Comrades in Arms
Although mention of World War II military co-operation between the United States and Canada may first bring to mind the Ogdensburg Declaration and the Permanent Joint Board on Defense or well-publicized projects such as the Alaska Highway and the Canol Project, that co-operation was by no means limited to politico-military and strategic planning or to logistical enterprises carried out in the Canadian northland. On battlegrounds in different quarters of the globe, Canadians and Americans fought and died together as North American brothers-in-arms.1
Military units of the two countries inevitably found themselves co-operating on various occasions as the scope and scale of operations in the European theater grew larger. Canadian and U.S. divisions fought side by side in Sicily, in Italy, and during the advance from Normandy. In fact, the U.S. XVI Corps was assigned to the First Canadian Army, commanded by General Henry D. G. Crerar, to assist him in clearing the west bank of the Rhine of the enemy in March 1945.
In the air war, RCAF fighter squadrons teamed up to protect U.S. Eighth Air Force Flying Fortresses on many missions from the United Kingdom against continental targets during 1942 and 19. Many of the aircraft of Royal Air Force squadrons, furnishing fighter escort in the same way, were manned by RCAF personnel serving in Royal Air Force units. The AAF was able to repay these courtesies many times in Sicily and Italy, where its fighter-bomber and light and medium bomber groups flew hundreds of sorties in direct support of Canadian ground forces.
Still other circumstances found large numbers of Canadians and Americans fighting side by side. Long before Pearl Harbor, a steady stream of Americans had started moving northward across the border to join the Canadian armed forces. By the beginning of 1941 some 1,200 Americans
comprised about 10 percent of RCAF officer strength and 3 percent of the other ranks.2 A U.S. influx totaling about 10 percent of RCAF recruitment continued until, at the time of Pearl Harbor, over 6,000 U.S. citizens were serving in the RCAF, of whom 600 were instructors in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By the same time nearly 10,000 Americans were serving in the Canadian Army.3 After Pearl Harbor a reverse movement resulted in the absorption of over 26,000 Canadians into the U.S. armed forces during World War II.
Battle of the Atlantic
On 16 September 1939, scarcely two weeks after the beginning of World War II, the first convoy departed Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the United Kingdom.4 Many others followed, escorted by units of the British and Canadian Navies. The first loss to the submarine enemy did not occur until 14 February 1940, and at the time of the fall of France in June 1940 losses were still few.
The availability of French bases after the fall of France greatly increased German submarine warfare capabilities, and this advantage, coupled with Admiral Karl Doenitz' "wolf-pack" technique, caused losses to mount steadily. Although the U.S.-British destroyer transfer alleviated the situation, by the end of 1940 about 70 percent of the British destroyer fleet was laid up for repairs.
In 1941 the United States took additional steps to support the British. Soon after the approval of the Lend-Lease Act on 11 March 1941 the United States began to finance repairs to British naval vessels in U.S. ports. The U.S.-United Kingdom armed forces liaison, established on an informal basis before August 1940, gradually developed and produced the formal staff conversations that took place in Washington in January--March 1941. From these staff conversations emerged a U.S. undertaking to protect shipping in the western Atlantic, which was to be a U.S. over-all strategic responsibility in the event of U.S. entry into the war.5 Of greater immediate importance was the fact that the U.S. Navy through this liaison obtained the benefits
of British experience in convoy and antisubmarine operations. This, in turn, permitted the U.S. Navy to accelerate U.S. preparations to undertake such operations. Thanks in part to these benefits, the U.S. Navy, even with its forces deployed for the hemisphere neutrality patrol begun in the fall of 1939, was able to report to the President on 20 March 1941 that it would soon be ready to convoy merchant shipping and lend-lease cargoes across the Atlantic. Surveys had already been made for the necessary naval bases in the British Isles.6 The next major U.S. step to aid the British was taken on 11 April 1941 when President Roosevelt notified Prime Minister Churchill that the neutrality patrol was to be extended to 26° west longitude, and invited notice of British convoys so that warnings of enemy submarines in the area might be transmitted to them.
Despite the steps taken by the United States, British losses continued to be heavy. In May a convoy lost nine ships well within the patrolled zone. In consequence of such losses, which reached 590,000 tons in June 1941, Great Britain decided to provide convoy escort for the full length of the crossing. To this end, the British Admiralty on 23 May asked Canada to assume the responsibility for protecting convoys in the western zone and to establish the base for its escort force at St. John's in Newfoundland. On 13 June 1941 Commodore L. W. Murray, Royal Canadian Navy, assumed his post as Commodore Commanding Newfoundland Escort Force, under the over-all authority of the United Kingdom Commander in Chief, Western Approaches, whose headquarters was at Liverpool. Six Canadian destroyers and seventeen corvettes, reinforced by seven destroyers, three sloops, and five corvettes of the Royal Navy, were assembled for duty in the force, which escorted convoys from Canadian ports to Newfoundland and from there to a meeting point south of Iceland, where British convoys took over.7
During these months both the war and the scale of U.S. precautionary preparations grew at an accelerated pace. In April and July 1941 arrangements were made for dispatch of U.S. garrisons to Greenland and Iceland, respectively.8 On 27 May, the day on which the German battleship Bismarck was sunk, the President declared an unlimited national emergency.9
On 22 June 1941 Germany invaded the USSR. On 15 July the U.S. Navy air and naval base at Argentia was commissioned. It was in this setting that the Argentia meeting of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill took place. on 9-13 August 1941, from which emerged the Atlantic Charter.
Roosevelt and Churchill and their naval chiefs at the Atlantic Conference agreed on new arrangements for convoy escort operations.10 To the United States, a nonbelligerent, was assigned the convoy escort responsibility in the northwestern Atlantic west of the 30deg; west meridian. The United Kingdom immediately withdrew its naval vessels from the area, except for a few armed cruisers which it withdrew in October. The Royal Canadian Navy Newfoundland Command was charged with the convoy task in the coastal zone of the new U.S. sector, where it employed five destroyers and ten corvettes. Eight Canadian destroyers and twenty corvettes passed to the direct command of Rear Adm. Arthur L. Bristol, commanding the Support Force of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, for employment in the escort groups on the ocean leg of the U.S. sector. Where possible each of the escort groups, which usually numbered two destroyers and four corvettes, was made up entirely of ships of one country.11
The necessary orders were issued in early September and staff arrangements were completed with British and Canadian naval officers who had established close operational liaison in the Navy Department in Washington in anticipation of an expansion of the U.S. role in convoy escort work. While these preparations were in hand, President Roosevelt on 11 September 1941 issued his "shoot on sight" warning to Germany and Italy, stating that when men-of-war entered waters "the protection of which is necessary for American defense they do so at their own peril."12
The first transatlantic convoy to be escorted by the U.S. Navy sailed from Halifax on 16 September 1941, accompanied by a Royal Canadian Navy escort group acting under over-all U.S. direction. The next day, escort of the convoy was taken over by a U.S. Navy group at the "Westomp" (western ocean meeting place), a designated point south of Argentia. The fifty merchant ships, which sailed under a variety of flags and comprised types varying from a 1,500-ton cargo ship to the 17,000-ton Empress of Asia, were met at the "Momp" (mid-ocean meeting place) by a British escort group. Here, part of the convoy split off to proceed to
Iceland under U.S. escort, while the remainder proceeded to the United Kingdom under Royal Navy escort.13 Within the next month convoy escort arrangements were stabilized on the following pattern:
- Easibound slow (designated SC) convoys out of Sydney, Nova Scotia, were escorted to the Momp by Canadian escort groups, which on their return voyage escorted westbound slow (ONS) convoys.
- Eastbound fast (HX) convoys and westbound fast (ON) convoys were escorted to and from the Momp by U.S. Navy escort groups.
- All convoys proceeding between the Momp and the United Kingdom were escorted by Royal Navy escort groups under the control of the Commander in Chief, Western Approaches.
