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  #1  
Old 07-16-2011, 07:38 AM
IMfez IMfez is offline
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Disobeying a direct order in combat?

In the US military, what would happen to a soldier that refused a direct order from an authority?

Sergeant: Charge that bunker position!
Soldier: No! (throws down gun & curls into a ball)
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  #2  
Old 07-16-2011, 08:50 AM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Technically refusing a direct order in combat is just about the most serious crime on the books and it is the equivalent of a capital crime under the military code of justice, if convicted you can be sentenced to death.

In real life? That may have been the result in the Civil War or something but in the year 2011 the person would probably end up being evaluated for psychiatric problems and eventually discharged.
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  #3  
Old 07-16-2011, 08:53 AM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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The relevant statute:

Quote:
899. Article 99. MISBEHAVIOR BEFORE THE ENEMY

Any person subject to this chapter who before or in the presence of the enemy–
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
(7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
(8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
(9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle;
shall be punished by death or such punishment as a court- martial may direct.
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  #4  
Old 07-16-2011, 08:57 AM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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By the letter of the [code], said soldier should be arrested and sent to court martial.

In a practical sense, wouldn't the sergeant just shoot him on the spot or have I just seen too many old war movies?
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  #5  
Old 07-16-2011, 09:01 AM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
By the letter of the [code], said soldier should be arrested and sent to court martial.

In a practical sense, wouldn't the sergeant just shoot him on the spot or have I just seen too many old war movies?
Seen too many war movies. He would be placed under arrest after the engagement was over.
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  #6  
Old 07-16-2011, 09:05 AM
UncleBill UncleBill is offline
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Too many old war movies. He (or she) would be sent back to higher headquarters on the next truck for whatever processing and decision that will be made. Front line, platoon level groups don't mess with that stuff.
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  #7  
Old 07-16-2011, 09:12 AM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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I figured. I'd bet it's tempting, though.
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  #8  
Old 07-16-2011, 09:17 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
I figured. I'd bet it's tempting, though.
It worked for the Russians.
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  #9  
Old 07-16-2011, 09:35 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Just the fast note that it must be a legal order. I think the OP presupposes this, but there do exist rare instances -- My Lai comes quickly to mind -- when a soldier receives an illegal order from a higher-ranking figure.
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  #10  
Old 07-16-2011, 09:44 AM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
Just the fast note that it must be a legal order. I think the OP presupposes this, but there do exist rare instances -- My Lai comes quickly to mind -- when a soldier receives an illegal order from a higher-ranking figure.
Right, and you can disobey an illegal order but the situation in the OP is one in which the soldier is displaying misbehavior before the enemy (curling up into a ball), so even if the order was illegal the soldier would still have been displaying misbehavior before the enemy due to:

Quote:
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
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  #11  
Old 07-16-2011, 09:52 AM
BowlOfDucks BowlOfDucks is offline
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Sometimes disobeying an order is the right thing to do. Modern example here.

Last edited by BowlOfDucks; 07-16-2011 at 09:52 AM.. Reason: details
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  #12  
Old 07-16-2011, 11:31 AM
bump bump is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
Just the fast note that it must be a legal order. I think the OP presupposes this, but there do exist rare instances -- My Lai comes quickly to mind -- when a soldier receives an illegal order from a higher-ranking figure.
Either way, you'll still face a court martial which will be where the legality of the order is determined.

So for your average private, it's a real interesting chance to take if they think an order is illegal- you get charged with cowardice, insubordination, etc... and then if the order is determined to have been illegal, then you get acquitted. Otherwise, you go to Leavenworth for a while.
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  #13  
Old 07-16-2011, 12:39 PM
Lust4Life Lust4Life is offline
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Going back a bit, but there are recorded cases of British soldiers (one I believe an officer ) being summarily shot by the neighbouring unit as they tried to withdraw against orders, at Dunkirk.
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  #14  
Old 07-16-2011, 01:09 PM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
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In addition to Article 99 (Misbehavior before the enemy), which would apply to the "throwing down gun and curling into a ball" part, the part where the guy replies to a (lawful) order by saying "No!" could lead to a charge under Article 92 (Failure to obey order or regulation), although it doesn't carry the death penalty:
Quote:
Any person subject to this chapter who—
(1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;
(2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by a member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or
(3) is derelict in the performance of his duties;
shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
The O.P. specified the order was given by a sergeant; if the order was given by an officer, there would be Article 90 (Assaulting or willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer), which in time of war may carry the death penalty:
Quote:
§ 890. Art. 90. Assaulting or willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer

Any person subject to this chapter who—
(1) strikes his superior commissioned officer or draws or lifts up any weapon or offers any violence against him while he is in the execution of his office; or
(2) willfully disobeys a lawful command of his superior commissioned officer;
shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, and if the offense is committed at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.
Of course they can only put the guy to death the one time.

(I am not a laywer, military or any other kind; I am not your lawyer; I don't play a lawyer on TV--just on the Internet!.)
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  #15  
Old 07-16-2011, 01:33 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Whatever happened to drumhead courts-martial? [Dig on my plural there. ]
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  #16  
Old 07-16-2011, 01:59 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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I recall reading an article about the last person to be executed for cowardice (or was it deserrtion?) in the US army.

"The United States Army carried out 141 executions over a three year period from 1942 to 1945, and a further six executions were conducted during the postwar period, for a known total of 147. ... With the exception of Eddie Slovik, who was shot for desertion, all of these soldiers were executed for murder and/or rape."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Slovik
Quote:
Edward Donald Slovik (February 18, 1920 – January 31, 1945) was a private in the United States Army during World War II and the only American soldier to be court-martialled and executed for desertion since the American Civil War.
So they can but rarely do use the death penalty.
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  #17  
Old 07-16-2011, 02:51 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
By the letter of the [code], said soldier should be arrested and sent to court martial.

