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Marines and Military Law in Vietnam: Trial by Fire Paperback – December, 1989

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 295 pages
  • Publisher: History and Museums Division, U.S.M.C.; 1st edition (December 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0160021359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0160021350
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,037,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Gary Solis(author of Son Thang: An American War Crime) begins his book with a short review of the history of military justice (a misnomer, perhaps) since the founding of this country. I had no idea the Code of Military Justice was of such recent vintage: 1950. The last Marine executed was in 1817 (in the Navy it was 1849.)

One astonishing number Solis cites is that there were 1,700,000 courts martial during WW II (pg 4). That's incredible. The changes made to the military justice system were a direct result of the feeling that many of those courts martial were much too subjective and the charges and outcomes at the whims of officers. The system was often extra-legal and officers with legal training played no part until the revision of 1950. "The reforms of 1950 reflected the continuing question of the purpose of military law: is it to enforce discipline or to insure justice? Or both? Can both ends be simultaneously served?"

The soldiers in Vietnam were in a bizarre position. Because of a treaty signed while the French were still there and long before Americans arrived in significant numbers, “The agreement provided that all American forces entering Indochina were to be considered members of the U.S. diplomatic mission with the same legal status as actual members of the U.S. mission of corresponding grade. American military personnel were divided into three categories: senior military members of the U.S. mission with full diplomatic Status; a lesser, undefined category which, significantly, excluded its membership from the civil and criminal jurisdic- tion of Vietnam; and the third category, whose membership was again undefined, but with the legal status of clerical personnel of the diplomatic mission. In 1958.
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