Friday, August 14, 2009

War on Our Doorstep

by Brendan Coyle. Heritage House 2002. $18.95. ISBN 1-894384-46-6. Hardcover. 240 pages.
Heritage House Publishing of British Columbia has carved out a niche for putting out very readable works of Canadian history. Author of this particular effort is Brendan Coyle; BC Ferries employee by day and historian by night.
When Chief Gunner Hashiro Hayashi took dead aim on British Columbia’s Estevan Point Lighthouse and wireless station on a June morning in 1942, the realities of war had come to North America. Sixty years later, the fascinating events of that era and their impact on both the Canadian and American psyche remain unknown to much of the world.
After conducting decades of research and interviews with veterans on both sides of the conflict, author Brendan Coyle now reveals the campaign that included three attacks on British Columbia, an air raid on Portland, Oregon, and the harsh battles fought in Alaska.
Sadly very few Canadians know that their forces took part in actions against the Japanese in Alaskan waters in 1942 and 1943. A number of warships including ships such as corvettes HMCS Vancouver and Dawson were used to support the assault on Japanese held positions and escort duties.
There was great fear of the Japanese in World War II. An armored train was actually manufactured in Winnipeg to defend the CNR rail line between Terrace and Prince Rupert from potential Japanese commando style raids.
In addition, several RCAF aircraft were sent to Alaska. Unfortunately a number of these were of British origin and completely unsuitable to North American climates.
Also richly detailed are the Japanese submarine operations, which included the near farcial attempt to shell the radio direction finding station next to Estevan Point Lighthouse on Vancouver Island.
A few small errors noted:
On page 110 the US Navy Hellcat fighter was misidentified as F4F instead of the correct F6F
The Royal Navy attack on the Italian Fleet at Taranto occurred in 1940 not 1941
San Diego was not the main US Navy base in 1941 it was Los Angeles
Bremerton, Washington is west of Seattle and not south
Mr Coyle is to be commended for an excellent job on this book and it is surely hoped that he will have more works of a historical nature forthcoming.

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