David O'Keefe (historian)

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David R. O'Keefe
Born(1967-02-09)February 9, 1967
Alma materUniversity of Ottawa
Concordia University
McGill University
Dawson College
Marianopolis College
OccupationEducator (professor)
Home townRigaud, QC

David R. O'Keefe (born February 9, 1967) is an award-winning historian, professor of history, television presenter, documentarian, creator, host, writer, producer and best-selling author.[1] His cutting-edge research gleaning insight into the once-classified world of the signals intelligence apparatus known as Ultra employed by Allied High Command throughout the Second World War has earned him praise among his contemporaries.

O'Keefe presents history programs including the popular television show War Junk[2] alongside Gemini nominated and Emmy award-winning producer and director Wayne Abbott. His passion to convey the Canadian military narrative to a wide-reaching audience has garnered success. He has appeared on many television and radio networks, including: CBC Radio, Global Television, CTV Television Network, UKTV Network and History TV channel.


O'Keefe studied at Concordia and McGill Universities in Montreal before attending the University of Ottawa for his graduate studies. He remained at the University of Ottawa for four years as a research assistant and lecturer on Military and Diplomatic History before teaching at the College level in Montreal as a professor of Modern and Military History. Presently, O'Keefe teaches history at the prestigious Marianopolis College in Westmount, Quebec.


O'Keefe served as an infantry officer in the Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch of Canada) in Montreal, and was later employed as their historian for nearly a decade. In addition, he worked as a Signals Intelligence specialist for the Department of National Defence and conducted research for the Official History of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War. O'Keefe has extensive research experience in government and private archival repositories in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. O'Keefe's publications include highly influential articles in Canadian Defence Quarterly, the Journal of Canadian Military History, and the Canadian Army Journal to name but a few, including a chapter in Great War Commands: Historical Perspective on Canadian Army Leadership 1914–1918. Recently, O’Keefe was signed by Knopf (Random House) Canada Publishers to write his first full-length monograph on the Dieppe Raid. His research on the Dieppe Raid began almost two decades ago and has continued throughout his graduate work and his career as an academic and documentarian.

In addition to his academic pursuits, O'Keefe has served as a historian for History Television in Canada for 15 years and appeared on CBC Radio, Global Television, CTV Television Network, UKTV Network in Great Britain. During his time with History Television, he was worked on numerous television documentaries and publications to his credit, including: the highly rated Camp X (1999); Murder in Normandy: The Trial of Kurt Meyer (1999); and Forced March to Freedom (2001) for Academy Award-nominated David Paperny Productions.[3] In 2002, he joined forces with Emmy award-winner Wayne Abbott for the Gemini-nominated four-part series, From a Place Called War. This partnership, which has now spanned a decade, produced Black Watch: Massacre on Verrières Ridge for History Television; the two-part History Television program Bloody Normandy and Bloody Victory; The Secret War Files for History Television; Battle of the Mace; and most recently, Dieppe Uncovered, and the television series, War Junk, both for History Television. He is currently in discussions for a TV series based on his path-breaking research into Ultra and its impact on the history of the Second World War.


One Day in August
Groundbreaking insight into the disastrous Dieppe Raid
AuthorDavid O'Keefe
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
First Edition November 5, 2013
AwardsShortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize

One Day in August[edit]

One Day in August: The Untold Story Behind Canada’s Tragedy at Dieppe reexamines the disastrous raid at Dieppe, France, in light of new discoveries, and attempts to finally uncover the real reasons behind a seemingly senseless tragedy. On August 19, 1942, Allied soldiers launched an attack against German forces on the beaches of Dieppe. The assault was a major disaster, resulting in the loss of 907 Canadian soldiers. With no substantial explanation or purpose and an incredibly high casualty rate, the battle is regarded as one of the most controversial events of the Second World War. Ultimately, One Day in August promotes a new understanding of this seminal moment in Canada's history.

David spent two decades delving into the research surrounding Dieppe. Initially, he wanted to stay far away from that event. However, the tragedy of Dieppe is ubiquitous in Canadian military history; dealing with it was simply inevitable. On a research trip in 1995, he stumbled across a single document that briefly mentioned the Dieppe raid. Being familiar with the story, he immediately grasped the potential significance of what he had just found. This one document grew into 150,000 pages of research. Though in 1995, much of the documentation surrounding this event was still highly classified, David continued to follow it as closely as he could, before approaching the British government. The evidence he collected, and the possible impact it could have, pushed the government to accelerate their declassification process, which not only confirmed David's suspicions, but opened the door to more than he had ever anticipated. "It was much more a fundamental shift than I ever expected in this story."

