The massive attack by armored units across the length of the border, coupled with a punishing aerial assault by the German air force's vaunted dive bombers, left the Poles stunned and overwhelmed, unable to offer meaningful resistance. It was over before it began.
The doctrine of a rapid, surprise and overwhelming assault became known as the 'Blitzkrieg' (Lightening War) and was successfully repeated sixty-three years later by the Americans in their assault on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military.
Now renamed "Shock and Awe" the military doctrine hasn't changed much since the German attack on Poland.
The Americans delivered a massive surprise attack with an overpowering and brutal display of air power that was coupled with lightening attacks into the country by armoured units along multiple fronts. Sound familiar?
Faced with such an overpowering assault, like Poland, Iraq was utterly defeated within a month.
Forty years ago the implementation of the 'War Measures Act' by the federal government in reaction to the kidnappings of two individuals by FLQ terrorists can be best understood and appreciated in the context of "Shock and Awe"
Back then, the Quebec government and the forces of order, including the RCMP, were fighting an underground war against a small but effective group of terrorists who represented a very real and present danger to society.
The terrorists were not only waging a war of Quebec Independence, it was also an ideological battle with a socialist agenda that would supposedly transform Quebec into a worker's paradise.
Today this may sound a little lame, but back then the battle between Communism and democracy was very real, with multiple battles being fought across the globe.
Today the FLQ is being portrayed by revisionists and apologists as a benign organization of misguided dreamers, but the truth is that the various FLQ 'cells' perpetrated close to 200 violent acts of terrorism, including robberies and bombings and were directly responsible for about a dozen deaths and dozens of injuries.
The bombing of the Montreal Stock exchange that injured 27 people was the clearest statement by terrorists that the 'system' was under assault and that collateral human damage was an acceptable part of the revolution.
The kidnapping of the James Cross and Pierre Laporte was an escalation, seen as a direct assault on the foundations of society, which was feared to be the onset of a coordinated attempt to overthrow the government.
As the kidnapping remained unresolved for weeks, popular support for the kidnappers was building.
In the following days, FLQ leaders held meetings to increase public support for the cause. Consequently, a general strike involving students, teachers and professors resulted in the closure of most French-language secondary and post-secondary academic institutions. On October 15, 1970, more than 3,000 students attended a protest rally in favour of the FLQ. Demonstrations of public support influenced subsequent government actions.WikipediaAt a rally in the Paul Sauve Arena, in Montreal, Michel Chartrand, the fiery union leader, proclaimed that support for the FLQ was rising;
"We are going to win because there are more boys ready to shoot members of Parliament than there are policemen. WikipediaThe rally freaked out mainstream Quebeckers as well as the government, who viewed the event as a possible prelude to outright rebellion in Quebec;
And act it did.
When a reporter asked the Prime Minister just how far he would go to stop the FLQ, Trudeau replied: "Just watch me".
|$150 K reward in 1970. Wow!|
The War Measures Act allowed the government to assume wide emergency powers in the event of "war, invasion or insurrection, real or apprehended," including the right to arrest and detain without a warrant.
In the dead of night, in a massive and sweeping operation, close to 500 suspected FLQ members and sympathizers, as well as journalists, teachers and radical unionists were rounded up and taken into custody.
Polls later indicated that the public supported the government actions in the order of 85%.
While not everyone placed in custody was subversive, the leadership of the organized public support for the FLQ was effectively neutralized. Those not caught in the dragnet went into hiding or remained fearfully silent.
The massive over-reaction by Trudeau, which included sending the army into the streets of Montreal was something that was completely unimaginable and its effect was overwhelming.
Public support for the FLQ came to a stunning halt. The chilling effect of the arrests rocked the radical world of the FLQ and its sympathizers.
The War Measure Act and the arrest of the 500, broke the backbone of the FLQ movement in just one night.
That is the definition of 'Shock and Awe.'
After a couple of months all those arrested were released, the kidnappers disposed of and the FLQ movement destroyed, never to reappear.
A couple of days ago, the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste honoured the 'noble 500' by erecting a statue in front of their offices. The detainees were hailed as victims and heroes. Bernard Landry called the actions of the Trudeau government 'terroristic' and gross over-reaction in relation to the threat.
Of course, the principle reason for all this griping by separatists today is because of the very success Trudeau achieved in destroying the FLQ. I guess it just doesn't sit very well.
Forty years later it's hard to imagine how events would have played without the implementation of the War Measures Act.
I for one, am happy that Trudeau had the intestinal fortitude to do what he did.
By the way, is 'Shock and Awe' dead?
Let me give you a hint - Toronto, G20, 1,000 Arrests? Hmmm.......