By the beginning of 1942 naval officers of the three countries had worked out a procedure for routing and controlling convoys. The British Admiralty proposed a convoy route to the Navy Department in Washington, which, accepted it after adjustment if necessary. The Navy Department then gave notice of the agreed route to the British Admiralty; the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; the British Commander in Chief, Western Approaches; the commander of the U.S. task force that would supply the escort from the Westomp to the Momp; the Commanding Officer, Atlantic Coast command, at Halifax, Nova Scotia; Canadian Naval Staff Headquarters at Ottawa; the Flag Officer, Royal Canadian Navy Newfoundland Command; and the Canadian port director concerned. The Navy Department also notified the port director, who in turn advised the convoy commodore, of the escort arrangements. The convoy departed under its Royal Canadian Navy local coastal escort, to be met at the Westomp by the U.S. Navy ocean escort, which then turned over the escort task and command of the convoy to a Royal Navy escort group at the Momp. West of the midocean meeting place convoys were controlled from Washington, east of it from London. Control from these points was found necessary because of the numbers of convoys often making simultaneous crossings.14
The procedures and allocations of responsibilities worked out in the period following the Argentia conference required substantial revision after Pearl Harbor, when the demand for U.S. Navy ships elsewhere became so great that U.S. participation in the escort of merchant ships in the North Atlantic was reduced to two Coast Guard cutters. Under continuing overall U.S. strategic direction, the Royal Canadian Navy now began to provide
the escort groups not only for the coastal leg but also for the ocean leg between the Westomp and the Momp, where, as before, United Kingdom escorts took over.15
Canada was able to make other contributions that helped to meet the urgent U.S. need, immediately after Pearl Harbor, for naval vessels for escort and other purposes. In addition to assuming a larger part of the merchant convoy task, the Royal Canadian Navy made twenty-four antisubmarine trawlers available to the U.S. Navy. These trawlers arrived at New York in March 1942, after which they were deployed along the Atlantic coast to assist in escorting the heavy coastal traffic which had become the target of an intensified German submarine effort.16
Even when the U.S. Navy was later able to reconstitute its strength in the western Atlantic, it was faced with an ever-increasing demand for escorts for troop convoys to the United Kingdom. These convoys enjoyed a prior claim on the U.S. Navy forces available. Consequently, it remained for the Royal Canadian Navy to provide the bulk of the escort forces for merchant ship convoys in the western Atlantic, although a few U.S. Navy ships were assigned to this duty. By mid-1942 convoy escort was furnished by escort groups as follows:
- In the Western Local Area, to a Westomp in locations varying from 45(to 52(west, by eight escort groups of United Kingdom and Canadian destroyers and Canadian corvettes based on Boston and Halifax.
- In the Mid-ocean Area, to a Momp near 22° west, by fourteen (later eleven) escort groups. The destroyers in three of these groups were U.S., and the three groups were under U.S. command. Seven other groups under United Kingdom command comprised United Kingdom, Canadian, and two Polish destroyers, and Canadian and a few Free French corvettes. The remaining four escort groups were under Canadian command. Ships in all these groups were based on Argentia or St. John's, Newfoundland, and refueled at Londonderry in Ireland.
- In the Eastern Local Area, by United Kingdom escort groups as before.
- For the shuttle between Iceland and the Momp, by U.S. escort groups.17
The burden of North Atlantic convoying during 1942, in terms of the
approximate ratio of ships convoyed to the scale of each nation's escort contribution, was being borne about equally by the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, with the Canadian share being somewhat less than one-third.18 Toward the end of the year the U.S. contribution was reduced sharply by the new demands for convoy escort to North Africa and by other requirements. As a result, as of 27 November 1942, only 3 of the 147 vessels comprising the Western Local Escort and Mid-ocean Escort Forces were U.S., the remainder being contributed about equally by Canada and the United Kingdom.
With the intensification of Nazi submarine warfare in the western Atlantic, air cover from North American and adjacent bases became an important element in the protection of convoys. Although involved with the U.S. Navy in a prolonged jurisdictional dispute over the responsibility for aerial aspects of antisubmarine warfare, the AAF collaborated with the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet task force commander at Argentia by placing its air units in Newfoundland at his disposal to augment the U.S. Navy patrol squadron deployed there after Pearl Harbor for the convoy protection task. After discussion of a proposal for similar collaboration by the RCAF, suitable arrangements were finally worked out shortly afterward.19
By the spring of 1942 enemy submarines had extended their operations into North American coastal waters and were causing heavy losses. The United States temporarily resolved its own interservice dispute over the control of antisubmarine air operations on 26 March 1942 by making them the responsibility of the U.S. Navy, exercised in U.S. coastal waters by the Eastern Sea Frontier. Immediately thereafter officers of the air and naval air services of Canada and the United States conferred at St. John's, Newfoundland, to improve the co-ordination of air operations for the protection of Allied convoys.Under the plans worked out, air cover in the ocean convoy sectors was provided as follows:
- Western Local Area--U.S. Army, Navy, and Civil Air Patrol aircraft based in New England; RCAF aircraft based at Yarmouth, Halifax, and Sydney; and U.S. Navy aircraft based at Argentia.
- Mid-ocean Area--U.S. Navy aircraft based at Argentia and in Iceland; and RCAF aircraft based at Torbay and Gander Lake, Newfoundland.
- Eastern Local Area--RAF aircraft based in the British Isles.
- Iceland Shuttle--U.S. Navy aircraft based in Iceland.20
Throughout 1942 Allied losses to enemy submarines had continued at a high rate despite intensified countermeasures. Germany had stepped up its submarine production so that it was able in spite of Allied countermeasures to increase steadily the number of submarines at sea on patrol duty. In January 1943, while meeting with President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Casablanca, the Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed that "the defeat of the U-boat must remain a first charge on the resources of the United Nations."21
Ways and means to this end had already been under discussion, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff took action to improve the situation. The longrange patrol force from Newfoundland comprised four B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft of the Newfoundland Base Command reserve striking force, the 421st Bombardment Squadron, which performed patrol missions for U.S. Navy Task Force 24 as a secondary task. In February 1943 the unit was redesignated the 20th Antisubmarine Squadron, reinforced to a strength of seven B-17's, and assigned to patrol duty as its primary mission. On its part, Canada sought to comply with a request from Prime Minister Churchill that it contribute to the long-range air patrols, as well as to the coastal air patrols, but neither Canada nor the United Kingdom was able to provide the aircraft for enlargement of Canadian responsibility. The Canadian Joint Staff in Washington inquired of the AAF in January 1943 whether fifteen B-24 Liberator aircraft could be supplied for this purpose, but General Arnold, the AAF commander, found it necessary to disapprove the request on the basis that none could be spared.22
At the Atlantic Convoy Conference, held in Washington between 1 and 12 March 1943 at the suggestion of Canada, naval officers of the three countries continued to seek solutions to convoying problems. As a result of strong Canadian representations at the conference, a reassignment of the responsibility for the western Atlantic was made. Since September 1941 this area had been under U.S. strategic direction despite the fact that for most of the period the escort of North Atlantic merchant shipping in that sector was being performed in the main by the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy. As U.S. naval strength in the Atlantic had gradually increased, the requirements for troop convoys and for merchant convoys to the Mediterranean had
absorbed the additional forces available.23 Under the new arrangement, which became effective 30 April 1943, the United States retained the broad strategic responsibility for the western Atlantic, but Canada took over the full operational responsibility for surface escort of merchant convoys in an area north of the parallel through New York City and west of the 47° west meridian, except for convoys to Greenland, which remained a U.S. responsibility. The United States and the United Kingdom continued to be responsible for the remainder of the Atlantic convoy task.
Newly promoted Rear Adm. L. W. Murray carried out the Canadian responsibility as Commander in Chief, Canadian Northwest Atlantic. Canadian naval forces were augmented by the transfer of six overage Royal Navy destroyers, by the return of seven corvettes which had been on loan to the U.S. Navy since 1942 for use in the Caribbean, by the return of ships from operations in North African waters, by the commissioning of new ships built in Canada, and by assistance from U.S. escort vessels. Air antisubmarine operations were the responsibility of the Eastern Air Command under Air Vice Marshal George Johnson, and for this task the U.S. military and naval antisubmarine aircraft stationed in Newfoundland were put under his command.24
The conference, chaired by Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations, also agreed on several measures to bring to bear the demonstrated effectiveness of aircraft against submarines. Small escort aircraft carriers were made available in sufficient numbers so that almost every convoy was able to be accompanied by its own air umbrella of twelve carrier aircraft. In response to the conference recommendation that the strength of the land-based VLR (very long range) patrol aircraft covering the ocean legs of the Atlantic crossing be increased, the Combined Chiefs of Staff late in March approved a number of expedients that would allow the assignment of greater numbers of planes and trained personnel to antisubmarine duty. Under these arrangements the British and U.S. services undertook to provide 255 aircraft, by 1 July 1943 if possible:25
United States Army Air Forces 75 United States Navy 60 Royal Air Force 105 Royal Canadian Air Force 15
Still another air measure was adopted to reduce the vulnerability of convoys in the mid-ocean region which has been outside the range of landbased aircraft. The conference worked out a plan for shuttle service of the VLR aircraft of the three countries between bases in Newfoundland, the United Kingdom, and Iceland. With the eventual receipt of its Liberator aircraft in June 1943, the RCAF VLR squadron stationed in Newfoundland could now patrol to Iceland or the United Kingdom, refuel, and make the round trip flight. Improved antisubmarine equipment and techniques made the air cover even more effective.
