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

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, June, 12, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Okanagan-Shuswap real estate market continues hot start to 2021

Sales in February were up more than 100 per cent over last year, reports the Association of Interior Realtors

The restart of the program means seniors can receive affordable meals delivered five days a week. Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post.
Princeton Meals on Wheels one year trial will cost $92k

Program restarts, and volunteer drivers are needed

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The Brooke Drive interchange is part of the Chase Four-Laning Project currently being worked on by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure image)
Second phase of Highway 1 four-laning in Chase expected to be tendered soon

Work already underway for Chase West phase of project

Shuswap Adventure Girl Sarah Tokarek has a particular passion for hiking trails around Blind Bay and the South Shuswap. (Contributed)
Shuswap mom helps others find their own outdoor adventures

Sarah Tokarek is Shuswap Adventure Girl, an online trail guide for the region

Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

(Courtesy of West Kelowna Fire Rescue)
West Kelowna structure fire results in death of pets, injured firefighter

Crews arrived at the Ponderosa Rd. home to find the rear of the building engulfed in flames

Lisa Jilg is pictured at her store with signs requesting the donation of items for those struggling with mental health challenges, and those experiencing homelessness. (Contributed)
‘He just wanted to be accepted’: Okanagan mother opens up about son’s fatal overdose

Judgment toward those with mental health challenges needs to stop, says West Kelowna mother

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

Most Read