As a NORAD air defence radar station, C.F.S. Dana once operated,seventy-two kilometres East of Saskatoon. It was one of 33 stations in the Pinetree radar line that stretched across Canada on or about the 49th parallel. Construction of the line was complete by 1954 at a cost of $450 million (1950s dollars). The cost to the United States was $300 million while Canada contributed $150 million. The Pinetree line’s defensive purpose was to track the potential threat of Soviet nuclear bombers that could enter North American airspace through the arctic during the cold war. It operated in conjunction with two additional layers of air defence radar to the north, the Mid-Canada line (unmanned sites) and DEW line (Distance Early Warning) in the arctic. The system was most effective during the early stages of the cold war. This documentary looks at some of the personal histories of people who lived directly with the Cold War in Canada on a daily basis.

Canadian military coat of arms or crest for CFS Dana, Saskatchewan. Owl perched on a sine wave formation.

Canadian military coat of arms or crest for CFS Dana, Saskatchewan. Owl perched on a sine wave formation.

Canadian Forces Station (C.F.S.) Dana, a NORAD Pinetree Line radar station, operated from 1962 to 1986, and was officially closed on August 30, 1987. It enlisted 200-300 service personnel and their families at any given time, though a much greater number people were involved at the station over the years. What remains of this military installation is explored and remembered in this half-hour documentary through ten individuals who once worked at the base. There are insights from a cross-section of people such as radar technicians, an elderly school principal, and a retired air force major. The current owner of the station explains how he came to own the military property as he stands before a herd of buffalo that now graze the area.

Observations about the cold war period are given from some those who served at the station. Some question what the cold war was really all about. A radar technician explains that during the late 1970s, Canada’s radar air defence towers were stocked with Soviet-made vacuum tubes, pointing to the industry behind the military and the cold war.

Although many such radar stations stretched across Canada within the Pinetree Line, the intent of this documentary is to focus on C.F.S. Dana, Saskatchewan. For the filmmaker, the station served as one of the first childhood homes during the early 1970s. Despite all of its military and political ramifications it was a great place to for young kids to grow up within a unique military community.

Sadly, some of the people involved in the project over 10 years ago on the documentary have since passed away including the station owner, Joe Saxinger who graciously allowed and assisted in the production. Peter Ford, sound recordist on the project and formerly of the CBC, worked very hard volunteering his efforts – sadly passed away in 2000. John Armstrong and Arley Philips have also since dearly departed.

The project was completed primarily by contribution of volunteers and with the assistance of various insitutions such as the Banff Centre for the Arts, EM Media in Calgary and the National Film Board of Canada. Richard Agecoutay volunteered a great deal of time and effort as the project’s director of photography. His creative eye proved to be a great asset to the overall look and delivery of the documentary. The post-production environment was provided by the Banff Centre for the Arts under a co-production status which also helped make the production possible.

Greg Marshall is currently working part-time on the completion of another documentary dealing with experiences of war.

 

 

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