Operation ORIENT

International Operation Name: N/A

International Operation Dates: N/A

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Asia

Location: China

Canadian Operation Name: Operation ORIENT

Canadian Operation Dates: 11 November 1948 – 4 June 1949

Mission Mandate: On order, to evacuate Canadian and other foreign nationals from Nanking.

Mission Notes: The uneasy anti-Japanese partnership between Nationalist and Communist Chinese broke down soon after Japan’s defeat. Civil war ensued, and by late 1948 the Communists were in position to threaten Nanking, the Nationalist capital. Concern for the safety of Canadian civilians and diplomats there led Ottawa to begin to plan for their evacuation from China. Under the name Operation ORIENT, Air Transport Command assumed responsibility for the task and, on 11 November 1948, advised 426 Squadron to standby to evacuate both Canadian and foreign nationals from the city. Cancelled on 16 November, ORIENT was revived on 24 November, again on a stand-by basis, until 1 December, when the Cabinet decided that it was more cost effective to charter a civilian aircraft.

The Communist advance continued, however, and on 25 January 1949, after consulting with the Chief of the Naval Staff, the Government of Canada requested that a Canadian destroyer be diverted to China in case the two hundred Canadians in the Nanking area required evacuation. HMCS Crescent was chosen four days later. Following a personal briefing for her Captain in Ottawa, she left Esquimalt on 2 February and arrived in Chinese waters twenty-three days later and joined other Commonwealth warships on standby for similar operations. Alternating between conducting exercises with them and standing-by in Nanking as the duty ship should an evacuation begin, Crescent was in the city from 11-23 March and was to have sailed there again a second time. However, that task was cancelled after Communist forces shelled HMS Amethyst as she was sailing on the Yangtze River. Crescent sailed from China on 9 May, returning to Esquimalt on 4 June. 

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