The Depot

Military Separation Codes

Any individual who has served on active duty since 1950 knows the DD Form 214. It is the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and it is issued upon a service member’s retirement, separation or discharge from active duty. The 214 captures the most important components of a military member’s service to include training, awards and decorations, periods of overseas service, reenlistment eligibility and character of service.

In addition, the reason why a person left active duty is also included on the 214, but it is coded in such a way that the average service member or civilian will not know what the codes mean. These military separation codes are located on the 214 and are used to categorize a veteran’s separation from the active-duty military. There are literally hundreds of military separation codes and mostly they are used by various government agencies to help administer benefits; like the Department of Veterans Affairs which can use the codes to provide medical, educational or home loan lending benefits.

There was a time when military separation codes were used by employers for screening prospective employees. Today, the Department of Defense no longer allows the services to define the codes. Military separation codes, are also known as SPN Codes, Spin Codes, Discharge Codes, Separation Codes, Separation Program Designator (SPD Codes) and Separation Program Numbers (SPN numbers). Usually, the military separation code is found in Box 26 of the 214 long form.

Remember, the U.S. military no longer releases the definition of these military separation codes. The military separation codes listed here were collected from various public sources. It is possible that some of these codes have changed and/or that new ones have been added.

The bottom line is that these military separation codes listed below are used for informational purposes only. Use them at your own risk understanding that you must verify any military separation code with a proper DD Form 214 issuing authority. Meaning, if you discover a military separation code that doesn’t seem right, you should reach out to the organization that issued the 214 and inquire about how to change the military separation codes that appear on the 214.

Lastly, don’t panic if you find a military separation code that is incorrect on your military records or on the records of a loved one. With some effort and a lot of patience, military records, to include 214s with incorrect military separation codes, can be corrected if the wrong military separation code is included on a 214.

Veterans service organizations can assist you in correcting erroneous military separation codes and your elected representative can also assist you in correcting any military separation codes you might not agree with, but remember, the key is that you must have proof that it is incorrect and you must be prepared to show cause that the military separation code needs correction.

For millions of veterans, however, the military separation codes are accurate and reflect the correct reasons why they were separated from active duty.

Military Separation Codes

B70 - Death, Battle Casualty - Navy

B79 - Death, Battle Casualty - Navy

BDK - Security reason

BFS - Good of the Service, conduct triable by court-martial

BHJ - Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

BHK - Unsuitability, substandard performance

BLF - Drug use

BLM - Unfitness (Reason Unknown)

BMN - Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

BNC - Misconduct, Misconduct, moral or professional dereliction
or in interests of national security

BRB - See JRB, BKC

BRC - See JRC, BKC

CBL - Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

DCH - Early Release - To teach

DER - Disability - Non-EPTS - No Severance Pay

DFS - Good of the Service, conduct triable by court-martial

EKD - AWOL, Desertion

ELPAC - Entry Level Performance & Conduct

FBC - Other

FBK - Expiration of Term of Service

FBL - Expiration of Term of Service

FCM - Conscientious Objector

FDF - Pregnancy

FDG - Parenthood

FDL - See JDL

FFT - Physical standards, no disability

FGM - To accept commission

FHC - In lieu of discharge

FHG - Serving under suspended sentence to dismissal

FKD - AWOL, Desertion

FND - Miscellaneous reasons (Unqualified resignation)

GDK - Security reason

GFN - Released for Conditions Existing Prior to Service

GFT - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

GFV - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

GHF - Other

GHJ - Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

GHK - Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

GJB - Court Martial

GKA - Discreditable Incidents - Civilian or Military

GKB - Civil Court conviction

GKD - AWOL, Desertion

GKE - Financial Irresponsibility

GKG - Fraudulent Entry

GKH - Lack of Dependent Support

GKK - Drug use

GKL - Sexual Perversion

GKQ - No listing at this time. However, all GK - Series appears ineligible for re-enlistment.

GKS - AWOL, Desertion

GLB - Discreditable Incidents - Civilian or Military

GLF - Drug use

GLG - Financial Irresponsibility

GLH - Lack of Dependent Support

GLJ - Shirking

GLK - Unsanitary Habits

GLL - Sexual Perversion

GMB - Character or Behavior Disorder

GMC - Enuresis

GMD - Ineptitude

GMF - Sexual Perversion

GMG - Alcoholism

GMH - Financial Irresponsibility

GMJ - Motivational problems

GMJ - Shirking

GMK - Character or Behavior Disorder

GMM - Drug use

GMN - Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

GMP - Unsanitary Habits

GNC - Misconduct (Reason Unknown)

GPB - Drug use

H21 - H23 - Death-, Non - Battle, Other (USMC)

H25 - H59 - Death, Non - Battle, Other (USMC)

H31 - Death, Non - Battle, Other (USMC)

H4G - Death, Non - Battle, Other (USMC)

H51 - Death, Non - Battle, Other (USMC)

H61 - 1169 - Death, Battle Casualty - Marine

HBF - Early Release - To attend school

HCR - No listing at this time.

HDF - Pregnancy

HDK - Security reason

HFT - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

HFV - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

HGH - [No definition for this code at this time]

HHJ - Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

HJB - Court Martial

HKA - Discreditable Incidents - Civilian or Military

JDP - Breach of Contract

JDR - Early Release - Other

JDR - Strength reduction. first term airman, USAF

JDT - USN, USMC, Failure to meet minimum qualifications for Retention

JED - Early Release - Insufficient Retainability

JEH - USAF Expeditious Discharge

JEM - Army Trainee Discharge

JEM - USAF Expeditious Discharge

JEM - USN, USMC Failure to meet minimum qualifications for Retention

JET - Army Trainee Discharge

JET - USAF Trainee Discharge (See also JGA)

JFA - No description at this time.

JFB - Minority, Underage

JFBI - Physical disability that existed prior to entry. was revealed by Marine during enlistment processing and was waived by AFEES or higher headquarters, USMC

JFC - Enlisted/reenlisted/extended/inducted in error/ Erroneous Enlistment or Induction

JFC1 - Erroneous enlistment; a medical board determined that Marine failed to meet required physical standards for enlistment. Marine was not aware of defect and defect was not detected or waived by AFEES, USMC

JFF - Secretarial Authority

JFG (1 - 7) - USMC Other, for the Good of the Service

JFG (9) - USMC Trainee Discharge

JFG (B) - USMC Expeditious Discharge

JFG - Army, Navy, USAF Discharge by competent authority w/o Board Action. (Failure to resign - failed to meet
entrance physical requirement)

JFL - Physical Disability - Severance Pay or Juvenile Offender

JFL - Physical disability. entitled to severance pay., USN - Officers

JFL1 - Physical disability with severance pay, USAF

JFL2 - Physical disability that existed prior to service but was aggravated by the Service, with severance pay, USAF

JFM - Physical disability existing prior to entry on active duty established by physical evaluation board proceedings. Not entitled to severance pay., USN - Enlisted

JFM - Physical disability existing prior to service as established by physical evaluation board. Not entitled to severance pay., USN Officers

JFM - Released for Conditions Existing Prior to Service

JFM2 - Physical disability that existed prior to entry. disability was unknown by Marine but was detected and waived by AFEES or higher headquarters, USMC

JFM3 - Physical disability that existed prior to entry for any reason not falling within the purview of JFM1 or JFM2, USMC

JFN - Physical disability existing prior to service as established by medical board. not entitled to severance pay., USN - Officers

JFN - Released for Conditions Existing Prior to Service

JFN1 - Physical disability determined by a medical board that existed prior to entry. disability was revealed by Marine during enlistment processing and waived by AFEES or higher headquarters, USMC

