Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: An Inconvenient Truth: The Dark Side of Canada's Cold War
Abstract: The Cold War fundamentally reshaped the bonds between science, military operations, and the Canadian government. Over several decades, civilian scientists, military leaders, and civil servants worked collaboratively on lucrative contracts for defence research and development. Although Canadian expenditures never reached a scale comparable to the United States, the federal government invested widely in sustaining Canada's military-industrial complex.

The reach of defence spending and innovation was wide and deep. From studies on psychology and biology, to projects developing new technologies and better weapons systems, the militarization of science and academe has many inconvenient truths and questionable environmental legacies. This panel brings together three distinct but related papers concerning defence science and its role in reshaping the relationship of science and the state.

In the first paper, Meghan Fitzpatrick examines brainwashing and sensory deprivation experiments funded by Canada's Defence Research Board (DRB) following the Korean War (1950-1953). No single government body influenced military research more than the DRB, and Fitzpatrick's work shows the role of science in supporting the Canadian national security state.

In the second paper, Alex Souchen explores the toxic legacy of technological development and ammunition disposal. Immediately following World War II, rapid demobilization and new technologies changed the Canadian military's manpower and materiel requirements. Surplus and obsolete munitions required disposal and, as Souchen shows, the Canadian Navy dumped conventional and chemical ordnance to support both disarmament and rearmament programs.

In the final paper, Matthew Wiseman returns to the DRB with a paper on military science in northern Canada during the early Cold War. He investigates a series of scientific experiments designed to assist allied military operations in the North through the eradication of environmental impediments encountered by soldiers training for Arctic warfare.
Matthew Wiseman, University of Toronto
Participant's Paper Title: Arctic Warfare and the Ethics of Military Science at the Dawn of the Cold War
Participant's Paper Abstract: Between 1947 and 1952, scientists operating under the patronage of Canadian Army and the United States Army, carried out a range of environmental experiments designed to eradicate insects from isolated locations in northern Canada. The eradication of biting flies meant soldiers could train more effectively and efficiently in a bug-free environment, and controlling isolated regions in the North could provide allied forces a military advantage in the event of a Soviet land attack. The experiments occurred at Fort Churchill, a joint Canada-United States military base located on the western shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba's northeast corner. Scientists used military equipment and aircraft to spray DDT over large sections of open terrain near the Churchill River. The results led to further studies of inspect population control in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where scientists used radioactive materials to infect and then study biting flies rearing near the Saskatchewan River.

Using previously classified records of the Department of National Defence housed at Library and Archives Canada, this paper examines the environmental and human consequences of the entomological research studies described here. It argues that exploitation of Canada's northern climate?both figuratively and literally?was imperative to postwar defence planning in Ottawa and Washington. Furthermore, the Canadian government failed to protect military and civilian personnel in the formation and development of science policies for the North. In so doing, this paper situates northern military science in the context of broader federal policies and shifting Cold War attitudes towards Canada's northern climate during a period when the guise of national interest trumped the risk of environment degradation.
Meghan Fitzpatrick, Royal Military College of Canada
Participant's Paper Title: In Pursuit of Security: The Canadian Defence Research Board, Brainwashing and Sensory Deprivation Research (1950-1974)
Participant's Paper Abstract: During the Korean War (1950-1953), enemy forces captured nearly 13,500 UN servicemen. This represented the first time western troops were, "held captive by a Communist country." As the war dragged on, reports emerged that many confessed to war crimes and allegations of germ warfare. If this were not disturbing enough, 21 Americans refused repatriation when hostilities ended. This ultimately led to allegations of torture and brainwashing. Fearing the Communists had developed sophisticated techniques of mind control, western authorities re-evaluated military escape and evasion training, as well as developing new POW codes of conduct. More importantly, these events sparked a drive to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the human mind?strengths that could be exploited and weaknesses that could be mitigated.

While often considered a backwater of the Cold War, Canada played a pivotal role in these efforts. The Canadian Defence Research Board (DRB), founded in 1947, was created to ensure the fighting services benefited from the best in modern research and development. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the board financed ground-breaking studies of brainwashing, and sensory deprivation at major institutions such as McGill University and the University of Manitoba. Early researchers like Donald Hebb and John Zubek revealed that simple isolation could have a startling impact on the brain?everything from hallucinations to temporarily lowered IQ. These dramatic findings fuelled an expanding field of scientific inquiry that grew to include over 1,000 publications by the 1970s.

This paper assesses the Defence Research Board's contribution to research on brainwashing and sensory deprivation. In addition, it examines the application of these results within military circles and the dissemination of knowledge to allies through international networks. Finally, it explores the ethical challenges of this work and the lengths to which the state will go in pursuit of security.
Alex Souchen, Wilfrid Laurier University
Participant's Paper Title: Unexploded Legacies: The Past, Present, and Future of Canada's Underwater Munitions
Participant's Paper Abstract: During World War II the Allies produced an astonishing amount of weapons and ammunition. By the end of 1945, American, British, and Canadian factories had produced, respectively, a whopping 41 billion, 11 billion, and 5 billion rounds of ammunition and shells. When the war ended, not all of this materiel was expended, needed for postwar purposes, or sold off to other Allied nations; while the bulk of captured German and Japanese ordnance only added to the surpluses accumulating in depots across the world. Victory precipitated a serious disposal and logistical problem: what would happen to the stockpiles of leftover munitions? How and where would disposal take place?

Drawing extensively from my ongoing research into the history of munitions disposal after the Second World War, my paper explores the environmental history of disarmament and the ocean dumping of conventional and chemical weapons between 1944 and 1966. This paper is primarily concerned with the roughly 3,000 dumpsites in Canadian territorial waters and examines the bureaucracy and policies underpinning the continuation of Cold War dumping programs. In doing so, it explains why and how dumping transpired and contextualizes the permissive attitudes of government officials and their general disregard for long-term environmental contamination. Coupled with this public policy approach, the paper will also explore the science and expertise behind ongoing monitoring operations, explain the facts and myths about dumpsites and corroded shells, and analyze the risks and threats they pose to present-day human security, marine environments, and off-shore economic developments.
Andrew Burtch, Canadian War Museum/Carleton University
Louise Tumchewics, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

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