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Thread: Deserters hunted down 30 years after Vietnam

  1. #1
    Partridge Guest

    Deserters hunted down 30 years after Vietnam

    Deserters hunted down 30 years after Vietnam
    The Times

    The Pentagon is arresting old soldiers as thousands of US servicemen are going on the run

    36 years after he deserted from the US Marines to avoid being sent to Vietnam, Ernest “Buck” McQueen believed that the military had long ago given up looking for him.

    But on January 12 his past caught up with him. After his brother-in-law inadvertently tipped off an undercover investigator about his whereabouts, Mr McQueen, 55, was arrested in a burger bar close to his home in Fort Worth and shipped off to a Marine jail in California.

    “It wouldn’t have taken a brain surgeon to find me any time,” Mr McQueen, balding and grey, said. “It must be to send a message to the young guys in Iraq not to desert. Why else would they suddenly be chasing down old men?” Mr McQueen, who is now back home, is not the only Vietnam deserter who believes that.

    In the past 18 months, after years in which “cold case” absent-without-leave investigations remained effectively closed, the Marine Corps has caught 34 long-time deserters after reopening dozens of files. The latest arrest came last week. Allen Abney, 56, who deserted from the Marines in 1968, was arrested crossing from Canada to the US, a journey he had made hundreds of times in recent years.

    The sudden aggressiveness, which resulted last August in Jerry Texiera, a 65-year-old who deserted from the Marines 40 years ago, being arrested and jailed for five months, comes amid growing concerns in the Pentagon over the number of soldiers who have deserted since the Iraq war began. According to Pentagon records released last week, at least 9,000 members of the all-volunteer US military have deserted in the past three years.

    Although the desertion rate is lower than before 9/11, lawyers for the Vietnam deserters say that the recent arrests are designed to send a clear message to serving troops. “The Pentagon has instituted this policy to say to the current troops that if they go Awol you will be hunted down to the grave,” Louis Font, who represented Mr Texiera, said.

    “It is a new, aggressive approach that has begun recently. These people have led quiet lives for decades and suddenly they are being hunted down.”

    The present desertion rate represents 0.24 per cent of the 1.4 million US force, lower than during the Vietnam war. In 1971 more than 33,000 soldiers deserted, but at a time of a very unpopular draft and after more than 56,000 US troops had died in Vietnam.

    The Marines changed approach after Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart took over the corps’s desertion investigation unit in September 2004. “I have a different leadership style than the guys who have had this job,” Chief Warrant Officer Averhart told the St Petersburg Times, of Florida, last year. “My job is to catch deserters. And that’s what I do.”

    A request by The Times to interview him was referred to Captain Jay Delarosa, a Pentagon spokesman, who said: “Chief Warrant Officer Averhart does not want to do any more interviews.”

    Captain Delarosa denied that the arrests were part of a deliberate tactic to intimidate troops.

    “This has nothing to do with today’s Marines. You have to be responsible for the decisions you make and, if you desert, that decision has consequences.”

    He said that most “old case” deserters were caught after being stopped by traffic police, who see their desertion arrest warrant after a computer scan of their licence.

    Captain Delarosa added that Mr McQueen had been “turned in by a family member”. Mr Texiera was found after fingerprints taken in 1959 when he enlisted were run through an FBI database.

    They matched those of a Gerome Conti — his new name — who was on probation after a 1998 fraud conviction. Both men were released after being given other-than-honourable discharges.

    Mr McQueen said that he deserted four days after the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese villagers by US troops was revealed.

    “I saw pictures of US soldiers with 20 ears hanging on their belts, and one of a guy with a bottle of Jim Beam in one hand and a severed Vietnamese head in the other,” he said.

    “I decided this is not what what I enlisted for. I would do the same today.”

    GONE AWOL - Marine deserters still at large

    Second World War 5

    Korean War 8

    Vietnam War 125

    1980 to 1985 51

    Number of deserters since 2003

    Army 4,387

    Navy 3,454

    Air force 82

    Marines 1,455

  2. #2
    Good Doctor HST Guest
    I know a great place to start looking for deserters of the Vietnam War. In fact, I have the address right here:

    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20500

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