Courts-Martial and Military Law

November 20, 1943

Report Outline
American System of Miltary Justice
History of United States Courts-Martial
Courts-Martial for Pearl Harbor Commanders

American System of Miltary Justice

Separate Army and Navy Codes of Law

Military Law, in its ordinary and more restricted sense, is “the specific law governing the Army as a separate community.” The Articles of War are the statutory codification of military law for enforcement of discipline and administration of criminal justice in the United States Army. The court-martial is the tribunal for carrying this military law into effect. A Manual for Courts Martial, based on the Articles of War, is issued or reissued annually under direction of the President by the Judge Advocate General of the Army, who is titular head of the Army bureau of military justice.

The Navy has its separate basic law in the Articles for the Government of the Navy; its manual of procedure, issued under direction of the President, is embodied in the publication Naval Courts and Boards. Court-martial procedure in the Navy does not differ basically from that of the Army, although there are many variations. The Navy also has its Judge Advocate General, but while in the Army this officer is specially appointed to the position, in the Navy he is a line officer designated for the duties. The Army has a special corps of 1,350 judge advocates, covering each division, camp, post and station. The Navy has no such special corps.

Constitutionalsanctionsfor Courts-Martial

American courts-martial derive their sanction from provisions in three separate articles of the Constitution. Article I authorizes Congress to “raise and support armies,” to “provide and maintain a navy,” to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,” to “provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States,” and in general to make all laws “necessary and proper for the carrying into execution of the foregoing powers.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Oct. 07, 1970  Military Justice
Jul. 12, 1967  Treatment of War Prisoners
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Sep. 07, 1948  War Trials and Future Peace
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Nov. 20, 1943  Courts-Martial and Military Law
Mar. 15, 1943  War Guilt Trials
Mar. 30, 1942  War Atrocities
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Aug. 11, 1938  Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations
Military Law and Justice