The Canadian Soldier: Combat Motivation in the Canadian Army, 1943-1945

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Engen, Robert Charles
Second World War , Canadian , History , Morale , Combat , Military
This thesis is a study of the combat motivation and morale of infantrymen in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. Using battle experience questionnaires, censorship reports, statistical analyses, operational research, and other contemporary sources, this study offers a “big-picture” look at the human dimensions of warfare as experienced by Canadian infantrymen during the Italian and Northwest Europe campaigns of 1943 to 1945. The myths and realities of who the Canadian soldiers were provides the background, as does an exploration of their training and organization. Each core chapter explores one segment of the Canadian campaigns in Europe: the Sicilian and Italian campaign of 1943, the Italian campaign of 1944-45, the Normandy campaign of the summer of 1944, and the Northwest Europe campaign of 1944-45. Each of these chapters analyzes the force structure, behaviour in battle, morale, cohesion, and motivation of Canadian infantrymen during that particular segment of the campaign, setting them in comparison with one another to demonstrate continuities and change based upon shifting conditions, ground, and circumstances. In doing so, this thesis offers an original interpretation of Canadian combat motivation in the Second World War. Due to high infantry casualty rates, influxes of new reinforcements, and organizational turmoil, Canadian soldiers in many campaigns frequently fought as “strangers-in-arms” alongside unfamiliar faces. In spite of being strangers, however, the Canadians maintained remarkably high levels of cohesion, morale, and effectiveness (despite setbacks and periods of malaise) throughout the fighting. These successes can be attributed to the phenomenon of “swift trust” cohesion, the preservation of NCO leadership even in the face of heavy casualties, and effective training.
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