Section 8 (military)

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Section 8 is a category of discharge from the United States military, used for a service member judged mentally unfit for service. It also came to mean any service member given such a discharge or behaving as if deserving such a discharge, as in the expression, "he's a Section 8". The term comes from Section VIII of the World War II-era United States Army Regulation 615-360, which provided for the discharge of those deemed unfit for military service.[1]

Discharge under Section 8 is no longer practiced, as medical discharges for psychological/psychiatric reasons are now covered by a number of regulations. In the Army, such discharges are handled under the provisions of AR 635-200, Active Duty Enlisted Administrative Separations. Chapter 5, paragraph 13 governs the separation of personnel medically diagnosed with a personality disorder.[2]

Section 8 became a household phrase when used in the 1970s TV series M*A*S*H, in which the character Corporal Klinger was continually seeking one (until he eventually abandoned his efforts).[3] Other pop culture references include:

  • In Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #52 (March 1981), Blackbyrd describes Gideon Mace as "real Section-8 material".
  • The 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket, in which a recruit (Leonard Lawrence, a.k.a. "Private Gomer Pyle") becomes noticeably unstable as a result of the abuse from his drill instructor and platoon-mates. He eventually descends into insanity and ultimately murders the drill instructor before killing himself. Later in the film, it is mentioned again when Private "Cowboy" mentions how one of his recently deceased platoon-mates was about to be shipped out on a Section 8 for chronic masturbation.
  • In the 2017 action thriller film American Assassin, the phrase "section 8" is used often to describe an agent who is mentally unfit, including being used to refer to the ex-CIA assassin Ghost in the film.
  • A 1998 episode of Stargate SG-1, "The Gamekeeper", in which the former commanding officer of Jack O'Neill asks him if he wants to be "Section-8" when Jack freaks out and threatens him because he is reliving the death of a friend again and again.
  • The 2003 movie Basic, in which a DEA agent Tom Hardy (played by John Travolta) investigates a group of rogue Rangers turned drug dealers calling themselves Section 8. They are later revealed to be a black-ops anti-drug unit led by Hardy (now addressed as "Colonel"); the "Section-8" insane-mercenary story is a cover to spook the cartels.
  • The 2007 video game BioShock, in which Atlas, via radio, informs the player that Fort Frolic has been handed over to a deranged artist named Sander Cohen. "Cohen's an artist, says some. He's a Section 8, says I. I seen all kinds of cutthroats, freaks, and headcases, but Cohen's a real lunatic."
  • The 2016 movie Hacksaw Ridge, in which Army recruit Desmond Doss is required to undergo psychiatric evaluation or else face a Section 8 discharge for refusing to participate in weapons training because of his religious convictions.

See also[edit]

  • Blue discharge
  • Section 8, a video game named after the military term due to its game mechanics of "dangerously insane" orbital flights.


  1. ^ "Office of Medical History - Neuropsychiatry in WWII, Chapter 16". United States Department of the Army. 1963. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  2. ^ "Active Duty Enlisted Administrative Separations" (PDF). United States Department of the Army. 2005-06-05. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  3. ^ "M*A*S*H Episode Guide - Radar's Report". The editors of 1973-09-02. Retrieved 2011-02-02.