WW2 - How did Britain and America deal with undisciplined soldiers?

May 2019
253
Earth
During WW2, how did the British and American militaries deal with recruits who had recurring disciplinary problems? Where was the line drawn if a recruit displayed an obvious unwillingness to follow basic discipline or committed repeated acts of insubordination despite punishment? Were there penal battalions where these guys could be transferred to perform hard labour? Would they be dishonorably discharged and sent to prison back home?
In any situation where you have widespread conscription, you're likely to end up with a few bad eggs that won't crack despite being locked in the brig or made to scrub toilets with a toothbrush, so I'm curious to know how these two countries handled repeat offenders.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,768
Dispargum
Yes, there were military prisons, at least in the US Army. A dishonorable discharge was often part of the process, but only at the end of a sentence in military prison, usually many years. A dishonorable discharge is part of the most severe military discipline, part of the sentence after conviction for a felony. Insubordination by itself was usually punished far less severely, often informally as you suggest with unpleasant duty assignments. The army was always reluctant to give a bad soldier what he wanted - a return to civilian life. That would be seen as rewarding bad behavior and would inspire others to repeat the same in hopes they would get discharged, too.
 
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Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
The British had military Prisons for serious crimes like rape, thievery, murder, repeat desertion but they had stopped shooting deserters after WW1. Troublesome, but petty, soldiers could be thrown in a stockade, get docked wages, lose leave.

The US had similar practices I think, but still had the death penalty for serious crimes. Only 1 US soldier was shot for desertion though.
 
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Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,776
Australia
No such thing as penal battalions among the western Allies. Real troublemakers and those convicted of serious crimes would be sent to a military prison. I don't doubt that there were some men who saw time in prison as preferable to combat, so the conditions were as miserable as the authorities could make them.
 
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MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,207
Kansas
During WW2, how did the British and American militaries deal with recruits who had recurring disciplinary problems? Where was the line drawn if a recruit displayed an obvious unwillingness to follow basic discipline or committed repeated acts of insubordination despite punishment? Were there penal battalions where these guys could be transferred to perform hard labour? Would they be dishonorably discharged and sent to prison back home?
In any situation where you have widespread conscription, you're likely to end up with a few bad eggs that won't crack despite being locked in the brig or made to scrub toilets with a toothbrush, so I'm curious to know how these two countries handled repeat offenders.
The British used these


And the film referenced in the article

 
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