Military Relations between the United States and Canada, 1939-1945

By Stanley W. Dziuban | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX Comrades in Arms

Although mention of World War II military co-operation between the United States and Canada may first bring to mind the Ogdensburg Declaration and the Permanent Joint Board on Defense or well-publicized projects such as the Alaska Highway and the Canol Project, that co-operation was by no means limited to politico-military and strategic planning or to logistical enterprises carried out in the Canadian northland. On battlegrounds in different quarters of the globe, Canadians and Americans fought and died together as North American brothers-in-arms.1

Military units of the two countries inevitably found themselves co-operating on various occasions as the scope and scale of operations in the European theater grew larger. Canadian and U.S. divisions fought side by side in Sicily, in Italy, and during the advance from Normandy. In fact, the U.S. XVI Corps was assigned to the First Canadian Army, commanded by General Henry D. G. Crerar, to assist him in clearing the west bank of the Rhine of the enemy in March 1945.

In the air war, RCAF fighter squadrons teamed up to protect U.S. Eighth Air Force Flying Fortresses on many missions from the United Kingdom against continental targets during 1942 and 1943. Many of the aircraft of Royal Air Force squadrons, furnishing fighter escort in the same way, were manned by RCAF personnel serving in Royal Air Force units. The AAF was able to repay these courtesies many times in Sicily and Italy, where its fighter-bomber and light and medium bomber groups flew hundreds of sorties in direct support of Canadian ground forces.

Still other circumstances found large numbers of Canadians and Americans fighting side by side. Long before Pearl Harbor, a steady stream of Americans had started moving northward across the border to join the Canadian armed forces. By the beginning of 1941 some 1,200 Americans com-

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1
Symbolic of this brotherhood-in-arms was the selection of the sonnet "High Flight" for wide circulation throughout the schools of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This sonnet, which has been viewed as ranking with John McCrae "In Flanders Fields" and Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier," was penned by an American, Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee of the RCAF. Magee, who was killed at age nineteen in December 1941, was one of the large number of Americans who enlisted in the Canadian armed forces while the United States was still a neutral. The sonnet begins and ends: "Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth . . . . Put out my hand and touched the face of God."

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