Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Who Says Fear Isn’t a Good Motivator?

By Terrie Todd

Even if you’d been warned, February 19, 1942 may still have been the most disturbing day of your life if you lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Winnipeg’s Victory Loan chairman, Jean Draper Perrin, organized a mock Nazi invasion of the city. The idea was to frighten folks into forking over cash for victory loans or bonds so the Canadian government could increase its war spending. The premise was, “What would it be like if the Nazis invaded Winnipeg?” Hence, the name: “If Day.”

The day began with announcements over local radio stations while Winnipeggers ate their breakfast. Nazi forces were moving across the city from the west end. At seven, air-raid sirens sounded and a blackout was ordered. As the day unfolded, the sights downtown horrified citizens. Giant swastikas had been unfurled from flagpoles where the Union Jack had always flown. Guns were fired from anti-aircraft vehicles at fighter planes overhead and tanks rolled down the street. Even those who knew it was all blanks and make-believe felt as though they’d walked into a war newsreel. Troops in Nazi uniform goose-stepped along, arms raised in the famous Hitler salute. 

An initial glance would indicate this was taken in Europe, not North America.

Public Domain

Public service announcements blared over loudspeakers and radios. Casualties were reported and locations given for dressing stations to treat the wounded. By nine o’clock, reporters announced that the city had surrendered. At lunch time, soldiers barged into a cafeteria, yelling in German. Soldiers helped themselves to food from diners’ trays and demanded warm coats. They tacked posters onto the walls announcing:


· This territory is now a part of the Greater Reich.

· No civilians will be permitted on the streets between 9:30 p.m. and daybreak.

· All public places are out of bounds to civilians, and not more than eight persons can gather at one time in any place.

· Every householder must provide billeting for five soldiers.

· All organizations of a military, semi-military or fraternal nature are hereby disbanded and banned. Girl Guide, Boy Scout and similar youth organizations will remain in existence but under the direction of the Storm troops.

· All owners of motor cars, trucks and buses must register same at Occupation Headquarters, where they will be taken over by the Army of Occupation.

· Each farmer must immediately report all stocks of grain and livestock and no farm produce may be sold except through the office of the Kommandant of supplies in Winnipeg. He may not keep any for his own consumption but must buy it back through the Central Authority in Winnipeg.

· All national emblems excluding the Swastika must be immediately destroyed.

· Each inhabitant will be furnished with a ration card, and food and clothing may only be purchased upon presentation of this card.

· The following offences will result in death without trial:

o Attempting to organize resistance against the Army of Occupation.

o Entering or leaving the province without permission.

o Failure to report all goods possessed when ordered to do so.

o Possession of firearms.

Soldiers even charged into some school classrooms. Notices were posted on churches, forbidding worship services, and the German troops arrested some priests who objected. Copies of the Winnipeg Tribune appeared on doorsteps, renamed Das Winnipeger Lügenblatt—The Winnipeg Lies Sheet—its front page written almost entirely in German.


The “takeover” of The Winnipeg Tribune

Public Domain

Those arrested were released by supper time.

The sobering event was all anyone could talk about for the rest of the week. In the months following, sales of victory bonds rose through the clouds like those fighter planes the citizens of Winnipeg would never forget.

Fake German currency introduced in Winnipeg on If Day.

Public Domain

In the dead-end Canadian town of Bleak Landing, Irish immigrant Bridget O’Sullivan lives in a shanty and dreams of another life as the Great Depression rages. Routinely beaten by her father and bullied by schoolmate Victor Harrison, the fiery redhead vows to run away and never return. Desiring to become anyone other than Bridget O’Sullivan, she never dreams the day will come when she must prove that’s exactly who she is—or that the one person who can vouch for her is her old nemesis, Victor. Can he also prove he’s a changed man worthy of her forgiveness and love?

Terrie Todd’s fictional characters were reluctant participants in Winnipeg’s “If Day”

in 1942. You can read about it in her third novel, Bleak Landing. She’s also the author of the award-winning The Silver Suitcase and Maggie’s War. Her fourth novel, Rose Among Thornes, releases from Iron Stream Media this August. Terrie is represented by Mary DeMuth of Books & Such Literary Agency. She lives with her husband, Jon, in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where they raised their three children. They are grandparents to five boys. This is her first HHH post, on what happens to be her 62nd birthday.

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  1. Welcome to HHH, and happy birthday! Thanks for sharing about this event, proof of how desperate countries were to beat the Axis powers. I can't imagine how frightening this would have been, even knowing it was not real.

  2. Wow, I never heard about this and I've done in-depth research about homefront USA, but not so much Canadian. Amazing story about how much they prepared to pull this off without anyone knowing about it except for those involved in the exercise. Great debut post to HHH. Welcome aboard!

  3. Thanks Pamela. We didn't learn about it in school, either. I've had Canadian readers who assumed I made it up.

  4. Sounds too similar to our travel, firearm, and religious restrictions right now. 😳
    Pam M

    1. Perhaps. I see some pretty important differences, though.

  5. Thanks for sharing this post this is some very interesting history!

  6. Happy Birthday, and welcome to HHH! Wow, this is a sobering event! What if you didn't have access to any media at that time, can you imagine the panic? I certainly hope this form of shock advertisement doesn't happen. It reminds me of Orson Wells, War of the Worlds!

    1. Yes, I wonder if the idea may have sparked from that event. It would be interesting to interview the people who dreamed it up, for sure.

  7. I have never heard of this! Pretty darn scary!

  8. I hadn't either, even growing up here.

  9. Stunning! I've never heard about this. Thank you for posting. Such incredible information.

  10. Thank you for posting. This was scary even to read.