Vindicating Dieppe

The catastrophic WWII battle may have had a much larger purpose than just taking a French beach

by Alex Ballingall

New evidence shows the doomed Dieppe raid had a vital mission — and a certain spy author — at its core. In an exclusive feature story in this week’s issue of Maclean’s, on stands now, we go behind the scenes of a dark chapter in Canada’s history.

Dawn had broken by the time Ron Beal scrambled out of his landing craft to storm the beach with the Royal Regiment and attack gun positions looking west over Dieppe harbour. In the early-morning sunlight, the Canadian soldiers were easy targets for the French town’s German defenders; scores lay dead and dying on the rocky beach as bullets rained mercilessly from the cliffs above. Beal kept running toward them, as commanded, even while his comrades were cut down around him. “We were running over our own dead,” says Beal, now 91, a resident of Toronto. “We felt like we were just lambs to the slaughter.”

Beal was taken prisoner, along with 200 fellow Canadians in his landing section. His regiment wasn’t alone in defeat: the Dieppe raid of Aug. 19, 1942, was a disaster, an amphibious assault on Nazi-occupied France that went horribly wrong. In total, 907 Canadians were left dead that day.

Questions about the raid have lingered for decades, and its meaning and purpose have been hotly debated. Why were they sent to Dieppe, a French port town of 25,000 facing north across the English Channel? With a shingle beach shoreline flanked by imposing cliffs topped with German defences, it was no easy target for an amphibious raid. Why did it happen?

Some argue the Canadians were sacrificed in a British-planned effort to placate Soviet and American demands for a second front in Western Europe. Others frame it as a botched dress rehearsal for D-Day. But for many historians, it’s as if there’s been a glaring hole in the Dieppe narrative—a large piece of the puzzle for understanding what happened that day has been missing.

Until now, that is.

On Aug. 19, the 70th anniversary of the Dieppe raid, a groundbreaking documentary called Dieppe Uncovered will air on the specialty TV channel History. (It re-airs the following day.) The film finally uncovers a clear explanation for why so many young Canadians were sent to their deaths.
O’Keefe has discovered that the main goal of the operation was to provide help and cover for a top secret commando unit—whose very existence was kept hidden for years—to steal highly valued intelligence material from a German naval headquarters in the seaside town. This mission was of such consequence that, had it been successful, the entire course of the war could have been altered. It’s an extraordinary revelation, involving closely guarded military secrets, the soon-to-be-famous creator of James Bond, and the bravery of hundreds of men pursuing an objective of paramount importance to the Second World War in 1942.

In an exclusive feature story in this week’s issue of Maclean’s, on stands now, we go behind the scenes with David O’Keefe to find out how he made this astonishing discovery, and explore what his findings mean to our understanding of that dark chapter in Canada’s history.

Peter Henshaw, a history professor at Western University, says he is amazed by O’Keefe’s findings. “It’s especially rare in this area of Second World War history, because so many people have already plowed through a lot of this stuff,” he says. “It’s a big deal.”

And it promises to forever change the way Canadians, especially the living veterans who endured so much that day, look back at Canada’s worst military defeat.

Read more in this week’s issue of Maclean’s.




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Vindicating Dieppe

  1. Knew quite a few survivors of the raid – ex-POW’s and heros all to me – I hope their sacrifice will be given more meaning

  2. Gasp….you mean ordinary well-meaning average people of the time were simply slaughtered en masse for no good reason? Because they got sucked up in drum-thumping, rabble-rousing crap?

    I’m shocked I tell you …..shocked.

    Well no….just sickened actually.

    • This is the second comment of yours recently that flippantly dismisses the moral justifications of the Second World War. Its pretty grotesque. It’s as if you have no regard for both the Holocaust and the illegal and immoral occupation of dozens of soveriegn nations.
      All wars are horrific, and all wars, to some degree, are crimes against humanity.
      But the reason that every war since then has attempted to be portrayed as as important as the Second World War is because the Second World War, on a marcro scale, was morally justifiable, necessary, and heroic.
      Also, for one who reguarly critizes other commenters for “not reading the post,” did you read the bloody post?! It argues the Dieppe raid was not a waste (or at least provides a teaser of the argument).

