Friday, September 19, 2008

"If Day" - February 19, 1942

Nazi soldiers acost citizens of Winnipeg on the streetI went to see My Winnipeg recently. I was very excited, because it's about 'my city', the city that I always considered 'mine', because I visited it often, knew people from there, and loved it for many reasons (parks, zoo, museums, theatre, pubs, and much more...)

I knew I would be amazed and enchanted and cry and be upset and feel very moved. He makes that kind of film...and I was. It was...AMAZING. I so understand where he was coming from. I have the same surreal relationship with St. Vincent, but in my case, I left it and I never went back. But it never left me...

One of the stories covered in the film was about something called If Day. "If Day" was conceived by leaders in Manitoba as part of a larger effort to raise war bonds during a period of February and March 1942. Manitoba's idea was to fake a Nazi invasion of the province, to get the attention of the public imagination...and their wallets. The invasion took place on February 19, 1942...

Participation in the event was excellent. Both the active and reserve forces, as well as numerous volunteer organizations, were involved in making If Day as realistic as possible. Col. D. S. McKay was the commander of the “defence” forces. RCAF planes were used as Nazi dive-bombers. Trucks, anti-aircraft guns and other military equipment were used during If Day.

Nazi aircraft came in from the north, first sighted at Norway House. Selkirk was the first to fall prey, but by no means the last. The Nazi war machine was converging on Winnipeg. At 6 a.m., the sirens sounded and troops were stationed along a line five miles from city hall. By seven o’clock, the Nazis arrived at the first line of defence. Artillery opened fire in East Kildonan, and the fighting began. Forty-five minutes later, the defenders were forced to retreat. They blew up the main bridges, but the Nazis were not to be stopped so easily. They were forced to retreat twice more, the last line but a mile from city hall.

By 9:30, there was nothing left to do, and Winnipeg unconditionally surrendered. Brandon, Flin Flon, Selkirk and many other small towns, comprising most of Manitoba, had also been captured by this time. Manitoba was now a German province.

Ironically, February 19, 1942 was also the day that the infamous Executive Order 9066 was made, suspending civil liberties of Japanese Americans.

NOTE: A documentary was made about this event that is definitely worth checking out!