Enlisted vs. officers at social dances

Discussion in 'WWII' started by BigBrother, Sep 17, 2020.

  1. BigBrother

    BigBrother New in Town

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    I've noticed, as I've dived deeper and deeper into recreating the various service uniforms for social dances, that in the old films they almost always show enlisted men at dances and virtually never officers. I was curious as to why.

    Is it:

    1. Just sheer numbers- any social venue was likely to be inundated with young enlisted men, and officers would've just been drowned out?

    2. Officers were forbidden from fraternizing with and/or attending the same venues as enlisted men?

    3. The films were trying to have mass appeal and as officers were viewed as the elite(ist) few, wanted to show men to whom the audience could relate/with whom they could identify?

    4. Another reason I'm missing?

    I was much more interested in the officer uniforms for the Army, but I'd slightly rethink it if there's some hard-stop reason why it wouldn't be accurate.

    Navy though is A-OK with the cracker jack! :)
     
  2. AbbaDatDeHat

    AbbaDatDeHat I'll Lock Up

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    ^^^#2 and vice versa.
    At least in the USMC.
    B
     
  3. BigBrother

    BigBrother New in Town

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    Did this apply off-base? Was there any sort of protocol if a group of officers say walked into a bar or dance hall and stared at a sea of grunts? [​IMG]

    I'm guessing no rules applied as it was civilian territory but perhaps there were unstated rules (?) Or pretty much nothing applied? And did the enlisted owe them anything when it was off base/they were on leave?
     
  4. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Officers wouldn't be caught dead dancing in front of enlisted men. They know it would just give the enlisted men something to make comments about, laugh at, and generally be disrespectful about. Officers were mindful of maintaining social barriers exactly for this reason. It undermines discipline.
     
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  5. JustinW

    JustinW One of the Regulars

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    Officers were encouraged to maintain an aloofness from enlisted ranks.

    Officers wouldn’t feel they were able to ‘let their hair’ down in front of the troops and vice versa.
     
    Edward Reed likes this.
  6. M Brown

    M Brown One of the Regulars

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    #2
    separate venues & events for each
     
  7. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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    The wall between officers and enlisted is long standing and thick. On my last night in VN, the flight crews with whom I had flown for the last year, stopped by my hootch to say goodbye. They usually came in small groups of two. They all had stories to share of things that had happened on our missions together. I would give each a beer and have one myself. It was an emotional night. It also was the only time I ever drank alcohol with enlisted men (other than special forces—they were less regimented).

    About two thirds into the night, my flight commander (a Captain) came by the hooch. When he saw the enlisted men having a beer with me, he hit the ceiling. I explained the circumstances, but to no avail. I think there were 3 crew members in the hootch at the time. He kicked them out (it was my hootch) and told me if I wanted to drink a beer, to go to the Officers' Club to be with my "own kind." Thank you Captain, but that's where I started out. The crew would go there to say goodbye, but they couldn't come inside. So, I moved here. He gave me a direct order to not let any more enlisted crew in the hootch. The next time I heard a knock at the door, I simply took the beer outside and we reminisced and said our goodbyes there.

    So, that story is a long way around to illustrate the barrier between enlisted and officer. The old films you mentioned probably were depicting a scene from an NCO or enlisted club. There would be no officers in their club.
     
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  8. AbbaDatDeHat

    AbbaDatDeHat I'll Lock Up

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    Well defined Peacoat. I was holding off on my response seeing how i was a shitbird enlisted guy.
    But...there was a definite unbreakable line drawn between officers and enlisted in my time. Break that line and fraternize and someone lost rank.
    It was basically them vs us.
    I had one Lt. that tried to pal around with us enlisted and he was suspect of being a narc by everyone, plus was totally full of shit, had been there and done that twice. Hell, even further, NCOs, Sgt and Cpl, could not hang with us lowlys. They could get away with it some but not the officers.
    As far as dances, lol, it would more than likely be dive bars and if a bunch of off-duty officers showed up with a bunch of drunk enlisted around, the probability of physical conflict was very high if not inevitable. (a total understatement).
    In short, officers stayed in officer’s country and enlisted stayed everywhere else. It was better for both that way for all the right reasons.
    Peacoat, i know you understand the necessity of command needing command and asking a “friend” to go in harms way only ends badly for all.
    I was no warrior like you but i understood personal relationships are a luxury in a business that could be quite ugly.
    B
     
