GENERAL ARTICLES

"WAR IS A PROSPECT CANADA MUST FACE"

Says GENERAL H. D. G. CRERAR July 15 1947
GENERAL ARTICLES

"WAR IS A PROSPECT CANADA MUST FACE"

Says GENERAL H. D. G. CRERAR July 15 1947

"WAR IS A PROSPECT CANADA MUST FACE"

Says GENERAL H. D. G. CRERAR

I HATE the plague of war as much as any doctor hates an epidemic of disease. However, we don’t avoid either war or disease by treating them as subjects too painful to talk about. Indeed, by such ostrichlike behavior we encourage their development, while remaining unprepared adequately to prevent them or to deal with them. In consequence, I regard it of very great importance that the general and vital subject of war should be a matter for the active consideration of all Canadians.

The great majority of human beings are not supporters of an unchanging status, whether as individuals or nationals. War is a means of altering the international status and in spite of efforts at the present time, extending well into the past, is the only decisive means for this purpose yet available. However hateful the thought, recourse to force for the settlement of international disputes continues to be a prospect which all nations must continue to face.

If I could believe that there was a reasonable chance of creating, maintaining and controlling an

effective international “police” force, then there would be no basis for what I shall later put forward. However, in my opinion there are no tangible prospects, now or in the discernible future, for any such development

To my way of thinking, a definite prerequisite to the formation of an “international force” is something very closely approaching a federation of all the important nations—with the establishment of the freedom of trade and of migration between them which such polity unquestionably demands. I suggest that one does not need to think very searchingly to reach the conclusion that any such prospect between, say, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom is so remote as to be but an idealistic dream

Indeed, even that historic and, to me, inspiring world brotherhood known as the British Commonwealth and Empire appears much less integrated and cohesive than it was a few decades ago. And if the nations of the Commonwealth, with all the mutual knowledge, understanding and regard they possess of each other, are unable to progress toward

a form of federation, what chance can there be for the solution of this infinitely more difficult problem which today faces the diverse Great and “Middle” Powers of the United Nations?

In the circumstances of today and tomorrow, therefore, an effective international government., with armed forces immediately available to induce compliance with its decision, can not be regarded as a practical assumption.

Until this world of ours reaches a much higher plane of civilization, and of real internationalism, it is essential that those countries which truly believe in the maintenance of peace, and so in the arbitration or judicial settlement of international disputes which might endanger peace, should be militarily prepared immediately, and strongly, to act in support of such principles. I consider that such peace-loving countries are mainly to be found today in those functioning under a democratic form of government, with a widely enfranchised and broadly educated electorate. A nation with a government sensitive to the view of its population —which population Continued on pane 8

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enjoys freedom of thought and of speech—can only enter, unitedly, into a war on a basis of obvious and undeniable self-preservation or, on a higher plane, in order to defend the maintenance of great human principles in the conduct of international affairs.

Prominent among these democratic nations is Canada. It must be evident, however, to all that Canada is, at present, quite unprepared in a military sense to undertake its share of any such responsibilities. Nor should it be assumed that action to correct this state of affairs can wait until the international situation becomes more menacing than it appears to be now.

In practice, as we should know from recent tragic experience, the more tense the international situation becomes, the louder the cry to avoid any national military action which might tend to aggravate a situation already tense. In times of crisis fear dominates and resolution becomes paralyzed. Appeasement raises its ugly head and great human principles are sacrificed to presumed expediency. It follows that whatever military steps are then decided upon by the force of actual events are usually too little and always too late.

I repeat, therefore, that in the world conditions we are required to face, the peace-loving countries will be assured of peace only so long as they maintain, ready for action, the forces necessary to discourage other countries with aggressive ambitions from resorting to force in order to gain domination and selfish ends. To put it briefly, possession of force, not the lack of it, is the best guarantee of peace to those who desire to maintain it.

We’re in the Front Line, Now

WITH this as my basis I shall now turn to an examination of Canada’s military situation in respect to other nations, and suggest certain policies and programs which, in my opinion, this country should adopt.