JFN2 - Physical disability determined by a medical board that existed prior to entry. disability was unknown to Marine but detected and waived by AFELS or higher headquarters, USMC

JFN3 - Physical disability determined by a medical board that existed prior to entry; any reason not falling within the purview of JFN1 or JFN2, USMC

JFP - Misconduct (Reason Unknown) or Disability not in the line of duty

JFR - Disability - Non-EPTS - No Severance Pay

JFR - Physical disability not existing prior to entry on active duty established by physical evaluation board processing. Not entitled to severance pay., USN - Enlisted

JFR1 - Physical disability that existed prior to service and not aggravated by the Service, without severance pay, USMC

JFS - See KFS

JFT - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

JFU - Positive Urinalysis

JFV - Physical condition, not a disability, interfering with performance of duty, USN - Enlisted

JFV1 - Discharge because of a physical condition which is not disabling. Involuntary, USMC

JFV5 - Medical board determination of obesity, USMC

JFV6 - Discharge because of a physical condition which is not disabling (Pseudofolliculitis Barbae), USMC

JFX - Personality disorder (See also JMB)

JFW - Erroneous enlistment; Medical condition disqualifying for military service, with no medical waiver approved.

JG7 - Army, Navy, USMC Failure to meet minimum qualifications for Retention

JG7 - USAF Trainee Discharge

JGA - Entry level status performance and conduct or entry level status performance - pregnancy

JGB - Failure of selection for permanent promotion

JGB - Failure to select for promotion. not retirement eligible, USN - Officers

JGC - Failure to select for promotion. not retirement eligible, USN - Officers

JGC1 - Failure of selection for promotion, USAF

JGF - Failure to meet minimum qualifications for Retention

JGH - Army, Air Force Expeditious Discharge

JGH - USN, USMC Failure to meet minimum qualifications for Retention

JHD - Disqualified from officer candidate training physical, USN - Enlisted

JHD - Navy Expeditious Discharge

JHD - Other

JHE - Failure to meet minimum qualifications for Retention

JHF - Failed to meet course standards

JHJ - Army, USMC, USAF Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)/ Unsatisfactory performance

JHK - Unsuitability, substandard performance

JHM - Misconduct (Reason Unknown)

JIV - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

JJB - Court Martial

JJC - Court Martial, Desertion

JJD - Court Martial, Other

JKA - Discreditable Incidents - Civilian or Military

JKB - Civil Court conviction

JKD - AWOL, Desertion

JKE - Financial Irresponsibility

JKF - Army, Navy Air Force AWOL, Desertion

JKG - Fraudulent Entry

JKH - Lack of Dependent Support

JKK - Character or Behavior Disorder (see also JPC)

JKK - Drug use

JLK - Unsanitary Habits

JLL - Sexual Perversion

JMB - Character or Behavior Disorder

JMC - Enuresis

JMD - Inaptitude

JMF - Sexual Perversion

JMG - Alcoholism

JMH - Financial Irresponsibility

JMJ - Motivational problems

JMM - Drug use

JMN - Navy, USMC, USAF Unsuitability (Reason Unknown)

JMP - Unsanitary Habits

JNC - Misconduct, moral or professional dereliction

JND - Other, Concealment of arrest record

JNG - Unfitness (Reason Unknown)

JPB - Drug use

JPC - Drug abuse rehabilitative failure

JPD - Alcohol abuse rehabilitative failure

JRA - Engaged, attempted to engage or solicit another to engage in a homosexual act

JRB - Admission of Homosexuality or bisexuality

JRC - Marriage or attempted marriage to a person known to be of the same biological sex

KAK - Expiration of Term of Service

KBD - Retirement - 20 - 30 Years Service

KBH - Other

KBJ - Other

KBK - Normal expiration of Service

KBM - Early Release - Precluded from attaining eligibility for retirement with pay

KCC - Early Release - Other

KCE - Early Release - To attend school

KCF - Early Release - To attend school

KCK - Early Release - In the national interest

KCM - Conscientious Objector

KCO - Sole surviving son

KCP - Other

KCQ - See MCQ

KDB - Dependency or Hardship

KDF - Pregnancy

KDG - Parenthood

KDH - Dependency or Hardship

KDJ - Early Release - In the national interest

KDK - Security program

KDM - Early Release - Other

KDM1 - Marine Corps order applicable to all members of a class, USMC

KDN - Other

KDP - Breach of Contract

KDQ - Breach of Contract

KDR - Early Release - Other

KDS - Breach of Contract

KEA - Expiration of Term of Service

KEB - Early Release - Other -

KEC - Expiration of Term of Service

KFB - Minority

KFF - Secretarial Authority, to be discharged or retire as an officer

KFG - Other

KFN - Released for Physical disability Existing Prior to Service

KFS - Good of the Service, in lieu of court-martial

KFT - Failure to qualify medically for flight training, no disability

KFV - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

KGF - Failure to meet minimum qualifications for Retention

KGH - No information on this code at this time.

KGL - Officer or Warrant Officer Commission program

KGM - Officer Commission program

KGN - Officer Warrant Officer Commission program in another service

KGS - Officer Commission program

KGT - Warrant Officer program

KGU - Service Academy

KGX - Officer Commission program

KHC - Immediate reenlistment

KHD - Other

KHF - Other

KHK - Substandard performance

KLG - Financial Irresponsibility

KLM - Unfitness (Reason Unknown)

KMN - Army Expeditious Discharge

KND - No definition on this code at this time

KNF - Other

KNL - Good of the Service

KOG - Early Release - Police Duty

KOJ - Early Release - Seasonal Employment

L68 - Involuntary release: non-selection for Indefinite Reserve status, USAF

LBB - Involuntary release maximum age, USN - Officers

LBB - Maximum age

LBC - Involuntary release completion of maximum period service according to grade, USN - Officers

LBC - Maximum service

LBH - Early Release - Insufficient Retainability

LBK - Expiration of Term of Service

LBK - Involuntary discharge at end active obligated service, USN - Enlisted

LBM - Navy, USMC, USAF Short length of time remaining after return from overseas or other duty

LBM - Within 3 months of end active obligated service, USN - Enlisted

LCC - Early Release - Reduction in authorized strength

LCC - General demobilization. reduction in force, USN - Enlisted

LDG - Inability to perform prescribed duties due to parenthood

LDK - Security reason

LDL - See JDL

LDM - Strength adjustment, USN - Officers

LDN - Early Release - Lack of jurisdiction (other than void enlistment)

LDP - Breach of Contract

LDP6 - Nonfulfillment of service contract. the convenience of the government, with breach of contract payment, USAF

LDP7 - Nonfulfillment of service contract, with breach of contract and readjustment payment, USAF

LDP8 - Nonfulfillment of service contract. failure of selection for promotion, with breach of contract payment, USAF

LDP9 - Nonfulfillment of service contract. request for an extension of active duty disapproved, with breach of contract and readjustment payment, USAF

LDPA - Nonfulfillment of service contract. failure of selection for promotion, with breach of contract and readjustment payment, USAF

LDPB - Nonfulfillment of service contract. the convenience of the government, with readjustment payment, USAF

LDPC - Nonfulfillment of service contract, with readjustment payment, USAF

LDPD - Nonfulfillment of service contract. termination of extended active duty, with breach of contract payment, USAF

LDR - Early Release - Other

LED - CONUS-based airman lacks retainability for assignment, USAF

LED - Early Release - Insufficient Retainability

LET - Entry level status performance and conduct or pregnancy

LFC - Erroneous entry

LFF - Directed by service authority

LFG - Other

LFN - Physical disability existing prior to service as established by medical board. not entitled to severance pay., USN - Officers

LFR - Revert to inactive status. Retire age 60. No disability severance pay, USAF

