Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Civil War General Killed His Superior Officer


Anyone who has ever served in uniform, during any era or age, can remember that one superior that they would have loved to have seen knocked off. But, they did not do it for a lot of reasons, chief among them it is wrong and that's it. However, Union Brevet Major General Jeffferson Columbus Davis didn't seem to get that memo in 1862, when he murdered General William "Bull" Nelson after an altercation at a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. 
Major General Jefferson C. Davis

   At the outset of the Civil War, Jefferson C. Davis (March 2, 1828 - November 30, 1879) was already a seasoned soldier who had distinguished himself during the War in Mexico (1846-1848). He had signed up as a private and, through distinguished service, he received the rank of sergeant. Before the end of the Mexican Campaign, he had obtained a battlefield commission to the rank of second lieutenant.

The Civil War
   When the Civil War (1861-1865) broke out, Davis was a first lieutenant in the garrison at Fort Sumter. He was actually present for the Confederate bombing of the installation. The following month, he was promoted to the rank of captain. At Sumter, Davis' duties were largely administrative and logistical. However, with the war just beginning, Davis was given command of the 22nd Indiana Regiment, and promoted to the rank of full colonel.

   By August, Davis replaced then-Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant as commander of Union forces in northwest Missouri. He took over the 3rd Division in the Army of the Southwest and attacked Confederate forces in southern Missouri and drove them back into Arkansas after his victory at Pea Ridge, and was rewarded with being promoted to brevet brigadier general for his efforts.

   Following his success with the 3rd Division, he was given command of the 4th Division and oversaw the month-long siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in May 1862.

Gen. Nelson's murder made headlines

Taking Leave 
   By the end of August, 1862, Davis was exhausted and had become ill from lack of sleep, stress and a poor diet. Accordingly, the battle-hardened general was given two weeks leave from the Army of the Mississippi.

   Davis intended to return to his native Indiana for some rest and relaxation. However, he could never have expected the Confederate Army would make a new push, with Major General Edmund Smith and General Braxton Bragg, each commanding an army, sweeping Union forces out of Kentucky by attacking into both Kentucky and Tennessee.

Where the Trouble Began
   In order to respond to the new threats offered by Smith and Bragg, Union Brigadier General Don Carolos Buell was forced to split his force. Buell took half of his Army of the Ohio into Tennessee, where he would attack Chattanooga. Meanwhile, thee hundred miles of rail lines lay between Chattanooga and Louisville, Kentucky. And, Confederate forces were busy tearing up those tracks at a fast pace. Accordingly, Buell sent a large slice of his command, under the command of General William "Bull" Nelson (September 27, 1824 - September 29, 1862) to stop the rebel advances and preserve the rail line.

   After a string of Confederate victories, not the least of which being the rebel win at Richmond, Virginia on August 29-30, Davis was aware of the precarious situation the Union Army was in. So, he traveled from his home to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he reported to Major General Horatio Wright. In turn, Wright dispatched Davis to Louisville, where his mission was to arm the town's citizenry and prepare its defense. In addition, he was ordered to report to Nelson.
Gen. Wm. Nelson

   Two days after he had reported to Nelson, Davis was summoned to the Galt House by Nelson. The burly Nelson was dissatisfied with the contribution Davis made to preparing Lousiville's defenses. Meanwhile, Davis was incensed that Nelson was not treating him as his rank demanded. So, Nelson relieved Davis of his command and sent the veteran commander back to Cincinnati, where he reported to Wright again.

The Day of the Killing
   Two days after the altercation between Nelson and Davis, Davis returned to Louisville, where he demanded an apology from Nelson. To this demand Nelson said, "Go away you damned puppy, I don't want anything to do with you." Then, Davis reached for a piece of paper, crumpled it up and threw it at Nelson. In return, the much-larger Nelson stepped forward and struck Davis with the back of his hand.

   Angry and indignant about the disrespect Nelson had shown him, Davis left the hotel and borrowed a pistol from a friend. He then returned and shot Nelson in the chest, striking his heart. Nelson struggled for some moments, but ultimately fell dead. Davis shot Nelson at 8 a.m. and by 8:30 a.m. he was dead.

