Guest Commentary

Maj. Gen. (ret'd) Richard Rohmer

The Cold War

(Editor’s note: the author, now 96, in 1953 resigned as commanding officer of an RCAF squadron in protest over lack of military preparedness. That year Parliament approved a defence budget of $2 billion for the first time since the end of the Second World War. Rohmer recounted his Cold War experience in an October 7, 2009 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. Following is an excerpt of his remarks)

We were totally open to an attack by Soviet bombers. They would come straight over the top, from Siberia where their bases were located – and still are. They’d deliver their weaponry against the United States, that was the big target, but we were on the way. No question.

Ottawa was pumping out stuff, telling Canadians: ‘We are really well defended in the North.’ We were not well defended in the north. Squadrons were not deployed until some time after that. The vulnerability of Canada at that time to an attack by Russian bombers was very high. The intensity of the Soviet threat was real.

Remember, the Soviets were strong in the 1950s. They were very powerful, totally committed to their military, and had an authoritarian dictatorship government. The relationship between the Soviets and Americans was very hostile.

They really meant business. There were any number of opportunities for the opening of hostilities. That’s the mood that was in place at the beginning of the 1950s.

I was commanding two fighter squadrons. From my point of view, we understood very clearly there was a real threat from the Soviet Union, and we were the first line of defence. Contingency plans had to be made. We had to evacuate or cities if there was a bomb threat

The peace movement? I wasn’t concerned about it. Those people were totally irrelevant as far as I was concerned – and continue to be.

There was some suggestion of compulsory military service. I never really considered that seriously. It’s never been something Canadians have an affinity for, even in wartime. Politicians are the only people who can make that happen, and they would never make it happen. This is Canada.

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