In partial fulfillment of its commitment, the United States in April. added two antisubmarine squadrons, the 6th and 19th, to its air forces at Gander, while a headquarters detachment of the 25th Antisubmarine Wing was established in the combined Royal Canadian Navy-RCAF control room at St. John's. In consequence of a decision taken at the Atlantic Convoy Conference, operational control of these forces passed on 30 April to Canada, which exercised a general control through the designation of missions without prescribing tactics and techniques.26
Aided by the improvement in flying conditions that came with the spring, the expanded air effort was able to assist in turning the tide of the submarine war by the middle of 1943. The Battle of the Atlantic was by no means over, but the main German submarine effort had shifted away from the North American coastal waters. At the end of August 1943, when the United States had already partly moved its air antisubmarine units from Newfoundland to the United Kingdom, the aircraft based on Newfoundland and North Scotia for patrol purposes, both very long range and coastal, numbered as follows:27
United States Army Air Forces 12 0 United States Navy 7 0 Royal Canadian Air Force 14 142
Another factor contributing to the shift was the employment, beginning in the spring of 1943, of naval support groups which also contained escort carriers. These groups operated independently of the convoys and their escort groups. Aided by the search capabilities of their aircraft, they could rove at will to seek out enemy submarines, establish and maintain contact
with them, and destroy them. Five such United Kingdom groups, which included U.S. escort carriers, were operating in the spring of 1943. By the end of the ear, Canada was contributing the greater part of two such support groups.
Other events in 1943 favored the Allies. The surrender of Italy in September 1943 released additional naval vessels for operations in the Battle of the Atlantic. The following month Portugal agreed to permit establishment of U.S. and British air and naval bases in the Azores. Operations from these bases permitted full air coverage of a mid-Atlantic zone in which enemy submarines had operated with relative impunity.
In early 1944, as a result of the Allied successes of 1943 and the need to assemble and re-equip the naval forces to be employed in the landings in France, operational policies changed. The merchant convoys were made fewer and larger by measures such as the combining of fast and slow convoys. All non-Canadian and some Canadian escort vessels were withdrawn from convoying duty in the North Atlantic and allocated to other tasks. The Royal Canadian Navy assumed in its entirety the task of providing escort groups for the merchant convoys crossing the North Atlantic. In addition, the Royal Canadian Navy assigned two more support groups to the North Atlantic area, making a total of four. By this time, too, RCAF antisubmarine squadron dispositions had been expanded to include a squadron in Iceland.28
Canada continued to bear this enlarged convoy escort responsibility until V-E Day. It also took over an increasingly large part of the air antisubmarine effort. At the close of the Battle of the Atlantic, Canada was providing the bulk of the air units engaged, and Canadian commanders and staffs controlled the North Atlantic antisubmarine operations based on the North American mainland, Greenland, and Iceland.29
In the course of discharging these and other tasks the Royal Canadian Navy grew from six destroyers and a handful of small craft manned by less than 4,000 active and reserve personnel in August 1939 to a force of over 94,000 personnel and 939 ships of all types. The ships included two cruisers, two escort carriers, and seventeen destroyers. But the core of the naval force, over 200 vessels, consisted of Canadian-built frigates, corvettes, and other miscellaneous craft of the types that made up the major Canadian naval contribution to victory in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Securing Alaska Against the Japanese
Months before the Japanese actually penetrated the Aleutian Islands, in 1942, Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, Commanding General, Western Defense Command, which included the western states and Alaska, sought means of reinforcing the inadequate air defenses of Alaska. On 29 March 1942, after earlier preliminary meetings, he conferred with the senior Canadian commanders in western Canada, who had also formulated proposals for strengthening Pacific air defenses. At this meeting the conferees recommended that the Permanent Joint Board consider the deployment of three additional RCAF squadrons to the area. Two were to be stationed at Smithers in British Columbia, and the third at the U.S. base on Annette Island at the southern tip of the Alaskan panhandle, until such time as a U.S. unit could replace it. From the Canadian viewpoint, the squadron at Annette Island would not only strengthen Alaskan defenses but also those of the Prince Rupert area.30
The Permanent Joint Board considered the report on 7 April, and was informed of RCAF plans to increase the Western Air Command from ten to twenty-four squadrons. Concurrently, the War Department approved deployment of a RCAF squadron to Annette Island. The Board also discussed the need for more extensive air reinforcement of Alaska in the event of Japanese attack. A little over a month later, on 26 May, the RCAF member was able to report to the Board that plans for such an eventuality had been completed.31
Royal Canadian Air Force No. 115 Fighter Squadron, consisting of fourteen Bolingbroke aircraft, completed its movement to Annette Island on 5 May, the first Canadian forces to enter U.S. territory to assist in its defense. Since the stationing of the unit at Annette Island made it available for the defense of Prince Rupert, the squadron remained under the Canadian operational control of the Officer Commanding, Prince Rupert Defenses. Small detachments of light and heavy antiaircraft and an airdrome defense company of the Canadian Army were later added to the Annette Island force for the protection of the RCAF squadron.32
In late May 1942 a Japanese attack on the Aleutians was believed to be imminent. General DeWitt discussed with Maj. Gen. R. O. Alexander, commanding the Canadian forces in western Canada, the need for RCAF help in the more forward areas of Alaska. On the basis of this and subsequent discussions, DeWitt believed that a request from him for the deployment of two additional RCAF squadrons to help meet the anticipated attack in the Aleutians would receive Canadian approval. The two squadrons were to be stationed in Alaska at Yakutat, near the southwestern corner of the Yukon Territory, while still another RCAF squadron was to join the one already at Annette Island. As the anticipated time of attack approached, DeWitt, who had presented a firm request to. Alexander for the additional squadrons, was informed they could not be made available. The refusal was apparently the result of an Air Force Headquarters conclusion that Canadian aircraft should not be sent north of Annette Island, since to do so would reduce the air forces available for the defense of Prince Rupert. The Air Force Headquarters conclusion also had the support of the Chief of the Arm General Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Stuart, who on 30 May arrived in western Canada to assume additional duties as the commander of the Canadian Army Pacific Command and of the triservice West Coast Defenses command.33
The disappointed General DeWitt telephoned the War Department and asked it to intercede in Ottawa for loan of the two squadrons for Yakutat at least until 8 June. On 1 June an exchange of telephone calls between the War Department and National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa obtained the approval, and two RCAF squadrons were ordered to proceed to Yakutat.34
The RCAF No. 8 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron of Bolingbrokes landed at Yakutat on 3 June after a 1,000-mile movement from Sea Island, British Columbia, and was after a few days transferred to Anchorage. Detachments were sent to Kodiak and Nome for various periods. Canadian No. 111 Fighter Squadron of P--40's followed by shorter hops from Patricia Bay to Anchorage. Both units undertook patrol missions immediately upon their arrival.
The AAF units had meanwhile moved forward to meet the Japanese task force sighted on 2 June, and engaged Japanese forces which attacked Dutch Harbor on 3 and 4 June. The concentration of the U.S. air units in the critical area had been facilitated by the expected arrival of the RCAF
squadrons in the areas that had been stripped of their U.S. defenses. The emergency over, the two Canadian squadrons moved to Anchorage. In the meantime, the Annette Island force has been reinforced during June by the addition of No. 118 Fighter Squadron so that this force too comprised a fighter and a bomber reconnaissance squadron. During June RCAF "X" Wing Headquarters was established at Fort Richardson, Alaska, and control of the RCAF squadrons in Alaska was assigned to it.35
The movement of RCAF squadrons to, and continued support in, Alaska created a problem as to the payment of customs duties on their equipment and supplies. The problem was neatly solved by Secretary of State Hull, who designated all personnel of the Canadian units as "distinguished foreign visitors," thereby granting them free entry of goods.36
Canada's No. 111 Fighter Squadron, less a rear base element, was moved in July 1942 from Anchorage to Umnak, the advance AAF base in the Aleutian chain. The base echelon moved to Kodiak in October. Flying elements operated from Umnak and, beginning in late September, from an advance base at Adak. From Adak, elements of this squadron were participating as part of the AAF Alaskan fighter command in strikes against the Japanese garrison at Kiska, 200 miles beyond Adak. The operations of the squadron consisted mainly of bombing and strafing missions against ground targets, since the Japanese air force had evacuated the Aleutian chain, and only occasionally was a submarine sighted. When operating from advance bases without their ground echelons, RCAF elements were furnished the necessary ground support by AAF units. Such operations continued well into the winter.
