Dieppe, seen through a new lens
It was nice to see France honour Canadian WW2 veterans on Sunday with heartfelt thanks and flapping flags. The French frequently suffer form amnesia, forgetting that the allied forces liberated them from the Germans not that great strutting peacock Charles de Gaulle. But Sunday they did right by the seven vets -now all in their nineties- who were well enough to make the trip back on the 70th anniversary.
This morning I played clips from a conversation with historian David O'Keefe. You can hear the full interview by clicking on the button on this blog entry. The accepted history about Dieppe has always been that it was a doomed mission cooked up as a dress rehearsal for D Day or just to satisfy PR needs and incompetent commanders. Five thousand Canadians were sent across the channel. Almost 900 of them lie dead in war graves dug by the Germans. O'Keefe’s theory, which he says is born out by archives is that the invasion was just a cover for what was called a "pinch" operation. While the soldiers kept the Germans busy operatives were supposed to collect intelligence and hardware from the ships in the port and from several targets in the town. Even that operation failed but O’Keefe’s new narrative was enough to bring tears to surviving vets including 91 year old Ron Beal of Toronto who said "Those boys didn't die for nothing. Now I can die knowing that".
You know I have sought out veterans to tell their stories in their own voices over the years. But there are fewer and fewer of them and our living connection to that war is fast disappearing. When you think of how this country responds to the death of a single solider today you have to ask yourself how a previous generation pressed on when 900 of them were cut down in a matter of hours. Beal has lived with that day of horror his whole life.