Monday, December 30, 2013

Canadians Serve


Although the government in Ottawa was not technically supporting the US and its allies in the Vietnam war, many Canadian men either enlisted in the US Army and Marines Corps or "allowed" themselves to be drafted into service.

Like everything else about the Vietnam war, numbers and stories vary. Some wildly. Protests were just as furious in Canada as they were in other parts of the world. The difference was many Americans resisting the draft went to Canada where they were, if not welcomed, accommodated. Many still live there today. When then President Gerald Ford announced a "conditional amnesty" shortly after taking office, the offer was looked upon coolly. Ford issued a proclamation on September 16, 1974 a week after giving Richard Nixon a full pardon. Both of these actions were looked upon with suspicion.

Canada was officially a "non-belligerent" in the Vietnam war but did send foreign aid to South Vietnam and did not interfere with its citizens joining American armed forces. There had been a long history of US soldiers serving with Canadians in both World Wars and Korea. US soldiers served with Canada in the World Wars before the US officially declared.

Canadian businesses remained arm's length when they shipped billions of dollars of goods for the American war machine to the US:

 "500 firms sold $2.5 billion of war materials (ammunition, napalm, aircraft engines and explosives) to the Pentagon. Another $10 billion in food, beverages, berets and boots for the troops was exported to the U.S., as well as nickel, copper, lead, brass and oil for shell casings, wiring, plate armour and military transport. In Canada unemployment fell to record low levels of 3.9%"[4]

In addition, other military supplies and raw materials useful in their manufacture including napalm, Agent Orange and ammunition. As long as the goods were not going directly to Vietnam, they violated no international treaties.

Canadians fought alongside American, Australian, New Zealand, South Korean and other allies in the war against the North Vietnamese. Their return home was no less uncomfortable than their counterparts as anti-war demonstrations were very heated in their homeland.

Since these soldiers and marines were the "property" of the American military, they were not provided with any aid- health or otherwise by their own government. Many stayed in the US while others blended back into Canadian society as best they could.

Eventually groups of veterans joined together and formed support groups. There are several Canadian Vietnam Veteran's memorials across Canada.

Letter Home

It has been very difficult to nail down just how many Canadians served in Vietnam, how many were killed and wounded, how many missing in action and, finally, how many might have been captured and imprisoned by the North. The fact is, all Canadians were serving with US military forces and wearing American uniforms. Some were citizens of Canada and others had become citizens of the US. Regardless, we bow our heads in solemn memory of those boys who died, those who were wounded and those who have survived to suffer along with their brethren. This war did not only tear the American generation of that time in two- it broke hearts across the globe.

To Those Canadians Who Served
Welcome Home
To Those Who Perished
Rest in Peace

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