In The Media

Cooper: We learned the value of vigilance 70 years ago

by Barry Cooper

The Calgary Herald
May 27, 2015

In a 1935 book, Paths of Glory, later a movie starring Kirk Douglas, one of the characters says “war never settled anything except who was strongest.”

Such sentiments were contrary to those expressed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this month at Wageningen, the Netherlands. His words marked the 70th anniversary of the surrender, on May 5, 1945, of the German army in Holland to Canadian Lieut.-Gen. Charles Foulkes.

Two days later, the remaining Germans surrendered at Reims, France, and a day later, surrendered again to the Soviet Union in Berlin. Victory in Europe, or V-E Day, was officially celebrated on May 8.

Among the Allies, soldiers were relieved and civilians celebrated. Most Canadian cities and towns held thanksgiving services. After liberating several breweries and liquor stores, on May 7 and 8, the population of Halifax also rioted. More than 200 shops were looted, three rioters died, and 2,624 plate glass windows were replaced. A royal commission blamed the navy; the navy blamed city officials.

In Calgary on May 9, a famous de Havilland Mosquito warplane used in 211 combat missions and named “F-for-Freddie” buzzed downtown by flying north up First Street. Persons on the upper floors of the Hudson’s Bay store or the Palliser Hotel could see the plane flying below them. The next day, it crashed, killing the flight crew after making a low-altitude, high-speed pass over the airport control tower.

Things were rather different then. We don’t usually fly planes downtown at nearly 500 kilometres an hour today.

But was anything really settled?

In a recent essay, George Friedman, founder of the intelligence company Stratfor, suggested we look at the way the Second World War began, rather than how it ended, to see what changed. For the three major combatants, the U.K., the Soviet Union and the U.S., the war began with three distinct shocks.

The British were stunned by how quickly the French were defeated. Henceforth, they would have to rely on their air force and navy to keep the Germans at bay until, eventually, the Americans joined the war. The price, American and, as junior partners, Canadian occupation, was worth paying since the alternative was German occupation. But either way, the British Empire would be gone.

The Soviets were shocked in June 1941, when the Germans invaded in violation of the friendship treaty between the two countries. Like the British, they had expected more from the French, so as to give the Red Army the opportunity to attack west when it suited them. Instead, they were attacked when it suited the Germans.

Russia concluded the war by moving its effective borders to Central Europe, thus providing its armies with sufficient strategic depth to prevent any future invasion from the west. President Vladimir Putin’s action in Ukraine today reflects the lesson learned from the German invasion.

The Americans were shocked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The lesson, that conflict with Japan was likely, not how and when the attack might come, was translated into Cold War strategy: constant vigilance was needed. The lesson was enhanced by the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Americans, along with almost everyone else, also learned that appeasement did not work. If an enemy might strike any time, and if another Munich was to be avoided, then a large military establishment and an American-led alliance were also needed.

Seventy years ago, war settled who was strongest, but it also reminded the victors that defence of what they believe to be justice, about which the prime minister spoke in Holland, is not guaranteed.

Barry Cooper is a research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

No events are scheduled at this time.


Global Times: BRICS summit displays the potential of a new future

by Editorial Staff (feat. Swaran Singh), WSFA 12, June 24, 2022

Oil's Dive Won't Bring Any Immediate Relief on Inflation

by Alex Longley, Elizabeth low, and Barbara Powell (feat. Amrita Sen), BNNBloomberg, June 24, 2022

China To Tout Its Governance Model At BRICS Summit

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), The Asean Post, June 23, 2022

Soutien aux victimes d’inconduites sexuelles dans l’armée

by Rude Dejardins (feat. Charlotte Duval-Lantoine), ICI Radio Canada, June 23, 2022

Defence: $4.9 billion for radars against Russian bombs

by Editorial Staff (feat. Rob Huebert), Archynews, June 23, 2022

The Hans Island “Peace” Agreement between Canada, Denmark, and Greenland

by Elin Hofverberg (feat. Natalie Loukavecha), Library of Congress, June 22, 2022

What the future holds for western Canadian oil producers

by Gabriel Friedman (feat. Kevin Birn), Beaumont News, June 22, 2022

At BRICS summit, China sets stage to tout its governance model

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), Aljazeera, June 22, 2022

Crude oil price: there are no changes to the fundamentals

by Faith Maina (feat. Amrita Sen), Invezz, June 22, 2022

Few details as Liberals promise billions to upgrade North American defences

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Andrea Charron), National Newswatch, June 20, 2022

Defence Minister Anita Anand to make announcement on continental defence

by Steven Chase (feat. Rob Huebert), The Globe and Mail, June 19, 2022

Table pancanadienne des politiques

by Alain Gravel (feat. Jean-Christophe Boucher), ICI Radio Canada, June 18, 2022

Russia Ukraine conflict

by Gloria Macarenko (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC Radio One, June 17, 2022

New privacy Bill to introduce rules for personal data, AI use

by Shaye Ganam (feat. Tom Keenan), 680 CHED, June 17, 2022


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6


Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: [email protected]


Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.


© 2002-2022 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email