Annual “Peacekeepers Day”: August 9th
This picture of a bronze statue at Peacekeepers Park in Calgary shows an armed Canadian Peacekeeper handing an “Izzy” doll to a little girl. While on his United Nations peacekeeping tours, two in the Balkans and one in Kuwait, MCpl. Mark Isfeld took a great interest in the children of the area. His mother, Carol, knitted little dolls from scrap wool for Mark to give to the children. After Mark was killed clearing a minefield, the troops of 1st Canadian Engineer Regiment named them “Izzy” dolls. Carol and many other Canadians continue to knit them for members of the Regiment to give out in Mark’s memory.
I’m just a little soft thing,
Made with love and care.
My home will be a boy or girl;
The place is – Everywhere!
I bring a smile and comfort,
When cuddled by a child.
My payment is the feeling
When the giver gets a smile.
That smile is there for all to see,
The feeling lives inside;
A memory of where I came from
Is shared to you with pride.
“To make a memory, you have to be there.” – Carol Isfeld, 12 July 1999
While the statue in the image is not a direct depiction of MCpl. Mark Isfeld, it is representative of “Izzy” dolls that are currently given to children around the world in his memory.
Why the 9th of August?
In late 1973, the Canadian Forces commenced yet another United Nations operation in the Middle East. Included in Canada’s commitment to the mission was the tasking of two Canadian Forces’ Buffalo aircraft and crews, whose home station was Trenton, Ontario. In the Middle East, the unit was stationed in Ismailia, Egypt, a small city next to the Suez Canal.
Upon arrival in Egypt, the Buffalo aircraft and their crews immediately commenced operations, flying on a basis on 150 hours monthly. They flying was very demanding, not only due to the ever-changing weather but the danger of flying in a war zone.
This latter aspect was brought home tragically on 9 August 1974, when Buffalo aircraft number 115461 while on a routine United Nations flight to Damascus, Syria, from Beirut, Lebanon climbed eastward over the Lebanese highlands, and was shot down by the Syrian Armed Forces. Apparently the Buffalo was ‘painted’ by Syrian radar, and subsequently destroyed by Syrian surface-to-air missiles.
The Syrians claim it was an accident in that the Buffalo had shown up on their radar as an Israeli enemy aircraft in an ‘attack profile’ heading towards Damascus. The Buffalo crashed near the village of Diemas, Lebanon.
In the 59 years of service of International Peacekeeping duties throughout the world, the incident on 9 August 1974 was the worst loss of Canadian Peacekeepers during any one incident.
This tragic incident is symbolic of all Canadians who have died in the Service of Peace, as well the many Canadians who suffered physical and mental wounds serving Canada and the world for peace. The Canadian Landmine Foundation worked with the Canadian Association of Veterans in UN Peacekeeping (www.cavunp.org) for several years to have August 9th established as “Peacekeepers Day”.
In addition to honouring the Canadian Peacekeepers who were killed when their plane was shot down over Syria, Peacekeepers Day also recognizes the countless Canadians who have served, or are serving, as Blue Berets and in other NATO and coalition missions.
On Peacekeepers Day, learn more about the role Canadians have played in the pursuit of Peace and celebrate our history with peacekeepers and veterans. In your community encourage, and participate in, recognition of their service and sacrifice.
The History of Peacekeeping
October 12, 1957 – Pearson wins Nobel Peace Prize
A cable is sent from Oslo to inform Liberal Member of Parliament Lester B. Pearson that he has won the Nobel Peace Prize. It arrives, but at the wrong house. Four hours later a reporter calls Pearson for an interview and unknowingly becomes the bearer of marvellous news. Pearson is shocked and honoured. The prize honours Pearson’s creation of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), deployed the previous year to help bring peace in Egypt, following the Suez Crisis.
August 9, 1974 – 9 Canadian Peacekeepers killed
Nine Canadian peacekeepers are believed missing, reports CBC Radio in this news report. The Canadians were aboard a United Nations transport plane which is believed to have crashed on approach to Damascus. Rescue crews rush to the scene but the salvage mission is unsuccessful. This tragic event becomes the largest single-day loss of life in Canadian Forces peacekeeping history.
For more information about Peacekeeping from CBC archives: