These 6 scandals radically changed the culture of the US military
(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Kemberly Groue)

By Julie Provost

The Marines United Facebook scandal has dominated the news the last few weeks. As shocking as this scandal has been, scandals are not new to the culture of the military. Over the years there have been quite a few that are worth bringing up.

1. Tailhook

Las Vegas Boulevard South from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 David Stanley, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

The Tailhook scandal took place in Las Vegas, NV in September of 1991 during the 35th annual Tailhook Association Symposium. The Tailhook Association is a US-based, non-profit fraternal organization. They support interests of sea-based aviation with an emphasis on aircraft carriers.

More than 100 Navy and Marine Corps aviation officers were said to have sexually assaulted 83 women and seven men or were otherwise engaged in improper and indecent conduct during the event at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel.

The aftermath of this resulted in changes throughout all military branches with attitudes and policies toward women. 300 officers lost their careers as well as the Secretary of the Navy, Henry Garrett, and Chief of Naval Operations, Frank Kelso.

2. Abu Ghraib

85.365_us_iraq_flags from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Todd Morris, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Members of the Army and the CIA were found to have committed a series of human rights violations against the detainees at this prison in Iraq. These included physical abuse, sexual abuse, torture, rape, and even murder. Once photos were published by CBS news in April of 2004, there was widespread outrage within the US and abroad.

There were rumors that the abuse came from orders from higher-ups, even including the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. The DoD removed 17 soldiers from duty, and 11 were charged and sentenced to military prison as well as receiving dishonorable discharges.

This scandal brought up questions: Was this an isolated incident? Was this happening in other locations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay? And if it was not isolated, what does that say about the use of torture in today’s military? The US gave Abu Ghraib back to Iraq in 2006 and Iraq closed the prison in 2014.

3. My Lai Massacre

Vietnam War Era Photo from Flickr via Wylio
© 2017 manhhai, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

During the Vietnam War, a company of American soldiers brutally killed the majority of the population of the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai in March of 1968. 500 people died, including women, children, and the elderly.

The scandal was not known to the public for over a year. 14 officers were eventually charged with crimes but only one was convicted. The company had been told that no one around My Lai was innocent. In reality, the Vietcong were 150 miles away.

When this massacre became public, there were even more anti-war outcries, questions about the draft, and frustrations with blind military leadership, especially in a time of war. Photos of what happened showed up in national newspapers and evening newscasts.

4. USS Acadia

DN-ST-92-06949 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2015 National Museum of the U.S. Navy, Flickr | PD-MK | via Wylio

In 1991, the USS Acadia, a Yellowstone-class destroyer, was the first ship to house a wartime mixed-gender crew. The ship received the nickname, “The Love Boat,” after 36 of the female crew members became pregnant. They had to be transferred during the ship’s deployment to the Persian Gulf.

Leadership said that these women got pregnant on shore leave during calls in Hawaii and the Philippines since sexual relationships between men and women on the ship are not allowed. Still, we all know they happen, and the USS Acadia scandal could just be proof of that.

5. Camp Lejeune

Splish Splash from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Marines, Flickr | GOV | via Wylio

From 1953 to 1987, service members and their families that were living on the base used or drank water that was contaminated with harmful chemicals. Some of those people have developed cancer or other diseases. The victims felt that the USMC leaders concealed the knowledge and did not notify the residents.

Investigations by the federal government began in 2009, and in 2012, President Obama signed the Janey Ensminger Act into law to begin providing medical care for the people affected by the contaminated water. In February of 2014, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the water at Camp Lejeune significantly increased the risks of certain cancers as well as ALS.

In March of 2017, the VA will start paying out over $2.2 billion over the next five years to people who served at Camp Lejeune for 30 consecutive days between August 1, 1953 and December 31st, 1987. Those with kidney and liver cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult leukemia, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, as well as bladder cancer, will qualify.

6. Lackland AFB

IMG_7182 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Paul L. McCord Jr., Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, female trainees were victimized by their instructors during and after basic training, starting in 2009. Investigations began in 2011 after a trainee reported suspected sexual misconduct. In total, 35 personnel were court marshalled. Sgt. Luis Walker was found guilty on 28 counts and sentenced to 20 years. However, in 2014, he died of an apparent suicide in prison.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at