It was during a 5th grade geography lesson that it happened. Mrs. Cox asked if anyone could point out Europe on the map, and I was the brash kid who raised his hand. And so she let me show the class, which I did. And it should have ended there, but it didn’t. I proceeded to spontaneously identify The Belgian Congo, The Canary Islands, Algeria and Ecuador.
I wasn’t boasting of any academic prowess, but simply pointing out recent Amateur Radio contacts that had excited an 11-year old who just wanted to share.
And so it’s been throughout my life. Amateur Radio continues to open wonderful windows into exotic locations and to teach me as much about our world as any college class ever did. Just last night was another example.
As I tuned to the bottom of 40 meters, a particularly strong CQ caught my ear, and I stopped to listen. And it was a curious callsign, VC3JUNO, obviously some sort of special event station. And so I returned the call, not really expecting him to answer me with my pipsqueak station and modest antenna, but he did.
“Thanks for the call”, he began, and we proceeded to have a better than 30 minute rag chew, quite unusual for special event stations. Typically it’s a signal report only and then on to the next station calling.
“The name is Pete and my QTH is Ontario”, he continued, “and this is a special event callsign commemorating the Canadian Army landing at Juno Beach in France 70 years ago”.
I expressed my gratitude to the Canadian troops and all those who served and sacrificed, and mentioned that I had been a high-speed CW operator in the Navy during Viet Nam. I learned that Pete was retired from law enforcement, and I thanked him for his service as well. I shared that I had visited Canada only once, when my ship, the USS Blakely, pulled into port on Prince Edward Island enroute to Europe. And Pete remarked that I should visit again, and I detected a sense of pride in his invitation.
And when our unexpected conversation finished, I turned to the web to learn more about the Canadian involvement during D Day, and I was surprised at what I found.
Although we tend to hear more about the invasion of Omaha Beach during the Normandy action on D Day, 4 other beaches were part of the invasion scenario and the Juno spearhead was significant. The success on Juno was critical for flanking support to the British who were storming Sword Beach, I read. And without their cover of fire, the British would be in even greater peril. And the troops who had the responsibility for taking Juno were mostly Canadian. Two brigades of the 3rd Canadian Division were involved, along with assault companies of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. As I delved further I discovered that the Canadian forces incurred devastating losses on Juno, as did their American counterparts elsewhere, with 359 dead, 574 wounded, and 47 captured. But the Canadians fought valiantly and ultimately prevailed. In fact, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division succeeded in pushing farther inland than any other landing force on D-Day.
I’ve always had an appreciation for our neighbors to the north, but on this night it swelled. Once again Amateur Radio had broadened my horizons.