa Claus after seeing a promotion in a local newspaper. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, the commander on duty that night, was quick to realize a mistake had been made, and assured the youngster that CONAD would guarantee Santa a safe journey from the North Pole.”

References:

  1. https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-canada/
  2. https://www.norad.mil/About-NORAD/NORAD-Tracks-Santa/

World War I

The dawn of the twentieth century welcomed a new era in US & Canadian cooperation and collaboration driven by the globalizing forces of industrialization, new political systems, and rapidly evolving technologies that forever changed North America’s place on the world-stage.

As a member of the British Commonwealth, Canada was the first North American nation immediately impacted by the first major conflict of the century, World War 1, when Britain declared war on Germany in 1914. While the US would not enter the war until 1917, that did not keep Canadian and American citizens from joining together to fight for shared principles and ideals. From 1914 until American’s entry in 1917, over 35,000 US volunteers risked losing their US citizenship status to cross into Canada to join the Canadian armed forces where they served with distinction and pride alongside their Canadian brothers in the trenches of the Western Front and on the seas of the Atlantic in resupply convoys.

Meanwhile, while the US government was forced to walk a difficult dance of neutrality, that did not prevent it from providing support to Canadian efforts in many subtle ways. For instance, the US military offered supplies and material support to Canadian forces along the border, helped Canada establish its own Naval air force to support maritime patrols, and allowed Canadian pilots to get trained in the US.

Despite the uniting forces of World War 1, many US and Canadian citizens still needed to overcome huge obstacles around barriers of race and sex to even get the opportunity to serve their nations. This included many thousands of Black Americans and Canadians serving proudly as soldiers on the frontlines and Indigenous peoples from both nations, such as Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture (1890–1996), of the Mohawk people, who was the first Indigenous-Canadian woman to become a registered nurse and the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the United States military. 

Today, we can see the legacy of the shared sacrifices between the two nations celebrated publicly with the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice at Arlington National Cemetery or less-publicly in WW1 cemeteries across Europe where Americans killed in action alongside their Canadian brethren were often grouped together in small, often overlooked sections.

While the US and Canada may not have operated together in large, well-known military operations, the collective impact of thousands of US volunteers joining Canadian forces and US government support through various activities clearly demonstrated a long-standing bond between the two nations built on shared interests and values. These same interests and values would continue to serve to both nations and the world as the century progressed into the post-World War 1 phase.

References:

  1. Canadian recruiting staffs accepted thousands of US volunteers into the Canadian armed services prior to the US entering the war in 1917. 
    1. American Legion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (Canada’s First World War army) article:  http://activehistory.ca/2015/02/an-american-legion-in-the-cef-crossing-borders-during-canadas-first-world-war/#:~:text=On%20the%20American%20Armistice%20Day%2C%20November%2011%2C%201927%2C,Expeditionary%20Force%20%28CEF%29%2C%20Canada%E2%80%99s%20First%20World%20War%20army.
  2. The Canadian Cross of Sacrifice at Arlington National Cemetery.  Honoring Americans who served in Canadian Forces during World War I
    1. https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/6413-canadian-cross-of-sacrifice-in-arlington-national-cemetery.html
  3. 14 Indigenous nurses served in the Nurse Corps in the Army Medical Department during World War I. 
    1. Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture (1890–1996), known simply as Edith Monture, was a Mohawk WWI veteran, known as the first Indigenous-Canadian woman to become a registered nurse and was the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the United States military.
    1. https://www.americanindianmagazine.org/story/western-front-two-iroquois-nurses-world-war-i 

World War II

World War 2 was formally declared in 1939 after Germany invaded Poland. Again, as part of the British Commonwealth, Canada was the first North American country to be involved and US citizens again rushed to join the Canadian armed forces and fight for the same common principles and values that unite the two nations. By the time the US entered WW2 in December 1941, there were over 6,000 Americans serving in the Canadian Royal Air Force and 10,000 serving with the Canadian Army. After Pearl Harbor, a reverse wave of volunteerism swept Canada and over 26,000 Canadians crossed the border to serve in US armed forces through the war.

The huge global scale of WW2 brought US and Canadian forces together in combined operations in many areas including operations in both the Asian and European theaters. However, two particular examples call attention to the special US/Canadian relationship.

Battle of the Atlantic and supplying Britain / Europe: Canadian and US naval forces worked closely together to support the ongoing escort duties of merchant convoys to Europe starting in September 1941. At the outset of US involvement in Dec 1941, German submarines increased their activity along the US coast, where the US Navy was unprepared and under-manned to protect coastal merchant traffic. The Canadian Navy supplied 24 anti-submarine trawlers to the US and deployed them along the entire East Coast to help protect US ports and shipping. 

