Canada's Fighting Pilots
Jump to navigation. Indochina is bleeding. Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea discharge a massive flow of apparently permanent refugees, on a scale the world has not experienced since World War II. No end is in sight to the flow nor is any political solution visible. There is more to the outflow than the aftermath of war-prolonged, bitter and bloody as the conflict was. Of the more than one million persons who have fled or been forced out of Indochina since communist governments took over in , by far the greatest number have left in the last 18 months.
Behind the upheaval is Hanoi's determination not only to bring Kampuchea into line and free Laos of dissidents, but to rid its own territory of unwanted elements and carry out the socialist transformation of unified Vietnam without delay. Anti-Chinese feeling is a major factor; Hanoi's approach includes forcing out of Vietnam hundreds of thousands of people considered undesirable in the new society, many of them ethnic Chinese, and in the process exploiting their financial resources to its own benefit.
If the policies behind this exodus should be resumed-after the short breathing space apparently gained by the July Geneva conference-another million or more inhabitants of Vietnam might seek refuge abroad. Already the refugees have saddled neighboring non-communist nations with serious political, economic, social and security problems. Their presence is potentially explosive in several countries, notably Malaysia and Indonesia, which have Chinese minorities and delicate racial balances.
Altogether, the stability of Southeast Asia is threatened. This puts us on the defensive in our dealings with Washington and leads us to adopt what may be an unduly sensitive attitude. In the meantime, Australia had faced a federal election in December , and the Chifley Labour government had been replaced by a Liberal conservative government led by Robert Menzies.
Ironically, like the St. Laurent was concerned about the threat in Europe. Australia thus announced a contribution, seeing that a commitment of forces to the conflict would have a positive diplomatic effect on its relationship with the United States. Thereafter, under Menzies, Australia quickly committed a squadron of aircraft and several ships to the conflict. These men were credited with a total of more than twenty Russian-made jet fighters destroyed or damaged.
Having stationed forces as the lead participant in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan known as BCOF since , Australia was relatively well placed to promptly contribute air, sea and ground elements to the conflict, even though the force had been scaled back in and the skeleton force that remained was about to completely withdraw as war broke out in Korea. Australian and Canadian naval ships also joined the fight early on, and comfortably integrated under the operational control of the Royal Navy in the Yellow Sea, or in Task Force 77, under the United States Navy, in the Sea of Japan.
That greater awareness sprang in part from the fact that Australia announced its commitment, along with the British and New Zealanders, before Canada did. In fact the announcements from these three countries prompted the Canadian Cabinet to review the Canadian position.
Painting by Robert Taylor. This formation for the most part used common British-pattern equipment and organizations, and included infantry battalions from Australia, Canada, England and Scotland, as well as a New Zealand field artillery regiment and an Indian field ambulance. The Canadians had contemplated re-equipping with items of US origin, but with the majority of the force consisting of Second World War veterans, most of their expertise would have been nullified by having to retrain on unfamiliar equipment.
Up to that time there had been no record of any other brigade—or force of similar size—composed of so many contingents of different Commonwealth countries. In the meantime, from February onwards, following the arrival of 2 PPCLI in Korea, the Australian and Canadian land forces fought alongside each other for the first time since The battle was fought on a cleft between two promontories that marked one of the invasion routes into South Korea.
Intelligence reports indicated that the attack had been launched by an estimated 6, troops from two Chinese regiments.
Canada's Fighting Pilots
Subsequently, Canada and Australia both contributed forces to the only integrated ground formation of Commonwealth countries — the 1st Commonwealth Division — in mid This occurred despite the St. The Division included an integrated British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand headquarters as well as divisional and line-of communications signals units.
The division achieved a remarkable degree of homogeneity. A formidable fighting force of over 20, all ranks, it remained to the end of hostilities a key formation along the line of hills defending the 38th parallel. In addition, the predominantly British divisional support units incorporated Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Indian members in their organizations. All these failings can be linked to the absence of an effective patrol doctrine.
Our tactics have a stereotyped quality that deprives us of initiative and forewarns the enemy. We rarely trick the Chinaman. We do not use deception and have lost our aggressive spirit. Commanders and men are dug-out minded. The fear of receiving casualties deadens our reactions and lessens our effort. We are thoroughly defensive minded but not thorough in our defence. Commonwealth Division HQ never imposed a uniform defensive doctrine along its front.
The Indochina Refugee Crisis | Foreign Affairs
Allard was active in rectifying many of the faults he observed in the third rotation of battalions on assuming command. Also, as alluded to earlier, during this period both had started shifting to equipment, if not doctrine, of US origin. However, the purchase of US equipment by both countries was kept to a minimum due to political and economic constraints arising from adverse national balance of payments that favoured the United States.