Shifts took place in the RCAF force late in 1942 and early in 1943. The No. 111 Fighter Squadron in October 1942 moved from Umnak and Anchorage to Kodiak for the defense of that installation, which had also become the rear RCAF base in Alaska. The No. 8 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron returned to Canada in February 1943. It was replaced by No. 14 Fighter Squadron, which accompanied by its own ground echelon established a main base at Umnak. The No. 14 Fighter Squadron also operated as two echelons, which alternated between Umnak and Amchitka, the advance base the United States had developed only seventy-five miles from Kiska and its Japanese
garrison. By May 1943 the forward element of the RCAF squadron was based at Amchitka and was participating in the strikes against Kiska whenever the weather permitted. Pilots of No. 111 Squadron were also sent forward to participate in these strikes. Both RCAF squadrons were integrated into Task Unit 16.1.1, which as a part of the North Pacific Force of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was commanded by Maj. Gen. William O. Butler of the Army Air Forces. The RCAF force in Alaska thus comprised four squadrons--two fighter squadrons in the Aleutians, and the fighter and bomber reconnaissance squadrons at Annette Island--well into the summer of 1943.
After the successful assault and capture of Attu from the Japanese in the latter half of May 1943, No. 14 Fighter Squadron continued to participate in strikes on Kiska, the lone remaining Japanese garrison in the Aleutians. Since an amphibious force containing Canadian Army units was preparing for the assault of Kiska, the RCAF attacks were supporting not only U.S. forces but also Canadian ground forces. Of the August 1943 invasion of Kiska and of the Canadian participation, more will be said shortly. Aircraft of the RCAF made preinvasion attacks right up to D Day for the amphibious assault. Immediately after the occupation of Kiska by U.S. and Canadian assault forces, the advance party of the Canadian air squadron was withdrawn from Amchitka to Umnak.
When the Japanese had been cleared from the Aleutians, Canada withdrew its air forces. The four RCAF squadrons returned to Canada during August and September 1943. Although the two squadrons at Annette Island were replaced in August by No. 149 Bomber Reconnaissance and No. 135 Fighter Squadrons, by the end of the year these squadrons, too, together with the accompanying Canadian Army defensive detachments, had returned to Canada.
The Royal Canadian Navy was the next of the Canadian armed services to join with U.S. forces in meeting the Japanese threat to Alaska. In May 1942, anticipating the possible need for additional repair facilities as a result of the expected Japanese naval offensive into North Pacific waters, the Royal Canadian Navy placed its Pacific coast base facilities at the disposal of the U.S. Navy. The June 1942 Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska and the threat of further penetrations toward Alaska and western Canada were soon met by a substantial build-up of U.S. naval forces in Alaskan waters. These U.S. forces were joined by five Royal Canadian Navy vessels which sailed from Esquimalt, Vancouver, for Kodiak on 20 August and participated as part of Task Force Tare, under Rear Adm. Robert Theobald, U.S. Navy, in
operations for the occupation of Adak on 30 August. Through September and October 1942, these five Canadian vessels--the armed merchant cruisers Prince Robert, Prince Henry, and Prince David, and the corvettes Dawson and Vancouver--continued to operate under U.S. Navy command in convoy escort operations between Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and intermediate points.37 Although these Canadian naval forces encountered no enemy units, few Canadian ships during World War II encountered such severe conditions of fog and gale as did these forces in the poorly charted, treacherous Aleutian waters. Soon after the return of the five vessels to Canadian Pacific waters, the three merchant cruisers were transferred to the Atlantic. Dawson and Vancouver remained in the Pacific and made a further contribution to Alaskan operations by aiding in the convoying of forces building up for the Attu and Kiska operations in the spring of 1943.
Meanwhile, the Japanese foothold in the Aleutians was gradually strengthened until in May 1943 enemy forces on Attu numbered 2,500 and on Kiska 5,400. The United States had reacted quickly to this threat of deeper penetrations into northwestern North America. Reinforced air and naval forces bombarded the Japanese garrisons and attempted to cut off their support and prevent reinforcement. United States forces then assaulted Attu, at the end of the chain of islands, on 12 May 1943 and achieved full control of it on 28 May after bloody and bitter fighting. The success of the Attu assault made the isolated Japanese position on Kiska more difficult. But aided by fog and bad weather, the enemy was able to support the garrison, which was strongly established in fortified positions reinforced with mines and wire obstacles.
It was for the reduction of Kiska, the last major enemy foothold in North America, that Canada and the Canadian Army prepared to make major contributions. Canadian participation in the assault operations was first discussed in April 1943 by General DeWitt of the Western Defense Command and Maj. Gen. G. R. Pearkes, commanding the Canadian Army Pacific Command. On 10 May the desirability of such a contribution was informally considered in Washington by the Senior Canadian Army Member of the Permanent Joint Board, Maj. Gen. Maurice Pope, and its U.S. secretary, John Hickerson. The next day, 11 May, Hickerson, in turn, expressed to the Senior U.S. Army Member of the Board his belief that, since the Canadians had as yet had little opportunity to fight, an invitation to participate would be gratefully received. Definite proposals were made and accepted,
and before the end of the month the senior U.S. and Canadian commanders on the Pacific coast were preparing detailed plans.38
The plans called for two Canadian forces. The first, comprising an infantry battalion and a light antiaircraft battery, would move to Amchitka or Attu in mid-June for garrison duty. The second would consist of a brigade group (regimental combat team) suitable for amphibious assault operations. Ottawa on 3 June approved the employment of the brigade group in the Kiska operation. The plan for the other force was dropped. Brigadier Harry W. Foster returned to Canada from the United Kingdom to assume command of the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade, which was reorganized and given the code name GREENLIGHT. The force comprised four infantry battalions (Canadian Fusiliers, Winnipeg Grenadiers, Rocky Mountain Rangers, and Le Régiment de Hull), the 24th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, and engineer and machine gun companies and a medical detachment. The battalion Le Régiment de Hull was reorganized and equipped to provide the amphibious engineer support needed.39
The original plan for movement of forces for the assault on Kiska, Operation COTTAGE, had called for departure of the 13th Brigade from Vancouver on 1 August, but the entire schedule was advanced a month. The necessary reorganizations and intensive training were urgently pressed. Brigade headquarters adopted the U.S. Army staff patterns. The Canadian weapons of the force were augmented by U.S. 81-mm. mortars and 75-mm. pack howitzers. All other equipment--engineer, signal, medical, and quartermaster, including vehicles--was supplied by the United States. To avoid the Canadian customs difficulties involved in shipping U.S. matériel across the border into Canada for the Canadian brigade, shipment and delivery were made to the U.S. liaison officer with the force, who then turned it over to the Canadians.
Before the Canadian force could leave Canada, the status of many of its members had to be clarified. Large numbers of men in the force had been compulsorily called up for training and home defense military service under the National Resources Mobilization Act of 1940, and they could be employed outside of Canada and its territorial waters only on a voluntary basis
unless the Canadian Government took special action.40 An order-in-council of 18 June 1943 authorized the use of such personnel in the Aleutian Islands. The Minister of National Defense, in turn, made the order applicable to the conscripted personnel serving in the 13th Brigade.41
The brigade sailed from Vancouver Island on 12 July 1943 in four U.S. Army transports, and upon its arrival at Adak on the 19th continued its training, specializing in amphibious operations. Here its staff was thrown into intimate contact with American staffs and planners. The differences in organization and terminology were so great that at times the two groups seemed hardly to speak the same language. Upon its arrival in Alaska for the Kiska operation, the GREENLIGHT force totaled 4,800.
At about the same time that this force departed from Vancouver, another component of the Kiska assault force, also representing a Canadian contribution to the operation, sailed from San Francisco. The First Special Service Force, the unique formation whose three combat regiments were composed of Canadians and Americans intermingled without regard to nationality, was also earmarked to play an important role in the assault.42
The combined Canadian and U.S. ground forces for the assault numbered over 34,000 and were organized as Amphibian Training Force 9 under U.S. Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett. Units assigned to the Northern Sector were the U.S. 184th Infantry Regiment, the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade, and the 3d Regiment of the First Special Service Force. Assigned to the Southern Sector were the U.S. 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, the U.S. 17th Infantry Regiment, and the 1st Regiment of the First Special Service Force. The U.S. 53d Infantry Regiment and the First Special Service Force (less two regiments) comprised the floating reserve. On 13 August, with training and briefing of troops completed and D Day set for 15 August, the force sailed for Kiska. In both sectors, First Special Service Force units had been selected to lead the assaults. In the Southern Sector, the 1st Regiment reached the island at 0120 on 15 August and quickly occupied all objectives. By noon, the southern portion of the island had been scoured and found devoid of the enemy. However, the possibility remained that the Japanese were holding out on the northern half of the island and Northern Sector operations
therefore proceeded as planned. With the initial objectives achieved, both forces moved out to establish full control over the twenty-five-mile-long island.
