Civil-military relations: the case of Canada and the Cuban missile crisis

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Featherstone, Bill E
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The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was an unprecedented event and turning point during the Cold War. This thesis examines the relatively unknown Canadian military involvement in the crisis, and why it has remained so for the past fifty-eight years. Canadian reaction and involvement centres around the hours after President John F. Kennedy’s television address to the world on October 22nd, 1962, as the United States (US) military went into defense readiness condition three (DEFCON 3) alert, where 5 is ‘normal’, and 1 indicates ‘nuclear war is imminent’. The complication and nexus of this thesis, starts when the Canadian Minister of National Defence (MND) Doug Harkness, went to Prime Minister (PM) John G. Diefenbaker to request a comparable alert status for Canadian Forces, and was denied. Harkness subsequently advised his Chairman (CCOS) and the three service military chiefs (COS) to ‘quietly’ prepare, as he continued for the next two and one-half days to seek authority to match the American alert status. Diefenbaker finally agreed to match the US military alert status on October 24th, 1962, after they went to DEFCON 2, but he only agreed to match DEFCON 3. Since then, Harkness has been continuously scapegoated for putting the military on full alert without authority. This became the alleged breakdown in civil-military relations (CMR) that appears to have also tainted the Canadian military. There is little to substantiate an actual breach of CMR here, other than at the highest levels of military leadership.
Cold war, Cuba, USSR, USA, Canada, CMR, Kennedy, Diefenbaker, Harkness, NORAD