A Word About Nelson
   Nelson was not, by training, a soldier. In fact, up until the Civil War, Nelson had served as a career naval officer. Nelson was enrolled at Norwich University, in Vermont, at the age of 13. Two years after that, he was made a midshipman and was assigned aboard the USS Delaware. For the next five years, Nelson served as a junior officer at sea.
MG Horatio Wright saved Gen. Davis

   In 1845, Nelson went on to attend the first-ever class at the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland. He graduated from Annapolis in 1846, and earned the rank of passed midshipman. At the time the Civil War broke out, Nelson was an ordnance officer, holding the rank of lieutenant commander at the Washington Navy Yard.

   Two days after the onset of the war, though, Nelson presented himself to President Abraham Lincoln, with a proposal to arm Kentucky Unionists. And, that is how a U.S. Navy officer became a general in the Union Army.

Davis Faces the Music
   After Davis shot Nelson to death, he did not run or hide, protest or shift responsibility. He was taken into custoday and placed under arrest at an upstairs room of the Galt House. He was not bound or a guard used to keep him in custody.

   Upon questioning, Davis admitted that he wanted to publicly confront Nelson for the indignity of their prior conversation. However, he did not expect the slap that he received from his superior. Consequently, Davis did not attempt to use any legal afeguards, as was his right as a general officer.

   Buell wanted Davis to be executed on the spot. But, it was Wright who came to the assistance of Davis. Indeed, Davis was notified he was no longer under arrest on Oct. 13, 1862. As it turned out, the Union was in dire need of competent combat commanders, of which Davis was one.

   During those days in the Army, a soldier had 45 days to be charged following an alleged criminal incident. In short, 45 days came and went and there was no warrant for the arrest of Davis

   Davis went on to a very successful military career during and after the Civil War. As one of Lieutenant General William T. Sherman's favorite division commanders, he played a pivotal role in later campaigns, especially the Battle of Atlanta. After the war, Davis rose to become commander of the Department of Alaska and later the Department of Vancouver, respectively.
MG Don Carlos Buell wanted Davis executed

   However, Nelson never had justice done for his murder. The Union was on the brink of destruction during 1862 and every experienced fighting general, particularly the ones who were successul against the Confederate onslaught, were too valuable of a commodity to execute or imprison. While this is not an excuse for the actions of Davis, it is a reason to keep him in the war.

   Despite his long service in the U.S. Navy, Nelson was a relative outsider in the Army. Between West Point graduates and veterans of the Mexican-American War, the Army's officer corps was a tight-knit group. Though Davis was not a West Pointer, he had certainly 'earned his spurs' in combat and had managed an incredible career in uniform, impressing a host of superior officers along the way. It would, no doubt, have been a different matter entirely if Davis had shot Grant, Sherman or one of the other luminaries in uniform. He had not, though. He killed a naval leader-turned Army officer.

   There are several ways to see the Army's decision not to prosecute  Davis. First, it was an absolute travesty of justice for Nelson and his family. On the other hand, Davis played a major role in defeating Confederate forces. I am not going to second-guess a decision made more than 150 years ago. It does go to show that what is 'justice' can sometimes depend on the circumstances.

   Davis had a talent for winning against an enemy that was powerful, determined and crafty, which is something many Union generals struggled with during the first years of the war. With those abiities being needed in that moment in history, a judgement call was made...for the right or wrong of it.

(Jim Purcell is a retired print journalist. He resides in Western North Carolina with his wife, Lita.)


Friday, January 25, 2019

A Civil War General and His Strategic Tantrum

The Battle of Atlanta was a strategic victory for the Union during the Civil War


"There is nothing so close to God in Heaven as a general on the battlefield." 
-- Major General Joshua L. Chamberlain, United States Army (1863)

How much ego is too much ego, even by a general on a battlefield? I suppose that any soldier, of any rank, would draw the line at the point where ego costs lives. Those same solders might offer, afterward, that the purpose of soldiers and armies is to save lives by ending armed conflicts and restoring peace where it is vitally needed. 
Major General John Palmer

   Then there is the case of the commander of the XIV U.S. Corps during the Civil War, at the critical juncture of the close of the Battle of Atlanta. How petty can senior officers be, even with an enemy directly in front of them?