LFT - Erroneous Enlistment or Induction or Unqualified for Active Duty - Medical

LGA - See LET

LGB - Failure of selection for permanent promotion

LGB - Failure of selection for permanent reserve promotion, USN - Officers

LGB - Involuntary release. Failed permanent promotion or removed from list, USAF

LGC - Failure of selection for temporary promotion

LGC - Involuntary release: twice failed temporary promotion, USAF

LGH - Failure to meet minimum standards of service

LGJ - Early Release - Disapproval of request for extension of service

LGJ - Involuntary release: disapproved request for extension of tour, USAF

LGJ - Request for extension of active duty denied (USNR), USN - Officers

LGJ1 - Request for extension of service denied upon initial EAS without readjustment pay/not selected for retention, USAF

LGJ2 - Request for extension of service denied upon extended EAS without readjustment pay/not selected for retention, USAF

LHD - Other

LHF - Navy, USMC, USAF Other

LHH - Service under sentence to dismissal awaiting appellate review

LHJ - Unsatisfactory performance

LIF - Secretarial Authority

LLM - Army Trainee Discharge

LMJ - See LHJ

LND - Miscellaneous reasons (medical service personnel who receive unfavorable background investigation or National Agency check

LNF - Army Trainee Discharge

MBD - Hardship

MBH - Early Release - Insufficient Retainability

MBK - Completion of active-duty service commitment

MBK - Expiration of Term of Service

MBN - (ANGUS) (USAFR) Release from active duty 

MBN - Expiration of Term of Service

MCF - To attend an educational facility

MCK - Early Release - In the national interest

MCQ - Sole surviving son, daughter or family member

MDB - Hardship

MDF - Pregnancy

MDG - Parenthood

MDH - Dependency or Hardship

MDJ - National interest

MDL - Early Release - To attend school

MDM - Early Release - Other

MDN - Other

MDP - Breach of Contract

MDR - Early Release - Other

MDS - Breach of Contract

MEB - Early Release - Other

MEC - Completed extended enlistment, USAF

MEC - Erroneous Enlistment or Induction

MEC - Expiration of Term of Service

MFA - Expiration of Term of Service

MFF - Secretarial Authority

MFG - Other

MGC - Early Release - Other

MGH - Warrant Officer program

MGJ - Early Release - Other

MGM - To accept commission

MGO - Early Release - Police Duty or Seasonal Employment

MGP - Interdepartmental transfer

MGR - Revert to Regular Army warrant officer status

MGU - To enter Service Academy

MGX - Officer Commission program

MHC - Immediate enlistment

MND - Miscellaneous reasons (in lieu of serving in lower grade than Reserve grade or by request - includes MC and DC officers) or in lieu of unqualified resignation

MNF - Other

MOD - Sole surviving son

MOJ - Early Release - In the national interest

NBD - Retirement - 20 - 30 Years Service

NDB - Dependency or Hardship

NDH - Early Release - To teach

NEF - Secretarial Authority

NET - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

NVC - Erroneous Enlistment or Induction

PGU - Service Academy

RB - Retirement - Over 30 Years Service

RBB - Retirement - Other

RBD - Retirement - 20 - 30 Years Service

RFJ - Permanent Disability - Retired

RFJ1 - Permanent disability retired list, USAF

RFK - Temporary Disability - Retired

RFK1 - Temporary disability retired list, USAF

SBB - Attain maximum age. mandatory retirement, USN - Officers

SBB - Mandatory retirement on established date, maximum age, USAF

SBC - Attain maximum time in grade/service. mandatory retirement, USN - Officers

SBC - Mandatory retirement on established date. maximum years of service, USAF

SBD - Retirement - 20 - 30 Years Service

SFE - Placed on temporary disability retired list, USN - Officers

SFJ - Permanent Disability - Retired

SFJ - Permanent disability retirement, USAF

SFJ - Permanent disability, USN - Enlisted

SFJ - Permanent disability, USN - Officers

SFK - Place on temporary disability retired list, USAF

SFK - Placed on temporary disability retired list, USN - Enlisted

SFK - Temporary Disability - Retired

SGB - Failure of selection for promotion, permanent, USN - Officers

SGB - Retired on established date non-selection permanent promotion or retained for retirement non-selection permanent promotion, USAF

SGC - Failure of selection for promotion, temporary, USN - Officers

SKU - No definition at this time

TCC - See LCC

VFJ - Permanent Disability - Retired

VFJ - Revert to retired list with permanent disability, USAF

VFK - Revert to retired list and placed on temporary disability retired list, USAF

VFK - Temporary Disability - Retired

VNF - Other

WFK - Temporary Disability - Retired

XBK - Retirement - Other

XDM - Early Release - Other

XET - Unqualified for Active Duty - Other

XND - Other

XOH - Dependency or Hardship

XOP - Breach of Contract

XOS - Retirement - Other

YBK - Retirement - Other

YKG - Fraudulent Entry

YND - Other

45th Infantry Division: Who Were They?

Early Beginnings
In 1924, the 45th Infantry Division was formed from Army National Guard units from around the southwestern United States to include Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The unit was mainly inactive until it was mobilized for active duty in World War II in 1940.

They were nicknamed the "Thunderbird" division because the division’s insignia was a gold thunderbird on a red square. The thunderbird is a symbol of southwestern Native Americans meaning sacred bearer of unlimited happiness. The colors, red and gold, and the four sides of the patch, represent the four states which were originally settled by Spain.

The original 45th Infantry Division insignia was, ironically enough, the swastika until 1933. As the Nazis took control in Germany, the swastika insignia was dropped and eventually it was replaced by the thunderbird symbol in 1939. The swastika, before it was bastardized by the Nazis, was a symbol of harmony and happiness found in the native cultures of the western United States.

Deployment to WWII
The 45th Infantry Division was sent to North Africa in 1943. In July 1943, the 45th Infantry Division landed in Sicily and fought across Italy, landing in Anzio in the summer of 1944, fighting its way up to southern France. By the end of 1944, the 45th Infantry Division had reached the German border and in March 1945, the 45th Infantry Division crossed the Rhine River and in April captured two key German cities.

In April 1945, the 45th Infantry Division was one of three U.S. Army units sent to liberate the Dachau concentration camp. Upon arrival, the Thunderbird division discovered more than 30,0000 prisoners in the camp and thousands dead or dying. On a train at the camp, consisting of approximately 50 train boxcars, roughly 100 prisoners were jammed into each boxcar. The majority of those in the boxcars were dead.

45th Infantry Division officers reported later that they discovered crematoriums, a gas chamber and holding cells with corpses piled to the ceiling. The 45th Infantry Division would later be recognized as a liberating unit by the Army’s Center of Military History.

Although battle-hardened, many of the 45th Infantry Division’s soldiers were traumatized by what they saw at Dachau and some were accused of war crimes because they executed Nazi prison guards at the camp. A few of the soldiers from the 45th Infantry Division were so overcome by the atrocities they witnessed while liberating the camp that they could not restrain themselves. The the killings were known as the Dachau reprisals. There were court martials and convictions, including some proceedings for executions conducted against Italian military personnel prior to the arrival of the 45th Infantry Division at Dachau.

More than 124,000 Axis soldiers were taken prisoners by the 45th Infantry Division according to the U.S. Army. In all, the 45th Infantry Division spent more than 500 days in combat in World War II. Over the course of WWII, the 45th Infantry Division had 1,510 soldiers killed in action, 7,246 wounded in action, 1,436 missing in action, 266 were captured, and nine Medals of Honor, 61 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,848 Silver Stars and 5,744 Bronze Star Medals were awarded to soldiers of the 45th Infantry Division during its WWII service. The 45th Infantry Division also earned eight campaign streamers.

