Cover Image: The Devil's Trick

The Devil's Trick

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Member Reviews

I don’t often read books about military history, but I feel like most of my understanding of the Vietnam War is shaped by media (as in the movie Forrest Gump) and I wanted to better understand more of the specifics of the conflict. The Devil’s Trick: How Canada Fought the Vietnam War provided different perspectives of the Vietnam War. Before reading this book, I mistakenly believed that since Canada chose not to participate officially in the Vietnam War, Canadians were not profoundly affected by the conflict.

In The Devil’s Trick, John Boyko highlights six Canadians who participated in the Vietnam War. He starts off with a couple of Canadian diplomats who struggled to peacefully negotiate terms between the American and North Vietnamese governments (and ultimately failed). These few chapters provided insight into the diplomacy and politics behind the fighting, and I was pretty shocked at how uncooperative and brash the Americans were compared to the North Vietnamese, who seemed even more democratic than the nation that was claiming to safeguard democracy around the world (at least according to the way Boyko told the story). Another story that I found touching was that of Clare Culhane, a hospital administrator who volunteered at a Canadian-run tuberculosis hospital in Vietnam. She experienced firsthand the hypocrisy of Canada’s involvement in the war; while the Canadian government participated in humanitarian efforts to help the Vietnamese, it also profited off of the war by providing weapons (both mechanical and chemical) to the American side. Upon Culhane’s return to Canada, she became an anti-war activist, protesting at Parliament and being sassy towards Pierre Elliott Trudeau! John Boyko also shared the stories of draft dodgers (Americans who hopped the border to avoid enlisting in the army) as well as Canadians who crossed the border in the other direction in order to take part in the fight.

While I enjoyed the stories of the individuals featured in this book, I also found its exploration of the Canada-USA relationship really interesting. After all, it was during the Vietnam War that Pierre Elliott Trudeau uttered this famous quote:

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”
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