Preparing a topic analysis on the subject of Canada’s role in World War II should not provide inordinate difficulties given the nation’s prominent role in a number of military engagements in the European Theater of Operations. Over one million Canadians served in World War II, and over 40,000 were killed. Over 12,000 Canadian troops took part in the Normandy landings on D-Day, and Canadian commandos were overrepresented in the disastrous raid on the French port of Dieppe on August 19, 1942, during which they suffered 900 killed with another 514 wounded and 1,946 taken prisoner by the German Army. The greatest number of Canadians killed, however, occurred during the bloody and protracted campaign to push the Germans out of Italy, an effort that ultimately resulted in almost 6,000 Canadian soldiers killed in battle. In short, for a country of only 11 million at the time of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941, its casualties in the war were substantial. In addition to those soldiers killed in Europe, another 2,000 Canadian sailors were lost escorting ships across the Atlantic in the face of enormous numbers of German submarines conducting interdiction operations against U.S. convoys transporting troops and munitions to Europe. Finally, according to figures provided by the Canadian government, an estimated 17,000 Canadian airmen were killed in the skies over Europe, including during the Battle of Britain.
Preparing a paper on Canada’s role in World War II can quite easily focus on Canadian participation in any one of these areas: land, sea or air, or it could encompass all three. Given the fact that the Battle of Britain took place prior to Pearl Harbor and North America’s direct participation in World War II, as opposed to limited support activities, a paper concentrating on Canada’s role in defending the skies over Britain in 1940 could provide the basis of a paper by itself. Canada’s somewhat unique status as an independent country still tightly connected to the British Crown made its role in the early stages of the war considerably more unique than that of the United States (although there was a small number of American pilots similarly involved in that decisive campaign).
In short, there is ample material available to any student wishing to prepare an essay or study of Canada’s contribution to World War II. It is, however, up to the student to determine the outline of that essay. The information provided herein, though, should help to define the parameters of the subject.