Inactivation and Deployment to Korea
In December 1945, the 45th Infantry Division was inactivated and months later in 1946, the unit was reconstituted as an Army National Guard unit. At this time, the unit was solely comprised of units from Oklahoma and it became a part of the Oklahoma National Guard.

In September 1950, with rising tensions in Korea, the 45th Infantry Division was activated and in December 1951, the 45th Infantry Division was sent to Korea and to the frontlines. During the Korean War the 45th Infantry Division suffered 4,004 casualties; 834 killed in action and 3,170 wounded in action. The division was awarded four campaign streamers and one solider earned the Medal of Honor.

45th Infantry Brigade
In 1968, the 45th Infantry Brigade was formed from existing elements of the 45th Infantry Division and assigned training duties for active-duty army units until 1994 when the 45th was selected as a separate enhanced infantry brigade. In 1999, the brigade deployed two companies as part of the UN peacekeeping force to Bosnia and in 2003, units from the 45th deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, 45th units pushed through Baghdad. Later that year, the 45th deployed to Afghanistan to train soldiers of the Afghan National Army. In 2007, the brigade deployed again to Iraq to assist in handing over U.S. bases to Iraqi forces. In 2011, the brigade deployed once again to Afghanistan and it performed full-spectrum operations for the first time since the 1950s when it was a division.

The 45th Infantry Brigade is a part of the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

Marines vs Navy: Which Military Branch is Better?

Marines vs Navy: Which Military Branch is Better?

If you’re reading this, odds are you likely typed into an internet search engine something like “Marines vs Navy” or “Marines vs Navy: Which military branch is better?” The answer to this question is very subjective in nature.

The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps are very unique branches of service and while they both involve maritime service and both are separate branches of the military, they are both a part of the Department of the Navy. Naturally, those who have served in the Corps and those who have served in the Navy will have differing opinions as to which branch is better in the Marines vs Navy argument.

The truth is, there is no right answer in a Marines vs Navy comparison. If you’re considering joining the Navy or Marine Corps, you should do your homework to determine which branch is best for you. That means understanding what you want to get out of military service and sitting down with recruiters to see which branch of service, Marines vs Navy, has the most to offer you and your personal goals. Asking a search engine to give you comparisons like Marines vs Navy won’t be productive and besides, do you really want to get advice from marketing writers who don’t know anything about you, the Navy or the Marine Corps?

That said, here is the Depot Blog’s top five differences, Marines vs Navy.

1. Basic Training
The Navy’s recruit training lasts about seven weeks and the Marine Corps lasts 13 weeks. It is widely known that the Marine Corps boot camp is one of the most physically, emotionally and spiritually challenging experiences a person can endure so if you’re the type of person who likes a challenge, the Marines have ample to offer, but the Navy is no slouch and offers plenty of rigorous training for their recruits and beyond. Heard of the Navy SEALs? The bottom line is, when it comes to training, which to choose, Marines vs Navy, depends on what an individual wants.

2. Duty
There is another key difference when comparing Marines vs Navy. Sailors, for the most part, spend time aboard ships. In fact, most sailors will spend a few years deploying on cruises to various parts of the world, depending on their missions and occupational skills, but they will also rotate and perform shore duty which stabilizes them on land for a few years.

Similarly, Marines can spend a lot of time aboard a Navy vessel. Much depends on their occupational specialty. However, like the Navy, the Marines can also be stabilized and perform their share of duty on land.

Both branches face a considerable amount of time deployed, but some might argue that duty in the Marine Corps is harder because the Marines have infantry and they tend to be the first responders of the American military. Again, much depends on what an individual wants. Someone who wants to be in the infantry will likely find sea duty deployed aboard a ship mundane and likewise, a seafaring sailor might find service in the infantry unappealing.

When it comes to comparing duty, Marines vs Navy, it’s really a toss-up based on what the individual wants.

3. Size Matters?
There are about 347,000 sailors in the U.S. Navy. By comparison, there are 186,000 in the Marine Corps. Marines vs Navy, there really isn’t much of a comparison, but just because the Navy is much larger than the Marine Corps does not necessarily mean that the Navy is a better place than the Marine Corps.

Now, it should be noted that a larger pool of people, like in the Navy, means that there are more opportunities for promotions and advancement, but that also means that there is more competition. Similarly, in the Marines, the pool of competition maybe smaller, but there are also fewer opportunities to promote. Some can argue that attaining the grade of E-9 in the Marines is a far greater achievement than earning E-9 in the Navy, but once again, this is subjective based on an individual’s personal and professional goals.

Leading an infantry battalion as a Marine Corps E-9 requires different skills than leading a nuclear submarine as a Navy E-9.

4. Culture
The Marine Corps has long prided itself on being an organization that is known as “The Few, The Proud.” The Navy uses “Forged by the Sea.” Both are very reflective of the cultures in each service branch, but once again, in this Marine vs Navy matchup, much depends on what you want to do with your life.

Not doubt, the Marine Corps is smaller and has some of the toughest training in the world of any military. Many Marine Corps veterans feel that earning their Eagle, Globe and Anchor was the hardest thing they’ve ever done and service in the Marine Corps was equally as hard for a branch that trains as it fights.

Along those lines, sea duty in the Navy requires a high level of commitment and fortitude. Sailors also endure long hours, months at sea and isolation from their families. It is hard to argue Marines vs Navy because once again, it is subjective. Some might consider being a part of a smaller, aggressive land and sea force a better cultural fit where others might consider being a part of a naval armada more suitable to their liking.

5. Uniforms
Informal surveys of military personnel, and even civilians, seems to show that the Marine Corps uniform has a place near and dear in the hearts of everyone. The dress blues from the Corps are easily recognizable (even to civilians) and they are a fan favorite, including other branches of service. They look sharp and while we would like to give some credit to those awesome Navy duds, the truth is that it is pretty hard to compete against those sharp-looking Marine Corps dress blues. The Corps wins here.

But let’s be honest, if you’re joining a branch of service because of their uniforms, then you likely have a lot of other questions you should be answering for yourself. If you are comparing the Marines vs Navy and trying to make up your mind about which branch to join based on the uniform that they wear, then you should likely revisit your motives for joining the Marines or the Navy. A uniform shouldn’t be the reason why you join a particular branch.

Think about your goals, your future plans and what branch of service can best serve you and which branch you can best serve. Marines vs Navy shouldn’t be on your mind. Think about what you want and who you are and the rest will take care of itself.

Marines Basic Training: Can You Make the Cut?

Talk to any recruit who has just enlisted and you likely will hear them say something like “I hope I make it through basic training.” Hearing that comment, the old adage comes to mind that says “Hope is not a plan,” and like anything in life, preparing for basic training is key to succeeding at basic training, especially if a recruit has enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and plans to attend the Marines basic training.

Marines basic training is a four-phase, 13-week transformation that takes civilians and turns them into United States Marines. It is well-known in the military ranks that Marines basic training is the toughest basic training out of all service branches.

So how can a recruit prepare for Marines basic training? We spoke with some Marine veterans and asked them to give us their top three recommendations on how to prepare for Marines basic training.

1. Learn what you can before you go.
There is a lot of information available on the internet about the Marine Corps. Recruits should learn military ranks, Marine Corps history, USMC Core Values, the phonetic alphabet, and the Code of Conduct. It’s also recommended that recruits study drill and ceremony before they leave for Marines basic training. The Marine Corp Hymn and the 11 General Orders of a Sentry should also be learned. All of this information will prepare a recruit for Marines basic training and most of it is available on official government sites.

