Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2014 August 3

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August 3[edit]

Honorable vs. dishonorable discharge from the U. S. military[edit]

If a person is dishonorably discharged from the US military (let's say for some bad conduct), and later evidence surfaces that exonerates him of that bad conduct, is the discharge changed to honorable or does it remain dishonorable? Also, vice-versa. If a person is honorably discharged from the US military (let's say, he was exonerated of some bad conduct), and later evidence surfaces that definitively assigns him responsibility for that bad conduct, is the discharge changed to dishonorable or does it remain honorable? In other words, can (and does) the military go back and retroactively change the discharge and change the person's military record, after the fact? I am referring to the United States military. In general, I am referring to people who are accused of crimes, are found guilty, and later on are found to be innocent. Or vice-versa. Situations of that nature. I was just watching a documentary on Jeffrey R. MacDonald, which made me think of these questions. Long story short: he was acquitted of multiple murders; was honorably discharged; was put through a maze of legal maneuvers; and was ultimately convicted of the multiple murders (many years after the fact). I understand that there is some distinction between the US civilian criminal court system and the US military criminal justice system. But, I don't believe that is relevant to the overall tenor of my question. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 01:20, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

Note that there are other discharge types, such as a General discharge, which is used for people who are unable to make it through basic training, etc. So, they might choose that as an intermediate step. However, once someone is discharged, it's unlikely that anyone in the military continues to monitor their case. Thus, somebody would need to lobby to get a change, and even then they may well be ignored.
Also note that there's another case, where the person did engage in the behavior for which they were dishonorably discharged, but that that behavior is no longer considered dishonorable behavior now. For example, homosexual behavior. StuRat (talk) 01:37, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that there have been retroactive upgrades to honorable discharge status. I thought that the black sailors in the Port Chicago disaster were among them, but the article seems to contradict that... AnonMoos (talk) 01:42, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
A retroactive upgrade to honorable discharge status would seem to be the less controversial of the two. Thus, the "petition" would seem to encounter fewer obstacles and less resistance. More controversial, I would think, is if the military wants to "rescind" your honorable discharge and change it to dishonorable. Jeffrey R. MacDonald, mentioned above, is a perfect example. He committed multiple murders on a military base, while he was stationed in the military. If he had been convicted at that time, clearly he would be dishonorably discharged. However, he was not convicted until many years later, years after the honorable discharge. So, as it stands today, he holds an honorable discharge, even after committing multiple murders on a military base while stationed in the military. (Unless some retroactive action was taken. Hence, the reason for my original question.) That scenario doesn't quite "seem right". Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 03:49, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
According to Military discharge, there are avenues for appeal of U.S. dishonorable discharges long after they are given. However, "Most of these requests are not approved".
The article also says "A dishonorable discharge (DD) can only be handed down to an enlisted member by a general court-martial."
There is much more on the topic - it seems a fairly complicated subject. Also, the article is headed with the warning "This article has multiple issues." C7nel (talk) 14:55, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
So, I am wondering if "somebody" (who? maybe the US military? or the US federal government?) can object to MacDonald's honorable discharge and petition to change it to dishonorable. The bad conduct occurred while he was in the military, but it only came to light (so to speak) afterwards. And, indeed, after the granting of the honorable discharge. A very interesting case, I think. I wonder how the military experts sort all of that out? Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 22:15, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks, all. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 19:14, 7 August 2014 (UTC)

WW1 Trenches[edit]

I find it odd that soldiers in WW1 could fire at each other from their own trenches. How is it possible that they could dig trenches within sight of each other? They were so close to each other that they could even shout to each other. KägeTorä - () (Chin Wag) 10:08, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