Essentially, David's research connected the Dieppe raid to the activity undertaken at Bletchley Park, the center of the British government's code-breaking efforts. Cryptographers there had already managed to crack the German Enigma machine, allowing them to gain crucial naval intelligence. However, in 1942 the Germans introduced a new four-rotor Enigma machine, which was, as David describes "bigger, badder and literally blacked out Bletchley Park for 10 months. The effects of that were almost catastrophic, particularly in the Battle of the Atlantic, the most vital of all campaigns." According to David's research, the Dieppe raid was possibly meant as cover for a smaller team tasked with a "pinch" mission – going into enemy territory and capturing material related to the new 4-rotor Enigma machine.

At the time, this information was classified Ultra Secret, and remained so for 70 years. It took so long to declassify in part because of the scale of the disaster, but also because "…cryptography is so important in this particular day and age, that they didn't really want to tip people off about what they were doing and how they were doing it." In the meantime, most people were at a loss to find an explanation that could justify launching an operation that seemed doomed from the start. Upon the release of One Day in August, much of the historical community was caught off guard, because of the sheer amount of research as well as the huge shift in thinking prompted by this discovery. "For years we were trying to figure out what was the intent behind the raid at Dieppe – the most controversial raid in Canadian history and in the Second World War." Up until now, there were only excuses. The connection to a pinch mission will forever reframe the way we think about Dieppe and give new meaning to that ill-fated battle.

Review and praise[edit]

"Mr. O'Keefe has shown once again that he is not only one of the most indefatigable historical researchers, but also is one who can produce remarkable, even astonishing results. There are very few historians in the world who can say they have gotten the British Code Breaking Centre, Bletchley Park, to release what they have previously stoutly refused to yield. O'Keefe has brought forward new evidence of the greatest importance in the debate about whether the Dieppe Raid was a renegade operation or was duly authorized under British Government standards. It is a debate of great importance to the history of Canada's contributions during the Second World War." -Brian Loring Villa, Author of Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid.

"O'Keefe has definitely made the biggest breakthrough of the last 20 years in our understanding of the raid, and – thanks to his archival achievements – we can now start seeing whence most of the remaining mysteries about the raid sprang. His work is the keystone which will hold more firmly together the previously shaky edifice of historical understanding of the raid. His principal research achievement is to have kept digging in the British archives with such persistence that the keepers of the British code-breaking secrets conceded that there was no point holding back the remaining records linking Bletchley Park, Ian Fleming and the Dieppe raid." -Peter Henshaw, Dieppe Scholar and Intelligence Analyst, Privy Council Office

"In the same way that intelligence in the Second World War had to be based on multiple sources rather than a single thunderclap moment or dramatic source, Dave has built this case through a whole series of small pieces of evidence… David has certainly changed our view of Dieppe into the future; he has added a new dimension that we really weren’t aware of before." -Stephen Prince, Head Naval Historical Branch, Royal Navy


One Day in August became a best-seller within weeks of its publication in November 2013. It has been nominated for multiple prizes, including: Finalist 2014 – Canadian Authors Association Lela Common Award for Canadian History, Finalist 2014 – John W. Dafoe Book Prize as well as being shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize,[4] an award presented to the best Canadian work of literary non-fiction.

Though it did not win, David is just as pleased with all the positive reception the book has received. "It's fantastic just for the book to be recognized, because it is such an important story for Canadians." David warns, however, that the book is not meant to provide vindication for Dieppe. In light of the newly uncovered research, understanding of what Dieppe was all about has certainly changed, but that does not diminish the tragedy. "Despite the fact that the intentions were altruistic, it was still poorly planned, poorly conceived, poorly carried out … Nothing is going to change the fact that 907 men were killed in 6 hours." However, he does feel that One Day in August finally provides some closure to one of the war's most enduring mysteries. The mission was undoubtedly a failure, but the remaining survivors of the battle are relieved to finally have a tangible reason for having been on that beach.

Publication credits[edit]