2. Start physical training yesterday.
Marines basic training is a challenging physical test of endurance and strength. Most Marine veterans said that they had pain in muscles they did not know existed and all of them said that it is important for Marine recruits to start running as soon as possible. A Marine recruiter can likely offer a great running regimen to help better prepare recruits for Marines basic training. Remember to run for at least three miles.

While running is important, it is only part of the physical expectations that are expected of recruits at Marines basic training. Recruits should also practice rucking (hikes with a lot of weight in a backpack) for about 10 miles. Recruits should also perform a wide array of exercises like pull-ups, sit-ups, and push-ups to prepare for Marines basic training. If recruits have access to obstacle courses, it is recommended that they practice on them as obstacle courses are a part of Marines basic training. If a recruit doesn’t know how to swim, it is highly recommended to learn before leaving to Marines basic training.

3. Get in the right frame of mind.
Most Marine Corps veterans say that attitude is a large part of whether or not a person survives Marines basic training. It is important for recruits to understand that the drill instructors are not there to personally attack recruits (although it sure seems that way while you’re there, according to Marine veterans). Their mission is to train and transform a civilian into a Marine and while some of what they do might be perceived as personal, there are literally millions who have endured the same type of stress, survived and became U.S. Marines.

Recruits should try to compartmentalize things as they transpire and when mistakes are made, execute the incentive training (what civilians might call the “punishment”) and move on. Recruits in Marines basic training should avoid getting bogged down with a bad attitude.

That said, recruits should be as resilient as possible during training and focus on the tasks at hand, keeping emotion out of it. Understanding that the pain and tension is a part of the rite of passage will help recruits make it through Marines basic training.

Depending on where a Marine recruit enlists will determine where a recruit trains but the two locations are Recruit Training Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, and Recruit Training Depot, San Diego, California. If a recruit lives west of the Mississippi, they will likely go through Marines basic training in San Diego. If a recruit lives in the east they will go to Parris Island.

Regardless of location, all Marine recruits should prepare before they arrive. Remember, hope is not a plan. Prepare, cooperate and graduate.

The Navy's Official Account of Operation Red Wings

On June 28, 2005, U.S. Navy SEALs, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell were scouting Ahmad Shah, a terrorist who grew up in the mountains near where they were operating. The team was inserted deep behind enemy lines at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan in what was Operation Red Wings.

Using the assumed name Muhammad Ismail, Shah was the leader of a terrorist cell known to Afghans in the area as the “Mountain Tigers.” Shah and his group had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border, but he was not associated closely with Osama Bin Laden nor was he responsible for the deaths of 20 service personnel the week before Operation Red Wings as stated in the movie Lone Survivor.

The SEAL team involved in Operation Red Wings was compromised when the SEAL team, led by Murphy, was spotted by locals who presumably reported its presence and location to the Taliban. The terrorist group set out to find the SEAL team and made contact.

A firefight erupted between the four SEALs of Operation Red Wings and the enemy force. Based on the statements from Luttrell who was the lone survivor of the engagement and would write a book which was adapted into a movie starring Mark Wahlberg, the enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. Luttrell’s initial reports in his debriefs state that the enemy force was around 20 to 35 fighters. However, Luttrell’s book states that the numbers could have been as high as 200 fighters. The Navy’s official position is that 30 to 40 fighters engaged the SEAL team.

The enemy also had terrain advantage and the bad guys launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. The firefight continued relentlessly as the enemy militia forced the team deeper into a ravine, according to the U.S. Navy’s summary of action detailing the events of Operation Red Wings.

All of the SEAL team members of Operation Red Wings were wounded. They bounded down the mountain in an attempt to make it to safer ground. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, Dietz, responsible for the team’s communications, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base, but before he could, he was shot in the hand.

According to the Navy, despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy risked his own life to save the lives of his teammates in Operation Red Wings. Murphy was intent on making contact with their headquarters, but he realized it would be impossible in the extremely jagged and ravine-filled terrain his team was fighting in. With complete disregard for his own life, Murphy moved away from the protective rocks which provided him cover and he exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire by going into the open and onto ground that would enable him to transmit a call to get help for his men.

Murphy became a target for the enemy and as he was fired upon, he made contact with forces at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance for Operation Red Wings. Murphy provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point Murphy was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter, but he picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle, which is different than what was portrayed in the 2013 movie, Lone Survivor which has Murphy dying atop the ridge he ascended to in order to communicate with his headquarters.

The Navy’s summary of action of Operation Red Wings states that an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was dispatched as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters.

Per the U.S. Navy, the additional weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armored escort. According to officials, the rescue team for Operation Red Wings opted to directly enter the battle space without the protection of the attack helicopters in hopes of landing and assisting their comrades. As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, causing it to crash, killing all 16 men aboard.

The men of Operation Red Wings continued to fight, but by the end of the hours-long gunfight over the rough terrain, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz were killed, but an estimated 35 Taliban were also dead, according to the U.S. Navy.

Luttrell, the only surviving member of Operation Red Wings, stated he was blasted over a ridge by a grenade explosion and that he was knocked unconscious. Although badly injured, he later managed to escape, crawling seven miles for nearly a day. The movie depicts Luttrell fleeing the enemy by walking, but this is not true, according to Luttrell who evaded the enemy by crawling, despite having three cracked vertebrae, a bullet wound to the leg and shrapnel embedded in both legs, in addition to a long list of other injuries.

Afghans eventually came to the aid of Luttrell, the lone survivor of Operation Red Wings, and according to the Navy’s summary of action on this battle, they helped him to a nearby village where for several days he was cared for. The Taliban came to the village and demanded that Luttrell be turned over to them, but the villagers refused. It should be noted that there was no battle in the village between villagers and the enemy forces as depicted in the movie, Lone Survivor. The Taliban did come in and beat Luttrell when they tried to interrogate him, but village elders chased away the enemy militias. This is also what Luttrell stated happened in his book. The added drama at the movie’s end of a fierce fight in the village where Luttrell gets shot again, is almost beheaded and his protector also gets shot, is all Hollywood fiction.

Luttrell was rescued by U.S. forces after an Afghan villager made his way to a Marine outpost with a note from Luttrell, and U.S. forces launched a massive operation that rescued him from enemy territory on July 2, 2005. But it was an emergency beacon, placed in the window of the hut where he was being kept safe that helped rescuers find him. It should be noted that according to Luttrell’s book, Army Rangers found him in the woods with his rescuer and caretaker as they were moving him to another location.

Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage and for his actions under fire. Operation Red Wings and the subsequent rescue attempt that ended in the downing of the Chinook would go on to be the worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began at that point with 19 dead and one injured. For the Navy, it was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

Navy vs Air Force: Which branch should you join?

The U.S. Navy is one of the largest navies in the world with 293 ships as of 2021, but it pales in comparison to the Chinese navy which has 350 ships and is considered the world’s largest naval force.

Founded in 1775, the mission of the U.S. Navy is to recruit, train, equip, and organize to deliver combat-ready naval forces to win conflicts and wars while maintaining security and deterrence through sustained forward presence. That takes more than 400,000 men and women in the active and reserve naval forces to achieve. There are more than 330,000 sailors on active duty and more than 50,000 sailors deployed on more than 100 ships around the world right now.

In the Navy vs Air Force comparison one thing should stand out right away. The U.S. Navy operates primarily in, you guessed it, the world’s oceans. What does that mean to a potential recruit? Odds are pretty good they will serve on a ship.

According to the Navy’s website, “A sailor is typically assigned to a ship for a three-year period, followed by a three-year period of shore duty. However, you will not be at sea for three years straight, as most ships spend a significant amount of time docked at their home port. Deployments can last anywhere from six to nine months, with significant time between deployments.”

