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Help please... Unit paymaster.. how were soldiers paid?


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Does anyone know the procedure during WWII for paying soldiers? 
 

I know they had their own “Soldier’s Individual Pay Record Book” and believe they were paid monthly.  Did each unit or battalion have their own paymaster (Finance Corps)?  
 

Did the soldier fill out his own book or did the paymaster make the entries and determine how much the soldier received and how much was sent home and then gave the book back to the soldier with his pay?
 

Thanks!

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Here is a breakdown on how soldiers were generally paid in WWII. Obviously, ensuring that soldiers were paid promptly and correctly was a responsibility of the Finance Corps. In WWII and before (actually, clear up into the 1980s!) soldiers were paid in CASH. Typically, a Finance officer would be assigned to a division and would be responsible for drawing cash for thousands of people. Each regiment would have a pay officer, which was an additional duty, The pay officer would draw the unit funds and then divide those funds down to battalions, which would be divided down to company sized piles of money. 

On pay day, the pay officer would set up a table or take over a desk in an office and then start issuing out pay. He would normally be accompanied by a pay clerk and a guard. A soldier would report for pay and would then be given cash. The amount and date would be entered into the pay book and the soldier would  sign the paymaster's ledger stating that he had received his pay. Typically, immediately after being paid, the soldier would have to traverse other tables and pay for things like laundry service, enlisted club charges, war bonds, Red Cross, etc. Soldiers who set up allotments to send money home to their family, would typically have had that money deducted prior to pay call. Those payments were handled directly be Finance and would be sent out like clockwork.

 

Combat was a different story. Payment was not given out in the field in combat situations, and typically, soldiers were paid in scrip rather than in greenbacks.. This was done to keep real currency from falling into the hands of the enemy. When soldiers came out of the field for periods of rest, they would typically receive their back pay, which meant the soldiers would normally have relatively large sums of money to throw around. 

 

I hope this gives you some clarity.

 

Allan

Never under-estimate the power of prayer.

 

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Brian Dentino

"When soldiers came out of the field for periods of rest, they would typically receive their back pay, which meant the soldiers would normally have relatively large sums of money to throw around."

 

Have heard some funny stories from some of the 325th GIR men I met at reunions and such about how many of them didn't mind and would throw their money at whatever was available:  drink, food, clothing, and even some unmentionable professionals.  Most didn't mind as they didn't have time or place to spend it when engaged on the lines.  Some characters for sure!!!!!

Always looking for 325th G.I.R. and WWII USMC items!

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2 hours ago, Allan H. said:

 

 

Combat was a different story. Payment was not given out in the field in combat situations, and typically, soldiers were paid in scrip rather than in greenbacks..

 

This is not true.  There was no scrip used during WWII.  MPC was not used until September 1946.

 

Except for China, US personnel were paid in the local currency.  They received pounds in England, Ireland, Australia, francs in France, etc.  

 

They were paid in Allied Military Currency in Germany, Italy and Japan.  AMC was not scrip.  It was legal tender in those countries and used on the economy.

 

Personnel in China were paid in US$ because inflation made the local currency useless.

 

Also, war bonds were paid by allotment.

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Apologies for an over-simplification as I was using scrip to mean not US currency. We typically call this money "invasion currency," but it was used in theater and had zero value outside of the theater of operations. GI's often called it "funny money" or "Monopoly Money." A soldier couldn't mail Allied Military Currency back home to mom and dad and expect that they would be able to spend it. They could convert AMC to US dollars to send home, but it wasn't done by putting money in an envelope. British or Australian pounds could be converted to dollars to send home as well.

 

As for war bonds etc., yes, these deductions would have been set up by allotment, but there were plenty of tables after the pay table for soldiers to "give back" to Uncle Sam. That was the point I was trying to make. "The pay in the army they say is mighty fine... They pay you a hundred dollars, and take back ninety nine." 

 

Brian provided good insight on the soldiers getting a lot of pay at once. Imagine getting a wad of cash and not knowing whether you would live long enough to spend it.  Imagine a sailor getting back from a war patrol of months and getting back pay! I've talked to a lot of veterans who talked about suddenly having more money on one payday than they had ever had in their entire lives. You can see why tailored dress blue uniforms were relatively common among WWII navy vets. 

 

Allan

Never under-estimate the power of prayer.

 

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I worked with a fellow who was in our office section.  He had been a clerk in the finance section in the Pacific in WW2.  He told this story.  He was on an island (I think Saipan), that was one night bombed by the Japanese, and they scored a direct hit on the paymaster tent.  After the raid was over, he went to the site to help put things in order, and said there was cash scattered all over.  Two officers were already there and ordered him back to his tent.  Next morning when he reported to work, everything was cleaned up and the money was officially declared destroyed by the bomb.

illinigander  

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Thank you, Allan.  This does help greatly and answers some questions I had.

 

One more question.... do you know who made the monthly entries into the book... the soldier or the pay officer?  I am trying to compare handwriting and there seems to be a similarity but notice that there might be two different handwriting styles.  

 

Thanks!

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In early 1982 on an Army base in the US. They paid us in cash. You had to pass two armed gusrd with loaded M-16's at the ready, not sling arms...

and you had to hold you ID right up under your chin as you passed by the two guards. You didnt pass until they nodded you though.

