CAOF and Op ECLIPSEMay 29 2017 at 5:34 PM
|Ed Storey |
Response to Canadian Postwar Guards
The short answer is yes although I don't think we held the same ambivalence towards the Germans as some of our Allies did, but we did have job to finish and the CAOF was instrumental in helping establish the peace in Germany long after the cease-fire.
Canada's commitment to Allied postwar European reconstruction fell under the code named Operation ECLIPSE. In light of the failures of diplomacy following the First World War, Operation ECLIPSE was designed to ensure that once and for all no possible shadow of doubt was left in the mind of a single German that the military might of the Third Reich had been shattered. To achieve this it goal it was envisioned that the means in which Germany could again wage war would have to be destroyed and that a new society would be constructed and educated to be ruled by law and order. Operation ECLIPSE came into effect late in the evening of 4 May when the ceasefire message was received by 1st Canadian Army from 21st Army Group Headquarters – less than a year after the landing of the Western Allies on the beaches of Normandy.
Located in the northwest corner of the British occupation region was the CAOF area which was centred on Oldenburg and contained the region between the North Sea and Osnabruck to the south. Both port cities of Emden and Wilhelmshaven were part of the CAOF area of operations.
The tasks of the CAOF were wide-ranging and included; the control, disarmament and disbandment of the Wehrmacht and other military forces, the elimination of the Nazi Party by counter intelligence personnel, the protection, care and evacuation of Allied prisoners of war, the deployment of displaced persons, the re-establishment of German refugees, the prevention of starvation and disease, the control of information services, the-re-education of the German youth, and ensuring that the Germans have no opportunity of reviving their ability to make war. The execution of these tasks did not proceed without several challenges such as controlling German POWs so that they could be systematically and effectively discharged from their military duties and returning them home. The numbers of Displaced Persons posed a challenge as many were destitute and suffering from low morale as many had not seen or heard from their families in years. Controlling the distribution and destruction of German war materiel and securing stores of food clothing and particularly arms and ammunition was also a priority as these items could easily be stolen and fall into the wrong hands such as the black market.
It was also one of the CAOF responsibilities to interrogate German officers, other ranks and civilians. Many of these were Wehrmacht in prisoner of war cages, some in civilian camps and other parsons who had either escaped from concentration camps or were suspect civilians. Initially CAOF fraternization with the German population was strictly prohibited although this was eased allowing casual meetings in public. For the most part there was a mutual disinterest in both the Canadians and the Germans from mixing and the numerous sports, education and recreational programs that were instituted helped to maintain high moral within the CAOF.