  • "It Means Men's Lives: Training, Preparation and Innovation for Battle – the case of Major-General Loomis 1917" – article in Canada's Red Hackle, (Spring 2009)
  • "War’s Fickle Fate: The Sammy Nichol Saga" – article in Esprit de Corps Volume 15, Issue 1 (Spring 2008)
  • "With Blinders On: The Black Watch and the Battle for Spycker, Sept 12–14, 1944" in Canadian Army Journal (Spring 2008)
  • "A Brutal Soul-Destroying Business: Brigadier-General F.O.W. Loomis and the Question of "Impersonal Generalship" in Godefroy", A. ed. Great War Commands: Historical Perspectives on Canadian Army Leadership, 1914–1918 (2010)
  • "Double Edged Sword Part I: Ultra and Operation Totalize, Normandy, August 8, 1944" in Canadian Army Journal Vol. 12 No 3, (Winter 2010) 85–93
  • "Double Edged Sword Part II: Ultra and Operation Totalize, Normandy, August 8, 1944" in Canadian Army Journal (Forthcoming Summer 2013)
  • "Voices from Vimy: The Lost Battle Diary of Major-Gen F.O.W. Loomi"– article in Canada's Red Hackle (Summer 2007)
  • "Pushing their Necks Out: Ultra and the Black Watch at May-sur-Orne, Normandy August 5, 1944" – article in Canadian Military History (Spring 2006)[5]
  • "The Eleventh Hour: Intelligence and the Black Watch during Operation Spring July 25, 1944" – article in Canada's Red Hackle (Spring 2005)
  • Canadian Defence Quarterly, Toronto, Ontario, Article: "Fortune's Fate: The Question of Operational Intelligence for Operation "Spring" – July 25, 1944". (Spring 1995 issue)
  • Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University May 1996 – Conference Paper: "The Other Side of the Hill: Operational Intelligence and the Canadian Attack at Verriéres Ridge, July 25, 1944"


  • Bedford St. Martins History of Western Civilization PowerPoint lecture series for Hunt, Making of the West (2001)
  • Hudson Historical Society, Hudson Quebec, Spring, 2007. "Lecture: Ridges are not Kind to Infantry: The Black Watch at Verriéres Ridge."
  • Canadian Armed Forces, Directorate of Land Concepts and Designs, Kingston, Ontario. Spring, 2009 Lecture: "Anatomy of Disaster: The Black Watch at Verriéres Ridge."


War Junk[edit]

War Junk[6] first aired July 2012 on History TV and currently under production in its 4th season.

Synopsis: War Junk features Canada's preeminent military history team of Historian David O'Keefe and Director & Co-Host, Wayne Abbott who connect the past with the present as they explore battlefields reuniting lost personal artifacts with relatives while delivering evocative stories of personal and collective heroism. David and Wayne share their emotional and gratifying journeys conveying the human side of conflict in a palpable and meaningful way. Episodes are based on their search through bunkers, pillboxes and gun positions aiming to uncover personnel items with inscriptions etched by past owners.

Season 1[edit]

The series pilot focused at the cite of the 1941 Battle of Hong Kong where O'Keefe and Abbott explore hidden and remote battle locations surrounding this famous city.

Pilot War Junk Hong Kong
Original air date: July 30, 2012

Season 2[edit]

War Junk World War 1 focused on the battlefields of the Great War, featuring episodes filmed at Ypres and The Somme. This season starred Craig Mitchell alongside David O'Keefe and Wayne Abbott.

S2, Episode 1
WW1, Battle of Ypres
Original air date: November 9, 2014

S2, Episode 2
WW1, Battle of the Somme
Original air date: November 10, 2014

Season 3[edit]

War Junk Season 3 was a 4-part series filmed at the iconic battlefields of Juno Beach, Vimy Ridge, Monte Cassino and Northern Holland.

At Vimy Ridge in France, they have unprecedented access to a WW1 tunnel system that is part of Vimy Memorial Park and they will be the first TV crew to go 100 feet below the battlefield. At Juno Beach they have been given the rare opportunity to investigate and excavate a portion of the landing beach looking for lost German remnants from D-Day. In Italy, they search and investigate the battlefields of Monte Cassino where one of the bloodiest battles of WW2 took place. In Holland, the team searches for artifacts and remnants that depict the story of Liberation and the strong connection between Canadians and the Dutch after 70 years.

S3, Episode 1
Juno Beach
Original air date: November 9, 2015

S3, Episode 2
Vimy Ridge
Original air date: November 10, 2015

S3, Episode 3
Italy – Battle of Monte Cassino
Original air date: November 11, 2015

S3, Episode 4
Holland – Road to Liberation
Original air date: November 12, 2015

Dieppe Uncovered[edit]

Television Documentaries[edit]

