A deserter’s rueful memoir of hard roads traveled.
Born and raised in rural Nebraska, Todd was no ordinary war resister; in the mid-1960s he had volunteered for officer training in the Marines, fully expecting to see combat, but had washed out owing to a pair of bad knees. Having done what he thought was his duty, he took a job as a crime reporter for the Miami Herald, found a beautiful girlfriend, and set about making his mark on journalism. Life had other plans, however, and Todd was drafted into the army and sent to a processing post near Seattle. At the urging of a boyhood friend who returned from Vietnam shattered by the experience of war, he skipped across the border to Canada, where he was greeted with both anti-Yankee hostility and open arms. Broke, he spent time on Vancouver’s Skid Row, where he fell in with fellow deserters who sat out the war under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Most of them returned (voluntarily or otherwise) to the US to face punishment, but Todd renounced his citizenship and found himself on a very short list—numbering only 13 individuals—of deserters reckoned to be men without a country. Granted landed immigrant status by a sympathetic bureaucrat, Todd eventually found work as a reporter in Vancouver. He discovered only later that he had been slated to go not to Vietnam but to Germany (where, a fellow soldier wrote to him, “You’d be sitting on your ass . . . writing press releases for Colonel Jerkoff”). In retrospect, he concludes, he would not have fled the military and his country, although he now ranks as one of Canada’s leading journalists and has made an apparently good life for himself across the line.
Hawks will not admire the sometimes self-pitying tone of Todd’s narrative nor the choice that underlies his memoir, but readers with an interest in the Vietnam era will find a fresh voice in his story.