I used to always state that Quora.com was a site where people could ask questions on any topic, and those who feel qualified attempt to answer them. “It’s much like Yahoo! Answers”, I would further explain. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not a fair comparison. It’s becoming more like a bunch of yahoos WITH answers making up answers. And doing an even worse job with some of the questions. Quora doesn’t make people stupid. It just makes stupid people more accessible to the general public. And as the old adage says – “stupidity is contagious, and there’s no known cure”.
The question popped up a few days ago, and I couldn’t believe it. I also couldn’t keep quiet. How dare the uneducated chatter class insult the memory of the tens of thousands of Canadians who gave their lives for our global freedom (yep, including the freedom of the brainwave that wrote this question, no matter where he or she lives). This writer should be happy to discover that Canada was very effective in World War II, along with their Allied partners. It’s why we aren’t speaking German or Japanese today.
WHAT FOLLOWS IS MY RESPONSE, word-for-word, to this highly controversial question. Photos were later added for this blog article only.
You’ll have to excuse my homeland of Canada – we were amiss apparently by not personally educating YOU on our war effectiveness from 1939–1945. Let’s fix that. There are a few people you should talk to:
ASK THE BRITISH how effective we were. Before we even sent a single man, gun, plane, tank or ship – we made sure to take care of the British people themselves. Remember, they live on an island, and risked being isolated by the Nazis, after the war started in September 1939.
Canadian exports accounted for as much as 77% of British wheat and flour consumption in 1941, 39% of the bacon, 15% of the eggs, 24% of the cheese, and 11% of the evaporated milk that the British imported globally.
Britain also had to leave 75,000 of their 80,000 vehicles behind in the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. Virtually defenseless on the ground, Britain turned to Canada – and particularly the Canadian auto industry – to replace what had been lost. Canada not only replaced those losses – we also did much more.
Canada produced more than 800,000 military transport vehicles, 50,000 tanks, 40,000 field, naval, and anti-aircraft guns, and 1,700,000 small arms. 38% of this production was used by the British military alone. The Canadian Army “in the field” had a ratio of one vehicle for every three soldiers, making it the most mechanized field force in the war.
Canada also loaned $1.2 billion on a long-term basis to Britain immediately after the war; these loans were fully repaid in late 2006. That’s the equivalent of about $17.7 billion today.
ASK THE FRENCH how effective we were. On June 6, 1944, 14,000 Canadian troops stormed Juno Beach, arriving on 110 Canadian ships and supported by 10,000 Canadian sailors, part of 150,000 Allied troops total, who were part of the greatest invasion by sea in world history. Canada was the only nation that captured its beach and fulfilled all Her orders on D-Day. We suffered over 1,000 casualties that day alone.
The French WILL tell you we were effective, by the way – they were occupied by the Germans for over 4 years – but then just 74 days after D-Day, we liberated Paris, and less than one year after D-Day, our little nation had assisted in bringing down the Third Reich completely – an empire that conquered 11 nations on 2 continents with 20 million battle-hardened troops, And Hitler was dead. Were we effective. They would shout a resounding “Oui!”
ASK THE DUTCH how effective we were. Our country welcomed Queen Juliana, Prince Bernhard and the other members of the Dutch royal family as our guests for 5 years, after the Nazis invaded their Kingdom in June 1940. Dutch Princess Margriet was born in Ottawa Civic Hospital.
Later, Canada almost single-handedly liberated the Netherlands from the Nazis on May 9, 1945, and the Dutch still celebrate Liberation Day (unofficially called “Canada Day”) with Canadian flags flying in Amsterdam on that day, citizens still running to give our aged soldiers flowers as they march or ride in parades there.
In a decades-old Dutch tradition, schoolchildren visit the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, Netherlands on Christmas Eve every year, where nearly 1,400 Canadian soldiers are buried, and they place candles on every grave. More immigrants arrived in Canada in the 1950s from the Netherlands than from any other nation in the world, including America. In fact, the 2016 Canadian Census reported 1,111,655 persons of Dutch origin living in Canada out of 37 million Canadians. Did they find us effective? They would say “ja!”
In fact, I’d even recommend ASKING THE GERMANS how effective we were. Particularly the German troops that were garrisoned at the town of Zwolle, in the Netherlands. Canadian soldier Léo Major was the only Canadian and one of only three soldiers in the British Empire and Commonwealth to ever receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) twice in separate wars. In 1945, he single-handedly liberated the city of Zwolle, the Netherlands from German army occupation. He was sent as a scout with one of his best friends, but he thought the town was too beautiful for a full scale attack. So the next rational option was to clear it out himself. A firefight broke out and his friend was killed, but that didn’t stop him – he put the commanders of each group of soldiers he found at gunpoint, and the entire unit would end up being taken prisoner as a result. He ended up taking nearly 100 Germans prisoner that night, until the entire city was clear of Nazis. He received his second DCM during the Korean War for leading the capture of a key hill in 1951.
Canada declared war in Germany just 7 days after Great Britain and France, and had troops in Europe literally weeks later. It would take a further 26 months before the United States would enter the War. By the time the War was over, Canada had over 1.1 million soldiers in uniform – about 33% of our entire adult male population.
At the end of the Second World War, Canada had one of the largest navies in the world, with 95,000 men and women in uniform, and 434 commissioned vessels including cruisers, destroyers, frigates, corvettes and auxiliaries.
During the 2,159 days that Canadian soldiers fought across Europe, Asia and Africa, 45,000 were killed, and 55,000 were injured. Those total casualties were equal to nearly 1 out of every 10 soldiers that served.
Canadians are not a blunt, brash or boasting lot. We are famous for apologizing for things that aren’t our fault. So let me say ”sorry” to you in that vein – during the War, our armed forces were too busy making scraps to make a scrapbook for posterity. Many of our soldiers were gone for six years and then had to be re-integrated back into society after the War. We were also kind of busy burying our dead, and helping rebuild the world.
We’ll be sure to get it right for World War III – which ironically will likely be started by someone like you, asking ill-advised, inflammatory questions like this.
(Editor’s Note: The answer above certainly struck a nerve, which I’m thankful for! In just the last 30 days alone, nearly 50,000 people on Quora.com read my answer above, and I received dozens of very kind comments. I’ve shared my favorite at the end of this article.
I’m also honoured to have been “upvoted” over 2,900 times, which, according to Quora, means that these readers “believe I answered the question asked and contributed in a meaningful way to Quora’s repository of knowledge”.
If only the ORIGINAL QUESTION had been written with that same goal in mind.
And for the very first time in my life, I believe, something I’ve written has been painstakingly translated word for word into French, by a man I don’t know and have never spoken to before! Merci beaucoup, Pierre Luc Gaudreault de Montréal! You did an amazing job / Tu as fait un travail incroyable!
And it’s comments like these that truly make my blog, Quora, Youtube, Twitter…all worthwhile. Thank you Raymond Li!