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Morion, Desmond.

Edmonton, Hurtig, c1985. 305pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-88830-276-2. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Allan S. Evans

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

This book makes an ambitious attempt to trace Canada's involvement in war, from the first conflicts between native peoples and the European invaders, or explorers, depending on one's point of view, to the latest developments in the Cold War. Professor Morton confronts Canadians with many harsh realities about their military history and also debunks several pet myths about the same. For example, he is little short of brutal in his exposure of popular misconceptions of our role in World War II. While readily admitting the quality and courage of the bulk of our forces by war's end, he stresses the inexcusably sorry state of our military in the early going, from inept commanders to inferior equipment, shoddy or non-existent supplies, and even to the remarkably high rate of battle fatigue in some units of the armed forces.

Morton repeats many observations and allegations made in his earlier A Short History of Canada. * One recurrent theme, is Canada's military dependence, first on France, then Britain, and finally on our present imperial parent, the United States. In each case, the dependence was nearly total and quite desperate, yet Canadians in a way resented the fact, while simultaneously showing little interest in participating in this defence, or even paying for it, particularly in peacetime. The situation is no less true today than in the eighteen century, but it is infinitely more dangerous because of the nature of modern warfare and the current state of the Cold War.

Unquestionably, Morton is an informed and interesting storyteller. He provides a thorough overview of his topic, relying principally upon a chronological narrative approach. Considering the book's relatively small size for a topic of such scope, it is not surprising that it displays a disappointing lack of depth in places. For example, several key battles, and the personalities involved therein, might be described in more detail. And, while there is penetrating, if brief, assessment of the significance of many engagements, there appears to be insufficient analysis of the overall themes and issues inherent in the events being portrayed.

Because of the above, this book might not be overly pleasing to military buffs, or even to a general reader looking for support of treasured cliches pertaining to our military traditions. In suggesting that, in Canada's military history, stupidity, ignorance, corruption, incompetence, and other ills have been stronger players than their opposites, he is probably correct. Perhaps the same could be said of all the history of all the countries, but such discovery (or self-discovery) seems to give particular glee to Canadians. Could we be given stronger motivation to read a book?

Allan S. Evans, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.

*Reviewed vol.XII/l January 1984p. 20.

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