top of page

the code

A young US Army Lieutenant, from a long and distinguished family line of soldiers, stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany, faces court martial chargers of murder and of being involved in a black marketing operation that reach the higher echelons of the Division command. Rather than trusting his fate to a military lawyer, the family reaches across the sea to the United States, and retains the services of former Army officer turned civilian attorney "Colt" Donaldson. With links to unsolved murders in Vietnam and Korea, as well as insights into the CIA, the White House, and the inner workings of the officer corps, Colt must battle command influence and the subtleties of military justice, as well as a gang of ruthless criminals to refute the burden of proof that the Government has established, and fight the Code to secure his client's freedom.



     Major General William R. Bricker, Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division, had been soldiering since his graduation from the Virginia Military Institute in 1953, commissioned in Armor, and destined he felt, to lead men into battle. With 35 years of service, he was either going to receive a third star and go on to either general staff duty in Washington, or service as Deputy Commanding General of one of the major commands, or he was going to be retired. Even after all of this time, the “Brick”, as he liked to be called because it was so “John Wayne”, felt like an outsider to the system. All those damned West Pointers sticking together. It was only by hard work and by the grace of God that he had finally received command of a line division, and not only a line division, but an honest to goodness armored division. His lifelong ambition had been realized. But now he wanted more. He wanted to command either V or VII Corps, right here in Germany. It was his destiny. He had missed service in Korea while the fighting was of any consequence, and as a result of that, had welcomed the opportunity that Vietnam presented. He had six overseas bars on his right blouse sleeve, representing the three years that he spent over in that horror. Over his left breast pocket he wore six neat rows of three ribbons each, the Combat Infantryman's Badge that he had earned while an advisor to a Vietnamese Infantry battalion, and airborne wings. It had not been easy, but he had earned two stars, and wanted a third one. And if the third one came, it was only natural to think that a fourth one was a genuine possibility. Getting the first one is the hardest is what he had always been told, especially if you are not a West Pointer. Get the first one, do a good job, don't piss off the ones who already have two, and you'll make it too. That's when it gets really tough. Getting to that third star was almost as hard as the first, but he was going to do it. He wanted to be the first VMI Army Chief of Staff or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Get the third one, and he was on his way.
     His two Assistant Division Commanders were okay too. The senior one, Ken Hodges, was about due for his second star, if he got a satisfactory OER this time around. Ken was only a few years younger than him, and was solid. As the senior ADC, he was responsible for Training and Operations. Under his hand, all of the battalions and brigades had successfully completed their annual ARTEP, and the Division staff was strack.
     His junior ADC, Douglas Sherman, was a young buck, a “5 percenter”, always being in that five percent that received promotion below the zone of consideration and therefore ahead of his contemporaries, and had been a rising star for a long time now. The youngest major in his year group, the youngest LTC, first to command a battalion in his class, a short stint as a brigade commander in the 1st Cav at Hood, and then he was Division Chief of Staff, where he really made a splash. His reward was the War College, and then assignment to the Joint Staff in D.C. as a brand new brigadier. And now he was here, being groomed for a second star by his buddies in Washington. Who knows, maybe even going to take his place. Bet old Ken would fill his boots at that thought. Maybe an OER that didn't say that he knew where all the rocks were would slow the meteor down. Was it jealousy of Sherman that made him have that thought, or was it that he always felt like he couldn't trust him. Nevertheless, he was in charge of the administration and supply for the Division, which had been taking a beating over the past 18 months, so let him take a crack at it. If things improve, it will look good on his record, after all, since he was the Commanding General, and if things don't improve, well, Brigadier General Sherman was in charge of that Sir.
     His Chief of Staff, Colonel Paul Bates, had the Division Staff humming like a well oiled machine, so there was really no reason to believe that the third star could be too far off. Lieutenant General Bricker, yes sir, it had a certain magic to it, and he was going to get that third star for himself, for the Army, for his Country. God had told him so, and he knew this with all of his heart, so nothing was going to get in the way and blemish his record, especially some dope pushing, thieving and murdering little snot of a lieutenant. My God, he was a damned West Pointer, who probably had everything handed to him, to include his commission in this man's — his — army. By all that is holy, he would put that little son of a bitch in Leavenworth where he belongs. That had been the guidance he personally gave his own SJA and the brigade's Staff Judge Advocate — bring me a case that has all of the T's crossed, and the I's dotted — and he would issue the order that would convene the court. Nothing flashy, nothing that would attract undue scrutiny, just a quiet simple court-martial where military justice could be swift, and this “incident” behind him and the Division.