The Case of MG J. Palmer and His Date of Rank
   On August 6, 1864, Union Major General John M. Palmer (1817-1900) resigned as commander of the XIV Corps during the Battle of Atlanta, then being led overall by MG William T. Sherman. Why did he do it? Because Sherman had placed Palmer's corps under the operational control of Major General John M. Schofield for one maneuver in the closing battles within the campaign.

   According to Sherman, during August, 1864, when the capture of Atlanta seemed likely for Union forces, Schofield's corps was on the extreme right of the forward edge of the battle area. Schofield's forces were operating neat East Point, Georgia. Major General George H. Thomas and elements of his Army of the Cumberland held the center of the FEBA, with Major General Oliver O. Howard's XI Corps on the right.
J. Palmer after the war

   Sherman went on to say that, after reports from his cavalry, he came to believe that only a substantial element, like Schofield's corps, reinforced by more units, could successfully take and hold the railroad just below Atlanta. Schofield had his own corps, the XXIII, comprised of 11,075 infantry soldiers and 885 artillery soldiers. Schofield was also reinforced with 1,700 cavalry soldiers, and Sherman placed Palmer's XIV Corps under Schofield's operational control. Palmer's corps, at that time, numbered about 17,300 soldiers.

   On the eve of this massive maneuver by Sherman, though, a definite wrinkle happened when Palmer, a politician by trade before and after the war, insisted that he outranked Schofield, a career soldier and West Point graduate, by date of rank. In Army lingo that means, because Palmer was given his two stars before Schofield, he technically outranked him. While this is certainly a conversation to have in a garrison environment, having this debate in the middle of a major battle isn't appreciated by anyone, except the enemy (in this case, Atlanta defender Major General John B. Hood).

LTG William T. Sherman
   Consequently, Palmer denied that Schofield had any right to command him, and his troops, during this maneuver. As soon as Palmer's dissent was reported to Sherman, the overall commander of the battle decided that Schofield, in fact, out-ranked Palmer. On August 4th, in a letter to Palmer, Sherman wrote:

   "From the statements made by yourself and Gen. Schofield today, my decision is that he outranks you as a major general, being of the same date as present commission, by reason of his previous superior rank as brigadier general. The movements of tomorrow are so important that the orders of the superior on that flank must be regarded as military orders, and not in the nature of cooperation. I did hope there would be no necessity for my making that decision; but it is better for all parties interested that no question of rank should occur in actual battle. The Sandtown Road, and the railroad if possible, must be gained tomorrow, if it costs half your command. I regard the loss of time this afternoon as equal to the loss of 2,000 men."

   After this tantrum by Palmer was about fizzled out, Palmer showed up at Sherman's location and offered his resignation. Sherman said that he advised Palmer to give up his 'argument' with Schofield and to return to command his troops. Sherman noted that, if it came out later, Palmer's motives might be misconstrued and impact his civil career after the war. Palmer was determined, though. Finally, Sherman told Palmer that if he wished to resign he would need to do so through Schofield. So, Palmer got atop his horse again and rode to Schofield's headquarters, where he offered his resignation.
MG John Schofield

   On Aug. 6th, Schofield forwarded Palmer's resignation to Sherman, and suggested it be accepted. It was and Palmer was immediately replaced by Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson, a senior division commander within the XIV Corps. Meanwhile, in the wake of his resignation, Palmer was sent back to his home state of Illinois to await orders from the Army.

After His Resignation
   John M. Palmer was nothing if not a politician. After taking a break in Ilinois for some months, Palmer was next assigned as the military governor of the state of Kentucky. Once there, he reasserted Federal control of the region and helped to eliminate Confederate geurillas that still operated beyond the peace of April 9, 1865.

   In 1866, Palmer resigned from the Army entirely and, two years later, won the governship of Illinois. Later, Palmer would serve in the U.S. Senate and made a failed run for president of the United States in 1896.

   John M. Palmer finally died of a heart attack on September 25, 1900 in Springfield, Illinois.

