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John Osborn, VC
John Robert Osborn, VC, soldier, labourer (born 2 January 1899 in Foulden, Norfolk, England; died 19 December 1941 in Hong Kong). During the Second World War, Osborn’s heroic act was the first to earn a Canadian the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War
In 1939, Canada found itself at war for the second time in a generation. As in the First World War (1914-18), thousands of Indigenous soldiers and nurses volunteered for the war effort at home and abroad, serving with distinction in the Canadian army, navy, and air force. At least 3090 First Nations soldiers enlisted in the Canadian military in the Second World War, with thousands more Métis, Inuit, and non-Status Indian soldiers serving without official recognition of their Indigenous identity.
Second World War Veterans
When the Second World War ended, more than a million Canadian men and women, serving in uniform, were set to return to their homes. A driving question for the country was: What was owed to the veterans?
Ernest Adolphe Côté
Ernest Adolphe Côté, MBE, soldier, civil servant and diplomat (born 12 June 1913 in Edmonton, Alberta; died 25 February 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario).
Masumi Mitsui, MM, farmer, soldier, Canadian Legion official (born 7 October 1887 in Tokyo, Japan; died 22 April 1987 in Hamilton, ON). Masumi Mitsui immigrated to Canada in 1908 and served with distinction in the First World War. In 1931, he and his comrades persuaded the BC government to grant Japanese Canadian veterans the right to vote, a breakthrough for Japanese and other disenfranchised Canadians. Nevertheless, Matsui and more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were displaced, detained and dispossessed by the federal government during the Second World War (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).
John Archibald (Archie) MacNaughton, soldier, farmer (born 7 October 1896 in Black River Bridge, NB; died 6 June 1944 in Normandy, France). Archie MacNaughton fought in both the First World War and Second World War. MacNaughton rose to the rank of major and was a well-respected officer with the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment. When he was 47 years old, MacNaughton led North Shore’s “A” Company into Normandy on D-Day. He was killed in action while pushing inland from Juno Beach.
Huron Eldon Brant, Mohawk soldier, war hero, automobile mechanic (born 30 December 1909 in Deseronto, ON; died 14 October 1944 near Bulgaria, Italy). Brant was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for attacking a superior enemy force during the battle for Grammichele in Sicily (seeSecond World War) but was killed later during a battle on the Italian mainland (see The Italian Campaign).
Andrew Mynarski's Thirteenth Mission
Growing up in north Winnipeg, one of my most poignant memories of Remembrance Day was attending a school assembly at Andrew Mynarski VC Junior High. On that day, I watched tears of pride stream down the cheeks of Mynarski's mother as the principal told us the story of her son's sacrifice.
Arrival of the War Brides and their Children in Canada
Between 1942 and 1947, the Canadian government brought 47,783 "war brides” and their 21,950 children to Canada. Most of these women were from Great Britain, where Canadian forces had been based during the Second World War. Although the voyage and transition were difficult for many war brides, most persevered and grew to love their adopted homeland.
Tommy Prince: War Hero
Canadian War Art Programs
Since the First World War, there have been four major initiatives to allow Canadian artists to document Canadian Armed Forcesat war. Canada’s first official war art program, the Canadian War Memorials Fund (1916–19), was one of the first government-sponsored programs of its kind. It was followed by the Canadian War Art Program (1943–46) during the Second World War. The Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artists Program (1968–95) and the Canadian Forces Artists Program (2001–present) were established to send civilian artists to combat and peacekeepingzones. Notable Canadian war artists have included A.Y. Jackson, F.H. Varley, Lawren Harris, Alex Colville and Molly Lamb Bobak.
Louis Levi Oakes
Louis Levi Oakes (also known as Tahagietagwa), Mohawk soldier, war hero, steelworker, public works supervisor (born 23 January 1925 in St. Regis, QC; died 28 May 2019 in Snye, QC). During the Second World War, Oakes was a code talker for the United States Army. Code talkers used their Indigenous languages to encode radio messages to prevent the enemy from understanding them. When he passed away at age 94, Oakes was the last Mohawk code talker. (See also Cree Code Talkers and Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)
Léo Major, DCM and Bar, soldier and war hero (born 23 January 1921 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, died 12 October 2008 in Montreal, QC). Major was a veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War. He is the only Canadian to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for two separate wars.
Charles Henry Byce
Charles Henry Byce, DCM, MM, Cree soldier, war hero, pulp and paper mill worker (born 9 March 1916 in Chapleau, ON; died 25 November 1994 in Newmarket, ON). Byce was Canada’s most highly decorated Indigenous soldier of the Second World War (see Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War), receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the Military Medal (MM).
David Georges Greyeyes-Steele, Plains Cree farmer, multi-sport athlete, soldier, war hero, First Nation chief, federal public servant (born 31 December 1914 on Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, SK; died 22 July 1996 in Saskatoon, SK). Greyeyes-Steele served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War and was awarded the Greek War Cross.
Thomas George Prince, war hero, Indigenous advocate (born 25 October 1915 in Petersfield, MB; died 25 November 1977 in Winnipeg, MB). Tommy Prince is one of Canada's most-decorated
Indigenous war veterans, having been awarded a total of 11 medals in the Second World War and the Korean War. Although homeless when he died, he was honoured at his funeral by his First Nation, the province of Manitoba,
Canada and the governments of France, Italy and the United States. (See also Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)
Bertha Clark-Jones (née Houle), OC, Cree (Nehiyawak)-Métis advocate for the rights of Indigenous women and children (born 6 November 1922 in Clear Hills, AB; died 21 October 2014 in Bonnyville, AB). A veteran of the Second World War, Clark-Jones joined the Aboriginal Veterans Society and advocated for the fair treatment of Indigenous ex-service people. She was co-founder and first president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Clark-Jones devoted her life to seeking equality and greater power for women in Canada.
Chinese Canadians of Force 136
Force 136 was a branch of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. Its covert missions were based in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia, where orders were to support and train local resistance movements to sabotage Japanese supply lines and equipment. While Force 136 recruited mostly Southeast Asians, it also recruited about 150 Chinese Canadians. It was thought that Chinese Canadians would blend in with local populations and speak local languages. Earlier in the war, many of these men had volunteered their services to Canada but were either turned away or recruited and sidelined. Force 136 became an opportunity for Chinese Canadian men to demonstrate their courage and skills and especially their loyalty to Canada.