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I Call it a University

Heroes Remember

I Call it a University

I call it our universities. I commanded Canadian Forces in Europe before I came back to my final job here. And I considered myself almost a university president because this is where all of our of officers had served. This is where all of our NCO’s had served. This is where most of our troops had served. This is where we worked with big armies; the British, the French, the Americans, and the Germans. We couldn’t do that in Canada. And when we saw these days coming down the road that we would pull out of Germany we would lose, I was then commanding the army in St. Hubert, and I said we would then lose our universities as far as I was concerned, you know, the real big training ground - the big boy stuff, if you want. It’s on odd way to say it but you start looking at large armies and understanding how they function and the interoperability between them, the command and control systems. And always hanging over your head the possibility of course of having to use nuclear weapons. And our own aircraft in Germany were also capable of carrying nuclear weapons, with the same situation. We had a missile unit in the brigade, in the north then, capable of carrying nuclear weapons but they would have been the fractional type, you know, the smaller ones that we’re talking about. And so those were all the things that in NATO of course we got enmeshed in which was much more complex as a command control system than anything we faced in Korea. As a deputy chief of staff for operations and responsible for the war headquarters of the central army group which had two tactical air forces, had four, four army corps of about 100,000 people each. And I was the chief war planner for this thing, running the headquarters, the war headquarters. And American Four Stars, German Three stars all over the place and yet, you know. But the trust that they give you in that kind of job was absolutely unbelievable and you come out of there, you know, you just hope that the sky doesn’t fall on you. You start feeling I said, “Well Jesus, I’m charmed here. I’m getting something that nobody else . . .” and quite a few Canadians that have got, not quite a few, very few Canadians that had got that kind of chance.

Mr. Belzile describes the value of training with large NATO forces.

Charles Belzile

Lt.-Gen. Charles Belzile was born in Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, on March 12, 1933. As a youth, he was exposed to the armed forces as troop trains passed by his home during the Second World War. He joined the reserves, then the regular force with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in 1951. In 35 years of service, Lt.-Gen. Belzile has served in Korea, Germany, Cyprus and Canada. His appointments have included regimental duties with the Queen’s Own Rifles, Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion Royal 22e Régiment, Commander 4th Canadian Mechanized Group and Canadian Forces Europe in Germany. Since retiring from the Canadian Armed Forces, he has held numerous posts as a consultant and honorary chair. Mr. Belzile Chaired the VAC 60th Anniversary Committee on VE-Day commemorations and was Grand President of the Royal Canadian Legion. International honours include Commander of the Legion of Honour of France and recipient of the Vimy Award.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Charles Belzile
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Peacekeeping/Peacemaking in West Germany
Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
Lieutenant General

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