Military 18 of the Most High Profile Court Martial Stories  

Richard Rowe
52.4k views 18 items

The Court Martial is one of the oldest institutions of justice in the world today. We can draw a direct line of descent from the modern military trial all the way back through the British Articles of War, and from there, to the tribunals of the ancient Romans. Granted, the procedures have changed a bit, but at its core, the court martial remains a direct progeny of the Roman Tribunal. 

Of course, America's history doesn't span quite that far back. But even in our short 250 years or so, our military has brought charges against over 1.5 million soldiers. The offenses range from the most minor military offenses, to treason, to bloody war crimes so psychotic it's difficult to imagine them. But war is, itself, a psychotic business - and at no point in history will you run out of precedents for that. 

The following examples of people who were court martialed includes at least one man whose name is synonymous with "treason," and quite a few more whose names are known little at all. It contains legendary neurosurgeons and pilots, and more than a couple men who straddled the line between hero and villain. Not all of these soldiers were disgraced for their deed - but all were military men who broke the law. Check out this list of the most high profile court martial stories below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 

Benedict Arnold is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 18 of the Most High Profile Court Martial Stories
Photo: Freebase/Public domain
In America, Benedict Arnold's name ranks right up there with "Judas" as a synonym for "traitor."  Arnold was a general who originally fought on America's side during the Revolutionary War, but secretly defected to the Brits, and hatched an unsuccessful plot to surrender the vital West Point fortifications to England. He was unhappy with the fact that Washington had turned down Britain's offer of full colonial self-governance in 1778; but his primary reason for switching sides was the fact that Congress personally billed him for expenses incurred in the defense of Quebec; he'd left his receipts and paperwork behind while retreating from the fort. That bill from Congress came to the modern equivalent of... $2.2 million. Honestly... do you still hate the guy that much? see more on Benedict Arnold

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 18 of the Most High Profile Court Martial Stories
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Chelsea Manning (born Brian Manning) is a hero to some and a villain to others. Manning was the driving force behind the WikiLeaks scandal, delivering three-quarters of a million classified documents to Julian Assange for distribution. Manning could have gotten the death sentence, but instead got 35 years in a military prison, with the possibility of parole after eight years. She began her gender transition shortly after the scandal broke, and spent two years fighting the military courts to allow her access to the hormone treatments necessary for her gender transition, and previously diagnosed gender identity disorder. She currently lives in the male section of the prison, but will transition to the female section later. 

Robert Bales is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 18 of the Most High Profile Court Martial Stories
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Of all the people on this list, few match Robert Bales for the rank of "Utter Bastard, Grade One." You probably know him better as the perpetrator of the Kandahar Massacre, the 2012 killing spree that left 16 innocent civilians dead in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Long story short, Bales got drunk, and wandered around town at night, executing men, women, and at least nine children. Some of them were as young as two years old.  While it is true that stress from the war (including seeing his friend's leg blown off earlier in the day) certainly played some role in Bales' killing spree, life in prison seems like a fairly light sentence, all things considered.  see more on Robert Bales

Bowe Bergdahl is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 18 of the Most High Profile Court Martial Stories
Photo: Freebase/Public domain

If you're reading this, you certainly already know the ongoing story of Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009, and was held until 2014, when the United States traded back five Guantamo Bay prisoners for his release. The move was controversial, not least of which because Bergdahl was captured while deserting his post - a killing crime, not long ago. Bergdahl became a conscientious objector after seeing the relaities of the conflict first-hand. He wrote in a letter to his parents just before being captured:

"The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong." see more on Bowe Bergdahl