Author recalls Cold War-era career

Capt (Retired) Maurice-André Vigneault

Capt (Retired) Maurice-André Vigneault

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

A retired Royal Canadian Air Force member has penned a book of his firsthand account of Canada during the Cold War, a period between the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Mud on My Boots: Dares and Ventures of a Canadian Airman During the Cold War written by Capt (Retired) Maurice-André Vigneault recounts his four-decade career that spanned the entire Cold War era.

During this time, the world was largely divided into two ideological camps, the United States-led capitalist “West” and the Soviet-dominated communist “East.” Canada aligned with the West. While the war never became “hot” through direct military confrontation, there were plenty of behind-the-scenes stress-filled moments, says Vigneault.

He was a radio operator and radar technician who rose through the ranks during decades of geopolitical tension between East and West.  It was a seemingly endless war of attrition, of check and check mate that came in the form of arms and troop build-up between the two factions who were always on the brink of full-out war.

“The Cold War was a different kind of war, not a shooting war as was the Korean War,” says Vigneault. “The West’s objective was deterrence, and deterrence worked as not a single bullet was fired.”

In an op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail by General Paul Manson, entitled Canada’s Forgotten Cold Warriors, he said: “We trained for war so that we did not have to fight a war.”

That piece was Vigneault’s inspiration to write about his own extensive service in the air force with postings to radio and radar stations in Europe and Canada, during the Suez Canal crisis, the 1960 Congo crisis, the establishment of NORAD’s line of radars, and six years at Arctic stations.

Vigneault was among the first Canadian troops to answer the Cold War call from NATO. He was deployed to #2 Fighter Wing near Metz, France, in 1952. The base had four squadrons ready to protect Europe against an attack from the Soviets.

Sometimes the attack was more concealed. Vigneault writes about a Soviet agent who infiltrated the tight security at the Wing and sabotaged the Sabre aircraft fuel supply.

“The plane had a failure and veered right and went into the Bischwald [Channel], killing the pilot. The small community of Bistroff was notified and came to help, and it was later determined that a spy had spoiled the jet fuel in the main tank at the base.”

The title Mud on My Boots came from his experience at 2 Wing. Upon arrival, the base was not fully ready for operations and the surrounding land was a sea of mud.

“Due to the conditions, everyone at the base was issued mud boots,” says Vigneault. “Newbies were told to get some mud on their boots first before complaining.”

He even had one posting in the basement of the Château de Mercy at Metz, France which at one time in the 1950s served as a makeshift communications centre for the air force.

The fight to stop the spread of communism continued in Canada. He worked at several radar and satellite communications stations across the country.

His self-published soft cover book was released in January 2021 by Victoria-based Tellwell Talent and is available online through and other distributors.  It is receiving favourable reviews including Gen Manson. The former Chief of Defence Staff and fighter pilot was so impressed by Vigneault’s writing he endorsed it.

“I have now read every word of your book and what an experience that has been,” wrote Manson. “I was totally absorbed by your eloquent account, not just of your military career, but also of the many achievements, travels, adventures, hobbies, and good works that have marked your days on this planet.”


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