What leads a top-secret war-policy insider to desert during the Vietnam War? In the case of Bruce Proctor, it was reconnaissance photos: images which showed the bombing of civilian villages in Southeast Asia, despite the administration’s claims otherwise. Appalled by his discovery, Bruce suddenly quit his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency. To avoid the draft, he joined the Air National Guard, but his unit was activated for service in Vietnam. Rather than fight in an immoral war, Bruce went AWOL, seeking refuge in Sweden.
A hybrid memoir set against a half century across two continents, The Sweden File is composed of letters to and from Bruce from 1968 to 1972, his reminiscences forty years later, and his brother Alan’s reflections in 2014. Despite his best attempts, Bruce was never able to learn Swedish, necessary for employment, and he struggled with poverty, a series of difficult jobs, drugs, and alcohol. After four years of trying to fit into a foreign culture, Bruce and his wife emigrated to Canada. At a time when the US has been in constant conflict for eighteen years—longer than the Vietnam War—Bruce’s musings on peace, war, and government deception have a vital urgency.