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A 'deafening silence': Canada still struggles with the Second World War's legacy

daftandbarmy

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And this is still happening, to a large degree, for those conflicts our troops have been involved in since WW2:


A 'deafening silence': Canada still struggles with the Second World War's legacy, says historian

Tim Cook argues Canadians have a blind spot when it comes to their role in a war that changed the world

Seventy-five years ago today, a little-known Canadian colonel — a half-blind veteran of the First World War — sat pen in hand before a dark cloth-covered table on the quarterdeck of the American battleship U.S.S. Missouri.

Allied warships had assembled in a long, grey line in the stifling heat of Tokyo Bay — a mute audience for the moment the victors met the vanquished.

Along with a host of military glitterati that included U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Col. Lawrence Cosgrave accepted the surrender of the Japanese empire on Canada's behalf. He signed on the wrong line, causing a minor kerfuffle that was soon rectified by MacArthur's chief of staff with a stroke of his own pen.

The Second World War ended at that moment.

The most deadly and destructive conflict in human history — a war that killed at least 75 million people worldwide, claimed 45,000 Canadian lives and left another 55,000 Canadians physically and mentally scarred — was finally over.

Once the shooting stopped, said historian Tim Cook, war-weary Canadians were eager to forget the war — or at least to move on from it. Few people know, and even fewer appreciate, the somewhat droll role Cosgrove played in that great moment three-quarters of a century ago.

That act of collective forgetting bothers Cook. It's reflected in the title of his latest book: The Fight for History: 75 Years of Forgetting, Remembering and Remaking Canada's Second World War.

One of the book's working titles was "The Deafening Silence."

"It's not easy to talk about our history," Cook told CBC News. "History often divides us."

Cook — one of the country's leading military historians and authors — said he's baffled by Canadians' apparent reluctance to come to grips with the war's legacy.

Following the First World War, Canadians built monuments from coast to coast. Canadian soldiers who served in that war — Cosgrave among them — wrote sometimes eloquent and moving accounts of their experiences under fire.

That didn't happen in Canada following the Japanese and German surrenders in 1945, said Cook.

"We didn't write the same history books. We didn't produce films or television series," he said. "We allowed the Americans and the British and even the Germans to write about the war and to present it on film."

"If you don't tell your own story, no one else will."


https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ww2-second-world-war-pacific-japan-anniversary-1.5708496
 

Blackadder1916

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daftandbarmy said:
. . .

Following the First World War, Canadians built monuments from coast to coast. Canadian soldiers who served in that war — Cosgrave among them — wrote sometimes eloquent and moving accounts of their experiences under fire.

That didn't happen in Canada following the Japanese and German surrenders in 1945, said Cook.

"We didn't write the same history books. We didn't produce films or television series," he said. "We allowed the Americans and the British and even the Germans to write about the war and to present it on film."

. . .

Having not yet read Cook's latest, there is probably more to his analysis than as simply presented in this article.  However, I would suggest that our economic geography again plays a part in the seeming avoidance of telling the Canadian story of WW2.  Having grown up on a diet of American and British war movies (and the occasional TV show) it was common watching movies that only had Canadian characters if they needed to include an American actor in a British themed production (or British actors playing many of the Canadians in "The Devil's Brigade").  But what would one expect when the majority of screens in Canada were showing movies made outside the country.  As much as it would have been good to see ourselves portrayed onscreen, the film and TV industry is just that that - a industry that sells a product.    And just like every other business the bottom line is return on investment.  Historically, the ROI for Canadian film and television productions was very low, so there wasn't much investment for made in Canada Canadian stories, which is aggravated by being the next door neighbour to the largest (and most aggressive) entertainment and publishing industry in the world.
 

dapaterson

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There is also a cultural unwillingness to have hard discussions.  The McKenna brothers were roundly vilified from straying from the party line in WWII history; gatekeepers like Dr Granatstein help enforce orthodxy.
 

dimsum

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Blackadder1916 said:
Having grown up on a diet of American and British war movies (and the occasional TV show) it was common watching movies that only had Canadian characters if they needed to include an American actor in a British themed production (or British actors playing many of the Canadians in "The Devil's Brigade").  But what would one expect when the majority of screens in Canada were showing movies made outside the country.  As much as it would have been good to see ourselves portrayed onscreen, the film and TV industry is just that that - a industry that sells a product.    And just like every other business the bottom line is return on investment.  Historically, the ROI for Canadian film and television productions was very low, so there wasn't much investment for made in Canada Canadian stories, which is aggravated by being the next door neighbour to the largest (and most aggressive) entertainment and publishing industry in the world.

Good point.  The one exception I can think of is Christopher Plummer in Battle of Britain, who had Canada flashes to show he was in the RCAF.

 

daftandbarmy

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Some more information via podcast here FYI:

How Canada Nearly Forgot the Second World War

Episode Details

Patrice Dutil talks with Tim Cook about his latest book, The Fight for History (Allen Lane), on how Canadian authorities diminished the importance of Canada's fight against Fascism.

This podcast was produced by Michael Smith at the Allan Slaight Radio Institute of Ryerson University.

https://champlainsociety.utpjournals.press/wty-ep80-en?=mobileUi%3D0&
 

Kirkhill

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daftandbarmy said:
Some more information via podcast here FYI:

How Canada Nearly Forgot the Second World War

Episode Details

Patrice Dutil talks with Tim Cook about his latest book, The Fight for History (Allen Lane), on how Canadian authorities diminished the importance of Canada's fight against Fascism.

This podcast was produced by Michael Smith at the Allan Slaight Radio Institute of Ryerson University.

https://champlainsociety.utpjournals.press/wty-ep80-en?=mobileUi%3D0&

On this, as on many other things, I envy the Aussies.  They can't be accused of being backwards about being forwards.  But there again they have the advantage of not suffering from Hugh MacLennan's 1945 problem.

In the interests of civility we refrain from discussion.  It's a mystery why the SS Caribou sank in 1942.
 

mariomike

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dapaterson said:
The McKenna brothers were roundly vilified from straying from the party line in WWII history; gatekeepers like Dr Granatstein help enforce orthodxy.

Death by Moonlight: Bomber Command

Written and directed by the McKenna brothers.

I think, because RCAF fatalities in Bomber Command were so appalling high, the next of kin wanted a categorical assurance from the Government of Canada that the work they did was militarily and strategically justified. 

My father and I were looking forward to watching it. But, were very disappointed.

The Valour and the Horror series became the subject of an inquiry by the Senate of Canada, with the sub-committee that reviewed the veteran's claims, concluding, "... that the criticisms levelled at 'The Valour and the Horror' are, for the most part, legitimate. Simply put, although the filmmakers have a right to their point of view, they have failed to present that point of view with any degree of accuracy or fairness."

A group of air force veterans formed the Bomber Harris Trust, suing the CBC and the filmmakers for slander. Their $500 million class action suit was dismissed by Ontario justice Mr. Robert Montgomery, with the Ontario Court of Appeal subsequently ruling that the veterans did not have standing for a class action suit. The Bomber Command veterans appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, but were dismissed at every level.

The subsequent CBC Ombudsman’s report dismissed many of the veteran's criticism as they were not adequately supported by documentary evidence.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_by_Moonlight:_Bomber_Command#Reception




 
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