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Marine Missing for 25 Years Pleads Guilty in Court-Martial

February 7, 1996

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) _ A Marine Corps corporal who fled to Canada nearly 25 years ago _ after serving 13 months in Vietnam _ pleaded guilty Tuesday to going AWOL.

A military judge sentenced Cpl. Donald J. Bailey, 45, to a reduction in rank and a bad-conduct discharge. The punishment will take effect in about three months, following a review.

``This was not a politically correct decision, this was the right decision,″ said Lt. Col. Jerry Broeckert, a base spokesman.

Bailey, then 19, fled the Marines in December 1970 with seven months to go on his contract. It wasn’t to escape death or injury, he said _ after all, he had already served more than a year in Vietnam.

It was because of the way he was treated by civilians.

``We had people walk up to us and spit on the ground and say, `Do you know what you have been doing in Vietnam?′ The mood of the nation was very harsh,″ he said.

``It was a total shock,″ he said. ``I thought I could mix and mingle with friends I had before the Marine Corps. They didn’t want me around.″

Bailey married and started a family in Vancouver, then moved to a cabin in the Rockies northwest of Calgary, where he made guitars and sang in a blues band.

In October, Bailey decided to return to the United States and confess to the Marine Corps. After consulting with his attorney, he surrendered to officers at the Naval Station in Bremerton, Wash.

Bailey, a native of Edison, N.J., said he expected to get an administrative discharge, but the Corps decided to send him to a general court-martial instead.

``I felt pretty lousy about it, but I would have come back anyway,″ Bailey said.

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