05 December, 2011

05 December 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
5 December, 1944       0855

My dearest sweetheart –

I know I won’t get very far with this letter, but it’s worth a try – In a few minutes I’ll be taking sick call and the morning will be on its way.


Hello again, darling – the morning is on its way all right. I know I won’t be able to write this p.m. because I’m a member of the Board and we’re meeting today. The Board, by the way dear – is a Section VIII.


Hell, dear – I don’t know why I even try to write in the a.m. – but as I started to tell you, I’m on a Section VIII Board and they’re usually long drawn-out affairs. Have you had any occasion to meet up with a Section 8 case? They’re usually rather interesting. This one coming up is morbid, but that’s about all I can tell you about it.

Yesterday was a rather dull day – once it got going. I got no mail and sat around doing very little the greatest part of the afternoon. In the evening I read. I’m supposed to visit one of the line batteries starting tomorrow and for 3 days, but I doubt if I’ll get to stay out. The last time I did – there was too much taking place back here at battalion and I was continually running back. I spoke to the Colonel about it and he agreed that my first duty was here. What I’ll probably do is go out for a couple of hours in the afternoon and be back again at night. Sorry, darling. I’ve got to leave again.


Here I am again, sweetheart, and this time I’ll make a concerted effort to finish this. I’ve wanted to mention something you wrote me some time ago, and I keep forgetting. I guess I had written you on a blue day and asked you to date etc. I thought you might be a bit angry on reading that letter and I was pleasantly surprised at the way you reacted towards it. I love you for many many reasons, sweetheart, and one of them is your attitude – which has always been admirable – considering everything. You were very complimentary to me in your letter, but I suppose you know by now it won’t make me fat-headed. If anything, darling, anything nice you ever write or think about me – I’ll always try to live up to. I’m sure our love is a real one. If not – we’d never have come so far together without having become fed up with the circumstances. If you can take it – I know I can. My only concern is you dear – because I now how difficult it must be at times.

I was glad to read that you feel you understand my folks and they you. Regardless of the fact that we’ll some day live in Salem – a good in-law relationship is almost a necessary prerequisite towards a happy marriage. I’m not the over-demonstrative type – as you know, but you must have perceived by now that my folks mean more to me than folks mean to a good many other fellows. They are about the most honest and sincere people a fellow could ever hope to have as parents – and I’ve always appreciated that in them. That’s why I’m happy to read that you, too, understand them and can overlook whatever faults they may have. Whatever the latter may include – one of them is not superficiality – something I dislike intensely. I know how I feel about your family, too, darling – and I know we’ll get along swell. There shouldn’t be any of the ‘bickering’ which some couples have to put up with. I’m no youngster; I have a mind of my own and I think I know when to use it. The bickering – if any – usually results when the couple involved – are kicked around from one set of in-laws to the other. I’m pretty certain we won’t have to contend with that – in any case. But above all – we love each other and we’ll have our own lives to live – the way we want to live it and with God’s help – we’ll do it.

Well – I managed to get a few minutes of uninterrupted thought, dear, and I’m glad – because I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed that letter – its contents and how you felt about things.

For now, darling, so long. My love to the folks – and

My everlasting love


about Section VIII

During World War II, the term "Section VIII" referred to a category of discharge from the United States military for reason of being mentally unfit for service. Many chronic minor offenders, mental defectives, alcoholics, psychopathic states including sexual deviates, and other personality disorders were referred for psychiatric evaluation but could be discharged from the service only by nonmedical (administrative) proceedings. These cases were usually first sent for psychiatric evaluation and then, if deemed appropriate, were referred to "Section VIII" boards. This section of the general regulations (AR 615-360, 26 Nov. 1942), dealing with premature separation from the service, provided for the release from active duty for a wide variety of behavioral problems under the heading "inaptness or undesirable habits or traits of character," as follows:

(1) Is unable [included mainly intellectual deficiency], or

(2) Does not possess the required degree of adaptability for military service [including incontinence and personality disorders with little or no acting out behavior], or

(3) Gives evidence of habits or traits of character [including acting out behavioral disorders, alcoholism, and "sexual perversions as homosexuality" (considered perverted behavior by the military at that time)] which serve to render retention in the service undesirable or,

(4) Is disqualified for service, physically or in character, through his own misconduct [including mainly individuals injured and disabled during the commission of a military or civilian offense], and cannot be rehabilitated so as to render useful service before the expiration of his term of service without detriment to the morale and efficiency of his organization.

Although Section VIII provided for training, reassignment and reclassification, and rehabilitation for the unable or inadaptable categories (1 and 2, above), in actual practice little salvage was accomplished, as indicated by the number of personnel discharged under these provisions during World War II.

All cases were processed by a board of three officers, one of whom, if practicable, was a medical officer. Whenever practicable, a psychiatrist was called as a witness. But more often, the psychiatrist's report of his examination and findings was utilized in lieu of testimony. The board proceedings were governed by rules of procedure applicable in special courts-martial, and counsel was not authorized. The board findings and recommendations were reviewed by the convening authority (the next higher commander) and forwarded to a major commander, usually a general officer, for final action and discharge, if indicated.

Discharge under the provisions of Section VIII was generally of the honorable type for the unable or inadaptable categories because "the conduct of the enlisted man during his current period of service had been such as would render his retention in the service desirable were it not for his ineptitude or lack of required adaptability for military service." In effect, such an individual was considered to possess defects of intelligence or personality which exculpated his inability to render adequate service. Not so for the other two categories that involved acting out or psychopathic behavior, chronic alcoholism, or sexual perversion, including homosexuality, for which discharge without honor (blue) was usually given.

Service members holding a blue discharge (printed on blue paper) were subjected to discrimination in civilian life. They were denied the benefits of the G.I. Bill by the Veterans Administration and had difficulty finding work because employers were aware of the negative connotations of a blue discharge. Following intense criticism in the press – especially the Black press, because of the high percentage of African Americans who received blue discharges – and in Congress, the white vs. blue discharge was discontinued in 1947, replaced by two new classifications: general and undesirable. As of September 2011, homosexuality is no longer a reason for discharge from the United States military.

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