      • I have no idea what other comment you’re referring to, but I have no patience for the ‘just war’ argument. There isn’t one.

        WWII was a direct result of the Treaty of Versailles and wouldn’t have occured if the allies hadn’t been so vindictive over WWI….Germany was inflated, broke, had no hope, and those are the conditions which give rise to dictators. …..and WWI was a civil war in Europe we shouldn’t even have been involved in.

        As to the holocaust and WWII…..no one knew it was going on, so we didn’t go to war over it.

        Yes, I read the original thread…..it says a lot of men died to cover an unsuccessful raid.

        • While you may have read the article, you clearly didn’t understand it.

        • You’re selective dissertation fails to mention Hitler, his aims and objectives not to mention the lack of pre-war political viscera which could have stopped this donkey cold.

          • For the moustache, topoid and .. um….the spaceship

            Tsk tsk….did I ruin it for the war-porn fanboys?

          • No Em…you showed your incredible ignorance to the entire world.

          • Well now you’re posting to yourself, while calling others ignorant. LOL

            Not everybody is a fan of WWII ya know, nor do they recognize the Hollywood version.

          • Listen Em…I’ve interviewed the men AND women (including a few Dieppe vets) who made it possible for your shallow, inaccurate and ignorant rants and believe me lady theirs was not the Hollywood version.

          • Really? Well I was related to some of them

            Now stop it.

        • You are so full of it, EmilyOne, two or three, despite your much-vaunted higher education. To say what you did is an historian’s bleat, not a recognition that the World was faced with two serious evils art the time. You make me sick!!

        • 1. If we shift blame for the Second World War to Versailles, why stop there? Versailles was the result of the First World War (as you say), which was the result of European aggression, adventurism and power struggles… which was the result of an endless series of events prior to that… colonialism, the reformation, and on and on; basically the history of humans being brutal to each other. So if you simply want to reduce your argument to blame the Second World War on human nature, then fine, but that’s not particularly useful.

          2. The Holocaust. There you go denying it again. People absolutely knew it was going on, there is plenty of evidence to indicate such. Most did not understand the scale at which it was proceeding, but people knew. To deny that people knew is to deny the Holocaust.

          2.A. Just because we didn’t understand the scale of the Holocaust when the war was started doesn’t mean the war isn’t justifiable for that reason after the fact. I’m not saying we went to war because of the Holocuast – we didn’t. But the war is morally justifiable because of the crimes the Nazi’s were perpetrating. But as you’ve said you don’t believe in a just war so I don’t expect you to accept this argument.

          3. The post suggest that there was a larger motive than just the unsuccessful raid itself. So the only way you can claim to have understood it is to leave out a few parts.

          4. I was referring to your comment to this post: http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/07/19/worlds-most-wanted-nazi-war-crime-suspect-arrested/
          which was deleted (by you or Macleans I don’t know), probably because it was deemed hateful.

          • WE in NA shouldn’t have been in WWI….and the only good thing to come out of WWII was that Europe decided they’d had enough of war, and went for the EU instead.

            No, most of the people fighting the war didn’t know any holocaust was going on…..the world was far more isolated then that it is now. Even Jews in Germany were unaware or unbelieving .

            But even when we know we don’t do anything…..Cambodia or Rwanda for example

            I see….we should go to war with other people, and if after the war we discover something nasty about them…..that makes it okay, does it?

            Retroactive justification….are you channelling Romney?

            I didn’t make the other comment….some turkey pretends fo be me now and then….I complain and he gets tossed.

        • Why don`t you go to Napoleon – he unified Germans who until then were fighting each other.Bismark just formalized previous developments.

      • Don’t bother arguing with Emily – she is nuts.

        • Hah….that from ‘modster99′. Priceless

      • I don’t think she’s nuts; something else entirely. Most of what she writes can be ingorned, but confronting her most aggregious claims is sometimes necessary.

    • Your sorry attempt to quote Claude Rains’ character in Casablanca is a “sickened” demonstration of sarcasm.

      Your take on the Dieppe raid is an oversimplistic, monochromatic view of events of the time.

