In early 2010, the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies released the war diary of Alain Gaudet, a Canadian peacekeeper serving in Cyprus during 1974. The diary followed Gaudet and the rest of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, as they worked tirelessly to prevent the collapse of the U.N mission in the face of the Turkish invasion of the island. Gaudet’s diary, written in the midst of that chaotic period, offers a raw account of peacekeeping in a way that many Canadians have never seen it before.
There are many challenges that result from such a modern topic. The main problem is the lack of declassified documentation. Many Cold War-era military documents remain classified or require special access within the archives. Questions of bias also arise when dealing with veterans. As the years pass by, events can become distorted (either intentionally or unintentionally). Many veterans may also be reluctant to share their stories and simply wish to put the events behind them. Proper respect and ethical standards should always be employed when working with veteran populations.
Despite these issues, I believe that exploring modern topics is essential for the military history profession. Not only does it bring new historical questions under consideration, but it also forces historians to make connections with the past and always remember the powerful emotions that exist on any battlefield.
I view the prospect of working with veterans as a real honour and privilege. The ability to interact with veterans and record their accounts offers a very powerful connection to the past. Gaudet’s story brought the period alive for me in a very real way, especially since he was around my age when he wrote his account. I hope that others reading this book, regardless of their age, can also see something of themselves in a young person experiencing the stress of combat for the first time.
I believe that the Alain Gaudet diary offers a stunning glimpse of the triumphs, tragedies, and pressures that existed for Canada’s peacekeepers during the Cold War. By examining Gaudet’s story, I hope that Canadians across the country can realize the real cost of peacekeeping and the sacrifices made by the men and women who served.