Canada’s war in the Pacific began on December 7, 1941, when Japanese aircraft attacked the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This special issue describes how the Pacific war affected Canadians, from the two under-trained and under-equipped regiments that were lost to a man when Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas Day 1941, through to air force deployments in the Far East, the invasion of Alaska, the shameful treatment of Japanese Canadians on the West Coast and the dropping of atomic bombs that ended the fighting. This 100-page book is beautifully illustrated with four action-packed maps, war art and nearly 100 rare archival photographs.
When the Japanese attacked on Dec. 8, 1941, and rapidly overcame the defences on the mainland, the surviving soldiers retreated to the island. The debacle shattered morale because the Japanese had outfought the defenders at every turn.
Canadians played a substantial—and still largely unrecognized—role in the Far East, flying and fighting in Malaya, India, Burma and Ceylon. Best estimates suggest some 8,000 Canadian air and ground crew served in Southeast Asia.
In June 1942, the Japanese occupied Attu and Kiska, far northern islands in the Aleutian chain off Alaska. The occupation posed little real threat to British Columbia or the West Coast of the United States but the public was frightened.
Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government beached all Japanese-Canadian fishing boats and seized their radios. It rounded up active supporters of Imperial Japan and sent them to an internment camp in Northern Ontario.
Once the regulations were eased, Chinese-Canadian volunteers began to be selected for intelligence roles in the Far East. In the spring of 1945, 117 Chinese-Canadians arrived in India. Nine began operating in the Malayan jungles, harassing Japanese supply lines.
Canada’s commitment to the war in the Pacific was largely determined at the Quebec Conference in September 1944, attended by Mackenzie King, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. Canada would confine itself to operations in the North Pacific.