August 15, 1945 was V-J Day, when Imperial Japan surrendered to the Allies; September 2 marked the formal end of the war, when the Japanese signed the instrument of surrender aboard the USS Missouri. Something I did not know: Canada was a signatory to this instrument – and its representative signed in the wrong place! Col. Lawrence Cosgrave, a half-blind veteran of the First World War, put his signature on the line meant for the representative of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. This entailed some improvised editing, which you can see on an illustration accompanying a recent CBC article by Murray Brewster.
That Canadians generally don’t know about this story, as inconsequential or even embarrassing as it is, is understood by historian Tim Cook to be emblematic of Canada’s “blind spot” about its role in the Second World War. According to Cook:
Following the First World War, Canadians built monuments from coast to coast. Canadian soldiers who served in that war — Cosgrave among them — wrote sometimes eloquent and moving accounts of their experiences under fire.
That didn’t happen in Canada following the Japanese and German surrenders in 1945, said Cook.
“We didn’t write the same history books. We didn’t produce films or television series,” he said. “We allowed the Americans and the British and even the Germans to write about the war and to present it on film.”
Read the whole thing to find out why.