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Storming Juno
June 6, 2011 10:41 AM   Subscribe

"Juno" was the beachhead for Canadian forces during Operation Neptune (D-Day). 1/10th the size of the British and American forces, the Canadian units were the first to break through German lines; by the end of the day, Canadian soldiers had penetrated deeper into Normandy than any other Allied force. Storming Juno tells their story via an immersive Flash experience that interweaves live recreation, documents, and oral history from veterans. (Flash, interactive, sound)
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (33 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Canadian soldiers were also known for their use of ironically intended pop-culture references.

I'm sorry
posted by mightygodking at 10:46 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


On behalf of Canadians also dying to make an Ellen Page* joke, you're forgiven.

*She's Canadian!
posted by GuyZero at 10:47 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Need to take a break; old men with shining eyes make me lose my shit.

Thank you for the post.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:01 AM on June 6, 2011


So although I don't really have anything meaningful to say about Juno beach, the experiences of the Canadian Armed Forces in the first and second world wars were incredibly instrumental in building the modern Canadian national identity even though the events themselves are incredibly distant today. Canada is a small nation by population although by happenstance of geography it is physically large and has a lot of mineral riches (oil, ore and odd stuff like potash). But it's really a small country in global terms - it's between Algeria and Morocco in population numbers for heaven's sakes. But it's also part of the G8. And much of the belief that Canada is capable of and deserves to be a major player on the global stage was formed in our successes in military operations like Juno.

No one at Juno died for the freedom of Canadians. Canada hasn't been under military threat since the 1800's when the US tried to invade once or twice. But Canadians at Juno sacrificed themselves for their cousins in Europe and, unwittingly, built the character of a nation for generations to come - even for those Canadians who wouldn't arrive in the country for another 50 years.
posted by GuyZero at 11:01 AM on June 6, 2011 [20 favorites]


1. A little choppy with my slow connection, but holy shit that is an impressive website. Wow. Never seen anything quite like that in my browser before.

2. We also did the "test run" at Dieppe, and got completely slaughtered. I remember some documentary, there was one lonely tank that made it up into the village, and had to surrender.

3. We also liberated the Netherlands. Hooray for us!
posted by Meatbomb at 11:06 AM on June 6, 2011


Canada hasn't been under military threat since the 1800's when the US tried to invade once or twice.

Don't forget that a nuclear war would have been fought over and above Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:22 AM on June 6, 2011


My dad's version of events:

I enlisted when I turned 18, with my mother's permission, about a year before being shipped over to England.

I was trained as an anti-tank-gun reinforcement, which is a very dangerous job. Shortly after I got to England, they asked if I'd be interested in changing to medium artillery and I was pretty happy about that. I took a technical surveying course, and because I had the highest mark, they sent me on a special course to a place called Redcar, where I got a stupid infected thumb, a splinter leading to a nail being cut out. That's the reason I missed D-DAY.

Burt Sargent was a year older than me and a summer resident of Hudson (my home town). His parents were good friends of my parents and we ended up playing lots of tennis as kids. I didn't even know he was in the army until I ran into him in Pinedale, England. He was with the anti-tank as I had been. We played some tennis together with rackets we found at the Salvation Army and I told him what I was doing with the medium artillery. He said it sounded a hell of a lot more interesting than anti-tank, so he applied and got accepted. He was killed on D-Day at Juno Beach.

posted by philip-random at 11:30 AM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Canada hasn't been under military threat since the 1800's

You're thinking of the British Empire, but anyway that Pig had it coming. Eating a man's potatoes right out of his garden, what gall!
posted by Winnemac at 11:35 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


GuyZero, WW2 was certainly an important event in Canadian History, but I think it is a common error to assign the later sense of Canadian multilateralism or interest in world wider affairs ("sacrificed them selves for the cousins in Europe") to WW2. Canadians fought in WW2 as soldiers of the Empire, in fact the US state department was under the mistaken impression that as soon as Britain declared war, then Canada too was at war. Nevertheless, Canada immediately declared war because it was an imperial duty and unthinkable otherwise. Even in Korea, Canadian troops fought as part of a Commonwealth force. Then you have the issue of the Quebecois who were on the whole displeased with the war and conscription.

