CBC 75th birthday- War
CBC Reporter Matthew Halton on Hill, Italy 1945 (CBC Still Photo Collection)
Seventy-five years of war coverage. Since CBC first went to air, we have covered wars and conflicts around the world. Rewind has the last in the series of programs that looks at 75 years of CBC Radio. Michael Enright's co-host is Peter Armstrong, host of CBC Radio's World Report, and together they look at how CBC has covered war from the Second World War through the Cold War, draft dodgers, the Cruise Missile and United Nations peacekeepers.
Clip 1 In 1939 Canada hosted King George and Queen Elizabeth- the first ever visit by a reigning sovereign. CBC Radio, which was just over two years old at the time, had committed 100 staff to cover the visit- two English and two French teams- and purchased a wealth of new equipment including remote amplifiers and custom made microphones. This investment proved invaluable in covering the Second World War when it began just months later. CBC was the voice of Canada at war. CBC reporters told Canadians what their soldiers were doing and helped forge a sense of national identity. Our first clip was from September 3, 1939, when the Prime Minister took to the air to recommend that Canada join Britain and go to war.
Clip 2 When the war began, CBC was getting its news from the Canadian Press. But with its brand new equipment, CBC staff was eager to meet the challenge. In December 1939 reporter Bob Bowman, with just four hours notice, was sent to Halifax to record the first troop sailings to England. He and sound engineer Art Holmes managed to talk their way aboard the ship the Aquitaine.
Clip 3 And then a few days later, the ship arrived in England.
Clip 4 In the summer and fall of 1940, the German air force launched raids on the United Kingdom in an effort to demoralize Britain into surrender. The CBC's Art Holmes, was convinced that it was historically important to record the sounds of the Blitz. He had a four-wheel drive army truck that he nicknamed 'Betsy'-specially fitted with three battery operated recording turntables. At great personal hazard he would seek the wailing air raid sirens, the droning enemy airplanes, the ack-ack of anti aircraft fire, whistling bombs and fiery explosions.
Clip 5 In September 1939, the British government began evacuating children from the cities to the countryside and the next year to dominion countries such as Canada. On October 1940, the fourteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth sent best wishes to those children. It was the earliest known recording of the future Queen.
Clip 6 As the war increased in intensity, the need for recruits increased as well. And CBC was not afraid to let listeners know which side they were on with songs, war bonds and recruitment drives. Listen to these samples.
Clip 7 In September 1942 reporter Rooney Pelletier announced that a raid on Dieppe had taken place, and that Canadians should be proud.
Clip 8 But by the next day, the number of Canadian casualties became known. Of 5,000 Canadian soldiers involved in the nine-hour battle, more than 900 were killed and 1,300 taken prisoner. Hundreds more were wounded.
Clip 9 Two of the voices for CBC who made their name during the war were Lorne Greene, who read the news, and the other was Matthew Halton. Halton was an unabashed sentimentalist who covered the war as a crusade. A thoughtful philosopher and determined idealist, Matthew Halton was an everyman poet who wore his heart boldly on his sleeve. We played his report from August 1944 after the liberation of Paris.
Clip 10 May 8, 1945, was a day to celebrate. It was VE-Day, the long-awaited moment when the Allied forces triumphed over Nazi Germany to claim victory in Europe. We had a report from the streets of Toronto.
Clip 11 In the 1950s, with superpowers in the east and the west testing powerful new weapons, Canadians fretted about fallout shelters and the government prepared to go underground. In November 1961, the government decided to simulate a nuclear attack to test the country's response.
Clip 12 Canadians had the opportunity to pursue peace through the United Nations Blue Berets. Starting in 1956 in the Suez Canal as the brainchild of Prime Minister Lester Pearson, the Peacekeepers helped to defuse tension and symbolize reconciliation. Canadians peacekeepers went to Cyprus in 1964 when the newly independent island struggled to balance the interests of its Greek and Turkish communities. Our clip was from April 1965.
Clip 13 Vietnam may have been America's war but Canada was involved- for and against. Canada harboured between 30 and 40,000 American draft dodgers and helped supervise ceasefires. But at the same time, about 30,000 Canadians volunteered to fight in Southeast Asia. And Canada was involved in secret missions, weapons testing and arms production. Our clip was from March 1969 from a halfway house in Toronto.
Clip 14 Canada has always had peace activists- from the Voice of Women to the Pugwash Conference of scientists and the Canadian Peace Research Institute. And certainly the anti war message of the late 1960s and the Vietnam War rippled across Canada too. In the early 1980s peace activists rallied around the threat of nuclear escalation, and in particular the plan to test the cruise missile in Alberta. The clip first aired in October 1982 at a rally in Ottawa.
Clip 15 Even forty years after the end of the Second World War, questions persisted about whether Canada had accepted Nazi war criminals. There was even a rumour that the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele had immigrated to this country and was living here under an alias. In 1985 the federal government established an inquiry to look into the issue. It was called the Deschênes Commission and it investigated 883 potential war criminals. The establishment of the commission put the Canadian Jewish community at odds with those of Eastern European descent who objected to the use of evidence from the Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain countries. The report was released in 1987.
Clip 16 And then in 1991 a war in the Gulf. A television audience was captivated by the flying missiles that lit up the night sky. Canadian troops, sent abroad for combat for the first time since the Korean War joined the Allied forces to fight Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. On the surface, the occupation ended swiftly and decisively as the Iraqi forces retreated. But as was evident over the next decade, the problems remained unresolved. We aired some of the live report from the day the war broke out.
Clip 17 Canadian peacemakers were lauded as heroes when they went to Somalia in 1992 to restore order to a country ruled by rebels. But as it turned out, the Canadian Airborne regiment was splitting apart at the seams and the troops came home in disgrace. In the ensuing investigation, it was revealed that there was neither proper leadership or accountability.
Clip 18 When Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire arrived in the Rwandan capital of Kigali in October 1993 he had high hopes for what he believed would be a textbook case of peacekeeping. But as he prepared to help broker a shaky peace, Hutu extremists were secretly putting the pieces in place for a widespread massacre of their hated rivals, the Tutsis. More than 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days and in the middle of the horror was a Canadian peacekeeper whose efforts to avert the tragedy were thwarted by political apathy and incalculable evil. Michael Enright talked to Roméo Dallaire regularly as the situation in Rwanda deteriorated. Dallaire came home a broken man. In June of 2000 he spoke with Dallaire on the program This Morning.
Clip 19 In January 2001 three Canadian warships left Halifax to embark for Afghanistan, where they would join the U.S. led force fighting the Taliban. Prime Minister Jean Chretien was there.
Clip 20 And to end this edition of Rewind, more from Matthew Halton. This is from Remembrance Day 1944, as the Second World War was nearing its end.