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"officers getting busted - did it happen?" Topic

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Korvessa06 Mar 2019 7:58 p.m. PST

So I'm watching this movie called "Company of Heroes" and one of the main characters is described as an officer who got busted down to cook after a failed mission.
It dawned on me that the same thing happened to Clint Eastwood's character in "Kelly's Heroes."

Did that really happen?
Would an officer get busted down to private?
Wouldn't it be more likely that they would get sent to the rear with the gear or even cashiered and sent home?

Colbourne6607 Mar 2019 4:02 a.m. PST

One of the characters in "The Thin Red Line" was an engineer officer who was busted down to PFC.

Dynaman878907 Mar 2019 4:58 a.m. PST

That sounds fishy at best. Anything bad enough to warrant busting someone down to enlisted would be enough to bring them up on charges instead.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 5:06 a.m. PST

Yes, sounds fishy. I've never read any account of such a thing happening. An officer who seriously screwed up would probably be dishonorably discharged rather than demoted to the enlisted ranks. Having a former officer in a combat unit would be really awkward for all kinds of reasons.

About the only way I could see it happening would be someone who was discharged reenlisting under another name. But then he couldn't let anyone know he used to be an officer.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 6:08 a.m. PST

A commissioned officer can be reduced in grade withing the commissioned ranks, but they cannot be made an enlisted person because of discipline -- the officer would be imprisoned and/or discharged instead.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 6:12 a.m. PST

US senior officers had a permanent rank (Eisenhower was a lieutenant colonel)and they could be sent back to the States to resume their permanent rank if they screwed up. Eisenhower was worried about this after Kasserine Pass, and that's one reason he took decisive action, axing Fredendall.

Being demoted to enlisted rank sounds like it would be limited to company grade officers. Certainly most general grade officers would be too old to perform many of the duties expected of privates.


Major Mike07 Mar 2019 6:36 a.m. PST

Had a friend whose father was in the Marines. He boxed. When he would win a big fight he would get promoted, when he lost he would get demoted. Spent most of his time as enlisted, but did make it to Lieutenant once.

Legion 407 Mar 2019 6:51 a.m. PST

It's Classified … evil grin

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 7:09 a.m. PST

My take is mostly nope

When an officer screwed up royally they mostly got posted elsewhere where they could do no harm – look at Major General Fredendall who after the debacle at Kasserine Pass was sent state-side to command Second Army and actually managed to get promoted to Lieutenant General

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 7:41 a.m. PST

The answer is NO.

A commissioned officer may be reduced in rank to a lower commissioned rank or dismissed from the service but not reduced in rank to enlisted.

There are a very few reasons an officer may be reduced to enlisted but they are not disciplinary.

For example, in WW II, the US replaced the previous "brevet" system with battlefield promotions and commissions. One example of the later, Audie Murphy. At the conclusion of a war battlefield commissions have a certain time frame to meet the requirements for commission (for example a bachelors degree) or revert to their enlisted rank.

Further if an enlisted member is commissioned, regardless of source, they must serve at least 8 years as an officer prior to retirement or they revert to their enlisted rank for retirement.

One must remember the military justice system has a catch all which can be used to get rid of or discipline an officer. Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 8:51 a.m. PST

Another way for a commissioned officer to be "reduced" to an enlisted rank is through an officer reduction in force (RIF). I served with a master sergeant (E8) in the early 1970s who had been caught in a late 1950s RIF. Because he had served long enough to be promoted to major(04) before he was RIFed, he could retire as a major rather than as a master sergeant.

But an officer who "screwed the pooch" would be either punished under the UCMJ, reduced to his permanent rank, or discharged.


Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 9:13 a.m. PST

Actually, technically, they are not reduced in rank. Rather they are given an option of retiring, if they qualify, or they can voluntarily reenlist at their enlisted rank.