The Historical Take-Away
   There was no chance that the regular officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted men of the XIV Cops knew that their commanding officer was delaying a military action against the forces of the Confederate Army located outside Atlanta, or that he was having a strategic hissy fit over his time in grade over that of a career soldier. They knew what was right in front of them, because if they had known what was going on it would have impacted the ability of the corps to fight. Morale is a key element to any unit, in any army, anywhere.
The standard for the XIV Corps

   Leaders need to demonstrate solidarity. Actually, solidarity needs to happen, ideally, from the lowest private to the commander of an army, any army of any era or time or conflict. It is taken for granted that, as terrible as it is, people will die during war, combatants and, even more sadly, non-combatants. It is such a serious business that the trivial cannot, nor should not, ever take center stage within an army in the field.

   If MG Palmer had been an NCO on a U.S. Navy ship at war, and had pulled what he did, he would no doubt be charged with mutiny and nothing good would happen from there. But, because he was a general, and basically a politician even while he was in uniform, he got a pass and went on to great things, even touting his Civil War combat record.

   There is an old saying which states: 'Stuff rolls downs hill.' Apparently, though, given a privileged situation in life, that is not always the case -- even when soldiers' lives hang in the balance.

Sources Used:

"Memoirs of Gen. William T. Sherman, Volume 2," by Wm. T. Sherman and W. Fletcher Johnson, published by D. Appleton & Co., New York, NY (1891), ppgs 96-101

(Jim Purcell is a historian and retired print journalist. During his time in the U.S. military, among other posts, he was assigned as the NCOIC of the S-2, 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division (Forward). He currently resides in Western North Carolina with his wife, Lita.)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Everything Changes by Staind

This is a friend of mine, Richie Toth. He is a U.S. Army veteran, who is 100 percent VA disabled as well as an Iraq War veteran. He is a good guy, who has gone through a lot and I hope people tune into his channel on YouTube. He's very talented as well.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Patriotism in Times of Political Unrest in America


There is no need to tell anyone that politics is dividing the United States right now. Republicans, Conservatives, Independents, Democrats, Progressives and dozens of other, different factions are practically yelling at the top of their lungs for attention,  for action of some kind.
It's a time to build bridges and not blow them up

   The Great Experiment of the United States began in 1776, the creation of some of the brightest minds in history. There was bitter feuding between what amounts to the Jefferson faction and the Hamilton faction. Thomas Jefferson envisioned the broadest application of democracy (for white men only), while it can be said that Hamilton favored a more stratified social and economic system, which shut out the interests of more white men. Roughly speaking, Adams lined up with the Hamilton faction, while men like James Madison followed Jefferson. We are all fortunate that George Washington, weary of long service, stayed on to usher in the fledgling republic for two terms as its president. 

   I do not believe that it was Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison or any of the other 'Founding Brothers' who were the most important during this time: it was Washington. Amid the passionate outbursts of all camps, he remained the calm eye in the storm. Washington chose the best ideas of both sides to incorporate into the United States. So, America did not become the agrarian collective that Jefferson might find ideal, nor did it become a de facto monarchy, which Hamilton might have felt comfortable with. 

   In 1783, Washington had to put an end to the Newburgh Conspiracy where, in Newburgh, New York, Hamilton and several hundred of his best friends were forwarding the proposition that the United States should be a monarchy, reigned over by Washington. The old general laid down the law to his veterans and that was the end of it. There would be no king.

Not what freedom looks like

   George Washington was not a Whig, a Democratic Republican, or any other 'party loyalist.' He was a loyalist to the United States and its bedrock principles, many of which he helped codify ith the new Congress. Washington was the check and safeguard against fanatacism and he served long enough to ensure that limitations were placed on any one individual, or any one group, to re-write the history of the United States themselves.

   There is a revolution in the United States with every electoral season. On social media, I am starting to hear about groups of people "...going out in to the streets armed..." to prove something or other. The loose talk is about a descent into madness. I do not trust any politician, group or collective of people to alter the future that has been given us by the Founders. And, anyone who does has the wrong idea about what America is. 

