6

Just this morning I found the military records of my great-grandfather. The first thing I noticed among them are an unusual number of honorable discharge papers.

     Dates of Service     | Reason for Discharge
---------------------------------------------------------- 
 7 Jul 1911 -  6 Jul 1914 | Expiration of term of service
29 Jul 1914 - 21 Jun 1920 | Sec 30 Act of Congress Approved June 4, 1920
 4 Aug 1920 -  3 Aug 1923 | Expiration term of service
 4 Aug 1923 - 20 Sep 1924 | purchase per section III. for 18, AR. 615-360
 1 Oct 1924 - 30 Sep 1927 | Expiration of service
 1 Oct 1927 - 30 Sep 1930 | Expiration of service
 1 Oct 1930 - 30 Sep 1933 | Expiration of service
 1 Oct 1933 - 30 Sep 1936 | Expiration of service
 1 Oct 1936 - 30 Sep 1939 | Expiration of service
            - 31 Dec 1942 | Retirement*

I was previously under the impression that it was abnormal to re-enter the military after being discharged, so it shocked me to see so many discharge papers. However, this makes it seem normal to be discharged after each assignment.

Why go through the formalities of discharging and re-enlisting? Why not just have some vacation time between terms of service? Was my great-grandfather fickle? Or was this normal in the early 1900s?

* Technically, retirement is not a form of discharge

  • 2
    Seems like you have a series of 3 year enlistments which I believe these days there are bonuses for. Perhaps it was the case at this time also. Quick search to that effect hasn't yielded any results as of yet, but can't be discounted. One Benifit would be that be wasn't tying himself in for the long haul and at any one time would only have 3 years to serve before he could do something else. – AvieRose Mar 3 '13 at 23:34
6

ETS is Expiration of Term of Service (usually in the US Army, it's discharge code 201 and used for enlisted men). It's typical for each term of service to be separate as you have to resign and re-up for each one. Actual extensions are typically done only by the government (as I think may have been done in the Sec 30 reference in 1914-1920 below)

So the trail is:

Dates of Service | Reason for Discharge

7 Jul 1911 - 6 Jul 1914 | Expiration of term of service (he enlisted 1911 for 3 years and was discharged at the end of it)

29 Jul 1914 - 21 Jun 1920 | Sec 30 Act of Congress Approved June 4, 1920 (This is a reference to the National Defense Act of 1920 which made sweeping changes to the armed services after WWI. (WWI for American involvement was basically 1917 to 1918). You'd have to do more research to find out exactly but the National Defense Act or a side-effect of it is my best guess for this one. I'd consider it possible that he re-enlisted Jul 1914, was kept on during WWI because his normal 3 year enlistment would have expired in 1917 during wartime and I believe they extended the terms then during the time of war. Like I said - more research is needed.)

4 Aug 1920 - 3 Aug 1923 | Expiration term of service (he re-enlisted and this was a 3 year term)

4 Aug 1923 - 20 Sep 1924 | purchase per section III. for 18, AR. 615-360 (this code means a failure to meet weight control guidelines. Looks like he got out of shap and they gave him a one year enlistment to get back into shape rather than a 3 year re-enlistment term)

1 Oct 1924 - 30 Sep 1927 | Expiration of service (another completed 3 year term)

1 Oct 1927 - 30 Sep 1930 | Expiration of service (another completed 3 year term)

1 Oct 1930 - 30 Sep 1933 | Expiration of service (another completed 3 year term)

1 Oct 1933 - 30 Sep 1936 | Expiration of service (another completed 3 year term)

1 Oct 1936 - 30 Sep 1939 | Expiration of service (another completed 3 year term)

        - 31 Dec 1942 | Retirement*

Hope that helps.

  • Welcome to Genealogy.SE, Maura van der Linden! – GeneJ Mar 11 '13 at 5:43
5

At one time (early-mid 1960's), one was always discharged at the end of the enlistment period. If one wished to continue to serve they could immediately, or for a certain period of time, re-enlist with no loss of rank. I don't know how it worked before that -or today for that mattter!

3

I can't attest to the rituals involving re-enlistment of military personnel back then, but having been in the military recently, whenever a person re-enlists, they are first Honorably Discharged before they go through the re-enlistment. When you sign up for a 4 year enlistment, you are eligible to re-enlist starting in your 3rd year. If they did things then as they do now, it's completely feasible that this was just a series of re-enlistments.

2

Do you know exactly what conditions of service he enlisted under each time?

Strikes me that the later ones are all 3y terms. It may be that in his branch, only 3y terms were available, but either he was valued by the military or he wanted to carry on. So at the expiry of each 3y term, they simply put him through the recruitment process again. Of course, bureaucracy being what it is, the end of term procedures had to be followed.

Somewhere there's probably a parallel set of recruitment papers every 3y. Or there were...

2

I cannot answer the question about your grandfather, but my father was honorably discharged twice during World War II.

His circumstance was different:

He enlisted (had been drafted), and shortly had the opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School. His diploma from the program was dated 9 December 1942.

The day prior to graduation, he was discharged the first time from the Army Air Force as a Sergeant, 8 December 1942. The reason given was "Conv. of Gov't. (Sec X AR 615-360) to accept Temp. Commission as Second Lieutenant in the AUS."

He then served 3-1/2 years longer and, after a promotion here or there, was discharged the second time on 16 May 1946.

P.S. Would seem your grandfather was getting out about the time my father was being signed up.

  • 1
    GeneJ - your father's case matches examples I've seen in the UK. Generally the reason in the UK that a simple promotion doesn't work is that the conditions of employment for the original engagement are totally different from those for the officer. It's a good idea to remember that administrative bureaucracy is often the reason for apparently pointless events. And no, I'm not saying that the bureaucracy is pointless either. Conditions of service (e.g. "When am I paid?" and "When do I get out?") are important! – AdrianB38 Mar 4 '13 at 10:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy