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Enlisted vs. officers at social dances


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I've noticed, as I've dived deeper and deeper into recreating the various service uniforms for social dances, that in the old films they almost always show enlisted men at dances and virtually never officers. I was curious as to why.

 

Is it:

 

1. Just sheer numbers- any social venue was likely to be inundated with young enlisted men, and officers would've just been drowned out?

 

2. Officers were forbidden from fraternizing with and/or attending the same venues as enlisted men?

 

3. The films were trying to have mass appeal and as officers were viewed as the elite(ist) few, wanted to show men to whom the audience could relate/with whom they could identify?

4. Another reason I'm missing?

 

I was much more interested in the officer uniforms for the Army, but I'd slightly rethink it if there's some hard-stop reason why it wouldn't be accurate.

 

Navy though is A-OK with the cracker jack! :)

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1 hour ago, BigBrother said:

2. Officers were forbidden from fraternizing with and/or attending the same venues as enlisted men?

 

Bingo. Customarily officers and enlisted do not fraternize, so on post there was an enlisted club (ours was called the 'stab-and-jab' for the number of drunken fights) and the officer's club (O-club).

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Makes sense, but what would happen off-base? Was there any sort of protocol if a group of officers say walked into a bar or dance hall and stared at a sea of grunts? :)

 

I'm guessing no rules applied as it was civilian territory but perhaps there were unstated rules (?) Or pretty much nothing applied? And did the enlisted owe them anything when it was off base/they were on leave?

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I think it fell into the "all depends" category. Things have changed dramatically from the WW2 time frame to today's policies, just as the relationships between officers and enlisted varied between services during the War. I don't know of any regulations that stated that officers could not be in the same place as enlisted, but in general (and this is a huge stereotype) officers would go on liberty to different clubs/places than most enlisted, to include out in town. 

 

Keep in mind, you're probably not going to find a straight answer on this as: 1. none of us were alive and serving at the time; 2. rules have changed, even over the last few decades; 3. the majority of males in the US in the 18-30 year old category were serving in the military at the time; 4. even more senior officers and enlisted during the war were not "career" types (it was not uncommon for Navy officers to have less than 90 days...even as little as 30 days...before heading to their first duty station, sometimes with up to LTjg as a starting rank). That said, some of the officers may have been more comfortable relating to enlisted than others based on their lack of indoctrination into military tradition and regulations, and as a result, there may have been more interaction in some areas between some groups than in others (imagine, say, a Navy Armed Guard detachment in 1942 with one ENS/LTjg and eight enlisted, pulling into a foreign port...chances are, the officer was probably hanging out with his enlisted personnel rather than drinking alone...but then again...never say never...)

 

 

Only a weak society needs government protection or intervention before it pursues its resolve to preserve the truth. Truth needs neither handcuffs nor a badge for its vindication. -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Peace is not the absence of war, but the defense of hard-won freedom. -Anton LaGuardia


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Even off-post, social segregation was the rule of the day. Officers knew what venues were for enlisted personnel and they stayed away, and obviously vice versa. If there was an enlisted social event on-post, officers would have to be invited to attend.

 

From Field Manual 21-50, Military Courtesy and Discipline, June 1942:

 

"In the interests of good discipline, officers are required to wear distinctive uniforms, to live apart from their men in garrison, and to confine their social contacts to other officers."

 

(Board software doesn't allow inset for block quotes anymore? Too bad!)

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Interesting. Is it getting redundant to once again state how much I love it here, both for the king’s ransom of knowledge you all have and the friendliness with which you share it with me? :)

 

So obviously I’m getting the picture here; I’m now curious about dancing itself/fraternizing with members of the opposite sex and what one would expect:

 

Officers with officers: I have no clue how this worked. Was it as strict as “same rank only”? Can’t imagine so. Was it male had to be the superior officer if unequal? Any rules at all?

 

Officers with enlisted: no way no how I imagine.

 

Officers with civilians: no issues I imagine (?)

 

Enlisted with civilians: oh, how many a shanty, musical, and film would be wiped from history if this were the case!! ;)

 

And something I’ve often wondered about- how were you to treat someone from another service? I vaguely recall reading or hearing it was just consideration as the equivalent rank. Or not?

