Thunder Bay

Historian Jack Granatstein launches new book on WWII in Thunder Bay

Jack Granatstein, one of Canada's best known military historians, will launch his new book in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Saturday November 14.

'It was one of this country's great moments'

Herb Pike (second from right) with fellow Canadian soldiers in Holland during World War II. Canada's role in the liberation of the Netherlands was one of the ways in which the army proved itself, said historian Jack Granatstein. (Herb Pike)

Jack Granatstein, one of Canada's best known military historians, will launch his new book in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Saturday November 14.

The Best Little Army in the World: The Canadians in Northwest Europe 1944 - 45 tells the story of Canada's "extraordinary" efforts during the Second World War, as the country distinguished itself on the world stage.

It was an amazing feat, said Granatstein, considering that Canada had no army to speak of in 1939. During the war, the country was so successful in mobilizing the population that over one million volunteers were recruited, from a population of only 11 million. 

"In many ways it's a wonderful story of how you can create an army out of nothing," said Granatstein.

"On the other hand, who wants to create an army out of nothing? You take a lot of casualties in the process, while you're learning how to do the job." 

It took almost five years to build a strong army out of untrained volunteers, he said, which was no easy task.

"It runs into difficulties looking for commanders and looking for regimental officers," he said.

"But once we get into the swing of things, once we get some battle experience, it turns into a quite extraordinary military."

By 1944 the Canadians were helping its allies to wear down the German army in Europe, and proving themselves to be "tough, resourceful, well-led troops" said Granatstein.

Canada's war effort at home was also impressive, he said, as the country churned out thousands of military vehicles, ships and airplanes.

"It was one of this country's greatest moments," he said, adding that Canadians know far too little about their nation's wartime history.

The book will be launched on Saturday morning at the O'Kelly Armoury as part of the annual Military Symposium in Thunder Bay. 

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