As I remember, and I was a brand new officer during the RIF of the mid/late 70s (fortunately they need 2nd Lts), I also seem to remember some sort of payment if they totally left the service. I also seem to remember they could enlist if they had never been in but would be given credit, of course, for their previous time in. I know this was VERY unpopular with the enlisted, especially in the Air Force. The new "enlistee" usually qualified for immediate promotion, most to at least Staff Sergeant. And since it was generally easier for officers to earn higher ranking medals, and under the Air Force enlisted promotion system medals counted toward promotion (WAPS) they made rank faster than career enlisted.

Lastly, at the time, only those with a reserve commission could be RIFed, not those with a regular commission. This led to some hard feelings as many fine officers cut and some dead wood protected by the source of their commission (rather like a professor with tenure).

donlowry07 Mar 2019 10:06 a.m. PST

Of course, once an officer was discharged, he was subject to being drafted, if he were not otherwise exempt.

Korvessa07 Mar 2019 11:36 a.m. PST

In the movie, Tome Sizemore of all people – was a company CO in Normandy. He was told to take an MG nest, got pinned, called in arty – just as the rangers were making a flank attack.
He said he lost 56 men – though not really sure it was all from this action as opposed to a cumulative total.
Got busted to cook.

Sounds like someone else's screw-up.

Mark 107 Mar 2019 12:40 p.m. PST

Several (many?) years ago, the title of US Army NCO of the Year (an actual annual award) was given to a Sargent who had been a commissioned officer.

So it is possible for a commissioned officer to be placed into a non-commissioned rank. But "Rocky" (a friend from another forum with whom I had the pleasure to attend an M1A1 live-fire competition with at Yanno Range at Ft. Knox about 17 years ago) was not busted down to that position.

"Rocky" was a very capable warrior, and very well regarded across the board. In fact he fairly notoriously holds the claim for the longest range tank kill in US Army history, destroying an Iraqi T-55 at about 5Km range during Desert Storm.

When he retired from active duty (honestly can't remember his last commissioned rank … thinking it was Major, but I would not be too surprised if told he had been a Lt. Colonel), he wanted to transition to the Texas ANG. But they didn't have any available positions at his rank. He ELECTED to transition to the ANG as an enlisted man, and was given the rank of senior Sargent (T-7?).

Hope I got that right. Pulling from memory … which is not all that I remember it being.

(aka: Mk 1)

Fred Cartwright07 Mar 2019 2:08 p.m. PST

NCO's were busted down to private. William Wharton states in his memoirs he got busted down to private several times.

Mithmee Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2019 2:39 p.m. PST

No Officers were not busted down to enlisted during World War II.

But after Vietnam many Officers were RIF'ed back to being Enlisted.

As ColCampbell stated above that was a very common thing back in the 1960's and 1970's.

So when they did retire they would retire at the highest rank that they obtained.

Legion 407 Mar 2019 6:11 p.m. PST

+1 ColCampbell, Mithmee …

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2019 7:23 a.m. PST

It was also very common after WWII. I have read about many army air corps officers who became NCOs in order to remain on active duty.

uglyfatbloke10 Mar 2019 5:24 p.m. PST

I'm aware of one example (and only one ) in British/Commonwealth armies. An officer was 'busted' in one of the Chindit columns, but it was a temporary situation and (I think) not legal. IIRC this is in Bernard Fergusson's book.

Legion 411 Mar 2019 7:37 a.m. PST

In 10+ years on active duty, '79-'90 never heard of and Officer being busted. However, did hear of e.g. and NCO, E-7, being busted to PVT. Bleeped text off the Bde XO good !

In many cases, an officer that did something terribly "wrong", would be forced to resign. Or more likely just not get promoted and then have no choice to ETS. Of course not getting promoted does not have to be from doing something illegal or very wrong. E.g. when the military downsizes, some will just get RIF'd … like me … frown The needs of the military come first. And obviously my fellow 0-3s were some how superior to me, etc.

I remember after being RIF'd in early '90s. I went to join a local QM Army Res unit. The Bn Cdr, was reviewing my DD-214, ORB, other Mil. records, etc., that I provided him.

He said, "Why are you here, I don't see anything wrong with your record or you ? Did you sleep with your Bn Cdr's daughter ?"

I replied, "No Sir, but if I had known I'd end up like this. I would have slept with his daughter and his wife !"

evil grin

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