I believe that a first requirement in striving to reach a sound appreciation of the military situation which confronts Canada today is to realize that time and space are no longer factors in our favor. Through recent scientific discoveries—many yet in their development stage—Canada has lost forever whatever presumed or actual political and military isolation it possessed in the past.

If one looks at a globe and thinks even superficially of the tremendous range and destructive power of present and probable future weapons, it becomes clear that in any war involving the British Commonwealth or the United States, Canada will be in the “front line” from the very outbreak of hostilities. It follows that the words of our Canadian song, “O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee,” have no sensible political or military application to Canada today—if they ever had a measure of either in the past.

I would also maintain that those Canadians who continue to argue in that sense as regards our military requirements will have a tragic responsibility to accept if another world war breaks out and devastating projectiles, launched from the air, from submarines at sea or from air-established bases in the far North, at ranges of many hundreds of miles, bring death to great numbers of their fellow citizens. In truth, “defense” of any part of Canada against positive attack will require movement of its armed forces well outside provincial, and even national, boundaries if those living within them are to be free from long-range action.

To“stand on guard” is to await destruction.

I have said that space —the width of the oceans and the depth of the Arctic regions —no longer affords Canada a significant measure of military protection. The same conclusion seems clear in respect to the factor of time. For example, given the requisite transport aircraft, an army division, or several of them, can be rapidly moved many hundreds of miles over water, or frozen spaces or uninhabited, trackless country, landed and then operationally maintained, independently of normal sea or land communicaContinued on page 30

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tions. No gradual advance, wiih time for the organization of countermeasures, is consequently implied. It follows that if Canadian armed forces of adequate size, composition and training are not available before the outbreak of hostilities, we would need to depend upon such armed assistance as might then be made available for that purpose by the United States.

Defense in Atomic War

There are people who argue that with the invention of new weapons of tremendous destructive pow-er, such as the atom bomb, war has become so potentially horrible that no nation can seriously contemplate the employment of force to further, or maintain, its external policies.

I wish I could believe this.

But I have observed no evidence in my lifetime which leads me to the conclusion that any marked advance in the scientific field is accompanied by any comparative improvement in human relations.

Science and the humanities are not, in fact, linked subjects. To a government which believes that its aggressive ambitions can be fulfilled only through the employment of force, the more devastating the weapons at its disposal, the more tempting the resort to their employment.

A terrible weapon need only be a deterrent to war to a nation that does not possess it.

I would also caution against the assumption that science has now developed me ans of destruction against which there is no defense. I am not a scientist, but, as a soldier who has studied as well as practiced his" profession, I would say that the evidence to date is that what science can invent, science, given time and determination, can eventually neutralize. Certainly this has been the scientific cycle in the matter of weapon development

throughout recorded history, and 1 personally believe this phenomenon continues to obtain.

Another tendency which arises from a superficial consideration of the military effect of scientific discoveries is to assume that large land, sea and air forces will have no place in future operations. Instead—so runs the thought—a few thousand “technicians,” with an ample supply of very long-range, remotely controlled, or self-guided missiles, each capable of great destruction, will accomplish the dread purpose. To those whose responsibilities are, or have been, to study war, this assumption has no relation to military probabilities, even to military certainties. It reflects an attitude similar to that so widely adopted in the period between the first and second world wars when it was then quite generally accepted that air power, by itself, would be decisive in operations over land or sea, and that, in consequence, large armies and navies were outmoded and, to a great extent, unnecessary. How false that conception proved to be in the war of 1939-45 needs no elaboration on my part.

As regards future war, in order to protect any country against long-range attack it will be necessary, as I have already said, for its armed forces to occupy or dominate the areas from which such attacks can be launched. For this requirement land, sea and air forces, in strength, and working in closest combination will be as urgently needed in the future as ever in the past.