   The voting place has been called into question, and it should be: Voting has been suppressed in some places, fabricated in others, edited in still more. Yet, it is the vote that secures a peaceful future for the nation. If a vote is not sacred, then all of us are in very deep trouble. 

   If I were a politician or party who attained power through fraudulent or biased means, power is not a gift. Unwelcome leadership in the national government, or the governments organized under those governments will lead to chaos. One's every decision would be called into play and, not content to be lead in such a way, investigation after investigation would pile one upon the other. 
Definitely not what freedom looks like

   Love the country. Love what it stands for. America isn't about cutting people out, it is about welcoming groups of people into the mosaic that is America. Yes, we need the Rule of Law. We need strong national security. we also need to ensure that every citizen is enfranchised as an American, regardless of their sex, religion, national origin, creed or color. This is the American Way, and the only way for this nation.

   At this point, I think the smartest people in this nation are the ones that are not yelling and screaming, but trying to re-establish some consensus among a great number of people who currently believe they are at etreme odds with their fellow countrymen. The nature of American Government requires the consensus of the greatest number of people, and it is in that way our civilization goes on. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Evolution of Women in the U.S. Army


I was a soldier in the 1980s, considered by many soldiers these days as the 'Paleolithic Era' of the Army. But, it was an incredibly interesting time for women and their varied roles in the Army and that era was the forerunner of the force today.
Women have overcome many obstacles in the Army

   To begin with, women are already in combat every day around the world today, right now. It is no longer a question of if women should go into combat, they are and they are as capable as men in protecting this country and thumping bad guys and gals who are enemies of our republic. Women have graduated from Ranger School, they are now accepted in the Infantry Branch. They are flying combat missions and they are leading throughout the combat arms and combat support. It's their time. It arrived. They arrived.

   When I attended the U.S. Army Airborne School, in 1985, there was a female "Black Hat," or airborne instructor. My understanding was that she was the first female airborne instructor. At the school, I found out that the first female paratrooper graduated from Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1971. But, there were haters.
Women have proved themselves in combat

   I reported to Company A, 319th Military Intelligence Battalion, 525th MI Brigade (ABN) in September, 1986. Women were in leadership positions throughout the battalion, and the brigade for that matter. On the surface, it looked exactly like it was supposed to. Everything was integrated and the unit operated at a high level. At my activity, Counter-Intelligence Analysis, XVIII Airborne Corps (staffed by soldiers from my company), the non-commissioned officer in-charge was a woman as well and roughly half of the office was comprised of women.

   There was a level deeper than salutes and formations, field problems and daily work, though. It was the level where men are congregated together, in whatever ranks, when no women were present. And, it was there that the topics turned to female soldiers' sexuality, their looks, their competence and bodies. Even though the Department of the Army had gone further than it ever had to that point in female integration, under then-Secretary John O. Marsh Jr., many men, in and out of uniform, saw the Army as a man's job and not a woman's. Women had to work twice as hard to get half the credit of a male counterpart.

   Male and female soldiers dated in the unit, throughout the brigade, all over the post actually. As natural as that was, it sometimes relegated female soldiers, in the minds of colleagues, as 'the girlfriend' and not as 'the analyst' or whatever technical specialty she may have had.

   Some female soldiers railed against this perception by presenting themselves in the diametrically opposite way. I remember one female PFC who made it clear to every male soldier that "I'm not a lady, I'm a soldier and you better remember it!" She had a chip a mile wide on her shoulder, and it is understandable about why it was there.
As the force evolves, so does the role of women

   In my experience back then, male homosexual soldiers were heavily closeted. Discovery for them was unthinkable in those days. A soldier had been killed a few years later, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, after soldiers from his infantry platoon found out about his sexual orientation. And, fears for them ran just that deep. For whatever reason, lesbian soldiers were more 'out' with their orientation at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I say 'the fort' as opposed to just 'my unit' because one female soldier I knew made it clear she was with another female soldier in the 82nd, and even brought her to parties.

