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Cold War Radar

Canada's Involvement

RCAF Dress Jacket

RCAF Dress Jacket, c. 1940s

Being part of the NATO alliance was important to Canada and it helped them feel stronger.  They were a part of NORAD with the United States, but NATO offered other members to lean on and another option beyond the two member alliance. 

Canadian physical involvement in NATO began with No. 1 Air Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1951.  RCAF involvement continued to grwon and 1955 saw the first time in Canada’s history that the Air Force at 51,000 was bigger than the Canadian Army at 47,000.  1958 saw the epitome of RCAF involvement, at 55,700.

In the 1950s Canada was spending almost half their defence budget on the RCAF, and the defence budget was 42 cents per dollar.  Canada’s defence spending reached its highest in the 1950s at $1,982 million, but it dropped to about $1,536 by 1959 where it stayed after that.

Those who had been too young to fight in the Second World War wanted their own glory.  Some of them did die in the Cold War, 107 Sabre pilots dying in Europe and Canada in accidents.


Canadians enjoy snow while in Europe with NATO

Under Trudeau, the situation changed.  He reduced the military by a third and placed an emphasis on NORAD over NATO.  He thoguht Canada should defend itself before anyone else.  The three militaries were also merged into the Canadian Forces under him, on February 01, 1968.

The bases in Europe where Canadians were set up to feel like Canada.  Nonetheless, Canadians still had to get used to the European environment, and were often sent to Britain first to ease the transition.

These bases varied greatly in their living conditions.  Some were harsher than others, but soon more suitable spaces were created so that the families of those serving could also move to Europe.


A NATO camp

The situation was also different in Europe's skies.  The air was much fuller than Canada's.  Canada had a lot of airspace and there was plenty of room to fly.  In Europe, a pilot could not fly straight for more than five minutes due to other aircrafts and borders.

Those serving in Europe were also constantly at the front of the action.  Things were even more tense than NORAD when events, like the building of the Berlin Wall, put the forces on alert.

Canadians continued to serve with NATO in Europe until 1993.