Military historians to share untold stories from Dieppe to D-Day in Sherwood Park

Dieppe – The untold story.

For more than 75 years, the story of Dieppe has become a familiar one to war history buffs.  The tragedy on the beaches of Dieppe, which happened on August 19, 1942 when Allied soldiers launched an attack against German forces, became one of the most controversial events of the Second World War. The attack, largely perceived as a disaster, ended with an extreme number of casualties. Nine hundred and seven Canadian soldiers were lost that day.

What if new information were uncovered that could help explain Dieppe?

“The story of Dieppe has been told and retold for 75 years, basically telling the same story over and over again, “explains Canadian military historian Ted Barris. “David (O’Keefe) has found material in the story of Dieppe that has completely turned the story upside down.”

David O’Keefe, also a Canadian military historian, and Barris are joining forces on September 13, at Festival Place in Sherwood Park, to present an evening of reflection and discussion with ‘From Dieppe to D-Day – The Untold Story’.

In addition to the story of Dieppe, O’Keefe will launch his second book entitled “Seven Days in Hell” which tells the epic story of the men from the Black Watch, while Barris will launch his 19th book of military history with “A Rush to Danger; Medics in the Line of Fire” chronicling the struggles and challenges of military medics from as far back as the U.S. Civil War……including the experiences of Barris’s own father, sergeant medic Alex Barris.

Ted Barris. Submitted photo.

Alex Barris served as a medic in the Second World War from 1942 – 1945 and later went on to become a Canadian broadcaster, journalist and author before his death in 2004.

“My dad and I were very close as we were both writers and respected each other’s thinking,” said Barris. “He shared with me (while writing ‘Days of Victory’ together) some of his own stories of when he was a medic. I knew a few of them, but as we talked, he revealed more and I realized there was a whole lot more there than I had ever probed for.”

After his father’s death in 2004, Barris “ratcheted up his research” to tell the story.

Forgotten files, which reflected his father’s time in the army, set Barris on a journey that would lead him to a university archive in Georgia. He tracked down a man who served with his father in the army named Tony Melacci. Melacci was only too happy to meet Barris and share with him many stories of his time with Barris’s father in the war.

“I went down and spent time with him (Melacci) and he revealed stuff about my dad I didn’t know,” said Barris. “Nothing earth shattering, or cruel or evil or illegal, but he showed me things about my father’s life as a medic I didn’t know.”

Barris has also included stories from other medical personnel.

“Because I’ve been interviewing veterans for more than 40 years, I’ve got thousands of interviews many of which I have never used before. Some of them are nurses, or surgeons, stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers, and that triggered my pursuit of other stories leading up to the American civil war and all the way to Afghanistan and Iraq to get a stronger sense of what being a medic really has become over those years,” said Barris. “Then I began to build chapters around my dad’s stories as sort of a tree trunk and all of these other stories are the limbs of the tree as you go through the book.”

Barris also admits to being a huge MASH fan in the 70s.

“I thought it was one of the most brilliant pieces of television writing I had ever witnessed. And my dad did too!” said Barris. “Not only because it was so clever and funny but because it was so spot on for the attitude that some of these medical people had to have in order to survive.”

Barris explained that he used the MASH television series in one of the chapters of his new book to talk about the mythology of medics.

Tickets for “From Dieppe to D-Day- The Untold Story” are available at or by calling the box office at 780-449-3378.

Written by: Jana Semeniuk

Twitter @jana_semeniuk

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