When all objectives had been achieved and operations had ended, the reason for the silence that had greeted the initial landings and subsequent operations was apparent. The Japanese had succeeded in evacuating their garrison without detection on 28 July, three weeks before the assault. Fog, coupled with a withdrawal from the area of U.S. Navy forces for refueling, had given the Japanese the opportunity they needed to evacuate their troops. After the intensive preparations that had been made, the assault had proved to be a major anticlimax. Nevertheless, the troops involved were spared what would undoubtedly have been bitter fighting at the cost of many casualties.
The First Special Force immediately returned to the United States, arriving before the end of August, but the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade was subjected the bitter Aleutian weather for almost four months. Not until 12 January 1944 did the 13th Brigade depart for British Columbia.
It was particularly fitting that Canada, which had engaged in the defense of North America for twenty-five months preceding Pearl Harbor, should join in the operations that rid North America of its last enemy garrison. Fortunately, Canadian casualties in Alaska were light, numbering 2 killed and 4 wounded in the Canadian Army units and 17 dead or missing and 3 wounded in the RCAF units.
The First Special Service Force
A remarkable facet of Canadian-U.S. military collaboration during World War II was the creation of the First Special Service Force.43 Unique in its composition, training, equipment, and organization, and outstanding in its fighting ability, the force was an experiment without parallel in the history of the Canadian and U.S. Armies. It had its beginnings in the spring of 1942 when Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, British Chief of Combined Operations, succeeded in interesting General Marshall (who was in London to discuss a cross-Channel operation) in a diversionary operation called PLOUGH. The concept underlying PLOUGH was that a force specially trained and equipped to operate over snow could, by its superior capabilities in this "fourth element" of warfare, achieve major strategic gains through sabotage raids on Norwegian and Alpine hydroelectric and Rumanian oilproducing installations, as well as divert German forces from the projected cross-Channel invasion. Since the British were unable to produce in
sufficient time the principal matériel requirement, an oversnow vehicle of superior mobility, Mountbatten offered the entire project to General Marshall, who accepted it.
The War Department, on Marshall's return to Washington, arranged with other government agencies for development work on the snow vehicle. The U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development and the War Production Board made rapid progress in the design and production of the vehicle, which was named the Weasel.44 The U.S. agencies also recruited the services of the Canadian National Research Council to assist in the work.
As the officer most familiar with the project, Lt. Col. Robert T. Frederick, who had carried out the War Department studies thereon, was directed on 16 June 1942 to assume responsibility for organizing and commanding the First Special Service Force. His directive contemplated that the force might comprise United Kingdom, Canadian, and Norwegian personnel, as well as American.45 United Kingdom or Norwegian participation in the force did not materialize, although the expert services of a few ski instructors and intelligence specialists, mostly Norwegian, were used in planning PLOUGH and preparing the force.
Canada began to consider participating in the PLOUGH project during June 1942. Mountbatten, who had been sent by Churchill to Washington in early June, and Frederick had flown to Ottawa to discuss the matter with General Stuart, Chief of the General Staff, and other Canadian officials. On 20 June the Canadian military planning representative in Washington reported to Ottawa the suggestion of Lt. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney, U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, that a request might be made to Canada to supply 500 officers and other ranks for the PLOUGH force. Prime Minister King endorsed Canadian participation, and on 14 July provision of a contingent of 47 officers and 650 other ranks was approved.
While the PLOUGH force was being organized, detailed planning for its employment continued. A decision was reached in favor of an operation in Norway, but it was never to materialize. The plan for a Norway operation received its death blow during a September trip to London of the force commander. There Colonel Frederick learned that lack of aircraft for transporting equipment had required cancellation of the operation.
The Canadian Army General Staff, on being advised on 8 October 1942 of the cancellation of the Norway operation, considered withdrawing the Canadian personnel from the PLOUGH force. But because of a request from
RETREAT CEREMONY AT FORT WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, Montana, for members of the First Special Service Force, 1943.
General Marshall, who now visualized employment of the force in the Caucasus and pointed out the disruptive effect that withdrawal of the Canadian element would have on this highly trained and specialized unit, Canada decided to continue to participate. A condition of Cabinet War Committee approval of continuing participation was the right to review any operational project that might be contemplated.46
The First Special Service Force had meanwhile been activated at Fort William Henry Harrison, Helena, Montana, on 19 July 1942. A rapid inflow of Canadian and U.S. personnel had begun, after a careful screening of volunteers from Canadian and U.S. camps had taken place. A WashingtonOttawa press release on 6 August 1942 made public the activation of this unique Canadian-U.S. force of hand-picked volunteers.47 Each member had
to meet rigid physical requirements, and was to receive specialized training for offensive warfare, including parachute, amphibious landing, and mountain and desert warfare training. The mention of desert warfare in the press release was apparently designed to obscure the real planned role in the Norwegian snows.
The force was organized into a combat element of 108 officers and 1,167 enlisted men, and a service battalion of 25 officers and 521 enlisted men. The service echelon was made up wholly of Americans and provided all supply, administrative, messing, and similar facilities, leaving the combat echelon entirely free of these housekeeping duties. The combat echelon comprised force headquarters and three regiments of two battalions each. Each battalion was divided into three companies, each company into three platoons, and each platoon into two sections, the basic fighting units of nine men each.
Within the combat echelon, Canadians and Americans were integrated without regard to nationality. Officer and noncommissioned officer appointments were initially allotted on a proportionate basis to personnel of both countries. Thereafter, promotions were made on the basis of ability, without regard to nationality. This system proved highly successful and resulted in an approximately equal division of promotions.
When assembled, the conglomeration of former cowhands, miners, and woodsmen who had been recruited for the force undertook an accelerated training program, which included a rigorous program of physical hardening. After early parachute qualification, each member of the force was given intensive training in the use of all types of weapons the force carried, in operation of the Weasel, and in demolitions, rock climbing, skiing, and hand-tohand combat. Throughout the training process in Montana, a substantial rate of transfers from the force was maintained as individuals showed lack of will, stamina, or other essential qualifications. On 11 April 1943 the force proceeded to Camp Bedford, Virginia, to complete its preparation with a program of amphibious training.
The equipment of the force was as unusual as its composition. After cancellation of the Norway operation, the force's weapons and equipment were augmented so that they included the Weasel, the Browning light machine gun, the submachine gun, the then new 2.36-inch antitank rocket launcher (bazooka), the Johnson automatic rifle, the 60-mm. mortar, and the flame thrower. The additions reflected the change in concept for employment of the force from sabotage to powerful and sustained combat assault.
The two governments in January 1943 formally confirmed the over-all administrative arrangements drafted by the military staffs when the force was formed. The Canadian Government undertook to provide pay for its
CANADIAN AND U.S. SOLDIERS OF THE FIRST SPECIAL SERVICE FORCE at bayonet practice, Fort William Henry Harrison.
personnel and transportation costs for their initial move to Helena, and to repay the United States the cost of the rations issued to Canadian personnel. The U.S. Government undertook to house, equip, and clothe the force (less the outfit worn to Helena by Canadian personnel), and to provide the transportation and medical services required.
The matter of the relative pay scales, which favored the Americans, was apparently the only unhappy aspect of the relationship of the force to its two sponsoring governments. Repeated efforts were made to place the Canadian personnel on the same pay scale as the Americans. Every effort was disapproved by the Department of National Defense in Ottawa, which saw no more justification in this situation than in others where Canadians served alongside Americans. Fortunately the different rates, though a source of typical soldier griping, did not affect force morale seriously even when the force moved overseas and U.S. pay scales were augmented by 10 percent for officers and 20 percent for enlisted men.
Administrative details posed no particular problem for the U.S. component, for the force trained and operated within the framework of the logistical and supporting U.S. Army establishment. When the force later moved to Europe, the logistical arrangement increased the administrative
complications for the Canadian component, which for Canadian administrative purposes had been designated the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. The commander of this formation was the senior Canadian officer present (initially the force executive and later one of the regimental commanders).