I cant imagine how much money was in there. Its was a gymnasium. After that you could keep some or turn it into travelers checks

right there and send it home. Not WW2 but I thought I would mention it. No idea how its done now.. Im guessing direct deposit.

I also recall  about 1984, mobbing a currency exchange on Ogden Avenue in Chicago at 10 P.M. after being given checks at the end of Annual training at the old Chicago Avenue Armory. About 20 of us standing in line all getting ready to cash our checks and a pistol, revolver comes tumbling outta some guys pocket onto the floor. Good thing it didnt go off. He was a popular guy after that....  lol

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Interesting story, thanks for sharing.  I always wonder if it was a good or bad idea to pay the WW1 boys in France with francs instead of US money.

illinigander

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34 minutes ago, illinigander said:

Interesting story, thanks for sharing.  I always wonder if it was a good or bad idea to pay the WW1 boys in France with francs instead of US money.

illinigander

 

Paying troops in the local currency is necessary for the health of the local economy.  Allowing too many dollars into an economy weakened by war undermines the local currency and exacerbates the financial chaos.

 

US troops during the post WWI occupation of Germany were paid in US dollars.  The black marketing of those dollars into the economy led to an imbalance as the marks obtained were re-converted to dollars at the official rate.  This led to more dollars being allocated into the theater than the total amount of troop pay and expenditures. 

 

This lesson was forgotten by the end of WWII where black marketing of troop pay dollars during the occupation created an impossible imbalance in payments.  This led to drastic currency control measures and eventually the introduction of MPC.

 

I do have to correct a misstatement in a previous post.  A type of scrip was used by US forces in Greenland.  It was denominated in skilling, a unit of currency that differed from both the US dollar and the Danish kroner otherwise used in Greenland.  The use of these notes kept the military economy and local economy separate and kept dollars out of Greenland altogether.

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I guess black marketing happens at all levels.  Example, a now gone WW2 vet I knew told about his position as a crane operator (and several others) were in a position to obtain cigarettes from merchant sea men, which were traded in Paris for perfume and other "girl friend" items back in the US, netted about $700 a month for the port folk.  This money was sent home as gambling winnings.  This fellow was able to set up a metal stamping business for himself when discharged in 1946.  He also was awarded a bronze star for his skill in interviewing German POW's.

illinigander

 

 

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Great Topic! I'll add my experiences. My basic training started very early in January of 1987, (Jan 2-3?)at the premier Infantry School, Ft. Benning, GA. I did basic then 11B Infantry MOS. I recall being paid in a gym, converted into a "bank". We were "allowed" only so much cash, balance had to be sent to a bank account, or chasiers checks, "back home". One of our Drill Sergents had a detail of trainees doing security during the pay cycle.  I didn't serve on the pay detail, I did see trainees with weapons and a Drill Sargent with an ammo can and as I recall, a .45 on his hip. Later, as I heard, the trainees didn't have any ammo, but the ammo can the Drill Sgt. had did. I graduated, and went back to my state as I was National Guard. They sent me checks every month until Direct Deposit was set up. When I deployed to Afghansiatan in 2012, we had "Eagel Cash", we were paid direct deposit, but could get a limited amount of cash through the Findance office. We could also pay bills/debts to other people through the Eagel Cash system. I paid for my personal internet connection that way. Funny Story: I asked one of my linguistest to pick something up for me in an off base market. When he got it, I gave him a US $20 bill. It was a bit "worse for the wear". We in the states, would not hav ethought a second about it. But, my linguists did. He looked at it and said somethign to the effect that U.S. currency is "vey Valuable"  and wondered if I had currency that was in better condition. 

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One more thing. On the reg army post back in 82, we were paid in alphabetical order. A-Z.

In the guard, checks were mailed home once a month and then it went to direct deposit.

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At our little battalion base in Germany we were paid at the American Express office. I can't remember if it was cash or check or a combination thereof. The supernumerary from guard mount was given an M-16 clip w/three rounds as security.🤨

"They'd rather be alive than free; poor dumb bastards."

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  • 4 weeks later...

During basic training at Fort Polk, LA in 1968, we were paid in cash. I remember reporting to the orderly room where an officer with a metal strong box would dole out the bills. He wore a sidearm and there was an armed guard posted at the side of the pay table. Times have changed. 

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  • 5 weeks later...

In 1973, my buddy and I got the experience of being payroll guards one payday while at Ft Knox,KY. (both of us were green  E Dueuces right out of basic training) We and the company CO arose well before dawn and went in his car to the finance office and picked up a box of brand new bills which totaled close to $100,000.00 I believe. We took it back to the company area and set up a table with two stools beside it. We manned the stools with unloaded M-16's. ( Maybe we could have butt stroked a robber as we hadn't been issued a loaded magazine either....) Later, the troops filed in stated name etc. and showed ID card and the Cpt. sorted out each man's monthly pay via a register book with amounts owed. They signed the book after he forked over the cash and asked them for a dollar to go to the Army Relief Fund.  I marveled at some of those senior NCO's as they drew $600-800 bucks cash and me, the lowly E-Deuce getting my ninety-some dollars. Oh well...I probably would have whizzed it all away anyway.

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