Monday, January 31, 2022

The War That Was Left Unfinished

 A video display panel shows images of the Afghan War, including a tank, seen here.

More vivid: this artifact. An IED was detonated beneath a G-Wagen in December 2005. It destroyed the front, but the driver and passengers were saved because of the vehicle's armour. The large sign in the background hung above a Canadian camp at Kandahar.

Here we have an example of the standard desert fatigue uniform of the Canadian military in Afghanistan.

I've always found this picture poignant: the interaction of a soldier and an Afghan child.

War: Canadian Soldiers In Afghanistan is painted vividly by Douglas Laing.

A photograph of a Chinook helicopter is seen here with its crew. 

A portion of its fuselage is preserved as an artifact with the distinctive art. A hockey reference, with a double meaning, as the Chinook can ferry equipment with two hooks on its belly.

The Museum's permanent galleries wind down with this display panel. Afghanistan was left unfinished, and the events of the last year have been discouraging: the very same pack of lunatics with a 6th century world view and a skewed interpretation of their own religion who were in power in 2001 have returned to power after the collapse of the country. What was it all for, if not to get rid of them?

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Yugoslavia And Afghanistan

 The mission to the former Yugoslavia would eventually become a NATO mission to stop the atrocities. Canadian forces remained involved throughout.

A patrol vehicle that bears the scars of war. Two Canadian soldiers were fired upon by Serbian troops in this vehicle while on patrol on New Year's Eve, 1994.

New Year's Eve 1994 is by Katherine Taylor, recreating the attack.

In 1999, Canadians were part of a NATO air campaign against Serbian operations in Kosovo.

A day that changed the world. This is a fragment of one of the two planes that hit the World Trade Centre towers on September 11th, 2001.

The Afghan War would rise up out of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Canadians would be committed to the war with combat operations finally ending in 2014. It remains our longest war.

Part of military efforts in that part of the world carries on today in the form of naval patrols in the seas. This painting is titled Going Aboard, by Bradford Douglas, depicting a Canadian boarding party as part of efforts against terrorist activities.

Canadian corporal Rob Furlong killed an Al-Qaeda fighter from 2 430 metres away, a record breaking shot, while assigned with Americans in 2002.

This is the rifle he used.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Genocide And Civil War

Tensions in Rwanda had persisted for years, resulting in the establishment of a peacekeeping mission in 1993. Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire commanded the mission for nearly a year, and during this time the civil war exploded into genocidal bloodshed. Dallaire and those under his command did what they could, but could only bear witness as the world didn't really understand what was happening until it was too late. 

Weapons used in the genocide speak for themselves.

Dallaire would be emotionally shattered by the experience. He writes of the Rwandan civil war in his harrowing book Shake Hands With The Devil, and it has stayed with him ever since.

Other civil wars: Yugoslavia. While the breakup of the former Warsaw Pact and the shift of those countries to a more stable system of government generally went well, such was not the case in the former Yugoslavia. A conglomerate of ethnic groups who hated each other and only kept in line by communist oppression, the country fell apart in the aftermath of the Cold War, and war broke out. Canadian forces would take part in the efforts to stop the bloodshed as the country broke down. Ethnic cleansing- a seemingly sterile term for genocide- became a used phrase.

Canadian Major General Lewis Mackenzie commanded forces at Sarajevo. 

This is his flak jacket.

The Yugoslav civil wars were a bloody mess, a nightmare that could only be resolved by force from the outside. Peacekeepers would find there was no peace to be kept.

Landmines were a huge threat to anyone in the shattered Yugoslavia, soldier or civilian, and in fact still are beneath the former battlefields, an ugly aftertaste of war that kills long after the conflict is over.

Below, a landmine at left. At right, an Izzy doll. These knit dolls are made for children in war torn countries. They are drawn from the experiences of Master Corporal Mark Isfeld, whose mother had made them. Isfeld was a Canadian soldier, an engineer on landmine removal work in Croatia when he was killed doing so in 1994. He is seen in the above photograph.

Friday, January 28, 2022

New World Disorder

One of the prize artifacts of the Museum is a section of the Berlin Wall, given to Canada in 1991 after the government hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from various countries to sort out the reunification of Germany. The graffiti tags are from the West Berlin side. The East Berlin side is blank. What always strikes me about it is how thin it is. 

The Fall of the Wall is one of those momentous times of history. During the extraordinary fall of 1989 when so much was happening, this episode seemed to reflect hope and possibility: the end of the Cold War.

The first President Bush and Soviet president Gorbachev were able to bring things to a close, and Bush spoke of a new world order: freedom, justice, and peace.

Things didn't quite turn out that way.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi forces into the neighbouring Kuwait in a full scale invasion and land grab. Bush skillfully built a multi-national coalition to push back the invasion and liberate Kuwait. The result was the Persian Gulf War, with Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In my opinion, it was a justified war, and one that was carried out nearly perfectly. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to have taken out Hussein back then, but as they say, hindsight is 2020.

Canadian forces were part of that coalition, primarily naval and air assets.

Canadian fighters flew out of a base in Qatar. They brought a crest back from the Gulf War with their signatures on it. It's displayed here.

In my section on the Korean War, I mentioned Ted Zuber, who painted his vivid memories of fighting there into paintings. He went to the Gulf as a commissioned war artist and painted more, embedded with Canadian forces. This is Night Run.

Another artifact of the time: a sign post from the Qatar base bearing the home towns of Canadians.

Canadians would have other missions as the 1990s went on. The darkest one would be in Rwanda, where Canadians were embedded as peacekeepers, and where a Canadian general in charge of the operation would be ignored by the UN, and could only bear witness to genocide.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Cold War Twilight

 Here we have two standard uniforms. One dating back to the Cold War period is a field uniform, not really that different from what one might see today.

The other is a woman's headquarters uniform. Women started increasingly joining the Canadian forces during the Cold War.

The Canadian Rangers are reservists, an essential element of the Far North and some of the remote coastal regions. Many of them are Inuit or First Nations, working alongside regular forces on a frequent basis.

Reservists in general are also covered here, and a Howitzer like this one tends to be fairly standard in reserve units. Had the Cold War ever gone hot, reserve units in North America would have been sent overseas to Europe to reinforce against the Warsaw Pact.

The last decade of the Cold War was still a tense one, particularly its first half.

Photographs of some of the leaders of that decade- Reagan, Thatcher, and Gorbachev- are overhead as the path leads on. A  Warsaw Pact tank is at right.

It's a monster- a T-72 acquired from the former East Germany in 1992. Beside it is a display case with standard Warsaw Pact hand weapons among the artifacts.