Until the First Special Service Force moved from North America, the Canadian component was administered by the Department of National Defense in Ottawa through the Canadian Joint Staff in Washington. Since there would be no guarantee that the force would serve within easy communication of any other Canadian unit after the move from North America, it became necessary to authorize the Canadian battalion to issue certain types of orders, maintain field documents, and perform other functions normally assigned to a higher echelon. On the force's arrival in Italy, where the Canadian Army administrative facilities were available, the Canadian battalion yielded these functions to the higher echelons normally responsible, although the channel of communication continued to run from these echelons directly to Ottawa, instead of through Canadian Military Headquarters in the United Kingdom as was normal for Canadian units in Europe. Use of this channel of communication caused difficulties through considerable delays in reporting casualties and other matters. In August 1944 the personnel records of the battalion were transferred from Ottawa to Canadian Military Headquarters, thus restoring administrative channels of communication to a more normal basis. These administrative complications were in the over-all so small and were handled so competently by the Canadian administrative personnel that they were hardly apparent to U.S. members of the force staff, and they had no practical impact on the force's fighting capabilities.
The thorough integration of Canadians and Americans within the force presented special problems in the exercise of command and administration of discipline. To solve certain of these, an order-in-council authorized (1) every Canadian officer in the force to exercise the disciplinary powers of a detachment commander with respect to Canadian personnel, (2) Canadian personnel to be commanded, but not disciplined or punished, by U.S. personnel of superior rank, and (3) detention of Canadians, if placed under arrest, in places provided by the United States.48 Disciplinary powers within the Canadian battalion thus remained vested in its Canadian officers. The Canadian commanding officer was given broader powers than those normally granted a battalion commander.
The impending departure of the force from the United States necessitated a grant of the power to convene field general courts-martial and, subject to
certain limitations, to confirm the findings and sentences imposed by them. After the Kiska operation was completed and while the force was preparing to depart for Italy, the powers of the commanding officer were further enlarged by granting him authority to mitigate, commute, or remit punishments and by removing most of the limitations on his power to sentence. In practice, a pattern of uniformity developed in the handling of all but the more serious offenses so that Canadian and U.S. members of the force were hardly aware that they were being disciplined under two different codes of military law.
An additional Canadian administrative difficulty arose from the need to supply trained parachutists from time to time as replacements, once the force was in an advanced state of training. Since there was no other source of trained parachutists, a request in December 1942 for one hundred replacements was filled by taking them from the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, with a consequent undesirable effect on its operational readiness and morale. As a result of a recommendation by the Chief of the General Staff on 20 April 1943, the decision was reached to furnish no further replacements on the grounds that the agreed Canadian share had been furnished and that, once committed to a special mission, no reinforcement whatsoever would take place. Nevertheless, a portion of the Canadian deficiency in September 1943 was supplied after the Kiska operation and before the force's departure for Italy.
Once the force was in Italy and committed operationally, the question of Canadian replacements again arose. While the U.S. component drew easily on the U.S. personnel replacement system, the Canadian policy of nonreinforcement in the theater caused the Canadian strength to fall almost 40 percent below normal by May 1944. Because of this situation, the First Canadian Army commander, General Kenneth Stuart, had recommended in January 1944 that the Canadian component be withdrawn. Before a final decision was reached the force became heavily engaged at Anzio, and, in addition, General Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed the opinion that it would be a mistake to withdraw the Canadian component. General Stuart then recommended that Canadian participation be continued but that the U.S. practice of using ordinary infantry replacements be adopted. This practice was followed for the remainder of the time the force was in existence.
A minor element of administrative discord in regard to the Canadian component arose over the matter or awards and decorations. Canadians in the First Special Service Force had been awarded twenty-nine U.S. decorations by October 1944, whereas not a single British award had been received. The difficulty stemmed from the fact that Canadian members of the force
competed on the same basis as U.S. troops of the U.S. army to which the force might be assigned for the very small number of British decorations awarded within that army. In October 1944 the Canadian battalion was placed on the same basis for British awards as other British and Canadian personnel in the theater so that its personnel ultimately received seventeen British awards in addition to a total of seventy U.S. decorations.
Only the highlights of the excellent combat record of this unit can be mentioned here.49 By early June 1943, a number of Canadian and U.S. training inspections had rated the force ready for combat. On 9 June 1943 the War Department directed movement of the force to San Francisco and, on 12 June, obtained the approval of the Canadian Department of National Defense for its use on Kiska. The over-all and broader Canadian participation in the Kiska assault, which unexpectedly found the enemy departed, has already been recounted.
Having returned to San Francisco by 1 September 1943, the force a few weeks later sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, for. North Africa on 28 October as a result of a request from General Eisenhower, who contemplated using it for raids, sabotage, and guerrilla operations in Italy, southern France, or the Balkans. After only a few days in North Africa the First Special Service Force sailed for Italy to join the Fifth Army. The baptism of fire occurred on 3 December in the Mignano sector in Italy, where the force was engaged for six days in difficult operations to capture Monte la Difensa and Monte la Remetanea. Force casualties totaled 80 killed or missing and 350 wounded. Committed again on Christmas Day, 1943, the force remained engaged until 10 January 1944, capturing several critical hill masses at great cost.
After a move by sea from Naples to Anzio, the force on 2 February took over an 11,000-yard sector along the Mussolini Canal on the east flank of the beachhead. Here, until its relief on 9 May 1944, the force using highly effective raiding tactics played an important role in the beachhead defense. In action again at the breakout, a detachment of the 1st Regiment was, on 4 June, one of the first Allied elements to make a permanent entry into Rome. Two days later, on 6 June, after its brief but costly participation in the breakout operations, the force was relieved to ready itself for operations in southern France as part of the U.S. Seventh Army, which comprised U.S. and French troops.
In the invasion of southern France the First Special Service Force easily accomplished its D-Day task of capturing the two easternmost of the ๋les
d'Hyéres on 15 August 1944.50 After transferring to the mainland a few days later, the force advanced rapidly eastward along the Riviera coast and by 9 September had taken up a position behind the Franco-Italian boundary. The force held this position until 28 November, when it was withdrawn to a rear area for inactivation.
Although the possibility that the First Special Service Force might be disbanded had been weighed earlier in 1944 in Ottawa, where by that time Canadian participation was considered an unnecessary dispersion of Canadian resources, serious consideration was not given to the matter until Ottawa on 12 October 1944 received an indication from the War Department that inactivation was being contemplated by the United States. The War Department notified the Canadian Joint Staff in Washington on 28 October of its decision to disband the force, and the Minister of National Defense concurred. Inactivation of the First Special Service Force took place near Villeneuve-Loubet in France on 5 December 1944 with a farewell parade and memorial service. After the force flag was furled, the Canadian component withdrew from the force to form its own battalion and march past the U.S. component. The next day the Canadian battalion of 37 officers and 583 other ranks quit the force bivouac area, and its parachutists were sent to the United Kingdom as reinforcements for the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. A month later a large part of the U.S. component moved to northern France as replacements for the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. The remaining personnel were assigned to the concurrently activated 474th Infantry Regiment (Separate), which when brought to strength had little resemblance to the original force.
Throughout its combat history, the First Special Service Force engaged but little in the highly specialized types of operations for which it had been trained. Despite its special equipment and training, the force never made a parachute assault or operated in snow country, and, of its two amphibious operations, one was unopposed. Nevertheless, it had proved itself in battle in difficult assault and raiding operations. On the other hand, the force represented a costly expenditure of resources and a complex administrative effort, particularly to Canada because of the force's distance from Canadian administrative machinery. Furthermore, the very nature and status of the force required frequent attention of the Combined Chiefs of Staff to proposals for employment of this group of less than 2,000 men, as well as diplomatic exchanges to obtain Canadian acceptance of proposals--all in all an inordinate
amount of high-level consideration in relation to the size of the force. But from the point of view of Canadian-U.S. relations, the unique experiment was a remarkable success.
