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Home Defence

In August 1939, even before Canada's entry into the war, the Eastern and Western Air Commands of the RCAF were formed and had begun patrols in the northwest Atlantic and northeast Pacific. The commands were established to defend Canada from the air and to protect convoys carrying vital supplies to Europe. As the war continued air force bases were opened all along Canada's eastern and western coasts.

Eastern Air Command provided almost all of the air protection in the northwest Atlantic during the war. When long-range aircraft became available this protection extended for hundreds of miles out over the ocean. Transport squadrons were also formed to provide, for the first time, regular heavy transport and mail services by air across the Atlantic.

The heaviest action came from 1942 to May 1943 when enemy U-boat activity moved to the western Atlantic. The resources of the Command were fully extended in meeting the threat which reached into Canadian waters. Although by the summer of 1943 the worst was over, the danger remained until the last submarine in the area surrendered in May 1945.

The statistics for the Eastern Air Command of six submarines sunk and three heavily damaged do not adequately portray the thousands of hours of flight from isolated air bases, the vast expanses of sea patrolled, often in foggy conditions, or the number of attacks on enemy submarines, all of which aided the supply convoys to travel unmolested.

Western Air Command saw little action until Japan's entry into the war in December 1941. It had, however, been making preparations through intensive training and by modernizing its equipment. From the spring of 1942 until July 1943, two fighter squadrons and one bomber reconnaissance squadron from the Command flew with the Americans on reconnaissance patrols and strafing missions to assist in expelling the Japanese from the Aleutian islands of Kiska and Attu. It was in the northeast Pacific that the only enemy plane destroyed by the Canadian home command, a Japanese Zero, was shot down.

Western Air Command was also responsible for the establishment of an air supply route to Alaska, the Aleutians and Russia. This service expanded to such a degree that the Northwest Air Command was created in June 1944 to administer and maintain its airfields and facilities.

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