We Need New W eapons

While the waging of war in its fundamentals changes but little, its tactics and technique are tremendously influenced by new equipment. Hence the initial successes of the German armed forces in 1914 and 1940—supplied as they were with means and weapons which, in the main, effectively dominated the battle areas. Against German attack the Allied forces, equipped generally with obsolete or obsolescent equipment, were tragically handicapped. The remark, occasionally made, that certain of those charged

with high responsibilities in the armed forces are prone to fight the next war in the technique and tactics of the last, has a basis in fact, it is, however, a basis of tragic necessity, imposed by a national neglect to prepare for the next war before that war breaks out. And, quite frequently, those who criticize such military leadership in war are among those who were instrumental in preventing this essential preparatory action.

Before proceeding further in an appreciation of military policies which Canada might properly adopt, it is desirable to obtain a general idea of those in force in certain other countries with which we are intimately concerned. I shall confine my observations to the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. Such information as I submit is, naturally, derived from statements which have been made public.

According to published figures, Russia, with a population of 195 millions (including areas recently acquired) has some 5 million men actively under arms, plus estimated reserve forces of seven or eight millions. Universal conscription obtains, with a minimum two-year period of training and service.

The United States, with a population of 135 millions, has about 1,820,000 men actively under arms, plus slightly more than one million reservists in National Guard Units. While the voluntary system prevails, universal training for, and service in, the armed forces is the recommended policy of the Administration.

The United Kingdom, with a population of 46 millions has approximately

1.760.000 men on active service, plus

400.000 reservists in Territorial formations. The system of universal military training and service, for a period of one year, with subsequent part-time reserve service, obtains.

Canada, with a population of 12,500,000, has presently some 40,000 men in its active forces and plans to reduce this number to 35,000. It is estimated that in 1947 reserve elements of all three services will total 68,000 (as against a reserve establishment for the Canadian Army alone of 180,00,0). The voluntary system of training and service is in force.

I suggest that from a brief study of these figures and statements, certain reasonable conclusions can be drawn. The first is that on the basis of comparative population (admittedly a pretty rough and ready “yardstick”), the strength of the armed forces of Canada is but a fraction of those maintained by the other named countries.

What We Should Have

Taking the “voluntary system” countries of the United States and Canada for separate examination, it will be seen that if our country were prepared to maintain its active, or regular, forces at a strength proportionate to those maintained by the United States, our present estimated total of 35,000 all ranks of the three armed services would be increased between four and five times, to about 165,000.

In fact, even the total of 35,000 in Canada’s armed forces gives a misleading picture, for the bulk of this figure represents personnel engaged in administration, staff and services. I believe I am right in saying that at the present time there is not a unit of the single brigade group of the Active Army which is anywhere near operational strength and organization.

The Royal Canadian Navy, in comparison, seems to be in a somewhat better state, but I doubt that the

RCAF could today field a complete j squadron, let alone a fully operational wing.

As to the reserve forces (on which this country would need to rely almost entirely in the event of a major international crisis), even on the assumption that veterans of the recent world war would be available to fill the ranks, it would still take months following mobilization, to organize and fit such units and formations for active service. Incidentally, these, as in the past, would be equipped with weapons of the last war, certain of which are obsolescent and are tending to become obsolete.

As regards our present situation, I am thoroughly in favor of the greatest consolidation of the three armed services and so, a graduated approach toward one armed force—an official policy which appears to be in process of being carried out. Under the stark necessities of war many artificial peacetime barriers between the three services were broken down, and wasteful duplications, or triplications, abandoned. For instance, in Canadian Army hospitals, Naval and Air Force casualties were accepted and treated on the same basis as those of the Army. Any other course would have been unimaginable. The same simplification of action was followed in matters of construction and supply. It was the only sensible proj cedure to follow in the circumstances j which required to be faced and overj come. The armed service best suited to j take on the particular responsibilities ] was given the task of carrying them j out.

I, therefore, believe that the peacetime organization of the three services | should keep this principle of maximum j consolidation of “common-to-all” actij vities very much in mind.

