In 1834, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., a Harvard student and young gentleman, enlisted in the merchant service in Boston and sailed to California and back in a voyage recounted in the classic Two Years Before the Mast. In a late chapter, describing the process of cleaning out the crew’s quarters (and the crew themselves) after the long voyage back around the Horn, Dana wrote:

As the sun came up clear, with the promise of a fair, warm day, and, as usual on Sunday, there was no work going on, all hands turned-to upon clearing out the forecastle. The wet and soiled clothes which had accumulated there during the past month were brought up on deck; the chests moved; brooms, buckets of water, swabs, scrubbing brushes, and scrapers carried down, and applied, until the forecastle floor was as white as chalk, and everything neat and in order. The bedding from the berths was then spread on deck, and dried, and aired; the deck tub filled with water; and a grand washing begun of all the clothes which were brought up. Shirts, frocks, drawers, trowsers, jackets, stockings, of every shape and color, wet and dirty – many of them mouldy from having been lying a long time wet in a foul corner – these were all washed and scrubbed out, and finally towed overboard for half an hour; and then made fast in the rigging to dry. Wet boots and shoes were spread out to dry in sunny places on deck; and the whole ship looked like a backyard on washing day. After we had done with our clothes, we began upon our own persons. A little fresh water, which we had saved from our allowance, was put in buckets, and, with soap and towels, we had what sailors call a fresh-water wash. The same bucket, to be sure, had to go through several hands, and was spoken for by one after another, but as we rinsed off in salt water, pure from the ocean, and the fresh was used only to start the accumulated grime and blackness of five weeks, it was held of little consequence. We soaped down and scrubbed one another with towels and pieces of canvas, stripping to it; and then, getting into the head, threw buckets of water upon each other. After this, came shaving, and combing, and brushing; and when, having spent the first part of the day in this way, we sat down on the forecastle, in the afternoon, with clean duck trowsers, and shirts on, washed, shaved, and combed, and looking a dozen shades lighter for it, reading, sewing, and talking at our ease, with a clear sky and warm sun over our heads, a steady breeze over the larboard quarter, studding sails out alow and aloft, and all the flying kites abroad; we felt that we had got back into the pleasantest part of a sailors life.

Now, perhaps in a similar mindset, the Navy and the Marine Corps have published the results of every special and general court-martial this calendar year. The Navy list is here, and the Marine Corps list is here.

10 Responses to “The Department of the Navy airs its dirty laundry”

  1. some TC says:

    It’s a little disingenuous that this list doesn’t mention PTA caps or clemency, given that one of the reasons for these lists is likely to show the public how service members are being held accountable.
    This doesn’t seem to be any different than the good order and discipline notices that used to be sent out–are those still done?

  2. Jason Grover says:

    I would think these are really useful in PTA negotiations; it nice to show what these sort of cases are going for. I just did a quick read, but my favorite was the O-3 convicted of dereliction of duty who received no punishment.

  3. Donna Wright says:

    Well at least they are posting the acquittals as well as convictions, something the lists in the local Army installation newspapers never include.  

  4. Brian LC says:

    Is this list complete?  My rough count:
    -Navy tried only 49 GCMs so far this year?
    -About 50% were guilty pleas (ie about 4 contests a month?)
    – Only 10% of Article 120 offenses were guilty pleas (ie not including child porn or non forcible sodomy)
    -About a 50% conviction rate on Article 120 offenses
    – if you count only the offenses that we seem to be getting scrutiny on (ie exclude child offenses, and the now defunct indecent act), the conviction rate for adult offenses was 25%.
    Not going to look at the USMC…too many…

  5. k fischer says:

    “Good order and discipline shan’t be enforced through adverts of acquittals; rather, it shall be enforced through adverts of swift and stiff punishment.”  Field Marshal Laird J. Hamilton, Royal Marines  

  6. stewie says:

    Too bad “shan’t” went away as a word…it’s catchy.

  7. paleo says:

    If they want to air dirty laundry they need to publish IG investigations – every bit, not the official drivel they claim as responses and conclusions. It’ll expose the poor command practices and the poor IG investigatory ethics as they invent new ways to polish the turd that is poor leadership.

  8. Phil Cave says:

    At least one on the list is somewhat inaccurate.

  9. Michael Lowrey says:

    Some very basic statistics:
    Marine courts martial handed out 2 officer dismissals and 36 dishonorable discharges in the first half of the year. 28 of the DDs involved a child porn charge and/or some form of what the general public would call a “sexual assault” (rape, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual contact, indecent conduct, indecent liberties, commission of a lewd act upon a child etc.) The other 10 cases:
    O-3, fraud against the government, 328 days confinement
    O-2, orders violation, conduct unbecoming, and adultery, (just the dismissal)
    E-4, orders violation, adultery, procuring a prostitute, and communicating a threat, 30 months confinement
    E-3, murder, life
    E-7, conspiracy, possession of machine guns, transfer of machine guns, and selling military property of a value of more than $500, 3 years confinement
    E-5, wrongfully selling military property and larceny, 2 years confinement
    E-6, orders violation, false official statement, larceny, fraudulent claim, and conspiracy, 2 years confinement, $100,000 fine
    E-3, larceny, use of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, orders violations, and unauthorized absence, 102 months confinement
    E-5, wrongful distribution and use of a controlled substance, and introduction of a controlled substance onto a military installation, 20 months confinement
    E-3, attempting to steal military property, selling military property, receiving stolen property, and larceny, 6 years confinement and a fine of $4,750

  10. Michael Lowrey says:

    Navy courts martial handed out 3 officer dismissals and 11 dishonorable discharges in the first half of the year. All three dismissals and 8 of the 11 of the DDs involved a child porn charge and/or some form of what the general public would call a “sexual assault” (rape, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual contact, indecent conduct, indecent liberties, commission of a lewd act upon a child etc.) The other 3 cases:
    E-5, fraud against the government and false official statement, 60 days confinement
    E-6, sale of military property and larceny, 17 months confinement
    E-5, conspiracy to enter into an unlawful marriage and larceny of non-military property with a value of more than $500, 1 year confinement, $20,000 fine