Discharge and Disillusionment
A personal, transcendental moment of illusion infused my being on that most glorious of days when, after over 5 years of restrictive service in Canada’s overseas military services, I was discharged. It was July 24, 1945. That day was magnificent. It was the high point of all time. It was the first day of a magical period. The menace of Hitler had been laid to rest. In 2 weeks, the menace of Hirohito would also end in two atomic explosions, followed by a peace treaty. The evil in the world had been destroyed! As part of that triumphant, international force, I savored the feeling of fulfillment. The forces of malignant conquest had been eliminated. The high echelon of enemy hierarchy was destined to appear at the Nuremberg Court of Justice. The newly-minted United Nations was a hope-filled promise of control of the incipient stages of future wars. The gigantic flood of tax-payer dollars funding the war would certainly now be diverted to society’s needs of schools, hospitals, social programs, and infrastructure renewal. A wonderful world was on the horizon. The icing on the cake was that the previous year, the Canadian Department of Veteran’s Affairs had announced that the department would provide financial help for time served in the military. It was an unexpected and wonderful surprise. That is not why we had volunteered. There were no complaints. Only grateful, enthusiastic optimism. The money could be used for land purchase, business establishments, or education. I chose education. This surging optimism had been forged in the recent crucible of war, suffering, and wistful hope.
Why am I commenting how everything was right with the world? Because this buoyant, exhilarating psychological plateau was really an illusion. We were really all back in the real world. From that plateau, the only real way was not up, but down. From that point, the trickle of events, both public and personal, led to my subsequent disillusionment. The rumbling voice of Winston Churchill was soon to warn us of the Communist “iron curtain” that divided Eastern Europe from the West. The post-war big-nation scramble to build and control the atomic bomb. The National Security Act of 1949, warning us that the Communists were intent on destroying us. And, finally, the first post–United Nation-formation war—the Korean War. However, in the fall of 1945, future education was deferred, while romance beckoned.