That said, potential recruits should understand that the standard enlistment is for four years, so there is a likelihood that they can serve on a ship the entire time. Does that give the Air Force an advantage in the Navy vs Air Force comparison? Nope.

Serving aboard a Navy ship can be an incredible experience as long as potential recruits go into their enlistments with eyes and minds wide open. Potential recruits should understand that enlisting in ANY military branch means that they are putting the needs of the service first. Service branches want to help you succeed and be all you can be (tip of the hat to the Army there), but the bottom line is that military leaders, at all levels, are concerned about achieving their missions; individual objectives take a back seat.

That said, anyone thinking about enlisting into the Navy should understand that the odds are great that no matter what profession they choose, they will likely be underway and on a ship. And let’s face it, that’s not a bad thing, in fact, that can be awesome. If you are a young person desiring to learn a vocation and wanting to travel, the Navy is an ideal place that can give you trade skills and the ability to travel.

However, in the Navy vs Air Force comparison, it should be noted that a potential Air Force recruit should also understand that the needs of the Air Force come first, so any desire to travel, attend college or to do some self-improvement comes only after the needs of the Air Force are met.

Like the Navy, that means that the Air Force can provide a potential recruit with plenty of opportunity to travel. As of 2020, there are 59 Air Force bases in the United States which gives a potential recruit the opportunity to serve stateside. But like the Navy, the U.S. Air Force has plenty of places to serve overseas. According to the Air Force website, there are 11 air bases located in Europe and in the Pacific area of operations. This does not include smaller military installations where airmen might be serving in contingency operations.

The mission of the U.S. Air Force is to fly, fight and win - airpower anytime, anywhere. Those last two words are critical.

One might be fooled into thinking that the Air Force, because it is land based, might provide a more stable environment, but the truth is that much depends on an individual’s military occupational specialty and where they are serving. Members of expeditionary Air Force units can spend considerable time away as can special operations airmen and aircrews.

Like the U.S. Navy, the Air Force has a reserve component, but it also has an Air National Guard component that is also a crucial arm of the airpower infrastructure that supports the U.S. Armed Forces. The Air Force's reserve and active-duty numbers are about the same as the Navy.

When it comes to stability, in the Navy vs Air Force comparison, this one is a toss-up, although most airmen would likely argue that the Air Force is much more stable than the Navy and that they have a better quality of life. Doing research beyond reviewing advertisements and talking with recruiters is always the best thing to do.

Clearly the roles of the Navy vs Air Force are common, yet immensely different. Both exist to protect the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, but the Navy manages that mission by protecting ports and oceans while the Air Force covers the sky and cyberspace. For now, the Air Force is also responsible for space, but that mission will slowly get absorbed by the U.S. Space Force in the future.

Like the Air Force, the Navy has a multitude of aircraft that perform a variety of missions; roughly 3,700 aircraft, compared to the Air Force’s nearly 5,400 aircraft. The Air Force has a few boats, but nothing worth mentioning that can compete with the Navy. Of course, there are similar occupations in both the Navy and Air Force (like law enforcement, medical and maintenance), so when it comes to career opportunities, again, it is a tie when comparing Navy vs Air Force.

However, if a person is seeking involvement in anything maritime, then the obvious choice is the Navy because it has almost 300 ships with a variety of missions. And it goes without saying that if a person is seeking a career in aviation, the Air Force is the winner hands down in the Navy vs Air Force comparison.

One additional option for an aspiring recruit to consider is that the Navy does not have a National Guard component. As mentioned earlier, they do have a reserve component that offers part-time service opportunities.

The Air Force also offers a reserve component which is a federal force the serves part-time, but the Air Force also has the Air National Guard which is a state-controlled and federally supported program that offers participants the opportunity to serve in their local communities. There are 54 National Guard entities in all states and the District of Columbia. There are also opportunities in U.S. territories. In this regard, in the Navy vs Air Force comparison, the Air Force has a slight advantage as it offers another manner in which to serve by enlisting in the Air National Guard.

Is it harder to become a sailor or an airman? That’s really up to the individual. Some argue that because the Navy requires trainees to swim, that the Navy’s boot camp is harder while others argue that since the Air Force’s basic training is longer, that it can be considered harder. It’s a toss-up. It’s really up to the individual to decide what training, Navy vs Air Force, is hardest.

When it comes to pay, there is no argument in the Navy vs Air Force comparison since the amount a person gets paid in all branches of the U.S. military is based on rank and time in service. However, most branches offer incentives for enlisting in certain career fields and services members are compensated accordingly for duty in war zones and for enduring the rigors of certain special duties.

The bottom line is that potential recruits should know what they want to get out of the service that they are joining. The military services are a great place to get professional experience, the opportunity to travel, a pay check and benefits, and an education and a vocation. The key to successfully joining one branch over another is to do the research and recruits should see how each branch fits into their life goals.

Navy vs Air Force? They are both exceptional places to work, but how and where, depends on the individual and as mentioned before, the needs of the military.

Military Tactics

Armchair generals. Maybe you know one or two, or maybe you are recliner ranger yourself. These folks often talk about military tactics when the topic of warfare is broached. Ever watched a war movie with someone like this? It can be interesting if they know what they are talking about, or grueling if they are just pulling words out of the military vernacular and regurgitating a lot of common misconceptions.

These couch commandos are especially animated when they talk about a battle or war where the American outcome was less than optimum and they weaponize hindsight. What many don’t realize is that when they use terms like “divide and conquer” and “hearts and minds,” they are actually referring to strategies and not necessarily military tactics.

Military tactics and military strategies are sometimes used interchangeably and mostly incorrectly. And while there are many military strategies and just as many military tactics, we will only focus on four broad categories of military tactics in this post; defensive, offensive, deceptive and small unit.

Defensive military tactics include the use of defensive obstacles like trenches, minefields, and booby traps for example. Some of the more popular defensive military tactics, including the ones just mentioned are barbed wire, berms, use of high ground, man-made barriers (like HESCO barriers), foxholes or defensive fighting positions, sangars, and other defensive tools.

However, defensive military tactics also include troop formations including the antiquated phalanx formation, the all-around or perimeter defensive postures, and the echelon formation. And believe it or not, counter attacks and rapid reaction forces (also known as QRFs) are actually defensive military tactics and not offensive military tactics. A counter attack happens when a force repels and defends itself and a rapid reaction force is used to defend an attacked unit.

Offensive military tactics includes actions like ambushes, cavalry charges and rapid dominance actions like swarming, shock, and saturation bombing. Planned attacks are also a large part of the offensive military tactics menu.

Indirect fire, fire support, and formations like the wedge and actions like the pincer movement or flanking maneuver are all examples of offensive military tactics. It’s easy to recognize them as offensive military tactics because they are used to take real estate from the opposing force. Also included as offensive military tactics is the use of airborne and air mobile operations, mechanized, armored and amphibious operations, and disruptive operations like radio and radar jamming. Controlling a main supply route is considered an offensive military tactic as well, believe it or not.

Deceptive military tactics have been used for centuries by militaries around the world. The United States has used deceptive military tactics many times throughout its military history including Operation Bodyguard in World War II and in Operation Desert Storm where forces were used deceptively as other units maneuvered around Iraqi forces in a left hook action that enabled them to cut off Iraq’s frontlines. But even as far back as the Revolutionary War, the U.S. military was using deceptive military tactics.

Electronic countermeasures and stealth weapons are examples of deceptive military tactics since they trick or fool the enemy into thinking that conditions on the battlefield are different than what they really are. For example, it might seem like there are no aircraft in the airspace above a battlefield, when suddenly bombs begin to rain down. Or an enemy might believe that there are numerous aircraft overhead when in fact there is only one transmitting electronic warfare signals to confuse enemy air defense weaponry.