Title Year Contribution(s) Channel Notes Ref(s)
Dieppe Uncovered 2012 Co-Creator, Host, narrator, writer, Associate Producer, Historian History TV See above-cited documentary Dieppe Uncovered [7][8][9]
War Junk 2012 – Co-Creator, Host, narrator, writer, Associate Producer, Historian History TV Above-cited program episode guide War Junk [10][11][12]
Secret War Files 2008–2009 Co-Creator, Host, narrator, writer, Associate Producer, Historian History TV [13][14]
History of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada 2011 Producer, director, editor, Writer and Narrator DoD DVD
The Ultra Files 2010 Creator, writer, Associate Producer, Historian History TV [15][16]
Bloody Normandy and Bloody Victory 2007 Writer, Historian History TV 2, one-hour documentaries [17][18]
Black Watch: Massacre at Verrières Ridge 2006 Creator, writer, Host, narrator, Historian History TV [19][20][21]
The Last Days: Canada in the Last Days of the War 2004 Historian and Research Director History TV [22][23]
From a Place Called War: Canada in the Second World War 2003 Historian and Research Director History TV Nominated for 4 (four) Gemini awards including best History documentary, best director, best editing, and best music [24][25]
The Ghosts of Griffintown: A Look at the Irish Heart of Montreal 2001 Historian and Research Director CTV Television Network [26][27]
Daredevils, Dealers, Dream Makers 2001 Research Director Global Television Network
Forced March to Freedom 2000 Research Director History TV [28][29]
Camp X 1999 Research Director History TV Appeared at 2001 Palm Beach International Film Festival [30][31]
Murder in Normandy: The Trial of Kurt Meyer 1999 Research Director and Researcher History TV Silver Screen award U.S. International Film and Video Festival 2001, History; Paperny Films [32][33]

Awards and honours[edit]

O'Keefe is a recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal[34] awarded by then Minister of Veteran's Affairs, Honourable Steven Blaney for his services to Canada in the field of historical research on the Dieppe Raid.


  1. ^ "One Day in August (2013)". RBC Taylor Prize. Knopf Canada. March 2, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  2. ^ http://www.history.ca/war-junk/ War Junk History TV Canada. Retrieved April 15, 2016
  3. ^ David Paperny Films, Inc.. Retrieved April 16, 2016
  4. ^ "One Day in August (2013)". RBC Taylor Prize. Knopf Canada. March 2, 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  5. ^ Pushing Their Necks Out": Ultra, The Black Watch, and Command Relations, May-sur-Orne, Normandy, 5 August 1944. March 2, 2006. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  6. ^ War Junk. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  7. ^ Dieppe Uncovered – Writing Credits. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  8. ^ http://www.history.ca/100-years-of-remembrance/gallery/dieppe-uncovered/ Dieppe Uncovered, History TV Canada. Retrieved April 15, 2016
  9. ^ Produced and Directed by:[1] Northern Sky Productions Ltd. and West Highland Productions. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  10. ^ War Junk. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  11. ^ http://www.history.ca/war-junk/ War Junk History TV Canada. Retrieved April 15, 2016
  12. ^ Co-Produced by:[2] Northern Sky Productions Ltd. and West Highland Productions. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  13. ^ Secret War Files: The Battle of the Mace. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  14. ^ Co-Produced by:[3] Northern Sky Productions Ltd. and West Highland Productions. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  15. ^ The ULTRA Files. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  16. ^ Co-Produced by:[4] Northern Sky Productions Ltd. and West Highland Productions. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  17. ^ Bloody Normandy & Bloody Victory. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  18. ^ Produced and Directed by:Northern Sky Productions, Ltd.. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  19. ^ Black Watch: Massacre at Verrières Ridge. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  20. ^ Produced and Directed by:Northern Sky Productions, Ltd.. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  21. ^ Pushing Their Necks Out": Ultra, The Black Watch, and Command Relations, May-sur-Orne, Normandy, 5 August 1944. March 2, 2006. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  22. ^ The Last Days: Canada in the Last Days of the War. Retrieved April 14, 2016
  23. ^ Produced by: David Paperny Films, Inc.. Retrieved April 14, 2016
  24. ^ From a Place Called War: Canada in the Second World War. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  25. ^ Produced and Directed by:Northern Sky Productions, Ltd.. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  26. ^ http://griffintown.rjburman.com/team.html The Ghosts of Griffintown – Researcher. Retrieved April 14, 2016
  27. ^ Producer:Les Productions Burman. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  28. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1483845/fullcredits?mode=desktop&ref_=m_ft_dsk Forced March to Freedom – Film Research Director. Retrieved April 2, 2016
  29. ^ Produced and Directed by: David Paperny Films, Inc.. Retrieved April 14, 2016
  30. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0279002/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt. Retrieved April 3, 2016
  31. ^ Producer: Victory Motion Pictures, Ltd, Halifax, Nova Scotia Director: Jeremy McCormack https://m.imdb.com/name/nm0566449/filmotype/producer?ref_=m_nmfm_3
  32. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1539124/fullcredits?mode=desktop&ref_=m_ft_dsk Murder in Normandy:The Trial of Kurt Meyer – Archival Research. Retrieved April 2, 2016
  33. ^ Produced and Directed by: David Paperny Films, Inc.
  34. ^ Minister Steven Blaney Hosts a Viewing of Dieppe Uncovered. November 6, 2012. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved January 21, 2015.

External links[edit]