Breaking New Ground—Stories from Defence Construction Breaking_new_ground - Page 14

Setting the scene Victory in Europe and the Far East at the end of World War II gave much of the Western world a sense of relief and calm. Canada, a nation that had gone into the war a largely rural, agricultural country, had emerged from it much more focused on industrialization and manufacturing. Urban centres were expanding and the economy was strong. The Canadian Armed Forces were being wound down to less than 50,000 in all three services, no new weaponry was being produced, and the Department of Munitions and Supplies had been replaced by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, reporting to C.D. Howe, Minister of Trade and Commerce. But tensions were growing on the world stage. Relations between the Soviet Union and the West were deteriorating, with the West responding by creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in April 1949. This alliance of twelve independent nations that had committed to each other’s defence watched uneasily as the Soviet Union successfully tested its first nuclear weapon at the end of August 1949, and as they duplicated the American B-29 strategic bomber. The same year, on October 1, Communist forces under Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China. Then, in June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. Recognizing that North America was immediately vulnerable by air and— even worse—to a nuclear attack, the Canadian government was forced to greatly increase its peacetime defence expenditures, including sending troops to support United Nations peacekeeping missions and to Korea. In turn, Canada needed expanded military facilities: traditional Army bases, 4 The Right Honourable Clarence Decatur Howe Born in Massachusetts in 1886, C.D. Howe studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later taught at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He entered politics in 1935 and was appointed to the Cabinet by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. As Minister of Munitions and Supply, Howe directed a massive pro- gram for the production of equipment and materials for Canada’s Armed Forces. BREAKING NEW GROUND DEFENCE CONSTRUCTION CANADA