Softer deceptive military tactics also includes disinformation. The United States has utilized this military tactic to learn about the defensive posture of its enemies. For example, in 2004’s Operation Phantom Fury, the U.S. military announced it had started its operations when in fact, it had not. It was a false start designed to get insurgent forces in Fallujah to move and reveal where they were and what they planned to do to repel offensive coalition forces.

Finally, small unit military tactics have been a mainstay in the war on terror as highly-skilled special forces units are able to inflict considerable damage to enemy forces quickly utilizing tools within their teams, but small unit military tactics also include regular infantry squads and other combat arms units that are the smallest units engaging the enemy.

When discussing small unit military tactics, terms like shoot and scoot, infiltration, fire and movement, and suppressive fire will be common terms used. Here again, like in other military tactics, troop formations are also considered a military tactic and formations like the overwatch or bounding overwatch can be used.

The various types of patrols that offensive military units use, like ambushes, recon patrols and standing patrols like observation and listening posts, to name a few, are also included in this list of military tactics.

Still not clear on what is a tactic versus a strategy, then remember the famous words of the legendary and timeless military expert Carl von Clausewitz who said that “Tactics is the art of using troops in battle; strategy is the art of using battles to win the war.”

The U.S. Military's Code of Conduct

Anyone who has ever served in the U.S. military no doubt has learned the U.S. military’s Code of Conduct. In basic training, warrant or commissioned officer training, everyone is required to learn about, and in some cases, memorize, the military Code of Conduct.

In short, the U.S. military Code of Conduct is comprised of six articles that set behavioral obligations for U.S. military service members who are in combat or held in captivity as prisoners of war. The Code came to be because of the personal narratives of some American POWs from the Korean War who were fortunate enough to have survived their time as POWs. They shared their POW experiences upon their return to the United States and they provided crucial lessons learned.

It was not uncommon for prisoners to be tortured, starved and denied healthcare in order for the enemy to acquire public statements from the POWs in support of communism and against the U.S. government. Enemy captors also worked hard to collect intelligence from the POWs. The captors worked doggedly to ensure they broke morale, disrupted the strength of the chain of command and they waged psychological warfare on the minds of captives. The propaganda the enemy created eventually trickled back and began to impact public support of the war on the home front. Some POWs had turned on each other, betrayed each other and the country in order to survive.

In all, 7,245 Americans were captured during the Korean War and roughly 39 percent died in captivity according to U.S. government sources. Some academic institutions place that number closer to 43 percent and many say that the Korean War POW experience was far worse than any other American war.

Once the Korean War ended, almost two dozen Americans chose to remain in China and they declined repatriation. According to the Defense Department, 192 former POWs were charged and tried for serious offenses that equated to treason, desertion and aiding the enemy. The issue commanded public attention as many Americans felt that their service personnel had been brainwashed. The U.S. military then did what it ordinarily does, it conducted an after-action review and tried to glean any lessons it could learn from the POW experience.

In 1954, the roots of the military Code of Conduct began to form when the Department of Defense ordered a study to examine the Korean War POW experience. Franklin Brooke Nihart, a U.S. Marine Corps colonel and Navy Cross recipient from the Korean War, was tasked to create a credo that military personnel could follow if they were held captive. He drafted the original military Code of Conduct on a yellow legal pad written in longhand.

In 1955, the Defense Advisory Committee on Prisoners of War published its findings in a 92-page report and the U.S. military Code of Conduct was first established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 17, 1955 with the signing of Executive Order 10631. The order stipulates that “All members of the Armed Forces of the United States are expected to measure up to the standards embodied in this Code of Conduct while in combat or in captivity.”

The military Code of Conduct was reaffirmed in July 1964 in DoD Directive No. 1300.7. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter amended Article V of the Code and in March 1988, President Ronald Reagan amended Articles I, II and VI of the Code.

There are six articles in the U.S. military Code of Conduct.

Article 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 one makes it very clear that American warriors are expected to remember that they are American warriors and that they are charged with safeguarding the nation and the values that it represents. It also states clearly that the American service member is expected to give his or her life in defense of the nation.

Article 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.”

Surrender is not an option. If that phrase is familiar, it is because it has been a part of the U.S. military Code of Conduct for decades. It is a part of the military’s fabric. Voluntary surrender is prohibited according to the military’s Code of Conduct. If captured and no longer able to fight, an American warrior is expected to the escape and evade.

Commanders and military leaders cannot surrender their units when the unit still has the ability to fight; this applies even if the unit is surrounded, cut off or isolated, according to the military Code of Conduct.

Article 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.”

The bottom line in this article is that captivity is not an excuse to aid the enemy. Members of the U.S. armed forces are expected to resist the enemy. In other words, they cannot offer military secrets or information that will aid the enemy especially in exchange for something that gives the POW a favorable posture with the captors. In addition, U.S. military personnel must frequently try to escape or help others escape from captivity.

Article 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.”

American POWs, according to the military Code of Conduct, cannot provide information to their captors that harms their fellow American or allied service personnel. Helping the enemy harm American service personnel or U.S. allies, in any way, is forbidden.

Senior captured military personnel will assume command of all prisoners. With leadership comes the responsibility for caring for all of the prisoners. The senior in charge must ensure that all prisoners are being cared for properly and that they are being treated according to Geneva Codes. Subordinates will model their behavior as if they are a part of an ordinary military unit and they will follow the chain of command in the prisoner ranks.

Article V: “When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, social security 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.”

This article is likely one of the toughest ones to follow as a POW especially when a POW is tortured or mistreated. It is easy to armchair and judge those who have given statements against the United States possibly in exchange for medical care, food or a cessation in torture, but the grueling reality is something known only to those who have been POWs. The military Code of Conduct requires that only brief biographical information be offered by prisoners to their captors. Nothing else is required.

The Geneva Convention prohibits the physical and mental abuse of prisoners to gain information, but in the Korean War, Vietnam War and even as recent as Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, statements were made by American and allied personnel under duress. While the military Code of Conduct prohibits this, instances of the violations are examined on a case-by-case basis when the POWs return to determine if any national damage was done by the POW’s actions. The psychological and survival instincts of the captive is taken into consideration now that there is a better understanding of the mental condition of POWs and the impact of the torture that they endure. However, the expectation remains; say nothing other than what is required by the Geneva Convention and if something is stated to the enemy it should be factually incorrect and misleading so it does not help the enemy in any way.

Article VI: “I will never forget that I am an American, 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.”

This article reminds military service members that they are responsible for their actions. At some point, if they survive, their captivity will end and the POWs will be held accountable for any adverse actions they committed while in captivity. They are still governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and by the military Code of Conduct and the expectation is that they behave with honor, integrity and character befitting a U.S. military member.

An Oasis in Paradise

Many service personnel do not realize that the U.S. military operates Armed Forces Recreation Centers located in Florida, Hawaii, Korea and Germany.

I’ve been to all four and each of them offers a unique experience for service members, but I’d like to focus on the Hale Koa Hotel in this post.

The Hale Koa opened in 1975 and each year roughly 1 million military members and dependents enjoy the Hale Koa’s offerings. The hotel was built on 72 acres acquired by the U.S. War Department in 1906. It was named Fort DeRussy in honor of Brigadier General R. E. DeRussy of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Battery Randolph along with Battery Dudley (since demolished) were completed in 1911 as part of the Army’s defenses for Honolulu Harbor. Battery Randolph’s 20 feet thick walls proved too difficult to demolish and it was made into an Army Museum.

