Debating Dieppe's disaster

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A debate still smoulders over one of the most ambitious, and disastrous, military endeavours in Canadian history that took place here 68 years ago today.

The Dieppe raid, to be marked here by Canadian and local French officials and some veterans with a series of wreath-laying events and an outdoor mass, is still viewed by some as a useless waste of lives.

But Antony Beevor, considered by some the most prominent military historian in the world, supports the argument that the Canadians mowed down or blown apart by overwhelming German firepower didn't die in vain.

"The Dieppe disaster had a fundamental influence on the planning for D-Day, albeit in mainly negative terms," saidBeevor, authorof D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, a 2009 international best-seller on the 1944 allied offensive that broke the Nazi grip on western Europe.

The failure proved that the Germans had so heavily fortified key ports in northern France that a direct raid from the sea "should be avoided at all costs," according to Beevor.

"Dieppe was a terrible sacrifice, but at least the Allies learned from that mistake and saved perhaps thousands of lives later."

Roughly 5,000 Canadians took part in the 1942 invasion, along with 1,000 British commandos and 50 U.S. Rangers.

The British and American leadership were under pressure from Soviet leader Josef Stalin to open a western front on mainland Europe, and Canadian politicians and military leaders were pushing for their soldiers stationed in Britain to be involved in battle....

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