June 6, 1944 (19th Parliament, 5th Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, at half-past three o'clock this morning the government received by radio the following communique from General Eisenhower's headquarters:
Under the command of General Eisenhower, allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing of allied, armies this morning on the northern coast of France.
Ten minutes later from General Eisenhower's headquarters the following bulletin was received:
It is announced that General Bernard Montgomery is in command of the army group carrying out the assault. This army group includes British, Canadian and American forces.
At eight o'clock this morning I made the following radio broadcast:
"At half-past three o'clock this morning the government received official word that the invasion of western Europe had begun. Word was also received that Canadian troops were among the allied forces who landed this morning on the northern coast of France. Canada will be proud to learn that our troops are being supported by units of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. The great landing in western Europe is the opening up of what we hope and believe will be the decisive phase of the war against Germany. The fighting is certain to be heavy, bitter and costly. We must not expect early results. We should be prepared for local reverses as well as successes. No one can say how long this phase of the war may last, but we have every reason for confidence in the final outcome.
" I cannot better express to the people of Canada the government's feelings at this moment than by giving to you the words of General Crerar, the Canadian army commander, as conveyed to the Canadian assault forces on the eve of their embarkation:
" ' I have,' said General Crerar, ' complete confidence in our ability to meet the tests which lie ahead. We are excellently trained and equipped. The quality of both the senior and junior leadership is of the highest. As Canadians, we inherit military characteristics which were feared by the enemy in the last great war. Thev will be still more feared before this war terminates.'
"I should like to add this word: Let the hearts of all in Canada to-day be filled with
(Mr. Pouliot.l
silent prayer for the success of our own and allied forces and for the early liberation of the peoples of Europe."
The house will be interested in the order of the day which was given to the troops by General Eisenhower. It is as follows:
" Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the allied expeditionary force: You are about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving peoples everywhere march with you.
" You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world.
"Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.
" But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41.
"The united nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeat in open battle man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground.
"Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.
"The tide has turned.
"The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.
"We will accept nothing less than full victory.
"Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
Hon. members will realize that at this stage it is very difficult indeed to give the house much information of an official and authentic character. It would be a mistake, I think, for me to attempt to give anything in the nature of details relating to the events that have happened within the past twenty-four hours. Fortunately, however, the Prime Minister of Great Britain addressed the House of Commons of the United Kingdom this morning and in the course of his remarks was able to give to the house information which will be of equal interest to all of us. I therefore propose now to give to the house a part of the statement which Mr. Churchill made this morning. I should say that the Prime Minis-

Invasion of Western En: oye
ter preceded his remarks by making a reference" to the significance of the fall of Rome. He dwelt at some length upon what that great event signified in relation to the other events which are taking place at this moment. He then continued as follows:
"I have also to announce to the house that during the night and early hours of this morning, the first of a series of landings in force upon the European continent has taken place.
"In this case, the liberating assault fell upon the coast of France.
"An immense armada of upwards of 4,000 ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the channel. Mass airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy's lines.
"Landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. The fire of shore batteries has been largely quelled. Obstacles which were encountered in the sea have not proved as difficult as was apprehended.
"The Anglo-American allies are sustained by about eleven thousand first line aircraft, which can be drawn upon as may be needed for the purposes of battle.
"I cannot, of course, commit myself to any particular details, as reports are coming in in rapid succession. So far the commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan. And what a plan!
"This vast plan is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever occurred. It involves the tides, wind, waves and visibility both from the air and sea standpoints, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy.
"There are already hopes that actual tactical surprise has been attained, and we hope to furnish the enemy with a succession of surprises during the course of the fighting.
"The battle which has now begun will grow constantly in scale and in intensity for many weeks to come, and I shall not attempt to speculate on its course, but this I may say-that complete unity prevails.
"Throughout the allied armies there is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends in other states. There is complete confidence in the supreme commander, General Eisenhower, and in his lieutenants, and also in the commander of the expeditionary force, General Montgomery.
"The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw for myself when they were embarking in the last few days, were splendid to witness. Nothing in the way of equipment, science or forethought has been neglected."
As we await the news of battle there are certain things w'hich I think it would be well for members of this house as well as for the people of Canada to keep in mind. The fact that an allied landing on the continent has taken place is of itself a great feat. It means that after many months of the most careful and detailed planning the enemy has been pushed back at one part of the rim of his fortress. Even so, the task of having landed is but a prelude to the more urgent task of maintaining this first foothold, and of maintaining it so strongly that the enemy cannot dislodge the allied forces. We must expect that initial counter attacks on a small scale will be followed by massed, all-out counter attacks by the mobile and reserve forces of the enemy. These counter attacks may extend over a long period, and it is important that we should not magnify successes which may be achieved.
On a previous occasion, referring to the invasion of Europe, I said:
"This greatest of all tasks must be approached with the utmost foresight,. . . .it will require the most complete preparation. It is the duty of all concerned to see that sound judgment is not impaired by impatience, that nothing that can possibly be foreseen is left to chance. Invasion when it comes must be fortified with as full knowledge, as it is possible to obtain in advance, of every factor that will count for life or death in the balances that to-day are deciding the fate of the world."
The allied offensive launched to-day, as Mr. Churchill has said, is the most complete coordination and integration of effort among all the allied forces.
We must also remember that the enemy has been established for more than four years in the territory which he must now defend. The defensive preparations he has made must be expected to be all that his experience and ingenuity can devise. The enemy strength, while not precisely known, is very formidable.
We must also keep constantly in mind that the supply problem is one of the greatest magnitude because of the fact that most of the implements of war, munitions, food and supplies have to be carried to the front line by sea.
For obvious reasons, it would not be advisable to give information about the strength and disposition of the allied forces or concerning particular formations and commanders taking part in the operations. These will be made known from time to time in official announcements.
Invasion of Western Eurpoe

Conjecture in these anxious days will not do any good, and it may, in fact, give help and comfort to the enemy. This is the more important because of the particular care which has been given to the timing and planning of different operations. It is not to be supposed that the offensive launched to-day will not be followed by other offensives in other parts of Europe both from the sea and over land.
The people of Canada will expect, and it will be the duty of the government to provide, so far as possible, a correct and sober representation of events as they occur. The future, however, must unfold itself.
I am happy to be able to inform the house that official word has already come to the effect that our men have successfully achieved their first objective and are making good progress.

Topic:   THE WAR
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