February in History
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Michael Apps
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WW II - It's History

As a young boy, growing up on a military base in Canada, the second world war was a central theme of our daily lives. My father fought in the Canadian and served under the British navies in he Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian Oceans. The highlight of Saturday afternoons was going to the base cinema and watching the weekly film which more often then not was a movie about some aspect of World War II. We played at war and most of the time the setting was some pivotal battle from WW II.

It reached a point as my teen years progressed and Social Studies and Grade 12 history began to become really interesting and seemingly relevant, that I was almost obsessed with WWII and felt that I had actually lived through those years as a passive observer, able to feel, understand, celebrate, despair and anticipate each twist and turn of the conflict. I felt that I know Churchill more intimately then his family, sympathized with Rommel as his soul was torn between loyalty to a despicable leader and action to save Germany and could converse with those 30 years my elders about the exciting days on the home front.

 gift of Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" opened up the inner workings of Nazi Germany to me and left me with a feeling that I alone understood what had happened, regardless of the 4 or 5 million others who had read the book and felt the same.

I argued with conviction with my history teacher about Hitler's rise to power and pointed out with facts and antidotes why he really didn't have a firm handle on the subject manner. He was kind and gentle with me and appreciated my interest and effort. 

As our World War II veterans diminish in numbers and the problems of today's world press steadily upon our younger generations, the importance and magnitude of World War II is fast fading from the daily conciseness of our lives.

I however, see the results of that great conflict continually playing themselves out  in world politics, social development, and analytical comparisons of how today's events can be interpreted by what happened in the 30's and during the war.

The great world wide confrontations which have resulted in conflict and the unleashing of vast destructive forces may be a thing of the past with the event which ended WWII - the dropping of the atomic bomb ending the wars. Nuclear weapons have made world war a zero sum game and hopefully have distinguished World War II as the last great world conflict.

I am now waiting for that great earth shattering novel to be published which will encapsulate all of my overwhelming nostalgia in a single overpowering work of literature. The one which will be compared to Tolstoy's treatment of the Napoleonic Wars and will dominate my life as I ambitiously tear through and digest each page, chapter, character and event of the war. Yes some have tried, such as The Winds of War/War and Remembrance, The Young Lions, and many others, and the real history such as the previously mention Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and Churchill's incomparable 6 volume history of world war two, but none that can really be compared to War and Peace.

I somehow hope that the main characters will be Canadian and the storyline constantly returning to Canada.

Canada's role in the great conflict was crucial in many ways and a full comprehension of how our support of the allied cause helped influence events is yet to be appreciated but our fingerprints are all over the storylines from the Battle of the North Atlantic, to Dieppe, to D-Day and Hong Kong. The great commonwealth training efforts and the production of war supplies and materials were all instrumental in first holding off the axis forces and then in contribution to the final victory.

Let's take a moment to celebrate the Canadian story of the second world war and how it has made us the country we are today in many more ways then we usually acknowledge. We are just the latest chapter of history and by cozying up to the earlier ones, we can appreciate the complexities and meaning of actions and choices in today's world and more importantly in Canada. The next time you come across and elderly person who lived through the war, take the opportunity to ask them about their lives during that period. Whether it be on the frontlines, supporting the troops, on the home front or even as a young person, if you listen carefully you will get the feeling of a period  quickly disappearing, the like of which may not occur again in our lifetime.

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