The Information Front: The Canadian Army and News Management during the Second World War

Article excerpt

Balzer, Timothy. The Information Front: The Canadian Army and News Management during the Second World War. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010. 272 pp. $35.95.

Timothy Balzer's book, Ihe Information Front, provides historians with Canada's sometimes frustrating experience in managing war news as the junior partner in a global military alliance.

Published in association with the Canadian War Museum and based on extensive archival research in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States, the book is a thorough, balanced, and thoughtful examination of how the Canadian Army used censorship and propaganda to rally Canadians behind World War II. The army's public relations campaign is traced from its awkward inception at the start of the war, through the disastrous raid on Dieppe and the trial and errors of the invasions of Sicily and Italy, and then the relatively smooth operations during D-Day and beyond. The book is subdivided into two parts: an overview of Canadian news management throughout the war and a series of more detailed case studies focused on Dieppe, Sicily, and Normandy.

Balzer documents the conflicts in spinning a war for the home audience between reporters and press officers, commanders and politicians, and the military and the government as well as the need for both military secrecy and public trust and support. The book provides valuable insight for those interested in the Allies' broader public relations strategy by examining the uneasy relationship between Canada and its two larger partners, Great Britain and the U.S. Even though Canada contributed, and lost, the bulk of the 3,367 troops captured or slaughtered during the raid on the Germanoccupied French port of Dieppe in 1942, it was forced to take a back seat in planning the post-raid publicity to the U.S., which had contributed only fifty soldiers to the effort. Worse, when the architect of the raid, Great Britain's Lord Louis Mounrbatten, decided to kill the news of the embarrassing fiasco, Canada's fledgling public relations operation had to scramble to turn out sugar-coated stories of individual heroics and lessons learned to anxious audiences at home.

It was no wonder that the Canadian Army was eager to announce its participation in the more successful invasion of Sicily in 1943. This, roo, was nixed by General Dwight D. …