D-Day

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Post by Warrior on Tue 21 May 2019, 3:00 pm

Inside the making of the D-Day Heritage Minute

The head of Historica Canada takes us behind the scenes of a Minute marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy

By Anthony Wilson-Smith / May 21, 2019

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A young actor waits in the smoke in Calgary’s Heritage Park during the filming of Historica Canada’s Heritage Minute about D-Day (Historica Canada)



Anthony Wilson-Smith is president and CEO of Historica Canada and a former editor-in-chief of Maclean’s.

When Norman Leach arrived for a meeting in Calgary one morning last September, he had a checklist of items to be verified and lessons to deliver. An expert on Canada’s military history, author of a dozen related books and frequent consultant and speaker at home and abroad, Leach specializes in war conditions “on the ground”—what life was really like for troops in battle. That knowledge was to be put to the test in the filming of a Heritage Minute, to be released later this month, focused on the Second World War efforts of Canadian soldiers 75 years ago on June 6, 1944. D-Day, as it was known, was the biggest military invasion in history—359 Canadian lives were lost—and the beginning of the end of the war. Leach began by checking some army uniforms hanging neatly on a rack in one corner of a makeshift office. After verifying their authenticity, he did the same with the (unloaded) weaponry. Then, he assembled the cast—a group of mostly teenage extras and the star, 47-year-old veteran actor Michael Shanks—to demonstrate how to carry and aim their rifles. It was not yet 9 a.m. on an unseasonably cold, blustery day just getting under way.

So began filming of the newest Minute, the 60-second vignettes that have told stories of memorable Canadian people and events since their 1991 inception. They are produced by Historica Canada, the charitable organization of which I am president. We make them in collaboration with film companies chosen from across the country—in this case, Calgary-based Bamboo Shoots. If you aren’t familiar with the Minutes, the evidence suggests you are part of a shrinking minority. Our most recent one, about the Vancouver-based Japanese-Canadian Asahi baseball team of the 1930s, was viewed more than 2.6 million times within the first 30 days of its release in February. Its predecessor, an LGBTQ2-focused Minute on gay rights pioneer Jim Egan, was seen 2.5 million times in the same period. That’s not including views on television, planes and trains, all of which show the Minutes. Last year, the Minutes—there are now more than 90—collectively aired 125,138 times on Canadian TV stations.

It’s fair to say that the Minutes, like their familiar and oft-repeated tagline, have over time become “a part of our heritage.” Done right, they are equal parts entertainment and education—putting the lie to the tiresome old saw that “Canadian history is boring.” The Minutes were conceived of and brought to life by philanthropist Charles Bronfman—still a member of our Historica Canada board—for reasons he outlined several years ago. “No society can be of merit,” he observed, “unless it has heroines, heroes and myths. In Canada, while there were many, they had not been taught.” Even though they predated the internet era, the format was ready-made for the impatient digital world: they are micro-mini feature films, with developed characters and a full storyline—told in less time than it takes to toast your bread in the morning.

Producing those 60 seconds takes a minimum of nine months. Our decision-making process mixes hard research, hundreds of submissions from experts and the general public, some occasional polling (on what subjects respondents would like to see as a Minute), and, ultimately, a collective gut sense as to what will work. We also get hundreds of submissions annually from high school students who take part in our Ottawa-based Encounters With Canada program. One goal, alongside telling important, compelling stories, is to get to a point where every Canadian can say they see a part of their background or heritage in one of our Minutes.

That’s no small undertaking when you consider that making each Minute costs about $250,000. Funding for the D-Day project came almost entirely from private donors, but others are funded mostly by the federal heritage department. Successive Conservative and Liberal governments have been equally supportive in providing funding, while also taking a hands-off approach to the actual making of each Minute.

The preparations for the D-Day Minute feature the same elements we try to bring to all such productions: a story that reflects the importance of an event; a tale that packs emotional punch; and, in telling it, a near-obsession with authenticity. We wanted a story that would reflect a quiet heroism—a person or people whose story isn’t well known, and who thus is representative of the 14,000 Canadians who, mostly without fuss or acclaim, risked their lives landing on the beaches of Normandy. A network of historians and other contacts provided input while the team at Historica pored over books and old magazines and consulted our own voluminous Canadian Encyclopedia looking for the right choice. We found what we wanted through the excellent Juno Beach Centre, which maintains an enormous archive of material related to Canada’s efforts on D-Day.

