If Day in Winnipeg

Wednesday, 3 January 2024 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
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Give Us The Tools © Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-585

Give Us The Tools © Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-585

If Day (French: “Si un jour”, “If one day”) was a simulated Nazi German invasion and occupation of the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and surrounding areas on 19 February 1942, during the Second World War. It was organized as a war bond promotion by the Greater Winnipeg Victory Loan organization, which was led by prominent Winnipeg businessman J. D. Perrin. The event was the largest military exercise in Winnipeg to that point.

If Day included a staged firefight between Canadian troops and volunteers dressed as German soldiers, the internment of prominent politicians, the imposition of Nazi rule, and a parade. The event was a fundraiser for the war effort: over $3 million was collected in Winnipeg on that day. Organizers believed that the fear induced by the event would help increase fundraising objectives. It was the subject of a 2006 documentary, and was included in Guy Maddin‘s film My Winnipeg.

If Day was an elaborate campaign to promote the purchase of Victory Bonds. These bonds, which were loans to the government to allow for increased war spending, were sold to individuals and corporations throughout Canada. If Day was the second Victory Loan campaign of the Second World War. The campaign began on 16 February 1942, and continued until 9 March. Manitoba‘s fundraising target was $45 million ($620 million in 2011 dollars), including $24.5 million from Winnipeg. The national campaign planned to light “Beacon Fires of Freedom” in communities across the country, but Winnipeg’s February weather was not conducive to this idea, leading to the Greater Winnipeg Victory Loan committee, a regional branch of the National War Finance Committee, under chairman John Draper Perrin, to opt for a different approach. The organizers believed that bringing the war (or, rather, a simulation thereof) to people’s homes would result in a change of attitude among those not directly affected by the war.

The committee drew up a map of Manitoba, which was divided into 45 sections, each representing $1 million of their fundraising target. As money came in from those selling Victory Bonds, the sections were “reclaimed” from the Nazi invaders. The map was posted at the corner of Portage and Main, the city’s central intersection. The campaign was publicized in local newspapers for a few days before the event, although the “invasion” took many citizens by surprise. To prevent a rush to emergency shelters, residents of neighbouring northern Minnesota were also warned because radio broadcasts dramatizing the event could be received in that area. Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft painted to look like German fighter planes flew over the city on 18 February 1942. Selkirk, a small town northeast of Winnipeg, held its own fundraising simulation, a one-hour blackout and mock bombing, on 18 February 1942 in preparation for the main If Day event.

Bonds or Bondage © Alberta Heritage Community Foundation Give Us The Tools © Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-585 If Day map © Winnipeg Tribune, 20 February 1942
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Give Us The Tools © Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-585
If Day pushed Victory Bond sales well over Greater Winnipeg’s goal, and brought the tactic to the attention of people throughout North America. Life Magazine ran a pictorial spread of the If Day activities in Winnipeg and smaller centres across Manitoba, photographed by William Shrout. Reporters from several American publications, including Newsweek, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor, were also present; cameraman Lucien Roy shot newsreel footage for BBC News. Newspapers in New Zealand included stories about the event. An estimated 40 million people worldwide saw coverage.

If Day raised $3.2 million for the Victory Loan campaign, which was the city’s largest single-day total. Winnipeg passed its $24 million Victory Loan quota on 24 February, largely because of If Day. The campaign’s provincial total was $60 million, well above its target quota of $45 million. It raised approximately $2 billion nationwide for the war effort, and If Day was considered one of the most successful fundraising events of the nationwide drive. The army had expected a significant increase in recruits on If Day, but it failed to end the long-term decline in recruitment numbers: only 23 people enlisted in Winnipeg, compared to an average of 36 per day for the first half of February.

If Day was successful enough to spark imitations in other communities. The US government contacted the organizing committee for details of the event. A smaller-scale invasion was staged in Vancouver, using promotional materials from the Winnipeg campaign.

What worked then would probably work again today. If you look in particular at the so-called “war fatigue” in the European Union in view of Russia’s war of aggression and annihilation against Ukraine, which is actually a mixture of unwillingness, disinterest, short-sightedness and misjudgment, then an “If Day” scenario would probably have a very healthy effect. After all, there has been enough talk. Above all, numerous excuses were invented as to why action supposedly could not be taken. It is high time to do the exact opposite and finally take action to the extent necessary to get ahead of the situation instead of constantly delivering “to little, too late”.

Read more on Manitoba History: February 19, 1942: If Day and Wikipedia If Day (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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