In a practical sense, wouldn't the sergeant just shoot him on the spot or have I just seen too many old war movies?
That's highly unlikely to happen in a modern military. AFAIK summary exectutions haven't been done in the US Army since the Civil War if not earlier. They didn happen in the Soviet & German armies during WWII. A US Army seargeant or LT who did that would likely end up being court-maritaled for murder unless there were some very, very, extenuating circumstances (like it was the only way to stop the soldier from giving away their postition or said solider was trying to kill his comrades or civilians). Even then the sergeant would be facing all manner of inquiries.
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  #18  
Old 07-16-2011, 07:12 PM
IMfez IMfez is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaboi867 View Post
That's highly unlikely to happen in a modern military. AFAIK summary exectutions haven't been done in the US Army since the Civil War if not earlier. They didn happen in the Soviet & German armies during WWII. A US Army seargeant or LT who did that would likely end up being court-maritaled for murder unless there were some very, very, extenuating circumstances (like it was the only way to stop the soldier from giving away their postition or said solider was trying to kill his comrades or civilians). Even then the sergeant would be facing all manner of inquiries.
Seems like a lot of paperwork to do during a combat scenario. Do they really have time for formal procedures even in these situations?
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  #19  
Old 07-16-2011, 08:10 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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During the Vietnam war, apparently the opposite of many of these responses happened. There were a large number of incidents, possibly more than a thousand according to Wiki, in which an officer was killed by his own soldiers presumably for issuing too many, er, unpopular orders.

I recall a documentary -- maybe Charlie Company? -- when a new lieutenant ordered his men to march down a road to a new location, and a substantial number of the men refused. They were veterans and had been taught by their previous lieutenant never to walk on roads because that's where the booby traps and ambushes were set. And they didn't want to get blown to pieces because some new clown gave dangerous orders without understanding their implications.

It was eventually talked out and they went on their way because the new officer showed some common sense and listened to reason. I suspect not all of them did.

Remember Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now? IMO, he would have been a serious candidate for fragging.

Last edited by Boyo Jim; 07-16-2011 at 08:12 PM..
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  #20  
Old 07-16-2011, 08:17 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IMfez View Post
Seems like a lot of paperwork to do during a combat scenario. Do they really have time for formal procedures even in these situations?
There's a lot more time for paperwork than you might think, especially in the asymmetrical conflicts of the last decades.
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  #21  
Old 07-17-2011, 04:44 AM
Chickenwrangler Chickenwrangler is offline
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(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;

Does that mean a soldier in a hopeless situation would be subject to court martial if he surrenderd?

I'm thinking of ragged half staved guys emerging from the rubble as the victorious enemy approaches waving ragged white flags, surely surrender is the only option logical option.
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  #22  
Old 07-17-2011, 06:00 AM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chickenwrangler View Post
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;

Does that mean a soldier in a hopeless situation would be subject to court martial if he surrenderd?

I'm thinking of ragged half staved guys emerging from the rubble as the victorious enemy approaches waving ragged white flags, surely surrender is the only option logical option.
Official doctrine of the U.S. military is it is never acceptable to surrender your command.
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  #23  
Old 07-17-2011, 06:08 AM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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From the U.S. military Code of Conduct (a Presidential Executive Order applying to the military):

Quote:
Code of Conduct for Members of the United States Armed Forces

I. I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
[Article I amended by EO 12633 of Mar. 28, 1988, 53 FR 10355, 3 CFR, 1988 Comp., p. 561]

II. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
[Article II amended by EO 12633 of Mar. 28, 1988, 53 FR 10355, 3 CFR, 1988 Comp., p. 561]

III. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

IV. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

V. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
[Article V amended by EO 12017 of Nov. 3, 1977, 42 FR 57941, 3 CFR, 1977 Comp., p. 152]

VI. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
Individual soldiers would not be held in low regard for surrendering to the enemy, no one wants to second guess whether or not they truly had the ability to continue resisting at the moment. Even officers in hopeless situations have often received some degree of criticism for surrendering their command.

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 07-17-2011 at 06:11 AM..
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  #24  
Old 07-17-2011, 09:29 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chickenwrangler View Post
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;

Does that mean a soldier in a hopeless situation would be subject to court martial if he surrenderd?

I'm thinking of ragged half staved guys emerging from the rubble as the victorious enemy approaches waving ragged white flags, surely surrender is the only option logical option.
"Surrender" is here a transitive verb, running in parallel with "abandon": and "deliver up." The clause prohibits any giving over to the enemy of any persons, places, or things that the soldier in question has a duty to defend. It does not say one may never surrender, or may never retreat (that was, of course, Hitler's stupid doctrine). It instead places the onus of duty on the soldier, requiring him to gauge accurately whether he has a duty to defend a given place. The metaphorical expression "Choose your battles wisely; decide whether this is the hill you wish to die defending" has a literal meaning as well.
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  #25  
Old 07-17-2011, 05:21 PM
brocks brocks is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Hyde View Post
Individual soldiers would not be held in low regard for surrendering to the enemy, no one wants to second guess whether or not they truly had the ability to continue resisting at the moment. Even officers in hopeless situations have often received some degree of criticism for surrendering their command.
It may be of historical interest to note that Gen Jonathan Wainwright, who surrendered his command to the Japanese at Corregidor, was given a promotion, a ticker-tape parade, and the Medal of Honor after being released from Japanese captivity. At the time he surrendered, his men had not lost the ability to resist, although it clearly would have taken rescue from outside to save them.

I am not implying any criticism of his actions, or the decision to reward them.

Last edited by brocks; 07-17-2011 at 05:26 PM..
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