In the summer of 1998, the epic war film Saving Private Ryan was in theatres. Its portrayal of the American landings at Omaha Beach on D-Day hooked audiences for a story underlining American exceptionalism in the “good” war. In reflection, one Canadian journalist asked what the film would have been like had Canadians made it about Juno Beach. He concluded that “the Allies would never have got off the beach. Private Ryan himself would have been flattened by a German Tiger tank and the rescue squad dead to the last man.”
This may be a shocking statement for some but it reflected decades of failure in telling Canada’s story. This is a major theme in The Fight for History: 75 Years of Forgetting, Remembering, and Remaking Canada’s Second World War. The Fight for History is a new book by bestselling author and leading Canadian military historian Tim Cook. Professor Cook joins us to discuss the shifting ways in which Canadians have remembered the country’s role in the Second World War.
For a time, subjects like the tragic disaster at Dieppe or the shameful treatment of Japanese-Canadians dominated the public narrative. Ultimately, veterans and their champions reclaimed their history in the 1990s and early 2000s. Projects like the new Canadian War Museum and the Juno Beach Centre are testaments to this. The Fight for History is a reflective reminder that we must continue to carry the torch forward as the living memory of the war fades.
All proceeds support the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s Second World War Museum in Normandy, France and allow us to continue to offer this content to listeners across Canada!
3:52 Why Write The Fight for History?
6:41 The Missing Canadian Story
8:54 A Necessary War
12:25 Leaving the War Behind
16:51 A National Second World War Memorial in Canada?
21:14 Failing to Tell Our Story
24:18 Remembering Defeat and Disgrace
27:40 Veterans Reclaim Their History
Dr. Tim Cook is the Acting-Director of Research at the Canadian War Museum. He is the author and editor of 13 books, including his 3-volume history of Canada and the Second World War: The Necessary War, Fight to the Finish, and his new book, The Fight for History.
The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:
Juno Beach & Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the Juno Beach Centre Association’s Operations and Outreach Manager.
Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SlEvclY5LE&t=48s
Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCSQ4uWR1Y
Female veteran’s voice (Eileen Green, née Short) Courtesy of The Memory Project, Historica Canada: http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/383:eileen-green-nee-short/
Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB5wZtV1MWM
Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgZI4tAoMN0
Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at email@example.com.