   There was some drama later on when that soldier's girlfriend left her and became the girlfriend of yet another 82nd Airborne Division soldier from within the unit. The three were at a social occasion once and a fight broke out between the girl's spurned lover and the new girlfriend. Overall, the impression was that the sexual orientation of these women were their own business, unlike the recriminations male soldiers would surely have experienced if they were outed. To my knowledge, no one ever called these ladies onto the carpet. And, with all the stuf they had to put up with, then that was at least one good thing.

   Inevitably, heterosexual girlfriends who were soldiers left boyfriends who were soldiers, usually for other soldiers, and there were fireworks: fights, big scenes, even some stalking here and there. It was part of the cycle of life in an integrated unit. All the time, the women were fighting quietly to be regarded the same as men. Not all female soldiers became involved with other soldiers romantically. Actually, it was a minority of female soldiers I saw.

   Dating is natural between healthy young people, in any walk of life. Some women were 'downgraded' for having a social life, while men were not. Fair? Not hardly. Perhaps that was a barrier that many professional soldiers did not cross because, back then, it would have led to wrong impressions about their competence.

   The 'go to' regulation that was regularly used by the female soldier haters was the disparity of minimum requirements used per the Army Physical Readiness Test. The event consisted of push-ups, sit-ups and a run. Due to their relative upper body strength, females had to perform slightly lower standards. And, that was what haters hung their hats on. It seems ridiculous looking back on it. In fact, it seemed ridiculous then.

   Back then, I did not know any civilian male husbands of female soldiers, though I am confident the lower ranks would have had harsh characterizations for such dependants. For that matter, I feel safe in saying higher ranks would have been negative about this also, though would surely have been publicly silent about such things. The scales were absolutely tipped to male soldiers.

   I never witnessed a female soldier being directly sexually harassed, but I'd heard such things second-hand. Asking female soldiers about abuse directly, as I had on occasion, would usually elicit automatic silence and a quick rebuff. Nevertheless, it happened. And, judging by the talk, it happened quite a lot.
The Army of the '80s had a way to go with total female integration

   In retrospect, what these ladies put up with was unimaginable for me, as a male soldier. Yet, they perservered. They did not stop. Though regulations and oversight got better, and the culture became more truly diverse, females were more accepted as professionals over time. It was not a pretty story about what women had to put up with, but it is one that hallmarks the courage of the female soldier in her ability to overcome adversities from outside the force -- and from within.

   Female military professionals today are doing an amazing job protecting this country, and thank God they have finally been recognized as the assets that they are. However, soldiers of both sexes owe a large debt of gratitude to the service women who came before.                                                                   
(Jim Purcell served in the United States Army in a number of units during the 1980s. After being discharged from the Army as a Sergeant, he went on to become a print newspaper professional. He is currently retired in Western North Carolina with his wife, Lita.)                                                                                                                                       

Monday, January 7, 2019

Thanks For Putting The Site Over 150,000 Views

Dear Readers,

 The site going over 150,000 views means a lot to me personally. I want to thank the readers who have come here and found an interest in the materials being presented. Whether it is articles or editorials  I research and write or third-party videos I post, I try very hard to ensure to present quality information on whatever the subject might be. The amount of visitation tells me that I've been successful in this endeavor and I am so thankful to the site's readers, many of whom return regularly. 

   As a reminder, this site earns no money whatsoever, does not collect information in any fashion and does not present any advertising. 'The Purcell Chronicles' is my hobby and I do it because I love the work. For many years I was a print journalist, so this site allows me to pursue subjects that I find interesting and present them to the public. 

   It is my hope that the site continues to garner interest from the public. I assure the readers that I will continue to work as hard as I can to provide interesting, well-researched content. Again, thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day.

Jim Purcell

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Army Was Well-Served By Specialist Ranks

All that is left of specialist grades:
Specialist, formerly Spec. 4

The Army's lack of true specialty ranks goes back to the mid-1980s. It was then that the last of the soldiers who held the rank of specialist fifth class were converted to the rank of sergeant. At the time, I was a going through the Intelligence Analyst Course (Class 96B10-16) at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Schools, in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Two of the students in the class were converted from SP5 to SGT (E-5).

