Feb 17, 2014
Canada is a wonderful place with wonderful people. I love their peameal bacon and their pea soup. Their real maple syrup, Mounties, moose, & Hockey Night. Canadians are pretty awesome people and great neighbours for the most part. The US and Canada haven’t always been on the greatest of terms, however. In fact, for much of our mutual past, we’ve been the kind of neighbours who train their dogs to pee on the other’s lawn.
See, until the end of World War I, Canada was a dependency of Great Britain. As a result, Canada was often treated as a stand-in for Britain by Americans who didn’t care for Britain and wanted to seize all that maple syrup and forbid the sale of milk in bags.
Since then, the US-Canadian border has been relatively peaceful. That doesn’t mean that Canadians haven’t prepared for the next battle. . .
After World War I, the US & Britain - and by extension Canada – became more and more friendly to each other. Even though they had fought together and had begun to form the basis of the Anglo-American Alliance that we now share, there was a major problem: Japan.
Japan had an alliance with Great Britain. They had been part of the Allies during the First World War, and Britain really liked the idea of keeping them as allies in the Pacific. The Brits agreed that if Japan went to war with two or more other nations, that they could count on British troops to back them up. The Japanese expansion into Easter Russia, and their expansion into the rest of Asia that it foreshadowed, concerned the Americans who saw a war in the Pacific brewing on the horizon. War between the US and Britain seemed a plausible eventuality- with Canada being a primary target.
Enter Lt. Col. James ‘Buster’ Brown, Canadian Director of Military Operations & Intelligence. Ol’ Buster knew that, although doughty, the Canadian military was outnumbered 10-to-1. The only chance for the Canadians would be to depend on the British military to come to their aid. Transporting troops from Great Britain and the colonies could take anywhere from weeks to months, though. Almost all of Canada’s population and industry is located within 100 miles of the border with the US. With those kinds of odds, ‘Buster’ Brown knew that he had to think outside the box.
Brown’s ideas began to take shape in 1921. He figured that the best defense was a strong offense. A pre-emptive strike against the US was what was necessary.
According to Brown’s plan, the Canadian military would mobilize at a moment’s notice, and, relying on the element of surprise, plow across the border in a lightning strike- seizing as much American land as possible. The Pacific Command would advance to Portland, Oregon – taking Seattle and Spokane, Washington in the process. Prairie Command would converge on Fargo, the jump Southeast and capture Minneapolis to cut off rail transport from Chicago. Meanwhile, in the East, troops from Quebec would pour across the St. Lawrence, around both sides Adirondack Mountains, and capture Albany. Finally, from the Maritimes, the last major force would sweep in and take Maine. The plan was for Canadian troops to keep going until they met stiff resistance. Once they did, they’d begin a strategic withdrawal; destroying railroads, factories, bridges, farms – anything of value. By the time the fighting got back to the border, British & colonial troops would’ve arrived to handle the fighting, and the American infrastructure would’ve been severely crippled.
Between 1921 and 1926, Brown and several other Canadian officer performed reconnaissance missions in the United States. Wearing regular clothes and driving ordinary cars, Brown and his men would visit American towns and cities near the border where they would buy maps at the local gas stations and question locals. Brown himself visited Burlington, Vermont, where he noted that the people were friendly, but they drank much less than Canadians. Brown also felt that Vermonters would be more likely to help the Anglo-Canadians than fight against them.
It certainly was a daring plan which, if it had worked, could’ve dealt significant damage to the Americans. Brown failed to take into account one variable: the British. It turns out that the Royal Navy looked at defending Canada as a Sisyphian Task, and never panned to send an army to defend them.
In the end, as Anglo-American and Canadian-American relations grew warmer – especially during and after World War II, Defence Scheme 1 faded into anonymity.
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