Fort DeRussy played an important role from World War I through the Vietnam War. It was used by many service personnel as an area for recreation, lodging, and leisure. In 1950, it was designated an Armed Forces Recreation Area.

In 1995, the Hale Koa Hotel increased its guest capacity by adding another hotel tower, nearly doubling its size. The hotel has seen extensive renovations and guest improvements over the years, most recently in 2019 more than $100 million was pumped into the hotel for a modern oceanside pool and other upgrades.

All ranks and services are welcome at the Hale Koa, including Department of Defense civilians, military retirees and disabled veterans. Room prices vary from $139 to $339 per night. Most of the rooms sleep up to four guests. When I took my family of six, we reserved two adjoining rooms and there was plenty of space. We paid a little more for an ocean view, but if you’re on a budget you can request a standard room. In addition, the higher in rank you are, the more you will pay. For more information on rates and eligibility, visit this page.

Prices at the Hale Koa are about at market value at the moment. A survey of hotels on Waikiki where the Hale Koa is located shows that there are plenty of hotels similarly priced, but you won’t get crushed by all of the taxes tourists usually pay as hotel guests. Not to mention, there is no nickel and diming at the Hale Koa and the hotel offers pretty good dining and activities compared to the surrounding hotels.

The Hale Koa has entertaining shows and a great luau, but those have been temporarily suspended because of COVID-19. And that brings me to a point; before you reserve your hotel, and buy airline tickets, make sure you read travel policies for Hawaii and that you comply with travel restrictions. And check to ensure you are eligible to stay at the Hale Koa.

The hotel is situated on world famous Waikiki Beach. You can enjoy the beach right outside the hotel or lounge around the pool (and have drinks delivered). Within walking distance of the Hale Koa are many great restaurants and plenty to do. My kids and I surfed under the shadow of Diamond Head and for hours we caught smooth waves that carried our longboards almost all the way to shore.  

The Hale Koa Hotel is operated by the Department of the Army under the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. As an Armed Forces Recreation Center, the facility is self-supported with no use of taxpayer funds. All expenses, including salaries, operating expenses and even capital improvement projects are paid with revenue generated by the hotel’s operations.

Lastly, be warned. Right now, there are no rooms available until March 2022, so if you’d like to plan a visit, start planning now for a spring or summer visit in 2022. The hotel recommends guests visit between September and December. You can make a reservation up to 365 days in advance. And government officials on Oahu are taking steps to limit the amount of tourists to the island, so plan accordingly and do your research.

Aloha.

Steve Alvarez is the author of Selling War A Critical Look at the Military's PR Machine published by Potomac Books. Photos courtesy Hale Koa website.

The Capture of U-505 Lives On

In May 1944 a U.S. Navy hunter-killer task force sailed from Norfolk, Virginia across the Atlantic to the Canary Islands to conduct anti-submarine patrols. For weeks the group searched with no luck; the German subs were elusive. Their goal was to find Nazi subs, but not to sink them, but rather, to capture one.

Then two days before the D-Day landings, the historic, but little-known task force (Task Force 22.3), running low on fuel, decided to turn and head towards Casablanca after another unsuccessful patrol. Ten minutes later, the USS Chatelain (DE-149) made sonar contact on an object 800 yards on the starboard bow.

The Chatelain closed in quickly on the target, in fact, it closed too quickly and it could not attack the target because depth-charges would not be able to sink fast enough to hit the sub. Instead, the destroyer attacked using “hedgehogs” which were battery-operated charges that explode on contact and are thrown ahead of the ship. After one pass, the Chatelain turned around and made another pass over the sub for a second attack. 

As the Chatelain engaged, Wildcat planes launched from the USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60), the task force’s flag ship, spotted the submerged sub from the air and fired into the water to mark the sub’s position for the attacking ships. The Chatelain adjusted her attack and set shallow depth charges around the U-boat’s location. After several detonations, an oil slick surfaced less than seven minutes after the sub had first been engaged. 

“You struck oil! Sub is surfacing!” a pilot said over the radio. 

When the sub surfaced, the USS Jenks and Pillsbury, along with the Wildcats in the air, all commenced firing upon the sub. The U-boat’s captain, Oberleutnant zur see (Lieutenant) Harald Lange, believing his boat was sinking, ordered his crew to abandon ship and to scuttle the vessel. He was also wounded in the American attack. 

The German crew was in such a rush to abandon ship, that they only partially scuttled the boat and left the engines running at about seven knots. With a damaged rudder, the German U-boat circled. After a few minutes, the USS Pillsbury ordered the task force to cease fire and they called away the Pillsbury’s boarding party, an order that had not been given in the U.S. Navy since the War of 1812. 

On June 4, 1944, Task Force 22.3 captured the German Type IXC submarine U-505 about 150 miles off the coast of Africa. It was the first time since the 19th Century that the Navy had captured a foreign warship. 

The Navy task group was commanded by Capt. Daniel V. Gallery, on the Guadalcanal, and was comprised of the escort carrier and five destroyer escorts: Pillsbury (DE-133), Pope (DE-134), Flaherty (DE-135), Chatelain (DE-149), and Jenks (DE-665). 

The U-505 crew was pulled from boats and boarded the Chatelain and Jenks. As the U-505 crew was being picked up, the sub was boarded by a boarding party of sailors from the Pillsbury which was led by Lieutenant Junior Grade Albert L. David. The boarding party closed scuttling valves and disarmed scuttling charges. David was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. He and the boarding party came aboard the U-505 and worked feverishly, not knowing when the U-boat would explode and what enemy resistance they would face. They did this as the U-boat flooded with water. Torpedoman's Mate Third Class Arthur Knispel and Radioman Second Class Stanley Wdowiak, each received the Navy Cross. The entire task force was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. 

 

Once the U-boat was made seaworthy and secured after three days of incessant work, Nazi submarine U-505 was taken into tow and the sub was transported to Bermuda, a journey that took approximately two weeks.

Fifty-eight Nazi prisoners were captured and they were held in secret as prisoners of war in Louisiana. They were presumed dead at sea by their families in Germany. Only one German crewman was killed during the American attack and three were wounded (the commanding officer, the executive officer and an enlisted sailor).

The significance of capturing U-505 was enormous. The boat had massive intelligence value. Aboard the sub were Nazi classified documents, code books, an Enigma cipher machine, and communications equipment. If the Germans believed that their sub had been captured and not lost at sea, the codebreaking efforts of the U.S. military would have been negated. The Navy kept the capture a secret and prevented the Nazi crew from writing loved ones. 

The seized codes not only enabled hunter-killer groups to find and engage other Nazi subs, but they also helped naval convoy commanders to route shipping away from known U-boat waters.  

By 1945, the Navy had gleaned as much engineering and intelligence information as it could from U-505, and the boat was slated to become a target for torpedo target practice. The task force commander’s brother, Father John Gallery, learned of the boat’s planned fate and called the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) to see if they would be interested in exhibiting the sub since the museum was a center for industrial education. The Gallery brothers, natives of Chicago, had been looking for a place to house the sub.

Chicagoans raised $250,000 to tow the boat and prepare a site for it at MSI. In 1954 the U.S. government donated the sub to MSI and it was made a war memorial and a permanent exhibit after being towed more than 3,000 miles through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. 

Today, U-505 resides at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. The boat has been restored and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. It is one of only two Type IXC U-boats still in existence. Although it has been restored, some of the battle damage remains and visitors to the MSI can easily see the large holes left by the American guns and aircraft. Visitors can also peak inside the sub and see its inside. 

Steve Alvarez is the author of Selling War A Critical Look at the Military's PR Machine published by Potomac Books. Color photos by Steve Alvarez. Black and white photos courtesy U.S. Navy history office.