The U.S. Army has many rules and regulations pertaining to its membership concerning what kind of behavior is acceptable, what is considered to be criminal and what makes an individual fit or unfit to serve as a soldier. Section Eight is a historical aspect of military law, designed specifically to deal with soldiers designated as having psychological problems.
Definition of Section Eight
Webster's dictionary defines a military Section Eight as the discharge of a soldier from the U.S. Army because he lacks military aptitude or has undesirable habits and character traits. The policy and soldiers separated from the Army because of it are known as “section eights” because this type of discharge was a provision of the U.S. Army Articles of War, Section VIII, Army Regulation 615–360. A Section Eight discharge was also known as a “blue” discharge because of the color of paper it was issued on and was not an honorable discharge.
Uses of Section Eight
Officially, Section Eight was used to administratively separate any soldier from the Army who was considered to be unfit for military service due to psychological reasons. For example, a soldier exhibiting psychosis, drug addiction or wetting the bed could be forced out of military service after meeting with an analyst assigned by the Army to assess psychological health. Section Eight’s notoriety in history arose because in the early wars it was used discriminatively to remove homosexuals -- so-called sexual deviants -- and African Americans from the Army.
Repercussions of Section Eight
Because Section Eight was not an Honorable Discharge from the Army, the people who received them faced consequences. The stigma associated with the blue slip of paper made it difficult for Section Eight soldiers to find jobs following discharge.They could not use the G.I. Bill or veteran’s benefits that soldiers receiving an Honorable Discharge received. However, some soldiers later had their Section Eight discharge reviewed and changed to an Honorable discharge so they could receive benefits.
Discontinuation of Section Eight
By 1950, the old Articles of War were done away with and new regulations were put into place that applied not only to the Army, but also the Navy and Air Force. Psychological problems received new classifications, and consensual sodomy became a court-martial offense. Regulations regarding psychological disorders, homosexuality and other military concerns continued to evolve. Section Eight is no longer in practice today.
- Merriam Webster Dictionary: Section Eight
- U.S. Army Medical Department Office of Medical History: Preventive Psychiatry During World War II
- The Federal Reporter: 479 F.2d 79
- Stanford University: The History of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the Army
- Army Service Forces Manual: Leadership and the Negro Soldier