A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada

New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Petty officer Richard Austin was sitting at his position on board HMCS Athabaskan when he heard a clang. It was 1991, and the Canadian destroyer was traversing an Iraqi minefield in the Persian Gulf, on its way to rescue a crippled American warship.

“I remember waiting for the bang,” Austin recalls of those tense few moments nearly 30 years later. “Looking at the two pictures of my sons on the top of the weapons panel. The bang never came.”

Austin’s story is one of several Canadian experiences from the first Gulf War that were collected by Historica Canada and released on Sunday as part of a new video on what is a largely forgotten chapter of Canada’s military history.

Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, the massive attack that eventually resulted in U.S.-led forces pushing the Iraqi military from Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded in August 1990 under then-president Saddam Hussein.

The anniversary passed largely unnoticed by the government on Sunday, with no official statements by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan or Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

That was despite Canada being one of dozens of countries to condemn Iraq’s invasion, with three Canadian warships as well as fighter aircraft, security personnel and medical troops deployed in support of the American coalition that liberated Kuwait.

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war, which was broken into two phases: Operation Desert Shield, which saw a build-up of forces from August 1990 to January 1991, and Operation Desert Storm.

The latter started with a massive air attack on Jan. 17, 1991 against dug-in Iraqi forces before a devastating ground invasion that lasted two months. Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops were killed while around 300 allied soldiers died. No Canadians died.

Historica Canada CEO Anthony Wilson-Smith believes the fact no Canadians were killed is one reason there is little recollection or appreciation for what Canada did in the war. That is despite the fact many veterans suffered injuries during the conflict.

Signaller Bob Crane, who was a captain during the war, is one of those service members featured in the video who speaks about struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home.

Wilson-Smith also feels that the first Gulf War has largely faded into history as other events, particularly the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the decades of conflict that have followed, have overshadowed what came before.

While Canada was quick to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, in which Baghdad hoped to gain control of the smaller country’s expansive oil reserves, the decision to send troops to participate in the U.S.-led coalition was controversial.

The Progressive Conservative government of day faced some opposition to the idea, before the Liberals supported military involvement. Even then, Canada played a largely supporting role, though its CF-18s did conduct some airstrikes on Iraqi targets.

Many of those interviewed for the video speak about the fear and anxiety that came with fighting a country that had a known stockpile of chemical and biological weapons – and which had a history of using them.

“It weighed heavily on everyone’s mind,” Crane says at one point.

Wilson-Smith is hoping the video, which is available online and will be shared with teachers across the country, will shine a light on Canada’s role in the conflict and the dangers that Canadian troops faced there.

“That’s one of the reasons why we did, to make it better known, because even though we didn’t lose any of our people there, obviously we couldn’t — and didn’t — know that going in,” he said.

“And the second is to make people aware of this extraordinary experience undertaken by about 5,000 Canadians, most of whom, the vast majority of whom, are still walking among us.”

ALSO READ: Less pomp, very different circumstances as D.C. prepares to inaugurate Biden, Harris

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Jocelyn Hamilton/Contributed)
Black bear spotted roaming through Black Mountain

The young bear was searching for food in the Black Mountain area

The temporary skatepark will be placed between the Capital News Centre (in the parking area) and H20, pictured here (Kelowna Skateboard Association/Contributed).
Kelowna skateboarders hope to get Lower Mission park

The Kelowna Skateboard Association is helping a group of kids get a skatepark for the summer

The Vernon Community Arts Centre is seeking member artist submissions for a summer exhibit called Enchanted: A World of Fantasy. Submissions are open until June 30, 2021. (VCAC photo)
Vernon artists’ fantasy worlds wanted for summer exhibit

Vernon Community Arts Centre is seeking submissions for Enchanted: A World of Fantasy

Mamas for Mamas worked with local roaster Tug 6 to create three special blends. (Mamas for Mamas/Contributed)
Kelowna coffee roaster partners with non-profit for specialty blends

Mamas for Mamas has three specialty blends sold from Tug 6

A TacoTime employee hands a customer their order. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Adiós, Taco Tuesday: Kelowna residents flock to TacoTime on restaurant’s final day

‘We don’t need another Starbucks. We need tacos on Tuesday, with extra hot sauce’

Sisters Audrey Cunningham and Donna Erdman, join the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus singing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Okanagan choir steers around COVID with ‘carbershop’ twist

Singers find a unique way to practice during pandemic restrictions

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Mounties battled various sex crimes in the North Okanagan

The local RCMP sex crimes unit has been involved in a number of investigations so far in 2021

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

A Falkland man will present a 600+ signature petition to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board Thursday, May 20, opposing dog control in Electoral Area D, which includes Falkland, Silver Creek, Salmon Valley and Ranchero/Deep Creek. (File photo)
600-plus sign Falkland man’s petition against dog control

Similar bylaw rejected by 200 public hearing attendees when topic came up 9 years ago

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

RCMP. (Black Press File)
Major Crimes called in after two bodies discovered near Penticton

A manhunt involving a police helicopter took place on May 10

Most Read