      • LOL it’s a standard comment online, not restricted to Casablanca

        • Emily, why don’t you go back to your books. The real world isn’t for you. Regardless of whatever, the real world is what they had to face in 1939. The game of if’s is a fool’s game. If William the Conqueror hadn’t won the Battle of Hastings England would still be governed by Anglo-Saxons – maybe. It was your type that closed their eyes to what was happening in Germany and I doubt very much the Treaty of Versailles would have made a difference to Germany’s peeve at losing War I.

          • Ahhh when someone disagrees with you they have to leave?

            Perhaps some books, rather than movies, would do you good…

          • Wow. Normally I don’t care about online pissing contests, but you bug
            me. And yes, if someone who is being deliberately argumentative, they
            should leave. You would have less wars that way. Given that your retorts
            have degenerated to insults, you obviously don’t have anything useful
            to bring to the table anyway.

            I will point out that while we haven’t really had a justified reason to
            get involved in foreign conflict since, [when you see NATO and Iraqi
            forces lined up along the exact same front line that Alexander and
            Darius walked 2000 years prior, it makes you wonder why bother] Canada’s involvement in WWI & WWII was at least a response to a war that was
            already coming to us. You might forget that we were still quite loyal to
            our British heritage at the time. I suppose that doesn’t qualify as a justified answer if you’re the type who prefers watching your family members get attacked rather than helping them because it’s “not your problem”.

            I will grant that there is rarely a just reason for declaring war, but there have been instances in history where an invaded people have fought back rather than allow themselves to be violently invaded. Given that the alternative is death or enslavement anyway, it seems like fighting back means at least you can have a hand in your own destiny.
            And don’t type “LOL” anymore. It makes you sound like an uneducated twit.

          • Ahhh you have no interest in pissing contests, but undo your zipper anyway. LOL [and I LIKE LOL, so there]

            No the 2 wars in Europe weren’t ‘coming to us’….no more James Bond movies for you….Hitler had no such capacity.

            Neither did bin Laden, yet people really believed in a mountain hideaway with high-tech and pop machines. It is to laugh. LOLOL

            The 21st century is simply not ‘war-friendly’…..war with hardware is pretty much kaput….and it’s a damn good thing. When you have to start NUMBERING your planet-wide wars…..it’s time to hang up the guns.

            WWII is only remembered fondly because ‘we’ won it…..well actually the Russians mostly and others….like us…..the US showed up late as usual, and then took all the credit. Other than Grenada [which was unaware it was even AT war] the Americans haven’t won anything since. To be honest….Americans suck at war.

            They ARE good at marketing….hell the US invaded Canada 5X, got beaten 5X….the ONLY country to ever have invaded us….yet have managed to convince ‘some’ Canadians they are our bestest buddies. Oh sorry, that should read our BFF. LOL

            Plus WWII had a clear villain, with bad hair, a language and speaking style we could make fun of [old film makes it better] great music, a HUGE narrative and no end of noble causes we could make up for it. Japan was icing on the cake.

            Nobody remembers we pushed both of them into it.

            Wars aren’t winnable in the 21st century…actually they never were. They just got a lot of people killed over the centuries for no reason….just propaganda.

            Now do up your zipper….and wipe your shoes off.

            LOL

          • Just so you know, the only point where I agree on you is that war is horrible. That is the only thing. I find it ridiculous that you are playing an online pissing contest trying to bitch on events that happened close to seven decades earlier. Your argument about hitler not having the capacity to come to us doesn’t work, since if he won, he’d have controlled Europe, which would have given him enough capacity to knock on our doorsteps.

          • Well see, I’m not IN a pissing contest, this is all worthless speculation .Hitler didn’t have the capacity to control Europe, much less anything else.

            Thus endeth the war stories.

          • You should really do yourself a favour and read about illogical
            fallacies. Your statements are full of them. I would offer the advise of
            proof reading the junk that comes out of your head and making sure you
            aren’t guilty of anymore before posting it for the world to read. Twit.

            You really only have one valid point in that since 1950 or so there
            really hasn’t been a war that hasn’t been solely about political
            posturing, showing off technology, resource hoarding or financial gain.
            The problem is that this is a straw man that has little to do with the
            failed Dieppe raid or the Second World War in general. Twit.