Rather, to me the war meant the beginning of the switch from this empire mentality to one which more embraced America. The series of trade agreements signed then signed with America really enabled the Canadian economy to begin it's boom and lay the foundation for everything from the auto pact to NAFTA.

When it comes to Canadian national character, I look to the postwar years. The things that Canadians value: free healthcare (a welfare state in general), multilateralism, and multiculturalism are all results of the postwar decades of cultural, commercial, and government development.

So while WW2 hastened Canada's move from Europe to a more North American economic reality, the real work of building the national character happened without the impetus of war in later decades.

Not to say those guys at Juno weren't all kinds of kick ass, cause they definitely were.
posted by boubelium at 11:38 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not to mention this threat.

Also this is a better site than the "other D-Day" one so it should stay.
posted by Rumple at 11:44 AM on June 6, 2011


Not to mention this threat.

Don't forget the Turbot War. We let the EU off way too easy on that one; had the dollar, economy and government accounts not been so thoroughly in the tank in the mid-nineties, I think there would have been more fireworks.

On the other hand, had the fiscal situation been better, it's quite possible we just wouldn't have bothered at all.
posted by waterunderground at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2011


Don't forget that a nuclear war would have been fought over and above Canada.

yes, but I was talking about "hot" wars.

There's a strain of thought here in the US that bugs me a bit - with respect to my American friends. It's the "they died for our freedom" idea. Since the end of the US Civil War, no US soldier died to preserve the freedom of US citizens. The US was not under threat from Germany in WW II and it's debatable how much actual threat Japan posed. My opinion is that a Japanese land invasion of the US would not have gotten very far. I don't want to rehash the same line for Canadian soldiers. They volunteered bravely, they fought valiantly but they did not die for Canada. They dies upholding Canadian ideas. (And because they had no idea what they were getting into and rural Canada is very, very boring)

While I agree with your points, boubelium (yes, I'm conflating two responses here), I just wanted to make the point that in WW II like in WW I before it Canadian soldiers risked their lives for the benefit of others, not really for the benefit of Canadians. And it wasn't so much the effort, as we weren't alone in being foreign forces in Europe, but the success. And yes, a lot of what built modern Canada happened post-war (heck, multiculturalism an a aspect of Canadian identify really only dates to the 70's) but events like Juno are notable for being early and for having a lasting impact, small as it may be.
posted by GuyZero at 1:03 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


We also liberated the Netherlands. Hooray for us!
posted by Meatbomb at 7:06 PM on June 6


Cue Doug Stanhope... :-)

Nationalism does nothing but teach you how to hate people you've never met-- all of a sudden you take pride in accomplishments you had no part in whatsoever... if you're American you'll go "Fuck the French! Fuck the French, if we hadn't have saved their ass in two World Wars, they'd be speakin' German right now!" And you go, "Oh, was that us?" Was that me and you, Tommy, we saved the French? Jesus! I know I blacked out a little after that fourth shot of Jägermeister last night, but I don't remember... I know we were going through the Wendy's drive-thru to get one of them "Freshetta" sandwiches that looked so alluring on the commercial, but then we ordered it and realized we had no money, and we had to ditch out before the second window, and those douchebags in line behind us with the bass music probably got our order and we laughed about that. But I don't remember savin' the French. At all! I went through the last ten calls on my cell phone and there's nothin'--incoming or outgoing--to the French, lookin' for muscle on a project! I checked my pants, there's no mud stains on the knees from when we were garroting Krauts in the trenches at Verdun. I think "we" didn't do anything but watch sports bloopers while we got hammered. I think "we" should shut the fuck up! “
posted by Decani at 1:14 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't forget that a nuclear war would have been fought over and above Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:22 PM on June 6 [+] [!]

