Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Since the statement I made a week ago on the military operations in Sicily, the offensive of the united nations has been intensified on a number of fronts. Our main interest at the moment naturally centres in Sicily, where Canadian forces are engaged. Before touching upon the progress that has since been made in Sicily, a word about the other theatres, in which there had been significant developments, may not be out of place.
In Russia, after sharp fighting and heavy German losses, the nazi summer offensive was quickly halted. In its stead, the Soviet army and air force have developed1 a powerful offensive against Orel. This strategic centre has been under German control for nearly two years. It is one of the most strongly fortified positions of the central front. The battle for Orel is a dramatic reminder of Russia's share in the total military effort of the united nations.
At the other side of the world, in the southwest Pacific, the present month has seen a sustained attack by Australian and United States forces against Japanese strongholds in New Guinea. In the Solomon islands, the United States forces have advanced northward, and are in fact besieging the main Japanese air base in that area. As more stepping stones are wrested from the Japanese, the offensive will be intensified against all the outlying areas north of Australia now under Japanese control.
In the northern Pacific, the Aleutian area has also seen heavier bombings of Japanese targets by United States and Canadian squadrons. Kiska, the last remaining
Japanese outpost, an immediate menace to both Canada and the United States, is being attacked whenever weather conditions are favourable. Until the Japanese are driven out of Kiska, we may expect continued fighting in this area.
In the battle of the Atlantic, the arrangement for increased escorts by sea, and continuous cover by air, which have been in effect for some three months, have more than justified expectations.
Coming to the Mediterranean area, two weeks have now passed since the allied forces landed in Sicily. The second week of the invasion witnessed a continuation of the steady advance of the previous week. Town after town surrendered1. Within the week, the number of axis prisoners taken increased to well over 50,000. The allied invasion forces extended their occupation from one-third to more than two-thirds of the island. Throughout, Canada's troops took a foremost part in the fighting. Their skill and determination have called forth the commendation of both General Montgomery and General Alexander.
At the beginning of the week, after joining forces at Enna, which is the hub of communications in central Sicily, Canadian and American formations continued to press north. Yesterday an American armoured division captured Palermo, the historic capital and largest city in Sicily. By the capture of Palermo, and the advances of American and Canadian units, large numbers of axis forces have been trapped in the western half of the island. Northeast of Enna, Canadian units encountered strong German resistance. Other of our forces have been taking part in the eighth army's tightening encirclement of Catania. The fall of Catania, which may be expected at any time, will compel the retreat of the axis forces towards Messina and the mainland of Italy. That retreat will lead inevitably to the occupation of the whole of Sicily.
The allied land advances on the island were supported throughout the week by intense allied air activity over the island and the Italian mainland. In these aerial operations, the Royal Canadian Air Force continued to play an important part. A Royal Canadian Air Force fighter squadron-a self-contained Canadian unit of the middle east forces-is now based on Sicily, and for some days has been operating in support of the forward elements of the allied armies. The hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. Sinclair) is adjutant of this squadron. There are, as well, in Sicily, many R.CAJF. personnel not included in this squadron, but attached to RA.F. units. During the week our bomber units, operating with General Doolittle's force in North Africa, participated in raids on Sicily and on the Italian mainland.
A week ago I referred to the officers and men of the Royal Canadian navy who took part in the landing operations in Sicily. Quite a number of these men are veterans of Dieppe and North Africa. They are still continuing to assist in landing supplies and reinforcements at different ports.
Old Age Pensions
General McNaughton, who has just returned to England from the Mediterranean area, has described the assault upon Sicily as the most perfect example of combined operations in history. This statement is, in part, a merited tribute to the rigorous training and patient waiting of the Canadian forces which have served the longest under General McNaugh-ton's command.
A significant development of the past week in Sicily was the establishment of an allied military government of the occupied territory. General Sir Harold Alexander was appointed military governor. In his first proclamation, General Alexander declared that the purpose of the allies was to deliver the people from the fascist regime, and restore Italy as a land of free people. He ordered the dissolution of all fascist organizations. In this proclamation will be found the basis upon which the allied nations aim to effect the liberation of Europe from Axis aggression, and from fascist domination.
A year ago, when parliament adjourned, the united nations had experienced nearly eight months of reverses and setbacks. This continent was immediately threatened from the west. On the east, enemy U-boats ranged destructively along our coast, and into the gulf and river St. Lawrence. As we leave today for our homes, we will carry with us very different impressions. The tide has definitely turned. Everywhere the forces of freedom have the initiative.
While our fears about its outcome have lessened, the war, in a more immediate way, has been brought closer than ever to us. All arms of our fighting services are now in the thick of the conflict. Our fighting men are certain to continue in action on many fronts, until the enemy has surrendered. No one can say for how long that may be. Our men face a terrible ordeal of battle. Until victory is achieved, above all else, they must command a singleness of purpose in our hearts and minds, and the utmost that our country can give in their support.
Subtopic: PROGRESS OP ALLIED OPERATIONS-PARTICIPATION OP CANADIAN FORCES