Canadian Army Pacific Force
During the last year of the war Canada planned and began to implement a substantial participation in operations against Japan in close association with U.S. forces. During the Second Quebec Conference of the political and military leaders of the United States and United Kingdom in September 1944, the Chief of the Canadian General Staff made known to the visiting chiefs of staff of both countries the desire of the Canadian Government to have its armed forces participate in the war against Japan after the defeat of Germany, not in more remote areas such as Southeast Asia, but in the Central and North Pacific, where they could share in the final assault on Japan proper. Prime Minister Churchill's advocacy of the Canadian aspirations at the last session of the conference won the approval of the President and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and a brief statement accepting Canadian participation in principle was added to the final report of the conference.51
Two months later, on 20 November, the Canadian Cabinet War Committee approved a plan for a force of one division, with supporting troops, to be integrated into the U.S. military commands. The chairman of the Canadian Joint Staff on 9 December 1944 advised General Marshall of the Cabinet War Committee action and of the probable readiness of the force for dispatch from Canada for active operations six months after V-E Day. During this period the force would be organized in Europe, returned to North America, granted a month's leave, equipped, and trained. The Canadian Joint Staff sought the views of the War Department on the strength, composition, and organization of the force and on operational and logistical aspects of its contemplated employment.52 The Joint Chiefs of Staff, to whom General Marshall referred the Canadian plan, on 21 December 1944 accepted it with the understanding that the force would be available for use in any of the operations to be mounted in the Pacific. In so notifying the chairman of the Canadian Joint Staff, the U.S. Joint Chiefs stated that uncertainty as to the availability date of the force precluded a decision as to its employment.53
Three months later, on 28 March 1945, Maj. Gen. H. F. G. Letson, head of the Canadian Joint Staff, called on U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff General Thomas T. Handy to ask what the next step should be and to suggest a general discussion of the problems arising in connection with the proposed force. As a result of the interview, the Canadian Joint Staff presented specific proposals to General Handy on 23 April. The Canadian Government felt that the force should be organized along U.S. Army lines to facilitate staff arrangements for movement, maintenance, and operation.54 As a means of expediting the reorganization and training, it was suggested that Canadian cadres be first trained in the United States. These cadres would in turn carry out the necessary training within the force, which would not be trained for amphibious operations. Canada preferred to use its own equipment, but it was prepared to utilize U.S. equipment, except for the distinctive Canadian uniform, to the extent that the War Department considered necessary. Expenses connected with equipping and maintaining the force were to be borne by Canada. The Canadians asked for U.S. views on these proposals in order that their plans might go forward, and they also offered to furnish a planning team to work with the appropriate U.S. authorities.55
The War Department outlined the Canadian proposals to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who was engaged in planning for the invasion of Japan, and suggested that a Canadian infantry division be accepted for use as a follow-up unit in Operation CORONET, the invasion of Honshu Island. General MacArthur gave his concurrence, and the Canadian plan was then considered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On 15 May the Joint Chiefs notified General Letson that the following basis was considered suitable for Canadian participation:
- The force should comprise a reinforced infantry division totaling 30,000, possibly to include armor, to be employed as a follow-up unit in the invasion of Japan itself.
- The force should train in the United States and be organized along U.S. lines unless this would delay employment.
- Equipment, except for uniforms, should be of U.S. types and the force should be supplied in the same manner as the U.S. troops.
- The force would be returned from the Pacific in a priority consistent with that applied to all forces.56
On 21 May 1945 General Letson was able to report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff not only the agreement of the Canadian Chiefs of Staff but also the fact that a planning team was already at work in Washington.57
Immediately after the German surrender on 8 May 1945, Canadian forces in Europe were canvassed for volunteers. Although over 78,000 had volunteered by mid-July, only some 39,000 were accepted as of age and category suitable for the force. This number was far short of the total needed since it had been estimated that, in addition to the 30,000-man force, 33,600 personnel would have to be trained as replacements.58
The formation of the 6th Canadian Infantry Division had meanwhile been approved in Ottawa on 1 June 1945, as was a special Pacific campaign pay bonus for members of the force when they departed Canada. Training cadres for the force, which was to assemble at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, in early September, were enrolled in appropriate U.S. Army schools and numbered about 325 officers and 1,300 other ranks by mid-August. When Japan surrendered, plans were well in hand to convert the Canadian "brigades" to "regiments," field artillery "regiments" to "battalions," and otherwise mold the Canadian force to the U.S. pattern.59
Immediately after the Japanese surrender, the chairman of the Canadian Joint Staff advised the War Department that Canada was canceling the movement of further personnel but would formally notify the United States of its intention to drop plans for the force only when it was certain that hostilities would not be resumed. On 31 August 1945 the formal notification was given.60 Although the Japanese surrender forestalled participation by Canadian forces in the operations against Japan, Canada expressed no desire to have those forces participate in the occupation that was undertaken immediately by U.S. forces. Nor did Canada join the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, established in Japan the following year, comprising Australian, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Indian units.61
Long before V-J Day Canada also made efforts to have RCAF units participate in the Pacific war in collaboration with the U.S. Army Air Forces. After touring the Pacific combat areas, RCAF Air Vice Marshal L. F.
Stevenson returned reportedly unimpressed by British operations and determined to recommend that the RCAF operate with U.S. forces. As a result of informal discussions between the U.S. military attaché in Ottawa and Air Marshal R. Leckie, the U.S. Ambassador in Ottawa suggested to Washington that here was an opportunity to have the RCAF adopt U.S. equipment if the problem of Canadian inability to purchase the aircraft could be solved.62
The Ambassador's suggestion was studied in the War Department, where General Arnold, commanding the Army Air Forces, approved the proposal as being in line with AAF long-range policy to get all the countries of the Western Hemisphere to standardize on U.S. equipment. In replying to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War suggested that the Canadians submit a formal request for U.S. air force matériel. After the Department of State informally advised the War Department that the RCAF could not, for political reasons, formally submit a request, the two departments sought other means of solving the problem.63
On learning, that AAF officials were interested in discussing the scheme, Air Marshal Leckie came to Washington in mid-March 1945. There the AAF offered him enough Boston medium bomber (A-20) aircraft to equip several squadrons. Leckie stated he was not interested in equipping RCAF units destined for the Pacific with an outmoded type of aircraft, and the discussions ended.64 To the Canadians, the offer, almost inevitably doomed to rejection, seemed to be evidence that the AAF wanted to run the air war in the Pacific without any outside help.65
Canadian officials discontinued efforts to participate with the AAF and proceeded with plans for a Pacific air effort in co-operation with the RAF. At the time of the Japanese surrender, plans were going forward for the formation of a TIGER Force of eight RCAF heavy bomber squadrons. But with the signing of the act of Japanese surrender, these plans, like those for the Canadian Army Pacific Force, were dropped and the units disbanded.
In the final stages of the Japanese war, Canadian Army participation comprised two small special units and a number of individual observers, while the RCAF was supporting two transport squadrons in Burma and a coastal squadron in Ceylon. The Royal Canadian Navy alone of the Canadian armed forces engaged the enemy in the closing stages of the war
against Japan in what had become a predominantly U.S. theater of operations.66
At the time of the Second Quebec Conference and its endorsement of Canadian participation in the Pacific war, the Royal Canadian Navy had plans in hand for a Pacific force of two cruisers, two light fleet aircraft carriers, appropriate smaller vessels, and 22,000 personnel. In the next month the Cabinet War Committee approved a somewhat modified program which eliminated the carriers and some of the smaller ships.67 The modified program, calling for sixty ships and 13,500 personnel, was by early 1945 in the early stages of implementation.
Of the Canadian naval forces operating against the Japanese, HMCS Uganda, a cruiser, was the only ship actually to take part in the fighting alongside U.S. and other Allied vessels. Having arrived in Australian waters on 9 March 1945, Uganda left the forward base at Leyte in the Philippines on 6 April to join British Task Force 57, which was operating under the command of the U.S. Fifth Fleet during the assault on Okinawa. It did picket duty in a force that included four British Fleet aircraft carriers. In subsequent operations against the Japanese, Uganda bombarded a Miyako Island airfield and Truk, and participated in strikes against Kure, Kobe, and Nagoya on the main Japanese island of Honshu. Scheduled for duty with the Canadian forces preparing to assist in the final assault on the Japanese home islands, Uganda departed western Pacific waters for Canada on 27 July to be remanned by volunteers for Pacific duty. On V-J Day Uganda was at Esquimalt, Vancouver Island, and two other Royal Canadian Navy ships were en route to the British Pacific Fleet--Ontario in the Red Sea and Prince Robert at Sydney, Australia.68 The war with Japan ended just as Canada's plans for large-scale participation were nearing fruition.
Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (8) * Next Chapter (10)
1. Symbolic of this brotherhood-in-arms was the selection of the sonnet "High Flight" for wide circulation throughout the schools of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This sonnet, which has been viewed as ranking with John McCrae "In Flanders Fields" and Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier," was penned by an American, Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee of the RCAF. Magee, who was killed at age nineteen in December 1941, was one of the large number of Americans who enlisted in the Canadian armed forces while the United States was still a neutral. The sonnet begins and ends: "Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth . . . Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
2. Memo for Record, SUSAM, 12 Mar 41, PDB 129-1.
3. Canada at War, No. 8 (Nov 41, p. 46.
4. For full and authoritative British, Canadian, and U.S. accounts, see Great Britain, Central Office of Information, The Battle of the Atlantic (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1946); Schull, The Far Distant Ships; Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic; Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, X, The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943-May 1945 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1956); Craven and Cate (eds.), Plans and Early Operations; and Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate (eds.), The Army Air Forces in World War II, II, Europe--TORCH to POINTBLANK (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949).