*finally stops laughing*

If the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had started flinging nuclear missiles at each other, Canada would probably have ultimately been the best place in the world to be (other than directly underneath one of the resulting explosions). The whole Earth would have been fried, to say the very least; Canada was under no special threat from a U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear war.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:31 PM on June 6, 2011


Considering that over 80% of the Canadian population is within 100 miles of the US border it's not really that much of an improvement. Plus I think the Russians knew about who was in NORAD.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since the end of the US Civil War, no US soldier died to preserve the freedom of US citizens. The US was not under threat from Germany in WW II and it's debatable how much actual threat Japan posed. My opinion is that a Japanese land invasion of the US would not have gotten very far.

Hawaii is part of the U.S., you know.
posted by grouse at 1:38 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not until 1959 it wasn't.
posted by GuyZero at 1:42 PM on June 6, 2011


It has been an incorporated territory since 1900, so it was indisputably part of the U.S. People born there would be citizens, and also plenty of U.S. citizens lived there. I reject this idea that only people living in the 48 continental states count somehow. The Japanese had already killed thousands of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil before the U.S. entry into the war.
posted by grouse at 1:57 PM on June 6, 2011


I cede the point. You are absolutely correct that the attack on Hawaii was a direct attack on the US. I don't think Japan's war in the Pacific was an existential threat to the US in the same sense as the Germans invading the Netherlands, France or Czechoslovakia but it certainly wasn't the core point I wanted to make.
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since the end of the US Civil War, no US soldier died to preserve the freedom of US citizens. The US was not under threat from Germany in WW II and it's debatable how much actual threat Japan posed.

What about threats to American shipping? Freedom of the high seas would be included under American values of freedom and American shipping staffed by American citizens were in danger of German torpedoes. Neutral shipping has long been a principle reason for US wars.
posted by boubelium at 2:10 PM on June 6, 2011


Canada was under no special threat from a U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear war.

When I was in the Canadian Army Reserves in 1990, we were told that it was assumed by war planners that every Canadian military base and every population center over 50,000 would be a primary target in a general strike--partly because they had so goddamned many nukes, and Canada was/is militarily an extension of the U.S. given NORAD.
posted by fatbird at 2:11 PM on June 6, 2011


When most Americans say "Soldiers died for our freedom" I don't think they mean the freedom of trans-oceanic cargo transport, but that's just my opinion. My dislike of the phrase is certainly based on a subjective interpretation of how I interpret "freedom" in the context of that sentence.
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on June 6, 2011


*finally stops laughing*

There are better ways to disagree with someone stinkycheese than to sneer. Not sure if you are too young to remember the Cold War, or if you are aware of Canadian history (I'm assuming you are not from Canada), but generally speaking in the 1950s, Russian bombers were expected to traverse the North Pole to reach their targets in the United States. Later it would be ICBMs.

In British Columbia (where I grew up) there would be few places on the coast where you would be able to escape from a nuclear exchange. Strait of Juan de Fuca is a major transit for the American navy. Esquimalt, in Victoria, is the home of the Canadian Pacific fleet (which developed into an ASW force during the Cold War). Esquimalt is also home to a dry dock facility quite close to the open Pacific. Comox, on the mid-Island, is home to interceptor squadrons, and has runways long enough to accommodate B-52s. Vancouver is home to one of the largest deepwater ports on the Pacific. Etc.

So laugh your ass off. You're safe now.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:39 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Storming Juno sounds like a great name for a prequel.
posted by oxford blue at 4:54 PM on June 6, 2011


KokuRyu: I am Canadian and I remember the Cold War all too well, thanks. I'm not laughing at you and I'm certainly not laughing at any troops, simply at the notion that Canada was under some unique threat from a nuclear war between the then-superpowers. I always assumed the whole world was going up in smoke in such a scenario, personally.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:35 PM on June 6, 2011


Maybe in the future everyone can be a little more specific with their dismissive laughter and clarify what exactly you're dismissing. Just a thought.
posted by GuyZero at 5:42 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


My high school Canadian History teacher taught us that Canada's involvement in 20th Century European wars had a lot to do with our cultural identity, and an ongoing process of self-defining our identity. (He also had some Cuban "Venceremos" posters, and did a puppet show with Hank Williams Sr. for the soundtrack).
posted by ovvl at 6:52 PM on June 6, 2011


During WWII, my paternal grandfather, from Saskatchewan, was stationed in England. On D-day he was in a bed delirious with a fever because the training for the landing had involved chucking soldiers into the freezing English Channel during the Spring.

