Friday, June 17, 2005

Deserter Returns Home

Good access out here, and an e-mail from Mike Williams caught my eye. I tend to feel the same way he does about the return of Jenkins, and also was disturbed by the N&O coverage of the event:

You’ve probably heard the story of Charles Robert Jenkins. He was an Army sergeant who defected to North Korea in 1965. He recently surrendered to US military authorities in Japan and was court-martialed. His sentence was a dishonorable discharge and a brief stint in the stockade.

Today he is on the front page of the N&O. He is, you see, from Rich Square, NC, about 80 miles northeast of Raleigh as the crow flies. The write up is primarily a sympathy piece – Jenkins hasn’t seen his ailing 91 year-old mother since before he deserted, and now he’s back in NC for a week-long reunion, accompanied by his Japanese wife and two daughters.

In passing, the N&O does advise us that Jenkins “appeared in [North Korean] propaganda films and played an American in at least one movie.”

But far from the front page, N&O columnist Dennis Rogers has his own thoughts about Jenkins. Dennis is an Army vet who served with Jenkins on the DMZ in Korea. Here’s Dennis:

On May 22, 1967, North Korean commandos slipped across the DMZ you once guarded and threw grenades into a 2nd Infantry Division barracks. Two GIs were killed and 17 were wounded.

Three months later, they struck again, killing one and wounding 12. The next year, 17 Americans died and 54 were wounded in North Korean commando ambushes. The killing would go on for 10 years.

Did you [Jenkins] ever think about those guys from your old outfit who were killed and wonder whether the help you gave your North Korean hosts may have contributed to their deaths?

I can tell you we wondered about it. And I still do.

Dennis concludes:

Then put your traitorous butt on the next thing smokin' out of town. When you turned your back on the soldiers who trusted you with their lives and the country you swore to protect, you forfeited your right to ever live among us again.

Some will say you've paid for your sins. They will say that spending 40 years in North Korea is worse than 40 years in an American prison.

We can only hope.

Amen. As for the N&O, it shows its usual sensitivity to the NC military community by putting a sympathetic rendering of a deserter/defector’s story front and center on Page 1.