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Canadians sign up to fight with U.S. in Vietnam

The Story

Canadian hawks fly south. Despite a law making it illegal, many individual Canadians choose to sign up with the U.S. armed forces to fight in Vietnam. While most go south of the border to sign up, one man has asked the Canadian government for permission to put together a 1200-man Canadian unit to train and fight with the Americans. CBC's Tim Ralfe talks to Don Echlin about his plan. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning Magazine
Broadcast Date: Feb. 20, 1966
Guest: Don Echlin
Reporter: Tim Ralfe
Duration: 2:42

Did You know?

• Canada's 1937 Foreign Enlistment Act prohibited Canadians from serving in the armed forces of a nation at war with a friendly state, thus it is unlikely that Mr. Echlin ever received permission for his unit.

• Because Canada was not at war with Vietnam, Canadians wishing to volunteer illegally had to list an American city or town as their place of birth. As a result, the exact number of Canadians that served in Vietnam is not known. Estimates vary wildly, but most agree it was around 30,000 to 40,000.

• In 1968, the CBC's Bill Cunningham went into the war zone to profile a unit containing three Canadians: Ron Payne of Galt, Ont.; Arthur Fisher of Niagara Falls, Ont.; and Richard Dextraze of Montreal, Que..

• Richard P. Dextraze was killed in Quang Tri province, Vietnam, and is memorialized on panel 26W of row 031 on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington as well as The North Wall in Windsor, Ont.

• The Third Marine Division was fighting just south of the DMZ.

• DMZ stands for demilitarized zone and refers to a safety zone between battle lines in which there is not supposed to be any military activity. In Vietnam, the DMZ was the area around the 17th parallel, the temporary boundary between North and South Vietnam established by the Geneva Accord in 1954.

• The term "hawk" is a political term that came into common use during the Vietnam War to describe supporters of the war.



Vietnam: Canada's Secret War more