  9. JustinW

    JustinW One of the Regulars

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    I spent some time on a few small bases with ‘mixed’ messes and clubs. Errgghhh! It felt like eating at the kids’ table while your parents had fun and watched you like hawks. Looking back, I’m sure they didn’t like it much either.
     
  10. As a Drill Sgt it wasn't wise for me to pal around with my trainees. I was expected (on both sides) to not be 'one of the guys' but rather present myself as a 'hardcore no nonsense warrior' :D who expected loyalty and performance above all. NCO functions were separate although we were sometimes invited to officer dances. In the mess hall we did eat at the officer's table.
     
    JustinW likes this.
  11. BigBrother

    BigBrother New in Town

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    Great stuff; thanks guys!

    1. I do wonder in WWII if that really sucked, seeing as how socializing (at least the type shown in films) involved huge dance halls and the dancing itself. In other words, if there were only a handful of really “hopping” joints in town, to be an officer and functionally forbidden from going to them would be awful. Dive bars or just places in general to get drunk are one thing, dime a dozen, etc. But not being able to go to a huge famous hall would suck. I wonder if at large/renowned enough places it wasn’t an issue. For example, I can’t imagine a ballgame or movie theater being subject to such rules by the men. Who knows what was what/where the cutoff was?

    2. So obviously I’m getting the picture here; I’m now curious about dancing itself/fraternizing with members of the opposite sex and what one would expect:

    Officers with officers: I have no clue how this worked. Was it as strict as “same rank only”? Can’t imagine so. Was it male had to be the superior officer if unequal? Any rules at all?

    Officers with enlisted: no way no how I imagine.

    Officers with civilians: no issues I imagine (?)

    Enlisted with civilians: oh, how many a shanty, musical, and film would be wiped from history if this were forbidden!! [​IMG]

    And something I’ve often wondered about- how were they to treat someone from another service? I vaguely recall reading or hearing it was just consideration as the equivalent rank. Or not?

    Thanks!
     
  12. EngProf

    EngProf A-List Customer

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    "Officers with enlisted: no way no how I imagine."
    Just one example to show that with millions of people involved, some "aberrations" on that issue happened...
    The mother of one of my former girlfriends was an Army nurse (1st Lieutenant) serving in a hospital in Hawaii during WWII.
    One day a very handsome enlisted Navy guy showed up in the hospital with what in those days they called a "million-dollar wound" - serious enough to be sent back, but not serious enough to be permanent or crippling.
    They said it was "love at first sight".
    They dated during the War, later got married (post-War), and among other things added Rita to the Baby Boom.
    There is no doubt that it was very much against the rules, but apparently those who knew didn't care and those who would care didn't know.
    I think it helped that they were in wartime Hawaii where there were huge numbers of military people coming and going and mingling in everyday life.
    Also, even later in life she came across as someone who was really independent-minded and wouldn't take no for an answer.
     
    Edward Reed likes this.
  13. Oscott101

    Oscott101 New in Town

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    Movie theaters, parks, restaurants etc... have different rules. There is no prohibition from going to those places even if there are enlisted present. You learn very quickly were the enlisted hang out off post and where the officers go. Usually, once you make field grade officer (MAJ, LTC and COL), you go to private gatherings with other field grade officers. If you do go to a bar it is probably while TDY. There is not only a divide between officer and enlisted but only field and company grade officer as well.

    1 thing the movies show that would probably not happen in today's Army (maybe in the past or at post I have never been visited). Most post have an order stating that unless it is an official function off post, you are not allowed to consume alcohol while in uniform unless you are on post.
     