My maternal grandfather was a Polish Jew who spent the war underground and mercifully avoided the camps (though he did get arrested a few times). He emigrated to Canada in the 50's with my mother and aunt in tow.

There is NO doubt in mind that my maternal grandfather survived to start a family in part because Canadians like my paternal grandfather were willing to put their lives on the line. (and yes, I recognize that the Western front had little to do with the "liberation" of Poland. I believe the prinicple holds nonetheless.)

As far as I'm concerned, my grandfathers, through their determination and courage, helped create postwar Canada in every sense.
posted by dry white toast at 7:37 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Canada hasn't been under military threat since the 1800's when the US tried to invade once or twice.

Remember the Caribou!

Battle of the St. Lawrence

Also in North America:
Knights of Columbus Hostel Fire (Newfoundland)
posted by Brodiggitty at 4:13 AM on June 7, 2011


Since the end of the US Civil War, no US soldier died to preserve the freedom of US citizens. The US was not under threat from Germany in WW II and it's debatable how much actual threat Japan posed.

No soldier anywhere? Cite.
posted by humanfont at 4:53 AM on June 7, 2011


it's debatable how much actual threat Japan posed.

I'm probably more sympathetic to Japan than many MeFites, but this is nonsense. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor killed 3000 Americans.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:33 AM on June 7, 2011


And the 9/11 hijackings killed nearly that many Americans. But no one seriously expected the US government to cease existing as a result of 9/11. My point, poorly made as it was, was that the war in the Pacific did not pose an existential threat to the US. Yes, Pearl Harbour was very bad and in another world the US could well have lost Hawaii. But overall there is a big difference between the threat faced by the US and the threat faced by France or the Netherlands or any other country the Germans occupied.

And my other point was that there is a tendency to say that soldiers died to preserve fundamental freedoms of everyday citizens. I simply don't agree with this sentiment (straw-man as it is). US and Canadian soldiers have gone to war for reasons that range from barely justifiable to downright noble but never has the day-to-day freedom of the average citizen been under threat from military action, at least not since the US civil war. And once again, I don't need a cite. Writing in declarative sentences doesn't make this any less a subjective statement. if you feel that individual Canadian and/or American soliders died to preserve your basic Constitutional rights, that's great.

My point was that Canadian soliders fought hard and died in large numbers at Juno not because Canada itself was under any sort of threat but because they felt that Canada had both a right and a duty to make a mark on the world stage. (yeah, I know, that and it still being part of the Empire back then. heck, newfoundlanders still had UK passports, right?) It is no surprise that England and the US went in on D-Day - they had a long history of being the major Western powers at that point. Canada's contribution to, and success on, D-Day were a major point in Canadian history even though they were just one more piece of the overall narrative of WW II.
posted by GuyZero at 12:11 PM on June 7, 2011


The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor killed 3000 Americans.

My understanding of the WW2 "War in the Pacific" goes something like this.

Japan, in an effort to neutralize the US Navy and effectively give itself free reign in the parts of the Pacific that were important to its national aims, launched a successful surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. Had fortune and some sloppy tactics not gone against them at Midway about six months later, they might well have succeeded in these ends. But from that point on, they were essentially fighting a doomed defensive war.

At no point was it ever realistic to think that Japan had any territorial interests in continental North America, certainly not on any short term. Not that many didn't go batshitinsane worrying about it anyway.
posted by philip-random at 4:23 PM on June 7, 2011


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