This disparity between the Australians and Canadians was most evident in terms of the contrasting financial arrangements. Canada was not a member of the Sterling Area and thus felt financially unconstrained by the arrangements made under BCOF. In addition, Canadians were certainly not attracted to the diet of mutton, bully beef and biscuits to which the Australians, New Zealanders and Britons were subjected.
Not surprisingly therefore, the Canadians were alone among the Commonwealth units in making regular use of American food rations. This was particularly the case given the plethora of other national contingents — each with unique requirements that had to be imposed on the American supply system. In addition, tactical differences between the Americans and the Commonwealth forces were particularly evident. These lines were complemented by strongly held outposts that invited attack and resulted in heavy American casualties.
When Commonwealth and American units replaced each other on the front, the result was a great deal of alteration of positions, with much unnecessary digging and filling. On the Hook, for instance, such alterations resulted in a compromise in the defensive positions that would be exposed by Chinese attacks. For the Commonwealth troops, the view was held that any battle which caused equal casualties on both sides left the Chinese with the advantage.
Such inclinations reflected a seeming reluctance to trust non-commissioned officers and a pre-disposition to micro-manage minor tactical incidents.
But exposure to this approach to warfare discouraged Canadians and Australians from abandoning their British-derived tactics in favour of the more expensive and resource-consuming US examples. By late , the entire 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade had deployed to Korea. In August , Brigadier F. Fleury had been appointed the senior Canadian officer in the Korean theatre. Fleury had been invited to be the BCF-K Chief of Staff, and was eager to accept the appointment, but Canadian authorities preferred to limit his responsibilities, fearing such responsibilities would undermine his independence in safeguarding Canadian interests.
After the armistice, Canadian and Australian troops would remain alongside each other as part of the composite Commonwealth force until the major combat units returned home in and the final elements were withdrawn in In the end, 26, Canadians served in Korea, with casualties including dead and 32 captured. Australia suffered killed and 29 taken prisoner. Chinese and North Korean casualties were likely more than a million, while United Nations casualties numbered some ,, of whom 33, were Americans killed. South Korea suffered 66, soldiers killed. On the diplomatic front, Canada and Australia were included in the United Nations Committee of Sixteen, which started meeting in Washington in January The Canadians, British, and Australians were especially close and often lunched together beforehand for general discussion, but the views even of these three were seldom unanimous.
Canadian diplomacy during the Korean War can be interpreted very largely as a manifestation of the attempt to support the core, while simultaneously containing the extremities of American policy, and to ensure that military forces operating under UN auspices, but delegated to US command, were prevented from being drawn into a larger Asian war The central preoccupation of senior Canadian policy-makers was Complementing the diplomatic manoeuvring was the tactical actions of troops such as the Canadians and Australians that proved so costly in lives, but which also had some significant strategic effects.
The ANZUS Pact had become negotiable thanks to the re-assessment of American strategic security interests following the outbreak of the Korean War and thanks to the military cooperation offered to the United States in conducting it.
The treaty also justified limiting Australian defence expenditure, much as the American presence assured Canadians that they could afford to restrict defence expenditure. Australia and New Zealand joined, but despite its shared Pacific coastline and enduring interests in Asia-Pacific security, Canada still considered itself primarily a North Atlantic nation.
Nonetheless, what emerged from the Korean War for the Australian and Canadian forces was, for the first time in their histories, professional expeditionary forces, the leaders of which at all levels were experienced, combat-tested veterans. This dual-track approach left both countries ill-prepared for the military crises in , and Not surprisingly, similarities are evident in force structures and in their relatively small size, limited funding, and modus operandi. These similarities were evident despite at times contrasting Canadian and Australian foreign policies.
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While similarities were numerous, differences were equally apparent. The Australian way was influenced by their experiences in the Middle East with desert warfare during both World Wars, where battlefield manoeuvre was both feasible and more common than the Canadian troops had experienced in Italy and North-West Europe. The Australian way also featured fighting in the jungles to the north of Australia, where light forces, limited availability of artillery and a concomitant increased reliance on air support instead , and small-team actions, including assertive patrolling, featured prominently.
For much of the time such tactics were driven by resource constraints due to shortages in suitable equipment and adequately trained personnel as much as by the inaccessibility of the inhospitable terrain where the fighting took place. Yet even with the different approaches in Korea already noted, when contrasted with the experience and approach of their American allies, the differences between the Canadians and Australians would be placed in proper perspective — being quite minor.
For instance, Canada and Australia adhered to a short war, forces-in-being military doctrine that placed priority on ready regular forces instead of militia-based reserves. Thereafter, neither Canada nor Australia felt they could disengage militarily from the outside world as they had done in the inter-war years, and both saw themselves as participants with other countries rather than independent military actors on the world stage. Such sentiments would permeate Australian and Canadian defence and foreign policy thinking for decades to come.