The account presented here is limited to the U.S.-Canadian co-operation in the discharge of the convoy escort and antisubmarine responsibilities. [See also: United States Fleet Anti-Submarine and Escort of Convoy Instructions (FTP 223(A)) and History of Convoy and Routing Headquarters of the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Commander, Tenth Fleet --HyperWar]
5. See Ch. IV, above.
6. For a detailed account of the development of U.S. policy as to participation in the Battle of the Atlantic, see William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason, The Undeclared War (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953), pp. 419-64, 742-50.
7. Churchill, The Grand Alliance, pp. 138-42; Schull, The Far Distant Ships, pp. 65-75; Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 291-92.
8. See Ch. VI, above.
9. While the Bismarck roamed in northwestern Atlantic waters out of range of Canadian aircraft, the RCAF informally proposed to neutral Washington the borrowing of twelve Flying Fortresses, to be ostensibly manned by Canadians, to attack her. War Department officers, including General Marshall and Mr. Stimson, appeared sympathetic but agreed that this would be an act of war and decided against the request. (Note for Record, 24 May 41, WPD 433027.)
10. See also Ch. V, above.
11. Kittredge Monograph, I, Sec. V, 376n; Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 78-79.
12. Department of State Bulletin, September 13, 1941, V, 196.
13. Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 85-87.
14. Ibid., pp. 101-02.
15. Ibid., p. 117; Schull, The Far Distant Ships, p. 98.
16. Canada, Naval Service Headquarters, Royal Canadian Navy Monthly Review, No. 2 (Feb 42, p. 6, and No. 3 (Mar 42, p. 7.
17. Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 318-20; Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada, II, 133.
18. Statement by Minister of National Defense for Naval Services A. L. Macdonald, H. C. Debates, 7 May 42, p. 2248; Canada, Naval Service Headquarters, Royal Canadian Navy Monthly Review, No. 9 (Sep 42), p. 64.
19. See Ch. V, above.
20. Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 319-20.
21. CCS 155/1, 22 Jan 43.
22. AAF Reference History 7, The Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command, file AAFRH-7, U.S. Air Force Air University, pp. 147-48.
23. The best public account of the Atlantic Convoy Conference and of the events leading up to it is contained in Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada, II, Ch. 14.
24. Schull, The Far Distant Ships, pp. 166-68; Canada at War, No. 24 (May 43), pp. 3-4; Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada, II, 138-39.
25. CCS 189/2, approved 29 Mar 43; Minutes, 78th CCS meeting. The fifteen VLR aircraft for the RCAF were to be provided by the Royal Air Force with subsequent attrition made good by the USAAF.
26. The Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command, pp. 150-51.
27. Ibid., pp. 150, 255.
28. Royal Canadian Navy Progress Report, 12-13 Apr 44 PJBD meeting, PDB 124; H. C. Debates, 29 Feb 44, p. 1032.
29. Speech by Gen. A. G. L. McNaughton, 12 Apr 48, Department of External Affairs, Statements and Speeches, No. 48/18.
30. History of the Western Defense Command, II, Ch. 7, 4; Journal, 7 Apr 42 PJBD meeting, PDB 124. For authoritative accounts of U.S. AAF and Navy operations in the Aleutians, see Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate (eds.), The Army Air Forces in World War II, IV, The Pacific--Guadalcanal to Saipan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950), and Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, VII, Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1951).
31. Journals, 7 and 27 Apr, and 26 May 42 PJBD meetings, PDB 124.
32. Journals, 9 Jun and 1 Sep 42 PJBD meetings, PDB 124. In June 1942 the Bolingbrokes were modified for bombing work and No. 115 Squadron was redesignated Bomber Reconnaissance.
33. History of the Western Defense Command, II, Ch. 7, 4; Memo, ACofS OPD for SUSAM, 31 May 42, PDB 106-9; Interview, author with Lt Gen DeWitt, 24 Jan 52.
34. History of the Western Defense Command, II, Ch. 7, 4.
35. This and succeeding paragraphs draw upon D. F. Griffin, First Steps to Tokyo: The Royal Canadian Air Force in the Aleutians (Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1944), a brief narrative account of the RCAF role in the Aleutians by a public relations officer attached to units stationed there.
36. Ltr, SUSAM to CG Alaska Defense Command, 23 Jun 42, PDB 126-7; Hull, Memoirs, II, 1182.
37. Office of Naval Intelligence Combat Narrative, The Aleutian Campaign (Washington: 1945), pp. 19, 21; Canada, Naval Service Headquarters, Royal Canadian Navy Monthly Review, No. 5 (May 42, p. 8; Schull, The Far Distant Ships, pp. 122-23.
38. Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945, p. 289; Ltr, Hickerson to SUSAM, 11 May 43), D/S Dominion Affairs Office file, PJBD 1943. Until the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, the Canadian Army force built up in Europe had taken part only in the Dieppe and other smaller raids. For a statement by Minister of National Defense Ralston on this problem, see H. C. Debates, 15 Feb 44, pp. 516-18.
39. The remainder of this account is based on Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945, pp. 233, 289-91; History of the Western Defense Command, II, Ch. 7; and Alaskan Department, Official History of the Alaskan Department, pp. 117-45.
40. The conscription issue was as much debated in Canada in World War II as in World War I. For accounts thereof, see the volumes on Canada in World Affairs by Dawson, Lingard and Trotter, and Soward, particularly the last.
41. H. C. Debates, 11 Feb 44, p. 383. This action added fuel to the conscription debate, since the opposition charged that Kiska was outside the area, that is, "Canada and Canadian territorial waters," intended for employment of National Resources Mobilization Act personnel. Orders-in-council passed during 1942 and early 1943 had already extended such employment to include Newfoundland, Labrador, and Alaska.
42. The story of this special unit is more fully narrated below, pp. 259-68.
43. For a full history of the force, based on its records and written by one of its officers, see Robert D. Burhans, The First Special Service Force (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1947).
44. For an account of the Canadian role in the development of the Weasel, see Wilfrid Eggleston, Scientists at War (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1950), pp. 97-100.
45. Text of the directive is reproduced in Burhans, The First Special Service Force, p. 11.
46. Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945, p. 297.
47. Canadian officials, who looked upon the force as a joint undertaking, considered as unfortunate the statement in the War Department press release that this was "the first time in history that Canadian troops have served as a part of a U.S. Army unit."
48. Privy Council 629, 26 Jan 43.
49. See Burhans, The First Special Service Force.
50. Two Canadian troopships Prince Henry and Prince Baudouin carried part of the force in the Hyéres landings.
51. Aide-mémoire, given to General Marshall by the Chief of the Canadian General Staff, 16 Sep 44), ABC 384 Canada (15 Sep 44)); CCS 680/2, 16 Sep 44); Minutes, 2d Plenary Meeting, OCTAGON Conference Book; H. C. Debates, 4 Apr 45), p. 434. The Canadian decision was taken in Cabinet on 6 September 1944.
52. Ltr, 9 Dec 44), ABC 384 Canada (18 Sep 44)).
53. JCS 1198, 21 Dec 44).
54. General A. G. L. McNaughton, Minister of National Defense from November 1944 to August 1945 and a postwar Canadian PJBD chairman, in 1948 stated that a primary reason for this step was to obtain experience with the U.S. system of organization "in view of the obvious necessity for the future to co-ordinate the defense of North America." (Department of External Affairs, Statements and Speeches No. 48/18, 12 Apr 48.)
55. JCS 1198/1, 15 May 45).
56. Ibid. The 30,000 figure comprised the division with supporting and service units and an initial increment of replacements.
57. JCS 1198/2, 22 May 45).
58. Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945, p. 292.
60. Memo for Record, 18 Aug 45), OPD 336.2 (18 Aug 45)); JCS 1198/4, 4 Sep 45).
61. Department of State Bulletin, February 10, 1946, XIV, 220-22.
62. Ltr, 22 Nov 44), to Hickerson, D/S 740.0011 P.W./11-2244.
63. Ltr, SW to Secy State, 29 Jan 45), D/S Office of Dominion Affairs file, PJBD 1945.
64. Memo for File, J. G. Parsons, 6 Apr 45), D/S Office of Dominion Affairs file, PJBD 1945.
65. Memo/Conv, Lewis Clark and Deputy Minister for Air Herbert Gordon, 14 May 45, OPD 336.2 Canada (24 Jun 45). With the RCAF by that date planning to operate with the RAF, Gordon indicated that the Canadian preference still would have been to operate with U.S. forces.
66. Two Canadian infantry battalions that arrived at Hong Kong shortly before Pearl Harbor were part of the valiant British garrison overrun there at the very beginning of the Pacific war. For this story, see Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945, pp. 273-88.
67. Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada, II, 99-102.
68. Schull, The Far Distant Ships, pp. 408-13; Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada, II, 464-67.