A Bilingual Army

I am a strong supporter of the conception of one Royal (Military) College where the cadets of all three services, and from all over Canada, would together obtain their qualifications for commissioned rank. A high proportion of cadet instruction is, or should be, common to the three services and there is no difficulty in arranging the separate teaching special to each service by allotting certain hours of each week and certain weeks in each year for that particular purpose.

I advocate the initiation of a good bilingual standard as an entrance qualification requirement for every cadet. And, in order that no cadet should be handicapped in his technical instruction by inability completely to understand a language which is not natural to him, then additional instructors, speaking the required language, should be available. Surely there can be no more important preparation for effective unity in service operations by j Canadian forces than arrangements such as these.

Another and outstandingly importj ant forward step has been taken by the Department of National Defense (which, with much better relation to its responsibilities, should be entitled the “Department of the Armed Services”—after all, every government department is, or should be, much concerned with “national defense” or, with greater clarity, “war”), by the creation of a “director general of defense research.” The holder of this appointment has been placed on the highest service level.

For the first time in our history arrangements have been made to promise that advances in the field of science, in peace, can be examined and developed to assist the fighting services Continued on page 33

Continued from page 31 in the great problems they would be called upon to solve in the event of another war. There is even the hope that, given the necessary financial support, this innovation might ensure that the armed forces of Canada, in any future trial, will be equipped at the outset with the most modern means and weapons.

I have said that so far as the blueprint at the service “top” is concerned I believe that this country is proceeding along sound lines. However I have previously indicated that, in respect to actual military potential, Canada in its present situation could produce no armed forces in strength and fit to fight, for months after the order to mobilize went out. As . the veterans of this recent world war grow older, become technically out-of-date and physically less fit, that period could extend into years.

For Compulsory Training

It is necessary, in my opinion, for all Canadians to face the hard fact that this country will not possess trained service manpower proportionally comparable to the other countries I have mentioned and adequate for a quick and large-scale mobilization unless its citizens are willing to accept compulsory universal training for the armed services. I have been told by those whose activities keep them in touch with public opinion that no such policy would now, or for some indefinite time, be acceptable to the Canadian people. This may be so, and yet in my experience with a great many of my fellow Canadians I have always found that if a problem is made clear and the factors affecting it are frankly disclosed and fairly propounded, the great majority of them will support the steps necessary to solve it.

It seems to me that the greatest handicap to acceptance of compulsory military training is the popular misconception that a year of a young man’s life spent in such manner is a year lost so far as his preparation for employment in civil life is concerned. In truth, with that time properly scheduled, with facilities for educational and vocational advancement made available for trainees in the off-duty hours, with the medical and dental correction they would obtain, and the instruction which could be afforded, the year of compulsory training would be time gained—not lost—in preparation for a future career in civil life.

It might be argued that we should adhere to our established system of voluntary enlistment and training (which continues to be the policy of our neighbor, the United States) rather than adopt the compulsory system I have advocated. Apart from the fact that the United States Administration itself favors the compulsory system and desires to adopt it, I still consider the compulsory system a much better answer to our prospective problems, and less costly in comparative results.

As a rough estimate, it would require an addition of some 20,000 all ranks to our active forces to handle the annual training of approximately 60,000 trainees per annum. On this basis our total active forces plus trainees would reach a strength of roughly 120,000. As trainees should certainly not receive the pay and allowances of a fully trained soldier, sailor or airman, it can be assumed that the annual cost would be less than if Canada, retaining voluntary system, raised its active forces to the same total and thus brought them into some relation, as to strength, with the regular forces now maintained by the United States.

Moreover the compulsory system

would fill a vitally important requirement—an annual production of really well-trained young men available for posting to the reserve forces. Our reserve forces would then be capable of being mobilized in great strength and without delay should a threatening situation arise. Indeed, to put the matter bluntly, without compulsory military training and subsequent limited service in the reserve, those reserve forces can never be regarded as possessing any immediate military significance.