What's odd about it? HiLo48 (talk) 10:49, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
It helps to understand how entrenchments work... you don't start with a trench close to the enemy. First you dig a trench much further back (presumably out of range). From the safety of that initial trench you dig cross trenches angling towards the enemy, and then you expand those with yet more trenches (parallel to the original one). You repeat this process until your "front line" trench is as close to the enemy as possible (you want to get as close to the enemy as possible... to minimize the distance and time during which you will be under enemy fire during a charge across the "no man's land" between the lines). In other words, you don't just dig one trench close to the enemy... you build a whole system of trenches, gradually moving your lines closer and closer to the enemy. Blueboar (talk) 11:16, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
I see. So essentially, you are building trenches from within the cross trenches. One more very odd thing I saw (I have mentioned this before) on a TV documentary about Gallipoli, was the presenter showing us how close the British and Turkish trenches were. They were so close that he could put one foot on the edge of one, and one foot on the edge of another. I find it difficult to believe that they were digging one metre from the enemy, but that's how he put it. I am more inclined to believe that one side built a new line just in front of enemy front line trenches that had already been cleared out, rather than moving in, and risk being attacked via the network. Can anyone confirm this? KägeTorä - () (Chin Wag) 12:06, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
(e/c)Excellent article at Trench warfare.--Shantavira|feed me 12:07, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
A trench that zigzags towards the enemy is called a "sap". The technique of working forwards in this way is called "sapping" and is a very ancient one, although our article stops at the American Civil War. Alansplodge (talk) 18:04, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
A quicker method is described in Trenching at Gallipoli: The personal narrative of a Newfoundlander with the ill-fated Dardanelles Expedition by John Gallishaw (Chapter III). "Most of our work was done at night. When we wished to advance our line, we sent forward a platoon of men the desired distance. Every man carried with him three empty sandbags and his intrenching tool. Temporary protection is secured at short notice by having every man dig a hole in the ground that is large and deep enough to allow him to lie flat in it... Lying on our stomachs, our rifles close at hand, we dug furiously. First we loosened up enough earth in front of our heads to fill a sandbag. This sandbag we placed beside our heads on the side nearest the enemy. Out in no man's land with bullets from rifle and machine guns pattering about us, we did fast work. As soon as we had filled the second and third sandbags we placed them on top of the first... Often we could complete a trench and occupy it before the enemy knew of it." Alansplodge (talk) 18:04, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
Note also that the trenches weren't always as hostile an environment as you might assume - in some areas, there was a very marked policy of "live and let live" (not a great article, but Ashworth's book is well worth reading). Andrew Gray (talk) 14:44, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
Sometimes the different sides also connected to and used trench systems that belonged to the other side, that is after they had been convinced to leave them behind. MilborneOne (talk) 15:00, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
It is surprising to read a claim that opposing trenches were ever 1 meter apart at one instant and manned by hostile forces. They would have bayonneted the enemy, shot him. or tossed him a grenade. It was a war, you know. A battlefield museum might show where enemy trenches were at different times; one of the trenches might have been abandoned, partially filled with mud and debris, while the nearby one was new and fully developed. The abandoned one might not be occupied because it was vulnerable to enfilade fire from enemy machine guns, while the occupied one ran at a more protected angle in the positions of that time. When the archeologists excavate and restore them, they can make it look like the enemies were separated by 1 meter. Edison (talk) 01:23, 4 August 2014 (UTC)
