In episode 1080 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast an answer to the question raised by the singer Country Joe McDonald half a century ago will be spotlighted. In his song “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die”(a black comedy novelty song about the Vietnam War) the question: “what are we fighting for” was repeated several times in the song’s chorus. Unfortunately for the poor fool, Charles Jenkins, who deserted from the US Army in South Korea to avoid going to fight in Vietnam his experiences in North Korea provided an obvious answer to McDonald’s question.
The deserter, Charles Jenkins, recently passed away. He was living at the time on Sabo Island in Japan with his wife Ms Soga. There was a story about his passing and life on The BBC titled: Charles Jenkins: US soldier who defected to North Korea dies. The story tells about how Jenkins got into the abhorrent predicament of being an unwilling guest of the inhospitable North Koreans for almost forty years.
It seems while serving with the US Army in South Korea during the year 1965 he made a fateful if not misguided decision. Apparently he was in such a state of concern for his safety at the thought of the possibility of being killed while on patrol by the North Koreans or being sent to fight in Vietnam he made a serious flub up. He figured he could solve all his problems by surrendering to the very people he thought were trying to kill him. Then he would merely go to the Russian embassy, seek for asylum with the Russians then eventually go home via a US prisoner swap.
Too bad, at the time, Jenkins did not have a better appreciation for the freedom and liberty he was defending. Listen to episode 1080 and discover what happened to the deserter Charles Jenkins after he turned his coat and began working for the North Koreans. It will definitely answer Country Joe McDonald’s question: “what are we fighting for.”