Ozzie’s 2009 blog, beautiful pictures of his new family. . . his wife, Luizhou and her daughter, Yan
A special day 44 years ago ………..
They were an odd group, the Vancouver Left that was or more correctly, the Vancouver Liberation Front. It was during one of the self proclaimed revolutionary roasts that I met Ozzie. He was being attacked unmercifully by several emotionally charged members. They accused Ozzie of being patronizing, chauvinistic, adventurist and many other ‘istic’and ‘ist’ charges.
David “Ozzie” Osborne had travelled north to escape from Camp Pendleton before he would have been jailed in the ‘brig’, the Navy’s word for jail. The Army calls it the ‘stockade’. He joined with the left to work with American deserters and dodgers who fled north to avoid being sent to ‘Nam and worse to avoid what Country Joe Mc Donald sang in the anti-war anthem “Vietnam Rag”, “be first on your block to be sent home in a box”.
The Mayor of Vancouver, a real reprobate, Tom Campbell, wanted to round up all deserters and dodgers and sent them back across the border to the FBI to rot in prison. Campbell supported Nixon, and wanted nothing to do with the American ‘trash’ that was spoiling his city and beaches.
The population saw it a different way, they wanted to help these young men and women and found shelters for them and fed them and provided medical assistance.
Ozzie talked with a lot of them and thought they should organize. Well, and so did I. After hours of criticism from the VLF membership, Ozzie left. I liked this guy the first time I heard him try to defend his actions to a deaf room that acted like a lynch mob.
I had heard of the VLF and wanted to find out more about them. Maida had driven me across the border after I left Fort Lewis. I had been released from the Stockade pending the resumption of my court-martial for being AWOL. I was released on a technicality and I was put in a receiving area where returning GI’s waited before they were discharged from the service or transferred to other posts. I was confined to the barracks but did find ways to slip out to the Shelter Half and attend meetings.
It was because of this activity and a planned trip to San Diego to meet with members of the Movement for a Democratic Military that I was to be returned to the stockade. I learned I was going back; I arranged to be picked up and left at a safe house and then taken to Vancouver.
I was dropped off at Bruce and Jane McLean’s house in Vancouver by Maida who agreed to drive me there. It was great thing for her to do. She went out on a limb.
After arriving I wanted to meet the VLF. Bruce and I went to the meeting which was within walking distance. What we saw was incredible. Ozzie was getting verbally pummeled. Bruce told me that Ozzie had led demonstrators to the Peace Gate at Blaine where he symbolically chained it shut. The gate had never be closed.
Ozzie didn’t really care about the work of the VLF, it was deserters and guys fleeing to avoid be being drafted that he wanted to work with. Leaders of the VLF told Ozzie this was the problem. Finally, that was all he was going to take. He was out of there and Bruce and I followed. We caught up with Ozzie and introduced ourselves. It began a lifelong friendship. We left and went back to the house, Ozzie moved his stuff out of where he was staying and moved in and we plotted the revolution, well actually the beginning of the American Deserters Committee and the Amerikong. We were so proud we headed off to the Traveller’s Inn, a favorite of locals and ex-pats.
Bruce had escaped from being kidnapped from the stockade at Fort Lewis and transported under armed guard to Vietnam. He got away by climbing out of a restroom window at the air strip during a stop for fuel. He arranged to leave Hawaii and went to Canada where his wife met him. Bruce had been involved at the Shelter Half and along with Wade Carson organized the American Servicemen’s Union.
We met with other ex-pats and other VLFers who thought the whole thing that went down earlier was BS. Ozzie’s idea was this would be an army in exile, well rhetorically. We would spend our time going where the deserters were. Deserters and dodgers were proud to be called this, they didn’t want to go to ‘Nam. I don’t think they were cowards, I think they thought they were doing something righteous, so did we.
An organization of deserters would have the strength of comradeship in a foreign country. In numbers we would have better treatment. We went to several parks where there was a meal provided every night. Ozzie was incredible, people just liked Ozzie. He knew how to have fun, he knew how to party. Ozzie was part Yippie, part White Panther, John Sinclair’s group, and all GI organizer and now deserter organizer.
We worked hard, we played hard and we lived hard. We had to live ‘underground’ because we there illegally. We made false ID’s to get welfare and dumpster dived to get what the stores through away. Music, wine and acid were important. Man these were incredible times. Ozzie was in his element. The women of the VLF dug Ozzie. All of this made Ozzie mortal enemies of the male VLF leadership, armchair revolutionaries is what Oz called them.
When Bruce and Jane went back to the states, Ozzie and I moved to a house outside of Vancouver . . . North Burnaby I think. We rented a rambler type house which was affordable but isolated from where deserters were.
It was during this time where there was a crisis for deserters. The mayor had won a vote to evict the deserters from hostels. They went to the beaches to crash. Campbell didn’t stop harassing, he turned the Vancouver PD and the RCMP loose on the deserters on the beach. Ozzie rose to the occasion. I don’t know where he got it, but there he was . . . no shirt, a massive conga drum and wearing a bandana headband and running up and down the beach drumming while the police looked on with the restraint a handler shows with a dog on a leash.
Everyone was getting fired up. All hell broke loose, the cops charged; the deserters held their ground. Joining in the fray were folks from the Seattle Liberation Front who had come to help us. The VLF had threatened they would publish our pictures as Weathermen and police agents. This would not have been good. We were all on the beach, Ozzie was running up and down with police chasing him.
Workers coming out of a union meeting joined in fighting back with us against the police. In the end a truce was reached and the deserters were allowed to be on the beach, and the people in the city stepped up and found places for these folks to stay. Ozzie and I ended up renting a store front with no kitchen but a bathroom. It was an abandoned beauty salon with the hair dryers and chairs still in place.
Ozzie stayed I left first, later Ozzie left. I was in Seattle hiding out in an attic ‘running’ at night with SLFers before I would turn myself in. Ozzie was arrested crossing the border and sent to the brig at Camp Pendleton. While there he wrote this great pamphlet, Ask a Marine. I recommend reading it. It will tell you much more about Ozzie in his own words. We became friends and ran together for years. I will miss him and more stories will be told. This example of misrememberin’ will give you an idea of why our friendship lasted.