The Valour and the Horror: The Untold Story of Canadians in the Second World War
Sidney Allinson is the editor at the Royal Canadian Military Institute
and author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.
This book seems mainly a reformatting of the script of a discredited TV
docudrama produced by the brothers McKenna. Clearly, co-authors Weisbord
and Mohr have done little further research on World War II. Throughout,
their book presents a naive, revisionist hindsight that does not know
the difference between war-mongering and fighting for freedom.
It could be that their own strongly pacifist views blinkered the
book’s compilers against the scurrilous agenda of the original TV
material from which they worked. That program was succinctly judged as
“crap” by J.L. Granatstein, one of Canada’s leading military
historians, and drew the outraged scorn of more than 40 veterans’
associations. The TV series’ distortion was so blatant, a Senate
inquiry was conducted to determine why the National Film Board used
public money to produce a calumny.
In reading The Valour and The Horror, this reviewer spotted numerous
errors of fact, along with continual innuendo, gossip, and
out-of-context half-truths. Ludicrously, members of Canada’s armed
forces are portrayed as “fresh-faced” innocents, mere dupes sent off
to slaughter by incompetent and uncaring officers. The authors quite
miss the point that every Canadian serving overseas was a volunteer,
there of his/her own choice. Other Canucks are portrayed as either
busily slitting the throats of enemy prisoners or raining bombs on
innocent German civilians.
The personal reminiscences quoted are the book’s best part, though
each was obviously selected to support a biased premise. Moving accounts
describe the sufferings of our POWs at the hands of brutal Japanese
captors. Otherwise, there is scant mention of the enemy’s excesses.
Aping TV technique, the book trots out single individuals to bolster a
point, as if each case were typical. The martial ignorance shown in some
of the photo captions is almost hilarious; non sequiturs and
illiteracies abound (an officer is said to have “flaunted” military
regulations, when one gathers he flouted them).
Most disturbing, overall, is the book’s studied lack of balance or
historical perspective. It fails to consider why Canadians battled
against tyranny in World War II, and thus demeans their memory.