Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XLV
The magnificent fiasco of Dieppe--Its costs and its returns

A MUCH more costly and a much more useful battle was fought by Canadian land forces eight months after Hong Kong, on August 19, 1942. This was the majestic fiasco of Dieppe, where a raid in force led by the Canadian Second Division ended in a bloody and almost total failure but provided many of the lessons which made the full-scale invasion of Normandy in 1944 a decisive and unexpectedly inexpensive success.

In a sense the military commanders of the West--and to an even greater degree the political commanders--were back where Haig, Foch, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau had been through most of the earlier war. Confronted with a stalemate, they were impelled toward the conclusion that a dubious battle was better than no battle at all.

Russia was now in the war, fighting for its life against the "ally" it had freed to overrun Poland in 1939 and France, Belgium, and Holland in 1940. Molotov, who had been so recently discussing the division of Europe with Hitler and Ribbentrop, was now in London and Washington demanding of Churchill and Roosevelt that they come to the Soviets' help--and of course their own--by launching an immediate second front in Western Europe.

Much as the Western Allies might have been tempted to let the Soviets pay the full price of their unholy bargain with Hitler, any such course appeared--at least then--to be out of the question. With a powerful Japan on the side of the Axis, the arguments for giving all possible relief and assistance to Russia were unanswerable. Although the United States was heavily engaged with Japan and was still in a relatively primitive stage of its military build-up, Roosevelt--against the advice of his chief military and diplomatic advisers

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