I couldn't find a reference for one yard apart, but the same source, Gallishaw, quoted above, has an account of how "...the Turks dug to within ten or twelve yards of us before they were discovered. One of the Dublins saw them first. He seized some bombs, and jumped out, shouting, 'Look at Johnny Turrk. Let's bomb him to hell out of it.' But Johnny Turk was obstinate; he stayed where he was in spite of our bombs." He goes on to describe a grenade throwing duel, won by a big Newfoundlander who threw the Turkish bombs back as fast as they could throw them. Another reference on a website, referenced to a veteran called Joe Murray quoted in “Defeat at Gallipoli”, (London 2002), Nigel Steel & Peter Hart, (p. 181-182), describes digging saps fifteen yards apart and then connecting the heads of the saps to make a new trench; "...It was undercover. The Turks used to do the same so you would get the trenches right together without anybody going over the top. When I talk about the trenches being ten yards apart, you probably say, 'Oh well that’s a lot of bloody nonsense, how the hell do you get the trenches ten yards apart?”' Well that’s how". Alansplodge (talk) 20:05, 4 August 2014 (UTC)
Sticking your head up to see what is going on (even at night), gets your head shot off. Therefore, being very close in a visual sense is meaningless. No-one can see you.
Very very gently prising a few grains of sand/earth out of the bottom of the trench wall in the direction you're going, at night, while lying flat at the bottom of your trench, attracts no attention at all. Unless one of your opponents, by sheer bad luck, is doing the exact same thing exactly opposite you, and happens to hear. That's when the bomb-throwing starts.
How the ANZACs got into this situation - which was really quite uniquely close quarters with the enemy - is partly described in Landing at Anzac Cove (disclaimer, I copyedited it). One important thing mentioned in Third attack on Anzac Cove (same disclaimer applies) is that during this period of the war, the Turks had hand grenades (German supplied), while the particular Allied forces engaged didn't. Not sure if that's contradicted by other sources or not. If it is, we should look further.
It still doesn't quite explain how you end up building a trench only 2 yards away from your opponent's trench, but there's a lot of confusion in a situation like this, and perhaps even it happened that on certain occasions new trenches were dug (overnight?) in positions that had just been captured from defending forces, and the trench formerly occupied by the defending forces had been abandoned but was not suitable to be adapted to be one's own trench. And then the defending forces counter-attacked an hour or day or whatever later and re-occupied their own trench because they preferred jumping in there (an empty trench with which they were familiar) to jumping into your trench (an unfamiliar trench full of people eager to stick a bayonet into them). --Demiurge1000 (talk) 23:10, 4 August 2014 (UTC)
On the hand grenade issue, the first British grenade, the Mills Bomb, was introduced during the course of the Gallipoli campaign. Before their arrival, units improvised their own bombs, usually from the jam tins which came with the rations. We have an article Jam Tin Grenade. Observation over the parapet was generally through reinforced loopholes, or (a safer option) by using a periscope. "At dusk the sandbag packing is taken out of the loopholes and the men observe through these; but as they are only about two inches by four inches you can’t see much. At daybreak these holes are stuffed up again and, as I said, observing is carried on by means of the periscope. In the trenches you can see nothing either to the front or rear but the little length of trench that you happen to be in, and it is sure death to put your head up to look around. Even the periscope mirrors measuring only three inches square at most are picked off (by snipers) one after the other." [1] Alansplodge (talk) 08:57, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
In an attempt to summarise; although nobody has been able to find a reference for opposing trenches closer than ten yards apart, it seems that if that did happen, either one side or the other would find their trench to be untenable and would retire to a safer position. Alansplodge (talk) 10:39, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
If you check our Hand grenade article you'll see that hand grenades were invented much earlier than the Gallipoli campaign. There were even specialised troops called grenadiers in the 18th century. --rossb (talk) 16:35, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
Indeed, but these had been abandoned for use in the field by most western armies before the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Contrary to my statement above, the British Army adopted an impact fused grenade in 1908, but it was prone to premature detonation and therefore very unpopular. "Consequently many British soldiers - and those based in Gallipoli who had no access to grenades of any type - resorted to the construction of home-made, or 'jam-tin' bombs. So-named because they were literally made out of jam tins, each was packed with gun-cotton or dynamite, together with pieces of scrap metal. A length of fuse would project through the top of the tin, with each inch of fuse giving approximately 1.25 seconds delay." [2] Alansplodge (talk) 21:00, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
Apparently, the Ketchum grenade was no match for the power of a blanket. InedibleHulk (talk) 17:10, August 5, 2014 (UTC)