From 1942 – 1943, the Battle of the Atlantic raged between German U-Boats and allied merchant conveys facing off in cat-and-mouse battles along re-supply routes from eastern US and Canadian ports to England and the treacherous Russian ports. US and Canadian ships and aircraft operated together in close coordination to slowly turn the tide in the Atlantic, devising new methods and tools to protect the supply routes and ensure supplies reached their intended ports. Starting the war with ships no larger than small yachts, the US and Canada joined forces to transform the nature of anti-submarine warfare, introducing new capabilities made possible with new technologies in aviation and radar.

By the end of the war in 1945, the Battle of the Atlantic claimed over 72,000 allied deaths including servicemen and merchant mariners. Canada itself lost 2,000 sailors, 1,600 merchant mariners, and 752 airmen.

This often-forgotten part of WWII was perhaps the greatest triumph of US and Canadian partnership and collaboration, ensuring that Allied forces received the supplies and manpower needed to defeat the Axis powers.

Special Reserve Force: An even less known, but interesting partnership was seen in the creation of the Special Reserve Force, a joint US / Canadian fully integrated combat “special forces” team formed to perform special operations “behind the lines” to disrupt Germany operations and divert resources. Originally proposed by the British, it was envisioned as a “snow-fighting” unit, populated with heavily vetted recruits who were then trained in winter warfare and other such operations involving special vehicles, parachuting, etc. Eventually, the force participated in operations ranging from the Alaskan islands all the way to D-Day and the invasion re-capture of Western Europe. The American and Canadian unit was unique in that participants were united in the same units with rank and promotions all based on merit with no consideration of country. Some may find it amusing that the biggest challenge came up on the matter of difference of pay between US and Canadian members! 

 The force was ultimately disbanded in December 1944 and members from each nation re-deployed back to their respective national units. 

The end of World War 2 brought a complete reshuffling of global power and priorities and North America became the new epicenter of military power and industrial might. While the US may have been the predominant power in this new order, it would not have been possible without the close economic and military partnership and friendship that exists between the US and Canada, which provides an unparalleled level of security for each nation. 

References:

  1. Link to 450 Page history
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Special_Service_Force
    1. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-the-atlantic

Korean War

The Korean war began on June 25, 1950 when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korean to the south.  This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War.   

The United Nations Command (UNC) was established on July 7, 1950 following recognition of North Korea’s aggression against South Korea. UN member states were called to aid in repelling the North’s invasion, with the UNC providing a cohesive command structure under which the disparate forces would operate.

In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives in what many in the US and Canada refer to as the “Forgotten War” due to the lack of attention it received in the West compared to more well-known conflicts like World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.

  • Almost 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded.  Today, they are remembered at the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial near the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a series of 19 steel statues of servicemen.
  • 26,000 Canadians participated on the side of the United Nations and sent eight destroyers.  516 Canadians died, 312 of which were from combat.  After the war, Canadian troops remained for three years as military observers.

Key actions during the Korean War:

  • Operation Ripper:  Launched on March 6, 1951, it was liberated Seoul, Hongch’on and Ch’unch’on.  Seoul was liberated for the fourth and final time.
  • Battle of Heartbreak Ridge:  The battle began on Sept. 13, 1951 and lasted until Oct. 15, 1951.  At the beginning, American troops employed massive artillery barrage and airstrikes.  The Americans began their final assault on the Chinese Army on Oct. 11.  By the end, 3,700 Americans and 25,000 Chinese were either killed or wounded with the American army capturing the terrain.
  • Battle of Inchon:  The operation, which commenced on Sept. 15, 1950, involved 75,000 troops to recapture Seoul.  It was a victory.  It was an amphibious invasion with the Inchon area being secured by the UN forces.  The battle also ended a series of victories by the Communist troops and also severed the supply line of the communist army.
  • Battle of the Chosin Resevoir:  It was fought between Nov. 27 and Dec. 13, 1950.  It is notable for having been a surprising Chinese victory when they defeated the UN forces.  The UN forces were forced to retreat from the Chinese border as a result of the battle.  However, the battle also resulted in massive losses for the Chinese troops.
  • Dec. 1, 1950:  The Canadian HMCS Cayuga and HMCS Athabaskan assisted in the evacuation of 7,700 US troops trapped in the port of Chinnamp’o, on the west cost of the Korean peninsula.
  • Apr. 22, 1951:  Canadian troops fought at the Battle of Kapyong, which began when Communist forces launched a major offensive on April 22.  For two days, a battalion of roughly 700 Canadian troops defended a crucial hill against a force of about 5,000 Chinese soldiers.
  • Oct. 22, 1952:  In the battle of Kowang-San, that lasted 33 hours, The Royal Canadian Regiment held its position against and advancing Chinese force.  As a result of the action at Kowang-San, soliders of the Battalion won three Military Crosses and four Military Medals for gallantry.
  • May  2, 1953:  The Canadian Army’s last major battle of the Korean War was fought, in which the 3rd battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment, endured constant enemy shellfire and wave upon wave of assaults on their positions.