I have indicated as my opinion that the most suitable basic composition of our armed forces would be a comparatively small number of active, or regular, personnel, with a very considerable total of well-trained young men posted to the reserve. From my previous remarks it should also be clear I consider that these forces must be so organized and equipped that, on mobilization, they possess marked mobility and the consequent power to operate at considerable distances from our populated areas without being tied to our road-rail communications.

If these views meet agreement then it would seem that a most important requirement for the land forces would be the availability of adequate transport aircraft. Not otherwise will they be able to function in an effective manner. So far as I am aware, however, our present RCAF “air lift” would be severely strained if it was required to move a few hundred armed men with very limited equipment a few hundred miles, and maintain them for a limited period. It strikes me that a correction of this presumed situation is a military requirement of the first order.

Is the Big Bomber Finished?

My friends in the RCAF may not agree with me, hut I also believe that, in the face of existing and prospective anti-aircraft weapons, and with the development of very long-range projectiles capable of moving at supersonic speed and with a high degree of target control, the day of the heavy bomber is largely over. On the other hand the immense value of the tactical co-operation of the land and air forces on the battlefield was not only an outstanding lesson of the fighting in this recent war but, in my opinion, will continue to be a most important future requirement. Again, in the fields of air reconnaissance, of interception, and of photography and mapping, the RCAF responsibility should be no less in the future than in the past.

I consider it would also be in keeping with prospective primary responsibilities if our Canadian naval forces were organized and equipped mainly for longand medium-range reconnaissance, interception and convoy duties. It is as certain as anything can be that if large-scale enemy sea/air operations against Canada became imminent, or actually developed, the tremendous naval forces of the United States would by then be deployed for action, as well as the very considerable naval strength of the United Kingdom. In such circumstances it appears to me that the Canadian navy, with its aircraft, would offer its most effective contribution by concentrating on the specialized duties which I have mentioned.

This very important matter of the future role and composition of the armed forces of Canada is not susceptible to a thorough examination, however, unless it is based upon a national agreement as to this country’s future military responsibilities. Ido not think, at the present time, that the majority of Canadians have reached a common conclusion as to the scope and nature of Continued on page 35

Continued from page 33 such obligations. If this be so then it can be accepted that no particular military policy will be firmly adopted and vigorously implemented.

If the United Nations should be considered by most Canadians to provide a dependable guarantee that no great war involving Canada will again break out, it can be expected that there will be no support from the Canadian electorate for considerable public expenditures on the maintenance of effective Canadian armed forces. In this contingency, then, our military arrangements will inevitably and speedily shrink to the minute proportions of 20 or so years ago. Indeed, if this view is officially accepted, the logical step should be to abolish all Canadian armed forces!

I would be infinitely happier if I could view the future in this way and honestly place my reliance on the United Nations as an organization

which would ensure the preservation of peace. It must be plain, however, from what I have written that this is a conclusion I have not been able to reach.

I personally can go no further than to state that I regard this international organization to be of very great importance as a world forum. Its great value is as a meeting place for those highly responsible for national policies, and as our principal international coeducational institution. On the other hand, its practical power as a preventative of war is limited to the extent it can induce real compromise and produce firm mutual agreements between its member nations on really important issues. In the present state of world tension and economic distress—a condition which will not rapidly improve— its potency in this respect appears not only to be very restricted but quite undependable.

If, as I have argued, it is the consid-

ered view that war is a prospect Canada requires to face, then the organization of effective Canadian armed forces is a matter which brooks no delay.

I go further and state my belief that unless the democratic nations of the British Commonwealth and the United States, together, maintain a unity of view and of action in international affairs, with real military strength behind their external policies, the risks of war will increase, not diminish, as the months pass by.

To reiterate, in the circumstances of today and tomorrow the possession ot force, not the lack of it, is the surest guarantee of peace to those countries which desire to preserve it. In any event, whatever my own views, it is up to all Canadians to think these pressing problems of peace and war out of their own conclusions. In such a way, only, can democracy function, endure and succeed, it