 

Thanks!

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That's quite the loaded question...keep in mind that the number of male to female officer ratio was huge, and that the senior female in the Army (for example) was a Lt Colonel. So, chances are, if an officer was to dance with a female commissioned officer (most likely a nurse or something similar) the ranks would probably be similar...IF they had another officer to dance with, most of them were CPT/LT and below, and most of their dancing partners were probably going to be of similar rank.

 

Having large gaps in rank was unusual...though probably not unimaginable. John Wayne's 1965 movie In Harm's Way portrayed his relationship with a significantly junior nurse (though she was older...but he was still an admiral) and the non-consensual relationship between Kirk Douglas and a very young and much more junior nurse (which resulted in the entire end sequence of the movie).  Did things like this happen? Probably...were they common? With the millions in uniform during WW2, we'll never really know. (There was a ship-wide reprimand posted somewhere on here ages ago about commissioned officer nurses earning money through prostitution...rank notwithstanding...by selling themselves for sex on a troop ship returning from the Pacific in late 1945...so things did happen...but what evidence exists? I've seen some, but I can only imagine the "greatest generation" was far more promiscuous than we give them credit for...)

 

As far as treatment between services, there was always a rivalry. Fighting rivalry? Probably not most of the time, but things like that did happen (even during the Korean War...my dad has a famous Navy/Marine Corps bar fight story from 1954 that I thought was hooey for years...until I interviewed one of the Marine military police who came to break up the fight!) One thing I did find from writing my first book was the poor intra-service treatment some people received.

 

Writing about the Armed Guard, they always felt that they were "inferior" to their fellow Sailors who were serving on the "grey hulls". That's despite the fact that they fought through some absolutely insane conditions and combat and had well-earned combat decorations...but all earned while serving on civilian merchant ships. Sadly, that's why many of their stories died with them...many...even to the ends of their life (when I had a chance to interview them) felt they didn't "measure up" to their fellow Sailors and never talked about their service. When prodded, this same feeling had been carried for 70+ years - they only felt like "worthy" veterans when they discussed their follow-on tours on grey-hulled ships, even if they saw considerably less (or none at all) action on the warship. I am certain that many soldiers stationed stateside conducting (for example) air defense felt that they missed out on the experiences of their peers who fought in Europe, the Pacific, and so on.

 

 

Only a weak society needs government protection or intervention before it pursues its resolve to preserve the truth. Truth needs neither handcuffs nor a badge for its vindication. -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Peace is not the absence of war, but the defense of hard-won freedom. -Anton LaGuardia


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Just FWIW, in the John Wayne movie, In Harm's Way, he has a relationship with Maggie, a Navy nurse Lieutenant when he was a Rear Admiral at the time. As "stranger than fiction" as this seems, I personally worked for a two-star Navy admiral who married an Army Captain (same as a Navy Lieutenant) in 2009. 

 

So...never say never... :D

 

 

Only a weak society needs government protection or intervention before it pursues its resolve to preserve the truth. Truth needs neither handcuffs nor a badge for its vindication. -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Peace is not the absence of war, but the defense of hard-won freedom. -Anton LaGuardia


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Two things (man you guys get me going!)

 

1. Re: interservice, I meant more what was SOP for when one encountered a superior from another service (so if sailors encountered, say, an Army Captain.) I imagine saluting wasn’t done off-base, but any other behavior they would need to exhibit in front of one of their own officers, was that called for with the Army Cpt? And conversely, could the Army Cpt pull rank in one way, shape, or another with them?

 

2. You mentioned getting married. This one was also something I was ignorant of. We were watching From Here to Eternity and there’s a big stink about the major’s (to be ex-) wife marrying an enlisted man (she’s not even in the service), and then in a few of the movies (Carmen Jones, Stage Door Canteen) the CO seems to have undue authority over the enlisted men’s matrimonial plans (requiring his permission, being interviewed by him, etc.) This all seems like madness to me today, more akin to 19th century Viennese military protocol than modern American policy. Can you speak a bit to this?

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