  14. JustinW

    JustinW One of the Regulars

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    ^
    That always looked odd to me in old America war movies. At least in more recent times in Australian service, you wear your uniform while you are ‘at work’ and if you are off base then you change into off duty clothing. Especially if you are going to the pub!


    The one exception is ANZAC Day: if you march in the parade, you can go have a drink with the public while in uniform (but you still can’t get too rowdy or drunk). This is usually more of a big deal for 18yo reservists who think the fresh uniform will help pull chicks, hahah.
     
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  15. Turnip

    Turnip Practically Family

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    Same here, uniforms only for formal use, or maybe on the way home for commuters but these wear a combat or work suit but for sure no fiddle.

    No soldier would ever show up in a pub or worse wearing uniform here.

    The exceptions here were mostly poor boys who have been pestered by their oldies to show up once at home in first fiddle during basic training. Or those poor chaps who had to participate the Kieler Woche or similar events as folkloric accessory.
     
  16. Turnip

    Turnip Practically Family

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    In war times here most soldiers on holidays put off their uniforms they had to wear during traveling once they arrived at home and recruits weren’t allowed to leave their barracks anyway.
     
  17. 1961MJS

    1961MJS My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    My Dad was on Guadalcanal as a Station Chief and Weather Forecaster in 1945. He played badminton with the Captain and 1LT, I don't remember who the 4th was, but that was ALL THERE WAS for high ranking weathermen.
    Later
     
  18. Canadian

    Canadian One of the Regulars

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    My grandpa served in WWII as an Able Seaman. He was later commissioned when he volunteered for the Korean war. He never actually was deployed, was stationed out east somewhere on a big army base.

    He grew to be a Colonel in the reserves and my dad pretty much did the same thing, except that my dad was a Captain. When I was a cadet as a much younger man, there were serious differences between officers and enlisted. Enlisted men could get leave and go see family, while my grandpa had his young wife visit him on the base, involving a complex cross country train ride. While you are 'on course', you can't get leave, but I recall that officers socialized separately when they weren't on duty.

    As for going to a bar where enlisted men were, it wouldn't happen. Officers are officers who are in a position to be privy to private data. They, at least in Canada would have a small number of regular dance partners and there wouldn't be mixing with others. They had separate dances and meals.

    My dad told me that the only difference between the enlisted dining hall and the officers mess is that in the officers mess, the food was served by a steward. Enlisted men had to queue for their food.

    While a young man, I was instructed to not address officers in uniform or after hours, not to be too much of a pal. I remember being on a bus to a function as a cadet (basically a Canadian version of ROTC) and one of the other guys told an officer that it was a fine day, and that officer just started screaming at him about how he was not to talk to him and that he was to talk to his sergeant and never to address him. I can obviously imagine how much we'd want to socialize with them. This was in the summer of 1999.

    I remember a dance they threw for us at a big competition. The music was kind of rock/pop and there was a do, not a live band. Strictly not officer entertainment.

    C.
     
  19. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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    About 25 years ago, I woman I know, who was enlisted, started dating a Lieutenant. His superiors found out and read the riot act to him. He was told his options were limited if he wanted to continue dating her: One or the other could leave the Army, or she could go to OCS and obtain a commission. Only then could they resume their relationship.

    The first option wasn't palatable to either of them, so she applied for and was accepted into OCS. She subsequently graduated and was commissioned. His superiors were satisfied. The relationship resumed and they were married. Didn't hurt his career as he made General years later. She made Captain and resigned her commission when they decided to start a family.

    So, fraternization between officers and enlisted is still frowned on, and an officer who does so puts his career at risk.
     
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  20. Turnip

    Turnip Practically Family

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    When I joined the club the officer candidates already had a „slightly“ differently conditioned basic training.
    Returning from the shooting range the enlisted cleaned their guns in their barracks while the OCs platoon did the same outside in the rain. OCs have also always been the last to leave their barracks for weekend, had separated casinos and so on and so on...
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2020

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