   In my opinion, it was a mistake to wipe out an entire class of ranks, which gave good service to the Army. Does every enlisted military occupational specialty need leadership associated with its duty description? Well, certainly the combat arms and close combat support jobs do. However, where it involves logistical, intelligence, driving, aviation, personnel, food service, finance, administrative and medical military occupations, as an example, I think specialist ranks would serve the Army well again.


   The Army is not the Marines, where "every Marine is an infantryman, regardless of their job." The Army has a larger mission strategically. Its specialties are necessary would be better served by additional technical schools throughout soldier careers, as opposed to traditional leadership academies.

   Should a finance sergeant first class (E-7) have tactical oversight of an infantry corporal (E-4)? I don't believe so. Though, I have spoken to fellow veterans who served in this era, in the recent war in Afghanistan, and I've been told that  soldiers are sent on direct combat missions immaterial of their branch or training...if true a bad practice. Specialists could, as they had been from 1902-1986 (or so) the soldiers who keep the trains running, the force paid, and the immense administration of the Army running while combat units and combat soldiers perform the vital function of fighting America's enemies.
A Spec. 5 during the 1960s

   Whatever the Army does should be done well. Specializing soldiers again (specialist grades E4-E9) would focus many vital functions without superfluous training or assignments. A drill sergeant should come from the combat arms, ideally. Any NCO position involving tactical prowess should have candidates come from the combat arms. Meanwhile, a valued intelligence professional should be able to gain advancement even if they are not fluent in infantry leadership methodology. While every soldier should know how to shoot, move and communicate...not every soldier needs to learn how to run a fire team or an infantry platoon.


   Specialist ranks have their origin in the U.S. Army dating back to 1902, with the creation of the rank of technical sergeant.
A Spec. 7 during the Vietnam Era

   There was an overhaul of the rank structure in 1920 and the rank of "private/specialist" was created. Soldiers who qualified for this rank attended six classes and were paid the same as privates first class. However, this rank represented competence in certain tasks and did not convey any leadership abilities with it.

   On July 1, 1955, four grades of specialist were introduced in the Army, specialist third class (E-4), specialist second class (E-5), specialist first class (E-6) and master specialist (E-7). In 1958, the Army added two additional specialist ranks, recognizing six specialist ratings to provide career paths for those serving in these positions.

   Also during 1958, the specialist fourth class rating was assigned to those in pay grade E-4, which became the beginning step in a rank structure that concluded with the pay grade specialist 9, which was the pay equivalent of (E-9), or command sergeant major.

   Only the lowest specialist grade survives today after the more senior specialist grades were gradually phased out, concluding during the mid-1980s. During the late 1980s, specialists fourth class were converted to just "specialists," and remains so today. The force-wide prevalence of this pay grade led to the humorous characterization of the "E-4 specialist mafia."


   Was abolishing an entire class of specialist ratings a good idea? Feelings are mixed. Personally, I believe that specialized career fields would be well-served by a specialist rank structure. Good, competent specialists of certain jobs in the Army should be able to excel within the confines of their military occupational specialty from E-4 through E-9, without the expectation of leadership responsibilities.

   Everyone in the Army should know how to protect themselves and possess basic soldier skills. But, not everyone was born to lead in squads, platoons, companies or battalions.

(Jim Purcell is a former U.S. Army sergeant, who left the service and became a journalist for many years. He graduated with a Master's Degree from N.Y. Theological Seminary and retired to Western North Carolina with his wife, Lita.) 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

SGM of the Army Dan Dailey Speaks on the Pink & Green Uniform

A Brief History of 'Pinks and Greens' in the U.S. Army

The term 'pinks and greens' formerly involved the U.S. Army's officer winter uniforms during the period of the 1920s through 1950s. 

After the pinks and greens were retired, entirely by 1959, the U.S. Army adopted the first of its many variations of the green dress uniform.

   On November 11, 2018, the U.S. Army announced it would be returning to a style of the pinks and greens for both officer and enlisted uniforms, effective in 2020. The entire Army, and its reserve components would be fully transitioned to the new dress uniform by 2028.

   It is intended that the new pinks and green uniform will fill the gap between the Army's formal blue dress uniform and the Army Combat Uniforms currently in place today.

-- Jim Purcell