     My Lord, Stars and Stripes had run it on page 3 for all of Europe to read about. "Lieutenant murders fellow soldier with bayonet, grand scale black marketing being investigated”, had screamed the headline. The Division, and he, did not need this negative publicity, serving to undo all of the good that they had accomplished in the past year. The Corps Commander had even called him to check on it, and to stick his own needle in so to speak. LTG David Bryant was a friend of sorts that went back some 34 years, and Officer Basic, and now that he was a three button man, he was feeling pretty sure of himself. “When he had assumed command of VII Corps, he had assured the Brick that he would “treat him right” so long as he did a good job, which Bricker took to mean not stand in the way of Bryant's fourth star. He was told to “clean up the mess, quickly and quietly,” and that was exactly what he was going to insure happened. He knew how to follow orders. He would have to be careful, and avoid the taint that could accompany a charge of command influence, when he convened the court. He would have to select those officers that would do the right thing. He would have to get his G-1 right on it, and also have him pull the kid's file to see what kind of fight he could put up. Maybe the SJA could work a plea bargain once the charges had been brought, and this whole thing could be over in the quick and efficient manner that the General suggested. It would be like a Pointer to look for the easy way out and take a plea to avoid the death penalty or life at Leavenworth.
     Major Charlie Moore was the SJA for 1st Brigade. An undistinguished graduate of George Washington Law School, he had the dubious distinction of being the last in his class to find employment as an attorney. Sure, there had been plenty of guys who had chosen non-legal careers after law school, but he wanted to be a trial lawyer. He had taken a job as an Assistant States Attorney for Boone County because it was the natural stepping stone to firm life, or so he was told. But it was 1976 when he graduated, and the job market had been pretty bleak for his class any way. Unemployment overall was up, and he hated the idea of going to work for his father in the insurance agency.
     He had always hated the defense lawyers who were on the average making more than five times what he was earning. He stuck it out as an ASA for over two years, and even then, was only making $1200 more per year than when he had started. That was when he received a phone call from a classmate who had joined the Army after law school, and was now stationed at the Rock Island Arsenal, on the banks of the Mississippi. His friend, no intellectual giant, much less a Clarence Darrow, had taken the plunge, signed up, and was happier than a pig in slop. Working good hours, no overhead, and making nearly twice what Charlie was earning. That was when he had decided that maybe a military law career might not be a better launching pad into a firm, maybe in Louisville or St. Louis, or if he liked it, maybe a place to stay for 20 years and then retire. He could then come back to town as a retired military man, an accomplished attorney for whom people would be willing to pay the big civilian dollars, with a pension to boot. Yep, he had himself a sure fire plan.
     The recruiter had been very willing, and had worked pretty darn quick for him. There was a demand for attorneys in the Army. He was going to be a somebody. His two years as a prosecutor were good enough for him to skip the traditional entry level of First Lieutenant, and so when he raised his hand to take the oath, he became Charles Moore, Captain, Judge Advocate General Corps, U.S. Army.
     At 6'2 and some 240 pounds, it had taken a waiver to get him into the service, and now he was having to diligently work at keeping his weight in check. The Army did not want fat captains then, or even fatter majors now, even if they were attorneys. His thinning blonde hair was naturally oily, so he merely added a dash of Vitalis to it in the morning in order to make it look the way he wanted. His large stomach, beefy face and neck, as well as his thick hands and fingers gave him the appearance of being slow moving and slovenly. Couple this with his intolerance of the slightest heat, and he was perpetually walking around with large wet spots under his arms and a thin coating of sweat on his upper lip and growing forehead. All that was missing from his uniform to complete the image of a small town hick prosecutor was a pair of suspenders for him to loop his thumbs in, and a brimmed straw hat.
     However, one glance into his eyes, and one would realize that the image being conveyed was not the real man. For the eyes were that of a man possessed. The eyes of an angry man tired of having to accept what the world was willing to offer to him, until the Army welcomed him with open arms, and made him into a somebody.