References:

  1. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/canada-and-korean-war-forgotten-ally-forgotten-war 
  2. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timeline/korean-war
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War

 

November 5 – 9/11

The September 11 attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Four commercial airliners traveling from the northeastern U.S. to California were hijacked. Two of the planes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and a third hit the west side of the Pentagon. A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was intended to crash into a target in Washington, D.C., but instead crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania following a passenger revolt.

The destruction of the World Trade Center and nearby infrastructure seriously harmed the economy of New York City and created a global economic recession. The U.S. and Canadian airspaces were closed until September 13, while Wall Street trading was closed until September 17.

The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities, over 25,000 injuries, and substantial long-term health consequences. 9/11 remains the deadliest terrorist attack in human history.

Operation Yellow Ribbon was commenced by Canada to handle the diversion of civilian airline flights in response to the September 11 attacks in 2001 on the United States. Canada’s goal was to ensure that potentially destructive air traffic be removed from United States airspace as quickly as possible, and away from potential U.S. targets, and instead place these aircraft on the ground in Canada, at military and civilian airports. Canada also took in aircraft so that any malicious or destructive potential threats could be better contained and neutralized. None of the aircraft proved to be a threat, and Canada hosted thousands of passengers who were stranded until U.S. airspace was reopened.

Gander International Airport, which was the first North American airport on the transatlantic route, took in 38 wide-body aircraft, mostly heading for U.S. destinations. The number of passengers and crew accommodated at Gander was about 6,600. The population of Gander at the time was fewer than 10,000 people. Many people in Gander hosted passengers and crew in their homes until their flights were able to take off again.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Yellow_Ribbon

War in Afghanistan

On October 7, 2001, a US-led coalition began attacks on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with an intense bombing campaign by American & British forces.  Combat & logistical support was provided by other nations, including Canada.  The invasion of Afghanistan was the opening salvo in the United States “war on terror” and a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C.  The conflict in Afghanistan would span two decades and become the longest war in US history.

Dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom” in US military parlance, the invasion of Afghanistan was intended to target terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization, which was based in the country.  After a month of the air campaign coupled with a ground invasion, the Taliban officials and their forces retreated from the capital of Kabul on November 12.  They retreated to the Tora Bora region where they were engaged by anti-Taliban Afghan forces backed by US Special Forces troops.

Al-Qaeda soon initiated a truce, which is now believed to have been a ploy to allow Osama bin Laden and other key al-Qaeda members time to escape into neighboring Pakistan. By mid-December, the bunker and cave complex used by al-Qaeda at Tora Bora had been captured, but there was no sign of bin Laden. Following a 10-year manhunt, bin Laden was finally found and killed in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALS on May 2, 2011.

In April of 2021, President Biden—who, like his previous two predecessors, pledged to end the war in Afghanistan—set the deadline of September 11, 2021 as the date of full U.S. withdrawal, with the final drawdown effort to begin in May. By early August of that year, the Taliban began retaking the country. On August 15, 2021, the capital of Kabul fell to Taliban forces and Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled to the UAE. Following the collapse of the Afghan government and Taliban victory, on August 31, 2021, President Biden declared the war in Afghanistan officially over. 

During the 20-year conflict, more than 3,500 allied soldiers were killed, 2,401 of which were American.  There was an additional 20,752 servicemembers wounded in action. Approximately 69,000 Afghan security forces were killed, along with roughly 51,000 civilians and 51,000 militants. According to the United Nations, some 5 million Afghans have been displaced by the war since 2012, making Afghanistan the world’s third-largest displaced population.

After the fall of the Taliban, the Canadian mission in Afghanistan shifted to provided security and support for the country’s new government.  Canada has assisted the Afghan government to rebuild Afghanistan’s system of government, education and security forces.  Canada’s commitment to send soldiers to Kandahar in 2005, paired with a renewed Taliban insurgency, led to heavy fighting and Canadian causalities.  More than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces served and 158 Canadian soldiers died during the Afghanistan mission.

References:

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/operations/military-operations/recently-completed/canadian-armed-forces-legacy-afghanistan/mission-timeline.html

https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/39-1/NDDN/report-1/page-87#part4