            Honourable mention goes out to the comment about the Yanks fooling out
            government officials into thinking we “need” them so badly and their horrible track record when it comes to waging wars. But again, that’s not the issue here. Twit.

            Closer to topic, stating that Hitler lacked the capacity to control
            Europe is really only valid if you use hindsight to ignore a few facts.
            He didn’t gain control of Europe so that must mean he lacked the ability
            right? Well only if you are referring to a leadership capacity rather
            than a resource capacity. Hilter’s biggest folly was that he fancied
            himself a great tactician. Really he should have stuck to riling up the
            citizens and leave the Military planning to his Generals. It was his
            idea to appoint heads like Goring who, while fiercely loyal, were
            utterly ill-equipped to lead whole branches of military. [In Goring's
            case he was also receiving kickbacks that resulted in crippling their
            aviation industry] It was his idea to start bombing London instead of
            continuing to pummel the airfields at a time when the RAF was on the
            brink of destruction. It was his idea to ignore his advisers and poke
            the sleeping bear [at a time when Russia could really care less about
            what the Prussians were doing in Western Europe] There is much more, but
            that’s irrelevant at this point because that act already signaled the
            beginning of the end of the Reich. Oddly, you would think that someone
            who is a noted studier of history, would have learned from Napoleon’s
            mistake and leave Russia alone as long as they could. History would show
            that the only people to ever conquer the Russians, were other Russians.
            We just got lucky that he decided to waste valuable resources acting on
            vendettas and proving his own divinity.

            I am curious though. Who is this “we” you refer to? Canada really had no investment in the Treaty
            of Versailles other than we were no longer sitting at the international
            kiddie table and were allowed to sign it. And to their credit, the U.S.
            still wanted to trade with the Germans, so it didn’t serve any purpose
            to cripple them. If anything the problems were initiated by France and
            their vendetta. Then Britain got in on the action mainly due to their
            long standing dislike for the French and not wanting to see them get
            such a big piece of the pie and potentially become the next European
            superpower.

            As for Japan, again, who is “we”? Now I suppose you can point out that
            the U.S. were pushing Japan into a corner with their oil embargo. But
            that would ignore the fact that the sanctions were only in place as a
            response to the Japanese invasion of China. If Japan pulled out, the
            embargo would have been dropped. But that didn’t happen and that last
            statement sounded pretty close to a “what if”. So I guess it just served
            the Chinese right for not being more receptive to their invaders. Twit.

            And of course WWII is only remembered fondly because ‘we’ won it
            [and yes by "we" I do mean that the Russians bore the brunt by causing
            the diversion of massive amounts of men and resources that would have
            otherwise made life very difficult for the countries on the Western
            front] Had “we” lost, the would would be a much different place and you
            tend not to remember the time a foreign power conquered your country
            very “fondly”.

            Oh yes. I will concede one other point. You are correct that this is no
            contest. You have clearly presented yourself as the Pissing Queen and
            any attempts to compete would surely end in humiliation as much as
            relief. I bow to your superior bladder evacuation. Twit.

          • LOL now you’re wandering around all over the place arncha…..missing the topic by miles while claiming concern for it.

            Rhetorical devices, Hitler’s military ability [srsly?] but no mention of the Battle of Kursk, no ability to look up the Treaty of Versailles and see it’s effect on Germany….they only just recently paid it off ya know….

            WWII was the usual razzle-dazzle that didn’t need to happen, and a lot of people died because of it.

            We have to give up our worship of war…..and claims that any of them were ‘good’ wars. There’s no such thing.

          • Heh. Well thanks for proving my point. No ability to produce a valid counter so you resort to ad hominem devices. No idea where “arncha” is though, think you misspelled something?
            Rhetorical eh? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
            I did know that, but thanks for trying to be educational.
            You keep coming back to your “wars are bad” point. Obviously because no one disagrees with that. The only problem is that you don’t make any mention of any alternative action should war be waged upon you. By your logic, when the U.S. tried to annex Canada, in a completely unprovoked action mind you, we should have just avoided the conflict and let them. Britain and her colonies only got involved in WWII because Poland demanded aid after being invaded. Should have told them to suck it up eh. Not sure what point you’re trying to make here.
            Anyway, it’s been fun, but my son’s about to wake up. He’s just turned one and only speaks about five words, seven if you include meowing at the cats, but he’s less prone to throwing hissy fits when I contradict him. Clearly I’ll find more intelligent conversation with him than I’ve received here. Good day.

