Earl Alexander Olmsted

A young Earl Olmsted, c. 1939. Courtesy of the Department of National Defence and Library and Archives Canada.
Born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1914, Earl Olmsted rose to prominence as a Canadian Army Officer who held command positions and led artillery units during the Second World War. 

Olmsted joined the Canadian Army in October, 1939 promptly after the British declared war on Germany. Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, Olmsted was assigned to the First Field Brigade of the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA). He worked as an accounting clerk prior to the war, which meant his mathematical skills were ideal for a position with artillery. Olmsted was sent overseas and served with an anti-aircraft unit, participating in the defence of Britain from aerial Luftwaffe attacks during the Blitz. 

Olmsted attended the Canadian War Staff course with the Royal Canadian Military College but returned to England in preparation of Operation Overlord. On June 6th, 1944, Olmsted arrived at Juno Beach as a Staff Officer with 3rd Canadian Infantry Division Headquarters, leading a party of war correspondents and other senior Canadian military personnel. He served with the division through the Battle of the Scheldt  and afterwards was transferred to 13th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. Olmsted and his regiment were part of the build up of forces along the Groesbeek Heights near Nijimegen. This area was an essential position that would act as an access point into Germany in the spring of 1945.

Olmsted survived the war and continued to pursue an impressive career in the military and national defence. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and, in the late 1950s, became a Senior Operations Officer with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). He also played a crucial role in overseeing ballistic missile testing at Fort Churchill and became the National Secretary of the Canadian Army Benevolent Fund as well as a Knight of the Order of Saint Lazarus in Canada. Olmsted died on November 10, 2008, the evening before Remembrance Day, at the age of 94.

To view Earl Olmsted’s Story Map, click here.

Medal set of Lieutenant-Colonel Earl Olmsted for his participation in the Second World War. Photo: Geoff Osborne.