This Week in History


What If ...

For the week of Monday, February 16, 2015

“Buy Victory Bonds, and never let it really happen here.”

-The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, February 19, 1942

On February 19, 1942, federal government officials staged “If Day,” a mock Nazi invasion of Manitoba, in order to drum up support for the war effort. As part of the Second World War Victory Loan Campaign, this event was meant to shock Canadians into buying war bonds by bringing the war closer to home.

Actors dressed up as Nazi soldiers burn books outside the William Street Library in Winnipeg
© Winnipeg Free Press, 1942
Residents of many communities were warned in advance of the event so that they would be prepared. Actors in Nazi uniform marched through the streets, fired blanks, and simulated explosions. Beginning at 7 a.m., 3,500 Canadian active and reserve troops tried to defend the City of Winnipeg, but by noon the occupying forces were in complete control. Life under fictitious enemy occupation had begun.

In Brandon, traffic barricades were erected and only people with registration cards were allowed to pass. The town of Flin Flon had its communications cut off, while the Mayor of Winnipeg was marched out of town and imprisoned at Lower Fort Garry. Nowhere was safe.

A play called Swastika Over Canada was performed in schools to show children how their lives might change if Canada were conquered by Nazi Germany. There was even a book burning on William Street in Winnipeg to show citizens how their freedoms would be restricted if Canada lost the war.

A poster for the 1941 Victory Loan Campaign
©Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-585

A giant map was set up in downtown Winnipeg that showed the province under Nazi occupation, covered in swastika flags. Only by buying Victory Bonds, medium-term investments that fueled Canada’s war machine, could Manitobans free the province. Although the province-wide goal was $45 million, a total of $47 million was raised for the war effort!

The Victory Loan Campaign helped finance Canada’s military throughout the Second World War. Canadians participated in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battle of Ortona, the Canadian Landing in Sicily and the Canadian Raid on Dieppe, all National Historic Events, among other battles and missions. Lower Fort Garry, where the Mayor of Winnipeg was held, is a National Historic Site.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. To learn more about Canada at war, please read the following stories in the This Week in History archives: Sergeant Gander reporting for duty!, Operation Husky: The Canadian Landing in Sicily and Disaster at Dieppe.Click here to learn about the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada!

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