During World War II, four training schools were established in Huron County as part of an international agreement called the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Australia signed the agreement on December 17, 1939 with the goal of quickly increasing the number of pilots, navigators, bomb-aimers, wireless operators, air gunners and flight engineers able to fight in the war.
Under the BCATP, over 90 training schools were opened across Canada, graduating more than 130,000 people between 1940 and 1945. In addition, over 100,000 men and women worked as ground support at BCATP facilities.
The BCATP is considered one of the most important contributions to the Allied victory in World War II. President Roosevelt called Canada the "aerodrome of democracy".
Canada was a prime location to establish training schools due to its closeness to United States supply lines, the abundance of wide open land, and its distance from the front lines of war.
Airmen came to train in Canada from many parts of the world. While half Canada’s BCATP trainees were Canadian, the other half primarily came from Britain, Australia, or New Zealand. Towards the end of the war, there was in increase in trainees coming from Allied countries like Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Holland, Norway, and Poland.
Many men who came to train in Canada met and married local women. After the war, some of these airmen returned to Canada to be with their new families, while others had their new wives join them in their home country.
Clayton Knight Committee
Before the United States officially declared war in December 1941, many Americans joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to show their support for the Allied forces. By the time the United States entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, more than 6000 Americans were serving in the RCAF, half of which were part of the BCATP.
The Clayton Knight Committee was a scheme to recruit Americans into the RCAF. Canadian WWI flying ace Billy Bishop, Homer Smith, and Clayton Knight were tasked with figuring out how to enlist US volunteers into the RCAF without violating American neutrality laws. With Knight serving as coordinator, men could enlist in offices that had been established all over America. Many of the US airmen who came to Canada were experienced flying instructors.
Once the United States entered the war, many Americans transferred back to the United States Army Air Forces.