69 Years Ago...

Tomorrow is my birthday. I turn 28. For those that can't do math, I was born on August 20th, 1983. It's not really a very noteworthy day - The Police released "every breath you take" on an unsuspecting world, but beyond that, it was more or less an okay day.

Forty-one years before, though, it was hell in one little part of the world, for a small collection of Canadians who were ready to do their part for the War Effort going on. This was an event that would forever be known afterward as "The Dieppe Raid", or occasionally "The Dieppe Folly".

The raid was a dry rehearsal for later Allied amphibious assaults - the lessons learned would go on to influence the planning for the invasion of Normandy (D-Day) that would happen some two years later. But when this attack began, the planners were woefully unprepared for the devastation to come. The Canadians who were putting their asses on the line had no idea that their deaths were going to mean anything.

And they died. They died in droves.

Of the six thousand Canadians who were involved in the attacks, only 40% (a little over 2,400) made it back to England in one piece - the rest were killed, captured, or seriously wounded. In less than five hours, 3,600 Canadians had been taken from us, in one way or another. To be put another way, twelve men a minute were killed, wounded, or captured. For five hours.

The entire ten year mission in Afghanistan lost fewer people than those at Dieppe lost in twenty minutes.

I mention this because my grandfather was one of the people there. And he was one of the lucky few that made it back. There's this photo of his company taken a few days before the raid - all three hundred faces smiling at the camera. And then there's a photo of those still fit for active duty when they got back - eighteen beaten, haggard faces staring emptily at the camera.

And yet the raid is little remembered by anyone beyond war historians. Even in Canada, a country that celebrates Vimy Ridge and our landings on Juno Beach, the loss at Dieppe is one we rarely acknowledge. But every year, the day before I celebrate one more year of life in a land of freedom and boundless opportunity, I do my best to remember. And to reflect on the fact that many Canadian dead once lined the beaches of a far-off continent in a battle that is too often forgotten.

And every year, I promise to myself to do my part to help others - especially Canadians, as this battle was our legacy - to remember.

Hence, this post.

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