     His first assignment had taken him to Fort Lewis, Washington, and duty in the post claims office. His job had been to evaluate the claims of military personnel for reimbursement from the Government for broken, damaged, or lost personal property caused incident to reassignment to Fort Lewis. He had not liked it, but the 7:30 to 4:00 nature of the job was more than satisfactory, and his Jane enjoyed the life of an officer's wife. An Army lawyer's wife.
     A stop in Charlottesville for the Advance Course, and then it was on to the Trial Defense Service at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he had the privilege of representing the scum that the system was trying to boot out of the Army. If it had not been for his two years as a prosecutor back in Boone County, a lot of his clients would have ended up making little rocks out of big ones. The Army's idea of putting the green lawyers on the defense side of the aisle was no accident. The ends of military justice were to be served at all costs.
     Two stateside tours meant that he was going overseas next, and so he had called his assignment officer in Charlottesville to find out what was available before he submitted his “dream sheet” in requesting his next assignment. Bamberg, Germany was a nice duty station everyone told him; fairly close to Munich and all of the sights that made Bavaria so popular. Besides, it was close to all of the porcelain and crystal factories for which Germany was famous. A man could buy a lot of expensive things real cheap, and ship them home to the world for next to nothing. It was a real way to impress the folks back home. So, he had requested and received the position of Staff Judge Advocate to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. Shortly after arrival in country, his orders promoting him to major were received, thus entitling him to field grade housing, better parking at the brigade headquarters, and enhanced status. He had arrived, and his Jane loved it. She enjoyed, and was proud to be, Mrs. Major Moore. With no children to burden them, they both enjoyed Germany and the fine things that could be bought there. It sure beat the crap out of the stuff for sale in the stores back home in that stinkin' little town. Satin sheets and fine wines made Jane feel amourous, and they were enjoying each other whenever possible. Money and “things” were becoming the best aphrodisiacs they had known as a married couple.
     That had been about 14 months ago. It had been about 5 months after his promotion that he had received a late night phone call from the MP Desk Sergeant on duty. One of the 1st Brigade boys might have been involved in a bust on a local gasthaus suspected of dealing dope. It was probably a case of being somewhere you shouldn't be, is what the sergeant had said to him. Did he want to come down and check it out, or should he just book the kid, meaning that he would become an entry on the blotter for the brigade commander to see the next morning?
     He should have realized that something was wrong, and that the telephone call was out of synch. Why would an MP want to avoid a blotter entry? MPs lived to make line unit adjutants crazy with blotter entries that only served to irritate and piss off their line commander bosses who were afraid that each entry would be considered a reflection on their ability to command, and a potential adverse comment on their OER in the making, and therefore a road block to future promotion.
     To this day, he was not sure why he had gone down to the station that night. Perhaps a chance to be a hero with the brigade commander with the avoidance of yet another B.E. Maybe to be a big shot with the MPs? Regardless of the reason, he had gone down to the station, and there met the burly desk sergeant that had called him. They had the kid dead to rights. He'd do ten years if he did a day. And then it happened. The Sergeant suggested that certain people would pay a lot of money if there was a decision made by the right person that the case was not all that good, that it did not warrant prosecution, and it was as if tonight had never happened. A lot of money. More than he made in a year. Money that could and would suddenly and quietly appear in an attaché case in the back seat of his car if it were left unlocked at the market downtown. Money that was untraceable, untaxed, and the start of more to come if he were broad minded enough to let some non-violent free enterprise go unchecked within the brigade.
     At first he had been dumbfounded, and could not say anything. The room had actually started to spin a bit, and the sergeant asked him to sit in the station commander's office to “review” the arrest report. He had sat there nearly an hour, weighing the decision. Civilian attorneys were able to make on one case what he earned in a year, or in three years. DAs and judges looked the other way all of the time, and no one said anything. In some cluttered court and jail systems there were priorities assigned to the types of cases that would and would not be prosecuted. Plea bargaining and over crowding were putting guys back out on the street well ahead of when they should have been released. So where was the harm.
