Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “military law”

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) – http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/stApIIch47.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some general sentencing guidelines under the UCMJ?
  • What state officials are covered under the “Contempt Towards Officials” provision of the UCMJ?
  • How is sodomy defined under the UCMJ?
  • What is the UCMJ definition of malingering?


This might come as a surprise, but the UCMJ is a creature of Congress. It’s not something that the military or the President dreamed up on their own. Various parts have been passed by Congress at different times and then codified into Title 10, Chapter 47 of the United States Code.

Much of the procedural and investigations of the UCMJ have been incorporated in the joint Manual for Courts-Martial discussed elsewhere. Where I think you should focus on here is Subchapter X – Punitive Articles, which lists the crimes that military members can face courts-martial for. Many of these crimes overlap with civilian crimes. Below is a very partial list of what I believe to be military specific crimes to put your military characters in jeopardy. See the UCMJ for other crimes to charge your character with.

  • § 882. Art. 82. Solicitation (to desert or aid enemy)
  • § 883. Art. 83. Fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation
  • § 888. Art. 88. Contempt toward officials
  • § 889. Art. 89. Disrespect toward superior commissioned officer
  • § 890. Art. 90. Assaulting or willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer
  • § 896. Art. 96. Releasing prisoner without proper authority
  • § 900. Art. 100. Subordinate compelling surrender
  • § 901. Art. 101. Improper use of countersign
  • § 914. Art. 114. Dueling
  • § 915. Art. 115. Malingering
  • § 917. Art. 117. Provoking speeches or gestures
  • § 925. Art. 125. Sodomy
  • § 933. Art. 133. Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman
  • § 934. Art. 134. General article

The “General Article” is interesting because it is such a catchall:

Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.

Basically, if you are a servicemember and you embarrass the military in an unusual way, you can be courtmartialed for it. This article may be the reason we don’t see a regular “Women of the Armed Forces” pictorial in Playboy.

Here I’ve cited the Cornell University copy of the United States Code. If you wish for something a little more authoritative, try this link from the Government Printing Office Federal Digital System: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionUScode.action?collectionCode=USCODE . From there you can browse to Title 10, Chapter 47 through a series of mouse clicks.

Military Law Resources from Library of Congress

Military Law Resources from Library of Congress – http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/military-legal-resources-home.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What does the Geneva Convention have to say about the protection of cultural property?
  • Where can I learn more about the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces?
  • What was the Malmedy Massacre?


This site holds a selection of digitized materials from the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center & School Library. Notable materials include:

  • The Army Lawyer (1971-2011)
  • Military Law Review (1958-2011)
  • Geneva Conventions Materials
  • War Crimes Materials

This site also has a historical section, with selections from the eras of the Indian Wars, Civil War, World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Military Law Resources from Air War College

Military Law Resources from Air War College – http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-law.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find material related to military criminal investigations?
  • What are the current rules of engagement for US military forces?
  • What laws regulate the assistance that the US military can provide to civilian jurisdictions?


This site focuses on links to contemporary materials, including links to all of the Armed Forces Judge Advocate General (JAG) offices and the Manual for Courts-Martial. Of special interest to military mystery writers will be the sections on Evidence and Investigation, which focus on military specific procedures in these matters.

U.S. Army Field Manuals, Training Circulars, Technical Manuals, War Department/Department of the Army Pamphlets

U.S. Army Field Manuals, Training Circulars, Technical Manuals, War Department/Department of the Army Pamphlets – http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/manuals.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was the procedure for military executions developed in 1944?
  • What was the “US Fighting Man’s Code” that fighters in VietNam would have been expected to follow?
  • What is the procedure to be followed in an Article 32(b) investigation?
  • What are some ways to avoid surrender that don’t involve fighting to the death?
  • What are the current rules for court-martial trials?


From the website,

“The full text of selected U.S. Army Field Manuals (FMs), Training Circulars (TCs), and Technical Manuals (TMs), War Department Pamphlets (WD PAMs) and Department of the Army Pamphlets (DA PAMs), which particularly address some of the current research needs and interests of The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center & School Library, U.S. Army, Charlottesville, Virginia , will be added regularly to this site.”

Another good source for US Army Field Manuals is the Internet Archives US Military Manual Collection.

Marines and Military Law in Vietnam: Trial by Fire

Marines and Military Law in Vietnam: Trial by Fire. LtCol Gary D. Solis, USMC. 1989. 295 pp

Print – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/24248654 

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How long did US servicemembers serve for the murder of noncombatants?
  • What were characteristics of servicemembers found guilty of fragging their commanders?
  • How widespread was marijuana use in Vietnam? How did the military legal system fight it?


A mostly chronological history of the institutions of military law and how they functioned in Vietnam. A number of courtmartial trials, including some for the murder of noncombatants are described. Chapter subheadings are descriptive and there is an index. Some of the subchapters that might be helpful to writers of stories set in the Vietnam War are:

  • From a Lawyer’s Case File: The Marine Corps’ First War Crime
  • Conviction in Vietnam
  • From a Lawyer’s Case File: Pilot to Copilot to Brig
  • Homicide on Patrol; Men. Women, and Children
  • Transportation: Hitchhiking to Court
  • Fragging: Friendly Fire With Malice
  • Racial Conflict: Black, White, and Green
  • Closing Cases Versus Best Defense

Leadership Lessons and Remembrances from Vietnam

Leadership Lessons and Remembrances from Vietnam. Lt Gen Herman Nickerson, Jr., USMC (Ret). Occasional Paper. 1988. 93 pp.

(Paper: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18809306)
(Online: https://archive.org/details/LeadershipLessonsAndRemembrancesFromVietnam)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were Vietnam-era penalties for marijuana use?
  • Why could using discarded grenades be dangerous?
  • How did high ranking military officers view the struggle in VietNam?
  • Why would a general care whether a salute was given out of courtesy or fear?


According to the Foreward, this work is:

A series of articles that Lieutenant General Herman Nickerson, Jr., wrote in 1969-1970 while he was Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF), which were published in Sea Tiger, the weekly newspaper distributed throughout the III MAF area of northern South Vietnam. General Nickerson commanded the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam from 1 October 1966 to 31 May 1967 and returned to that embattled country to command the III MAF from 27 March 1969 through 9 March 1970

The articles are presented chronologically, with no effort at grouping by theme. There is no index. However, the article titles are descriptive and represent a high level first person perspective on the Vietnam War and related topics. Some articles that might be helpful to writers describing attitudes include:

  • “Spirit of Patriots Seen in Servicemen,” July 4, 1969
  • “Civic Action: A Helping Hand,” July 25, 199
  • “Terror: When All Else Fails,” August 1, 1969 – References North VietCong terror
  • They’ll All Be Dead,” December 12, 1969 – Documents cases of preventable deaths caused by inattention.
  • “Discipline And Courtesy,” January 23, 1970
  • “Drug Abuse—The Price is High,” February 20, 1970

It is important to remember that this work is a work of opinion. These were articles intended to exhort Marines and their South Vietnamese allies in their fight against the Communist North.

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