          • You’ve been countered….sorry. It’s just that you’re not literate enough to understand.

            Don’t homeschool eh…send your child for a decent education.

          • Heh. Thanks for proving my point further. Not valid counter so resorting
            to ad hominem remarks. Not sure what place “arncha” is. Maybe you
            misspelled it?

            Rhetoric eh? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

            Oh and I did know that, but thank you for trying to sound educational.

            You keep returning to your “war is bad” statement. Obviously this is
            because you’re not going to find any disagreement, but you continue to
            avoid the question of how to deal with aggressors. So by your logic,
            When the U.S. attempted to annex Canada, [in a completely unprovoked
            action] we should have just avoided conflict and let them. And I guess
            Britain, and by extension, her colonies only entered WWII because of a
            stupid pact with Poland. We should have just told them to suck it up and
            deal eh. Not sure what point you’re trying to make there.

            Anyway, it’s been fun, but my son is waking up from his nap. He’s just
            turned one and only speaks about five words, seven if you include
            meowing at the cats, but he is less prone to throwing a hissy when I
            contradict him. So clearly I have a better opportunity of finding an
            intelligent conversation with him than I’ve received here. Good Day.

          • Mike, I believe you are the person who first resorted to name calling which, I believe, in any reasonable company, is regarded as infantile behaviour.

          • In your case, yes. Not because your not in agreement with me but that for a so-called educated woman who purports to once have been elected to something, you are the most ignorant, biased commentator I have ever run across. At least I can remember the war and as well had several family members with first-hand accounts. My point is that the world is made up of humans: they often do stupid things such as being terrified of communism when Fascism reared its Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. Then they made friends with Stalin only to have him try to sweep as much as Europe into his control. over. I was involved and I have had many friends give arms, legs and lives for what they believed was a crunch. You despoil their memory.

          • People often make decisions out of emotion….that doesn’t make them right.

            Nor does it give you a license to attack a stranger nearly a century later

            Shame on you.

          • Ah poor, poor Emily. Yes, you are a stranger. Stranger to historical accuracy, common sense, logic, and most of all stranger than anyone posting here. I really shouldn’t reply at all to trolls, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Shame on me. There you’ve been fed. Now get your second wind and renew your inane attack. Look! Over there! Anoither windmill!

          • You need remedial reading classes……and a history book.

            Oh….and a dictionary.

  3. This isn’t new information. It’s described in the book “A Man Called Intrepid” which was published in 1976. Military historians later criticized the book, but as it turns out, the more we know, the more it turns out to have been accurate.

  4. Hmm, my comment about how this is not new information but was covered in “A Man Called Intrepid” published in 1976 has disappeared. Wonder why? By the way it’s in Chapter 41.

    • No, it’s in my library

  5. When O’Keefe is introduced for the first time, by his last name only, it reads like he was mentioned earlier in the story. He wasn’t.

  6. Emily, I love you !

  7. To modster 99
    Fully agree, and she always must have the last word. Read a lot,may be selectively, but most probably never lived through most what she writes about.See all that rhetoric.

  8. well they did their duty , the idiots who sent them should have been court martialed

  9. I’m delighted to see that the level of discourse here is a massive step up from the usual internet drivel.Well done!

  10. I thought it was common knowledge that the Secret Service wanted to capture the enigma machine that was sitting inside the communication tower at Dieppe. I am surprised that so few Canadians know about it. Does that mean that they also do not know that the Allies knew that the Germans knew all about the raid and Montbatten decided to go ahead with it anyway knowing that he was sentencing hundreds or thousands of Canadian soldiers to die? He would never have done that to British soldiers but people from the colonies were less important to the British command than British soldiers. He did it to save face so that his raid would not look like the absolute failure that it was. His pride was more important to him than the lives of the Canadian servicemen. They could have captured the enigma machine another day when the Germans were not expecting it. This is just one of many of the hypocracies and utter stupidities of war. Incidently the reason why McKenzie King held Canadian troops in England for 3 years & would not let them fight on the mainland was to punish the British command for their complete incompetence in the way they carried out the Dieppe Raid.
    Althea Lincoln

    • Very interesting. Sources?

