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The last Canadian soldier to die in the Vietnam War

September 2018

On 7 April 1973, a helicopter carrying Captain Charles Laviolette and eight other international members of the International Commission for Control and Supervision in Vietnam (ICCS) was shot down after taking ground fire on a flight from Gio Linh to Lao Bao, killing all on board.

The ICCS was established in 1973 to supervise the Paris Peace Accords that was intended to end the Vietnam War.  Canada’s participation in ICCS was from January to July 1973, during the time period of the withdrawal of American combat troops.

Captain Laviolette was a member of 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada and a 29 year member of the Canadian Army, having arrived in Vietnam only two months previously.  He was 42 years old.

Captain Laviolette was the third and final member of Canada’s military to die on peacekeeping operations in Vietnam. The other two, Sergeant James Byrne of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps and Corporal Vernon Perkin of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, were killed in an airplane crash on 18 October 1965 along with Canadian diplomat John Turner, while serving under the International Commission for Supervision and Control, the predecessor mission to ICCS.

Captain Laviolette’s body was recovered and he was buried with full military honours in Cimetière Saint-Charles in Ville Les Saules, Quebec.

He was posthumously awarded the International Commission of Control and Supervision Service Vietnam Medal and later the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal upon its creation in 2000.  He had previously been awarded the Special Service Medal with NATO Bar and the Canadian Forces Decoration during his life.

Peacekeeping may be more palatable to Canadians than combat operations, it still comes with significant danger, as evidenced by the approximately 130 Canadians who have died in peacekeeping missions since the first United Nations Emergency Force mission in 1956.

Note:  A fifth Canadian serving in Vietnam, Philip MacDonald, a clerk with the International Commission for Supervision and Control, died in Saigon on 8 May 1970.

Sources:  Sentinel magazine, May 1973, www.canadiansoldiers.com, Veterans Affairs Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, “I Volunteered, Canadian Vietnam Vets Remember,” by Tracey Arial.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-last-canadian-soldier-to-die-in-the-vietnam-war/

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