Canadians in Asia & the Pacific
It was in the defence of Hong Kong in 1941 that Canadian infantry soldiers were first committed to battle during the Second World War.
Private, Le Régiment de Hull, Alaska, August 1943.
| United States
Note: Canadian figures are only from the Battle of Hong Kong. If you know of RCAF or other casaulty figures please let us know in the forum.
The Canadian 6th Division had been formed and was training to take part in the proposed invasion of Japan. Canadian ships in the British Pacific Fleet and bomber squadrons transferred from Europe with Tiger Force would also have been involved. The invasion was rendered unnecessary by the use of nuclear weapons against Japan.
Canadians in South East Asia
Canadian involvement in Asia during the Second World War consisted primarily of participation by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Although a few Canadians did serve in Royal Navy ships, no units of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) served in this area.
Two dozen Canadian Army officers were attached to the British Fourteenth Army in Burma and South East Asia Command Headquarters as 'observers' during the latter part of 1944. In addition, 18 'Canloan' officers - infantry subalterns borrowed by the British to make up the recurring loss of combat leaders - arrived on the scene in the summer of 1945.
About 40 Canadians, half of them primarily linguists of Chinese or Japanese descent, also served in Force 136, a British intelligence organization that operated behind Japanese lines. These men were involved in recruiting and training native guerrillas, engaging in sabotage, ambush and deception, and transmitting information about enemy activities. Two other Canadians served in a Combined Operations' Sea Reconnaissance Unit (SRU) as the 'frogmen of Burma', spearheading Fourteenth Army's crossings of the Irrawaddy River in February and March 1945.
Perhaps the most unlikely Canadian unit represented in South East Asia was the Veteran's Guard of Canada. In the summer of 1944, and again in the spring of 1945, contingents of the Veterans were employed as 'mule skinners', escorting shiploads of mules from the United States to India and eventually the jungles of Assam and the Arakan where they were much needed for transportation.
One Canadian, who had left British Columbia at the age of 21 to take up a regular commission in the British Army, deserves special mention. Charles Ferguson Hoey of the Lincolnshire Regiment won a Military Cross in Burma in 1943 and then a posthumous Victoria Cross on February 16, 1944 for his "outstanding gallantry and leadership" in taking a Japanese strongpoint.
Canadian airmen were in the South East Asia theatre even before the initial Japanese attacks of December 1941. When war broke out in 1939, few skills had been in greater demand among the Allied armed forces than those associated with radio operation and maintenance - skills which were valuable not only for their own sake, but which could be readily be applied to the new and still mysterious arts of Radio Detection Finding, or 'radar' as it was subsequently called. By the end of 1940, Canada had added several hundred trained radiomen to the strength of the Royal Air Force (RAF). These men had been hurriedly enlisted in the RCAF and sent to England for courses which qualified them as radar operators and mechanics. A number of graduates in electrical engineering had also been commissioned and loaned to the RAF to command or administer the stream of radar and signals units that were constantly being formed.
Many of these radio personnel were then posted overseas, to the Middle or Far East. By December 1941, about 350 RCAF other ranks and 50 officers were serving in the RAF's Far Eastern Command. A month later, at least 35 Canadian aircrew, early graduates of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, were also serving in RAF squadrons in South East Asia. By April 1942, this number had more than doubled as the British and Dutch were driven out of Malaya, Singapore, the Netherlands' East Indies (now Indonesia), and much of Burma.
Some of the Canadians flew Consolidated Catalina flying-boats on maritime reconnaissance patrols, an occupation that soon had to be largely abandoned in face of Japanese air superiority. Most of the Catalinas were then diverted to night bombing operations. Some Canadian fighter pilots accompanied 50 Hawker Hurricanes from the Middle East which arrived in Singapore on January 13, 1942. The Hurricanes were expected to all before them but, although they could match the enemy's speed and carried a heavier armament, they proved unable to turn with the Japanese in dogfights and were further handicapped by an inadequate ground control system. Singapore surrendered on February 15, 1942, and two Canadian radar technicians were among the 70,000 Commonwealth troops taken prisoner there. Only 18 or 20 Hurricanes (plus 24 obsolete American fighters) were left to continue the battle from Sumatra and Java.
The Japanese attack on Sumatra began on February 14, 1942 with paratroop landings on the airfields at Palembang. Two Canadian pilots were captured while leading a makeshift force of RAF groundcrew, British Army anti-aircraft gunners and Dutch colonial infantry in hand-to-hand fighting against the invaders. By the time Java fell on March 8, 1942, an indeterminate number of Canadians had been wounded and 26 taken prisoner.
The End of the Pacific War
As millions of people celebrated Victory-in-Europe (V-E) Day, the Allied leaders grimly prepared for the final struggle in the Pacific, where the full weight of the Allied Forces would now be applied against Japan. Canada, too, prepared for the assault.
- Nearly 80,000 Canadians volunteered to join the Pacific forces and began concentrating at nine stations across Canada in July 1945.
- Canadian naval participation was also to have been impressive: 60 ships, manned by 13,500 men.
However, the war was over before this help was needed. President Truman of the United States had made the fateful decision to use the atomic bomb.
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, a city of over 100,000 people. The results were terrifying. A third of the city was obliterated; the rest lay in ruins. Three days later, a second and larger bomb totally destroyed the port of Nagasaki. The Japanese government sued for peace on the following day and, on August 14, 1945, Japan accepted the Allied terms of unconditional surrender. The Second World War was over.
Last updated on Oct 12, 2006 22:00. Page viewed 38169 times.