11/05/04 — Deserter: 30 days constitutes a slap on the wrist

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Deserter: 30 days constitutes a slap on the wrist

Army deserter Charles Robert Jenkins is an admitted coward. He told a military court that he crossed over into North Korea in 1965 to avoid “hazardous duty” on the Korean peninsula and perhaps subsequently in Vietnam.

He not only deserted his unit and his country, but, according to the Army, he made anti-American propaganda broadcasts and played the part of an American villain in an anti-U.S. movie. He also taught English to espionage agents training in North Korea, according to the Army.

Subsequently, Jenkins married a Japanese woman, and they are parents of two daughters. This past summer, Jenkins went to Japan to be treated for an abdominal problem.

He surrendered to the Army in September, and charges were filed against him.

Now a frail 64-year-old, Jenkins, a native of Rich Square in our state, spent recent days in the process of plea-bargaining with the Army.

He has admitted deserting and aiding North Korea but denies making statements disloyal to the United States.

Desertion is serious business, with punishment ranging from being kicked out of the service to execution.

Jenkins’ actions went far beyond desertion. He apparently became a propaganda spokesman for North Korea and trained espionage agents.

The fact that he is old and ailing does not negate the seriousness of his crimes. News reports point to the fact that he was raised in poverty and joined the Army while still in his teens. But when he deserted and became a propaganda spokesman for the communists in North Korea, Jenkins was 25 years old and had risen to the responsible rank of sergeant.

He knew what he was doing and today admits he was motivated by cowardice — the desire to “avoid hazardous duty” in Korea and the imminence of assignment to Vietnam.

Drumming him out of the service in disgrace is necessary as an act of the Army cleansing itself. But despite his age and infirmity, Jenkins’ 30 days of jail time meted out by the court will be viewed by many veterans who kept faith with their country and their military duties as a slap on the wrist given the seriousness of his despicable conduct.

Published in Editorials on November 5, 2004 11:42 AM