     And what could he do with the money? Make sure that he and Jane really enjoyed life now on his salary, without the demand of having to put something away for a house and for a rainy day. She'd never have to know. All she knew how to do with it was spend it any way. He could make off as if he had saved it up over the years, and stash it away eventually to go home on and open his own practice. He could rub his family's nose in it when he went home on leave with money to burn. Then they could retire, go home, and buy the grandest home in town when he finally retired as a LTC or maybe even a full bird colonel. He could return home and be a quiet and successful gentleman attorney with a military pension to boot. If things were good, he could extend his tour here, stay on for a fourth year, or maybe even a fifth, and then move on to a stateside tour. He could leave Germany a very wealthy man. Charlie Moore was not going to stand in the way of some harmless free enterprise. Maybe this was the reward for all of the hard work that it had taken to become Major Moore, SJA.
     Charlie had been very good about keeping the promise he had made to himself in not confiding the nature of his budding new venture to anyone, not even Jane. It was his secret alone, and the secret of his new found enterprise often prompted silent smiles as he shaved in the mirror. In a very short time he had become a man of means. He had two bank accounts with American Express on post that he very carefully and faithfully deposited a token amount in each month towards the “future and retirement.” The vast majority of his “legal fees” as he was now calling them, were in a numbered account in the Gemeinschaft Bank located in Zurich. Jane now loved their bi-monthly sojourns there, and was none the wiser. The Army very graciously gave him 30 days of leave per year, and with his position, it was not difficult to arrange for short periods of leave time for tourist travel into Austria or France, or his now beloved Switzerland. In fact, because of the nature of his work, the Army encouraged him to take these short respites in order that he could remain sharp and focused on his work. On the occasions that he knew ahead of time that he would be involved in some extra work at the “office”, he would often suggest that maybe Jane would enjoy a trip to a health spa or something like that. A ten day stay at one such place had taken the extra weight off of her, and she looked like a million bucks now. Since her return from the spa six days ago, she had been insatiable. Naturally, not all of her passion was a direct result of an improved self image on her part; for she loved the caviar, the gold bracelet, the gold rimmed porcelain music box, and other “bargains” that he was always finding for her. He had turned her into a high class bimbo, and was having the time of his life playing the role of Diamond Jim, spoiling her rotten, and enjoying the lavish praises that she always seemed to shower him with when they were in the presence of other officers and their wives.
     At the office he had to play it careful. For the most part, he played the role of tough prosecutor to the letter. No dealings ordinarily, but enough so as not to arouse the suspicion of anyone who might draw any correlations to the charges dropped or those plead down by his silent clients. Things were going very well, until that Winters kid started nosing around.
     At first it had been a simple Report of Survey that had grown into a full blown Article 15-6 investigation under which he had recommended against pecuniary liability for lost equipment. It had taken some maneuvering on his part to get the Division SJA to go along with the recommendation. There were other similar reports. It might have been okay if some of them had been left alone to slide through the channels, but it was imperative to keep any sign of irregularity from official channels. Lost equipment was the easiest to explain, as it could be lost in transit if it was new equipment not yet on the books, or that it was lost in the field, and accounted for by a statement of charges against an individual, or even better, a report of survey in which no liability was assessed. The stuff simply disappeared in those cases.
     Then the kid turns up asking all sorts of questions about equipment, and class III and repair parts that were disappearing from the system. Hell, it is not like the stuff belonged to him personally or anything. Lieutenants were definitely better seen and not heard from. Even so, if his questions were to reach the wrong ears, there could be questions about the class VI stuff — booze and cigarettes — that was being re-routed, as well as the occasional explosives and ordinance shipment that was reported as “expended” in the field, or otherwise accounted for in the bowels of the supply system. His employers were nervous and probably rightfully so; undue attention to the workings of the various battalion and brigade supply operations could make it difficult for them to continue their own operations. It would be unhealthy for all concerned if profit margins were to be reduced at all over the upcoming fiscal year. Something had to be done.



For years, civil liberties advocates have proclaimed the military justice system as corrupt and skewed in favor of the prosecution, as evidence by a conviction rate of over 95%. It was not uncommon to hear that 'military justice is to justice as military music is to music'. Is it about maintaining discipline at all costs? Would a loosening of discipline irreparably 'spoil' the military?


Others would argue that the military system with Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) pre-dating the now famous Miranda Warning read to all suspects makes the military system superior to it sister civilian counterpart.


Read THE CODE to determine this for yourself. 


-Sir William Blackstone (1765)



"Want to see your opinions here, tell us what you think about the book."

bottom of page