Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter

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Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter (born November 8, 1925, died August 18, 2009 in Novato, Cal.), was a retired U.S. Navy officer, known for being relieved of command of USS Vance (DE-387) after only 99 days.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Arnheiter was born to Theodore and Dorothy B. Arnheiter. He had a twin brother, Theodore Jr. (d. 2005), and a sister, Dorothy. Raised in New York City, he was graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1952 and obtained his master’s degree from Georgetown.[2]

USS Vance (DER 387)[edit]

Taking command of the Vance on 22 December just before Christmas 1965, he found a ship that was, in his opinion, unready for war off the coast of North Vietnam. He instituted measures to get the ship cleaned up (he stated that he had found it “crawling with cockroaches”), to get the crew trained, and to institute activities that he thought would get the crew motivated.

Unfortunately, he also had more than his share of personality quirks that led members of the crew to keep a “Mad Marcus Log.” The complaints listed in the log came to the attention of higher headquarters staff, possibly through the chaplain corps. Three months after he assumed command, headquarters ordered the Vance to Manila for refitting and Arnheiter was summarily relieved.[3] In an attempt to clear his name, Lt. Cdr. Arnheiter sought a court martial from the Navy, but the Navy never took any additional action against Arnheiter. Arnheiter swore out formal charges against the Navy Department and was not so much as reprimanded for charging that two- and three-star admirals his senior had themselves been guilty of gross violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding his case. Arnheiter said that, either way, he should be the subject of a court martial—for his alleged actions on the Vance or for his related charges against selected superior officers. The Navy ignored his requests. Arnheiter went as far as to participate in formal congressional hearings[4] on the matter, and still the Navy ignored his loud and very public demand for redress in any official capacity. On repeated appeal, his case was repeatedly dismissed.[5]

One of the duties of the Vance was to search small coastal traffic (junks) for contraband, specifically weapons to be used by the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Since the Vance’s motor whaleboat was lacking in speed, Arnheiter had a speedboat purchased for that purpose; however, he used special services (welfare & recreation) money—a misappropriation of funds. Arnheiter also had the navigation personnel falsify the logs when he ordered the Vance closer to the coast than his orders allowed.

Eventually word of these activities (and other allegations) reached higher command by way of a chaplain to whom sailors in the crew confided, and Arnheiter was relieved on 31 March 1966 when the Vance was refitting at Manila.[6]

According to the Time magazine article: “We all have a little of the Captain Queeg in us,” admitted one officer. ”But Arnheiter had more than his share.”[7]

Suppressed book[edit]

Journalist Neil Sheehan wrote a book titled The Arnheiter Affair in 1971, including a little-known indicium that Arnheiter, prior to his enrollment in the Naval Academy, had briefly been enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.[8] The Arnheiter Affair was well received.[9] Litigation, however, brought by Arnheiter for libel and slander caused the book to be removed from print.[10] Retired U.S. Air Force astronaut Frank Borman, USMA Class of 1950, confirms in his autobiography that Arnheiter was a member of the same cadet company (H-1), and that Arnheiter had been expelled from West Point, only to be subsequently admitted to the Naval Academy.[11]


Arnheiter married Janice Blair Arnheiter.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The case is intensively analyzed by Roger D. Scott in his review of Kimmel, Short, & McVay's Case Studies in Individual Rights of Military Commanders: Executive Authority, Law and the Commander, in Military Law Review, Volume 156 (1995), 52-199.
  2. ^ "Arnheiter: Annapolis '52". New York Times. 1968-08-11. p. SM70. 
  3. ^ "The Navy: The Arnheiter Incident". Time. 1967-12-01. 
  4. ^ The U.S.Congressional Record
  5. ^ "Miscellaneous" note in Military Affairs, Volume 43 Issue 3 (1979 October), 153.
  6. ^ William Scheck, The Vance Mutiny: Fact Mirrors Fiction.
  7. ^ "The Arnheiter Incident". Time. 1967-12-01. 
  8. ^ For the Arnheiter case and matters related to it from Sheehan’s perspective, Nan Thompson Ernst, John R. Monagle, & Thelma M. Queen wrote in 1994 an available analysis of Sheehan’s papers, titled Neil Sheehan: A Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress.
  9. ^ Smith, Gaddis (1972-02-06). "A taste for heroism and a talent for farce; The Arnheiter Affair". New York Times. p. BR3. 
  10. ^ Archives of Arnheiter's case are maintained by the Columbia University library. See Columbia University Archives, Box 31.
  11. ^ Borman, F. and Serling, R. J. (1988). Countdown: an Autobiography. ISBN 0-688-07929-6
  12. ^ "Arnheiter Divorce Is Off". New York Times. 1973-03-04. p. GN59.