- What were the causes and most important aspects of your chosen event related to the guiding question? (5W’s)
The tides of World War II were turned in 1943 at the Battle of Stalingrad from almost certain Nazi victory to a chance for the allies. Due to this, the allies in the west were mobilized to surround the Axis forces. One of the places the Allies were mobilized in was Italy, an ally of Nazi Germany, and an important place to capture to successfully surround the Axis forces. When Britain, America and Canada gathered near Sicily for a naval invasion on July 10, 1943, the Italian Campaign began. This campaign is significant because Italy was one of the three main fronts from which the Allies pushed Nazi Germany and was crucial in the Allies’ victory.
- How was your researched event viewed by Canadians at the time? How do you know?
Before the infamous invasion of Normandy, the Italian Campaign was looked upon with pride by Canadians. At the time, it was the largest campaign in which Canada participated, which caused Canada to be recognized as a valuable part of the Allied forces. Canadians treasured this recognition of importance from other countries. However, as tales of heroism from D-Day reached Canada, the Canadian soldiers in Italy were not only forgotten, but also dubbed ‘D-Day Dodgers’. This name arose because the Allies had liberated Rome on June 4th, 1944, just two days before the invasion of Normandy. Canadians civilians thought that the Italian Campaign was complete with the capture of Rome and presumed that the Canadians that stayed behind in Italy and had not gone to fight in D-Day, ‘dodged’ the violent invasion on purpose. However, the Italian Campaign continued until spring of 1945, well beyond the capture of Rome. Interestingly, the Canadian ‘D-Day Dodgers’ did not reject their nickname, instead, they wore it with pride. This pride is displayed in a verse of the song D-Day Dodgers written by Canadian soldier Hamish Henderson:
If you look around the mountains
In the mud and rain
You’ll find scattered crosses
Some which bear no name
Heartbreak and toil and suffering gone
The boys beneath them slumber on
For they’re the D-Day Dodgers
Who stayed in Italy
This verse displays how the Canadian ‘D-Day Dodgers’ were proud of their nickname, choosing the name of ‘D-Day Dodgers’ to honour their fallen friends. This song also mentions that their fallen comrades “stayed in Italy”, signifying that they were proud that their friends continued the Italian Campaign and died to liberate Italy. Despite the lack of attention and care from Canadian citizens towards soldiers in the Italian Campaign, the ‘D-Day Dodgers’ remained steadfast and proud of their mission.
- To what extent did this event or idea affect Canadian social, political or economic norms or values?
The Italian Campaign was mainly forgotten by Canada due to the famous D-Day invasions. However, the Italian Campaign did change some social norms in Canada. Through the numerous battles during the Italian Campaign in which Canadian forces were sole reasons for victory, Canada cemented itself as a core part of the Allies during World War II. Today, Canada prides itself on its involvement with the Allied forces and in World War II. Even though most of this pride lies in the invasions of Normandy, the battles fought during the Italian Campaign were the birthplaces of that pride. Even though Canada’s perspectives on Canadian soldiers’ accomplishments have shifted, the Italian Campaign was the dawn of Canadian pride in our involvements in World War II.
- In what ways, specifically, did your event contribute to Canada’s social, political, or economic autonomy? Provide evidence from primary and secondary sources.
Due to Canada’s contributions in the Italian Campaign, the country became well known as a highly trained fighting force instead of an unknown nation in North America. During the first months of the campaign, the Canadian forces were already referred to as “highly trained mountain troops” by Albert Kesselring, a Field Marshall in the German Army. As the campaign advanced “German respect for the Canadian soldier was beginning” (The Canadian Encyclopedia). It was not only the German soldiers’ respect Canadians were gaining, it was the allies too. As Canadian forces won important battles, such as the Battle of Ortona, and played critical roles in Allied attacks, such as the breaking of the Gustav Line, Britain and the USA recognized that Canada was a crucial part of the Allied forces. Canada became a more politically autonomous country because of this acceptance from the world powers, as it now garnered more respect due to its contributions during World War II. Canada’s involvement in the war also sparked a new, common sense of pride in Canadian citizens, which improved Canadian identity. The Italian Campaign is incredibly important as it was where the appreciation and respect for Canadian assistance in the war was initially given, and without this respect, Canada would not have evolved into a more politically autonomous country.