The Minute centres on a fortysomething First World War veteran from New Brunswick who re-upped when the second war began. As a major, he led a group composed largely of teenagers, most of whom had never set foot outside the province before they enlisted. Using letters to and from our protagonist and his family, interviews with veterans and their descendants, and photographs and other background material, the script shows how he watched over them, leading them selflessly into what was, literally, the fog of war.

Small details, taken together, have a big impact on whether the final result seems realistic. In many movies, the middle-aged hero is played by someone younger—and the supposed teenagers are played by actors a decade older. Michael Shanks was the same age as the character he plays—and the actors playing the teenage soldiers look very much that age. That difference is crucial to understanding the emotional relationship between them.

Norman Leach ensured that as the actor/soldiers patrolled, they swivelled their heads slowly in measured, different directions—as a real patrol would have done. Another piece of advice: “Never walk directly behind each other. Soldiers always spread out so one bullet couldn’t get all of them.” Unlike the submachine-gun toting officers in movies, our major carries a pistol—true to the real man.


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Computer-generated anti-aircraft dirigibles float overhead, matching newsreel images of the day (Historica Canada)



We shot over two days at Alberta locations: Calgary’s Heritage Park and a lake about 20 minutes from the city. They look very little like the final images. Through computer graphic imaging and some impressive set design by Bamboo, the final Minute quite faithfully matches photographs and newsreels of the day. There are Spitfires buzzing overhead, smoke billowing from the beach, and anti-aircraft dirigibles overhead. Peter Mansbridge, who does the end voice-over, has his own reasons for emotional engagement: his father was a Royal Air Force veteran of the war.

The dialogue in all our Minutes is drawn whenever possible from words the characters are on record as having said or written, included to understand underlying feelings and context. Our previous Minute on Lucy Maud Montgomery, creator of the Anne of Green Gables books, reflects her battles against rejection, sexism and depression in words drawn from her diaries. We consult experts on and representatives from related communities. For this Minute, we used family letters to set the tone of the love and concern among members.

The enduring appeal of the Minutes is, to my mind, due to several factors. Canadians, behind our reputation for self-deprecation, are deeply patriotic; young Canadians more openly so than previous generations. The Minutes provide an outlet for that. Moreover, the Minutes focus on people: how they lived, what they feared, loved and loathed. Viewers thus often find themselves reflecting not on how different life was in the past, but rather on how people then were not unlike us in their reactions to events.

For the D-Day Minute, we took note that the several hundred living Canadian veterans of that battle are now well into their 90s. We don’t know how much longer we will have them with us. This story of a small group of men that day—one in particular—is a reminder that events of that era still resonate in intimate, personal ways for many people. The lucky ones went home to families or started new ones. Some who came back were irrevocably changed. Those who never returned left widows and fatherless children whose lives were forever altered. The sacrifices of those people, and the courage underlying them, transcend the passage of time. With this story, please take a Minute to remember them.





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Post by Cooper on Wed 22 May 2019, 7:28 pm

D-Day an opportunity to reflect on the horrors of war

May. 22, 2019

On June 6, 1944, I arrived by boat on Juno Beach in Normandy, France, with the Canadian Scottish Regiment. My role was in the mortar platoon.

On June 17, I was based in a barn, anticipating an attack that never came. I went into a nearby shed to disarm the grenades when one exploded, resulting in the loss of my right arm.

When I returned to Canada, I became a member of The War Amps, which was started by amputee veterans returning from the First World War to help each other adapt to their new reality as amputees.

Through the years, we have made it a goal to remember and commemorate our fallen comrades, and to educate youth about the horrors of war.

In Normandy, many Canadians died or suffered wounds that they had to carry for the rest of their lives. As we mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, it’s important that we never forget.

Allan Bacon

Toronto





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Post by Cooper on Wed 22 May 2019, 7:39 pm

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Military Ames to host Act of Remembrance to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day

COREY BULLOCK / May. 22, 2019

Military Ames, Kimberley’s veteran camaraderie group and Veteran’s Canada, Calgary are proud to be officiating an Act of Remembrance and commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day at the Kimberley Veteran Memorial Park and cenotaph on Saturday, June 8, 2019. There are approximately 60 veterans coming from Alberta and Montana who will be part of the Service.

Cindy Postnikoff of Military Ames says that all veterans are invited, while a special invitation is extended to any and all WWII veterans in the area.

“All these years later, Canada’s impressive efforts in WWII remain a point of great national pride and we will be honoured to have your presence among us,” Postnikoff said. “We will have priority seating for our WWII Veterans and the non-ambulatory. The public is encouraged to attend, and help preserve their legacy for generations to come. We expect you will find the Service both educational and inspiring.”

