CROSS BORDER WARRIORS
The thousands of Canadians who fought alongside U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were following a tradition dating back to theAmerican Civil War, when Canadians fought on both sides of that struggle. “The British North Americans who fought…in theCivil War were akin in motivation to Canadians who fought in the U.S. forces in Vietnam,” says Fred Gaffen, a militaryhistorian at the Canadian War Museum. “They sought adventure, the chance to fight against communism [slavery], monetarygain, or a sense of belonging.”
Gaffen traces the role of Canadians who fought in U.S. forces from the Civil War through the Gulf War. Thirty Canadianswould receive the Medal of Honor in the Civil War, nine in the Indian wars, six in the Spanish-American War, two in WorldWar II, one in Korea, and one in Vietnam–Sergeant Peter C. Lemon of Norwich, Ontario.
“A significant number of Canadians crossed the border to fight in Vietnam,” Gaffen writes. “Estimates of Canadians involvedhave ranged between 12,000 and 40,000.” He profiles 11 Canadian Vietnam veterans, including Command Sgt. Maj. GeorgeOdom, holder of three Combat Infantryman Badges from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and Air Force pilot Lt. Col.Michael Masterson, who was shot down over Laos in October 1968 and who remains missing in action.
“Many of the Canadians who joined the U.S. military and volunteered for Vietnam did so with a mistaken concept of war,”Gaffen concludes. “They viewed war as an opportunity for glory, adventure and heroism….They were wrong. And there wasno glory. When they returned home, there would be no cheering crowds welcoming them back.” But since this book waswritten, Canadian Vietnam veterans have at long last received some recognition. The Royal Canadian Legion has officiallyaccepted them into its ranks, and a memorial has been dedicated in Quebec to hon-or their service.Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr.