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"Again, your book is a tremendous reminder of just how resolute and strong our immigrant families had to be to deal with the tragedy and difficulties in strange worlds, and wonder if they would ever see folks at home again. Your Uncle Arnold served our country very well indeed in most difficult circumstances. Your book is certainly history told through a great story..."
LCol (ret'd) Alex MacKinnon,
RCAF 1958 - 1996
"My Dear Shirley:
Just a note to say how very much I am enjoying your book. I have been reading it now for a few weeks and I have found its contents most interesting. It brings back many fond memories of my war years in England and the continent, which I must say were some of the (?). I will read the balance of the book with a great deal of interest. Good luck to you and all the rest."
(Former Second World War RCAF Wing Commander) B.D. "Dal" Russel, DSO, DFC and Bar
("Dal" Russel became the first Squadron Leader of No 14(F) Squadron when it was formed after Pearl Harbour, preparing the Squadron for its service in the Battle of the Aleution Islands. He became Squadron Leader to the same Squadron in the spring of 1944, when No 14(F) became 442(F), and in July 1944 he became Wing Commander. (These are the squadrons that my uncle served in during the times when Dal was in command.)
Dal read early drafts of this story and discussed his memories of the war years with me.
I Hope the Lord Will Protect Them
(Second World War, 1940-45) - Synopsis
Selected Readings: Chapter 15
"It makes you just itch to get over there"
On December 17, 1939, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced to Canadians, by radio, the formation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP)....
....the BCATP would "...establish Canada as the site of one of the greatest air training programs of the world.".... ....The planning and organization for the program was a massive undertaking.
....strict regulations forbade unsafe procedures, such as low-altitude flying and participation in "dogfights." Arnold wrote in January 1940, "Two fellows were killed yesterday morning from getting reckless and diving fast enough to take the wings off."
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the American base at Pearl Harbour, a devastating attack that changed the course of the war.... Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbour, Great Britain and the United States declared war on Japan. China declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy.
A few days after the United States declared war on Japan, Germany declared war on the United States.
"Nothing but rain, rain, rain"
Arnold and Audrey's plans for Christmas and New Year's were changed with the outbreak of war in the Pacific. Arnold reported to Rockcliffe, near Ottawa, on Jan. 1, 1942 for the formation of Number 14 Fighter Squadron (F)....
....With a growing mutual concern for the aggression of both the Japanese and the Germans, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King had signed a plan for the joint defence of North America....
In March 1942, fear of Japanese invasion reached near hysterical heights. The Vancouver Sun ran a series of inflammatory front-page editorials....
The second editorial.... advocated that citizens should be determined to die and to wreck their homes, towns and cities rather than surrender to the Japanese.
American defence of its Aleutian Islands near Alaska required transit through northwest Canada and Canadian coastal waters.... By December 1942, there were 15,000 Americans working in the Pacific Northwest, and six months later, in June 1943, there were 33,000....
...In order to save face with the Japanese public, their occupation forces established bases on Kiska and Attu, only 650 miles northwest of Japan. The alarmed Canadian and American public feared that the Japanese might use these islands as a base from which they could attack the west coast of North America.
A Vancouver Sun headline blazed, "Unguarded Liquor Rolls Through the City." The mayor of New Westminster wanted trucking companies, rather than the city, to pay the cost of police escorts for liquor in transit through the city. He said it was cheap insurance for the company against possible hijacking.
In September 1942, the Provincial Civilian Protection Committee began distributing thousands of gas masks and respirators.
....The ARP recruited and trained 2,500 messengers. Children as young as twelve were trained as runners "....to keep an unbroken line of communication, so that if the telephone service should go out of operations, messages would be able to get through...."
On February 8, 1943, a light snowstorm delayed the planned departure of No. 14 Fighter Squadron from the Sea Island Airport... "Have quite a trip ahead of us - over 2,500 miles, which will take us west of Dutch Harbour. We will be under U.S. command, and they're so secretive that we don’t know our own address as yet."
"It was a terrible place to live"
Early in 1943, Canada and the United States had a force of 40,000 in Alaska, defending against 7,500 Japanese on the islands of Kiska and Attu.... The Allied Supreme Command decided that the islands should be taken back, to release manpower badly needed for other theatres of war.... Eleventh Air Force had requested the posting of a second RCAF fighter squadron to Alaska.... Approved the transfer of No. 14(F) to Alaska, to be under the command of the USAAF.
There was no radar, and weather reports were not available during flight. Weather changes in this northern region could be dramatic, swift and dangerous.
....When the squadron finally reached their airfield, after a five-week journey, the whole ground crew rushed out to meet the fifteen Kittyhawks flying in, in formation.
"...only those who have lived in the mud, the williwaws, the penetrating cold, the rain and sudden fog, can fully appreciate the loneliness and hardship of existence in that bleak region."
....Alaska Defence Command had agreed that the Canadians should rotate on operations with the American pilots....
To take back the two islands, the strategy was to invade Attu first, the one furthest away. This would isolate the occupation force on Kiska....
On the 15th of August, the invasion of Kiska began. In the fog, at midnight, the First Special Service Force landed. At 0630 the main landing force waded in, tensed for battle and waiting for a response from the enemy.... The "Alaska Escapade" was over.
..."Yes, I was decorated by the Americans - the Air Medal. I made twenty missions or so over Kiska before the Japs left. It was a terrible country to live in - especially after the excitement was over. I had the honour of leading the last raid against the little yellow devils before they left..."
"We like our Spits very much"
The troop ship arrived at Mersey Estuary, south of Liverpool, on January 27, 1944.
Their newly formed wing was numbered 144, and the three squadrons in it were numbered 441-443.... No. 14(F) became No. 442(F)....
Finding the necessary personnel and resources for the formation of a wing was a massive undertaking.... likened to setting up a small town and preparing it to go on an extensive camping trip, along with aircraft, parts and supplies of all sorts.
...Operational flying in Europe was very different from that in Alaska.
During April, the squadron participated in a variety of missions and on one mission went deep into the Ruhr Valley in Germany.
The squadron was greatly surprised in early March when their original commanding officer, B. D. Dal Russel... arrived there to become their squadron leader once again....
In the weeks before the invasion, the wing flew hard on a wide variety of operations.
"I have never been so keen about flying"
"We were over the beachhead 20 minutes before the landing started on June 6th. It was truly a terrific and awesome spectacle."
On the 13th of June, the Germans used their new secret weapon for the first time, the V-1 or "buzz bomb."....
The Luftwaffe began appearing in greater numbers in late June, defending their important rail movements in support of their ground forces....
On the first of July, he wrote, "I finally spotted six yesterday and got into them ahead of any of the other boys—right on the deck. Destroyed two FW190s before the rest of the gang really caught up... It really was a thrill - ..."
On the late evening of the 6th of July, the wing witnessed a magnificent spectacle as hundreds of four-engine bombers flew past the base in the direction of Caen.
The article further stated, "Mr. Churchill disclosed that the robot bombs were dropping on London at a rate of 100 to 150 per day.... Mr. Churchill concluded a speech in the House of Commons with, "London will never be conquered..."