She commented on the significant history that D-Day holds to veterans and family members of those who fought in WWII.

“As June 6 approaches, and we are reminded of the sacrifices that were made on that day, D-Day, 75 years ago on the murderous sands of Normandy, it is brought to mind that there was more bravery and courage on that day than one can imagine,” Postnikoff said. “The courageous Canadians that went ashore on D-Day in the Battle of Normandy were among the more than one million men and women from our country who served in the cause of peace and freedom during WWII. Sadly, over 45,000 did not return.”

Included in those 45,000 were four men from Kimberley, Gunner RJ Price, Bombardier W.H. Keays, Trooper C. Alton and Flying Officer Pilot R. Gill.

“These four Kimberley heroes are either buried or memorialized in the province of Normandy, France. They are also memorialized along with twenty other Fallen from WWII on the west tower of the Kimberley Cenotaph,” Postnikoff explained.

The June 8 Anniversary ceremony will take place at 2 p.m., with the Colour Guard mustering at the Platzl clock at 1:30 p.m.. Military Ames will also be hosting a dinner for Veterans and spouses or family members at the Elks Hall on Howard Street, following the service, at 5 p.m.. All veterans are welcome. Seating is limited, so please RSVP to Cindy at 250-919-3137 to reserve your seats.





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Post by Cooper on Wed 22 May 2019, 7:52 pm

For many Canadians, their D-Day was in 1943

The 75th anniversary of D-Day: A special presentation of The Hamilton Spectator’s Newspapers in Education program.

May 22, 2019

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An official War Office photo, titled Two Minutes in Ortona. - Hamilton Spectator WWII Photograph Collection, McMaster University Library





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Post by Spider on Thu 23 May 2019, 7:25 am

Canadian D-Day survivor, 94, returning to Normandy for 75th anniversary

Christy Somos, with a report by CTV News' Annie Bergeron-Oliver
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019





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Post by Gridlock on Thu 23 May 2019, 7:24 pm

Combat boots commemorating D-Day journey stop off in Charlottetown

CBC News · Posted: May 23, 2019

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The pair of combat boots began their journey across Canada on March 29 in Vancouver. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)






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Post by Spider on Fri 24 May 2019, 7:53 am

P.E.I. Veterans Affairs staff prepare to accompany WWII veterans to D-Day ceremonies

Sarah MacMillan · CBC News · Posted: May 24, 2019

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In 2014, Canada held ceremonies in Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and will do the same this year to mark the 75th anniversary. (Veterans Affairs Canada)






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Post by Marshall on Fri 24 May 2019, 5:44 pm

D-Day +75 Years: Huron Students Return to Normandy

Published on: May 24, 2019 |

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CHSS students going to the 75th anniversary of D-Day will represent Huron County at the ceremony to honour the sacrifices made during WWII.







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Post by Marshall on Fri 24 May 2019, 5:51 pm

'Lord, Let Me See One More Sunrise': D-Day Vets Revisit Normandy, Recall Horror and Triumph

05-24-2019

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D-Day Veteran Dennis Trudeau





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Post by Thunder95 on Fri 24 May 2019, 8:00 pm

A nostalgic trip to Normandy 75 years later

Published on: May 24, 2019

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Bill Anderson will return to the beaches of Normandy 75 years later for special D-Day ceremonies.





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Post by Powergunner on Sat 25 May 2019, 7:21 pm

D-Day's 75th anniversary to be marked in Sarnia

Published on: May 25, 2019 | May 25, 2019

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A Second World War-era tank known as Calamity sits next to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 62 hall in Sarnia where a D-Day sunrise Remembrance ceremony is scheduled for June 6. It's set to begin at 6:15 a.m. at the cenotaph located at the Legion hall on Front Street.





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Post by Derring on Sun 26 May 2019, 8:15 am

May 26, 2019

Uncovering D-Day: Canadians unearthing, preserving Hitler’s Atlantic Wall as reminder of war





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Post by Thunder95 on Sun 26 May 2019, 9:36 pm

Some facts and figures about the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944

The Canadian Press
MAY 26, 2019

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Post by Mullberry on Mon 27 May 2019, 10:13 am

May 27, 2019

Finding Pte. Baker: Canadian historians solve 75-year-old mystery of D-Day soldier’s identity
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Post by Mullberry on Mon 27 May 2019, 10:38 am

Blood and thunder at sea: British veteran remembers D-Day

Published: May 27, 2019

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