  11. This so-called vindication only makes the whole fiasco of Dieppe worse in my opinion. Like others have commented, I also understood that this is not new information and has been mentioned before. What makes this article/documentary rather vile is the whole business of dragging the survivors of the raid back into the picture for good drama. Getting old soldiers to cry/break down on camera is just cheap schlock.

  12. Critical of events that happened 70 years ago and an Ocean away, calling one of the largest acts of Genocide in history “made-up” and attempting to undermine anything the Canadian Forces has ever done, or will ever do. Welcome to 2012 everyone. The enemy is here – and they live amongst us. They even call themselves Canadian.

  13. Forgive me, but what was supposed to happen when the Germans discovered one of their Enigma machines and accompanying codebookes, paperwork, instructions manuals, had gone missing following the Dieppe raid? I thought the whole point of Bletchley Park was that the Germans could never know we had broken their codes. Surely the first thing they would have done is change them, perhaps even designing a new coding device? So is David O’Keefe saying that the whole reason of the raid was to gather an Enigma machine, which we already possessed, and in doing possibly deliberately alert the Germans their codes could be broken? Doesn’t make sense to me, so perhaps I am missing something. I cannot wait for the book to come out, so that I can de-code all this.

  14. I read many comments, Wow some are poorly informed concerning SWW Accounts. Stop all that HollyWood, American Propaganda Machine, Utter Nonsence. or Military Tactical procedures which I C many have no Clue Ici. Since the Romans ect., In any War, Battle, ect. one of your goals as a Soldier is to capture Intel, maps, codes, ect. from your Enemy.
    B.P. had broken the Code for the 3 Rotor, It was the New 4 rotor and code that was the Problems and “Most Secret” documents show B.P. room 39 in late 1941-42 were not able to decipher any German codes concerning the U-Boat Wolf Packs in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

    It’s True fact that some of the Info concerning Operation Rutter has been out there for decades, however no Documented Accounts like the ULTRA Secret Files ect. And when Books or ect were written the Main stream Historians consider it as Rubbish. No Paper trail or Prim Source.

    Only in 1997 did all the National Archives of Russia, USA, Canada, UK ect., started realising SWW documents as Public Domain. It’s to be Noted the USA since they have so much to Hide has a back log of 2 million + documents that haven’t been realised, Historians ect., had to go to Court due to all the Black out Lines in many documents realised by the US National Archives.

    As For the Holocaust goes to show all the Bull one has to endure, and the misinformation from the USA and the American Jewish Hidden Agenda. 22,000,000 +++ died in the Holocaust which was known to the Jews as ?????. The term Holocaust was popularized by a 1970′s Mini series Called Holocaust. According to Archive Historical Documents, the Jews were never part of the Holocaust, since it was documented as “The Final Solution” to the Jewish question. As for the 6,000,000 Jews that died that number has been exaggerated through the decades. Not counting It came from a German Officer in the Nuremberg Trials aka the Allied Kangaroo court. Research suggests he was manipulated in his statement by the prosecutors, for a more lenient sentence. The 6 is all Jews that died in all categories, Not counting the Allies which are responsible for many Jews that died in SWW. See how Russian treated Jews in Pre War, not counting the French and the British. Even Briton and the USA did not want all those Jews on their land, and that’s why the Jewish state was created by the British and the Americans after SWW.

    A High estimate of 7,000,000+++Ukrainians and 6,000,000 Polish died in the Holocaust and at the hands of the Nazi’s. The Holocaust was Not a “Only Jewish” event, as we have been lead to belive.

    It’s to be noted that many Nazi’s after the war were recruited by the US Government and Army in the Cold War.

    Yes war History is always written in the Winners perspective, however every “COIN” has 3 Sides. Your Side, their Side and the Truth.

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