Tuesday, June 23, 2015

David Marienhoff's Military Service--And Discharge

Just after I posted about David Marienhoff/Alpern, a half-brother of my great-great grandmother, a large envelope arrived in the mail.  Much to my surprise, David's military records were quite thick, even though he had been enlisted for less than a year!

I started at the end and was a bit surprised to see his discharge papers which cited "excessive stupidity and peculiar actions were noted from the time the man joined the Company...."  And it went downhill from there.
David Marienhoff, US Army Certificate of Disability for Discharge, 1911

It seems that his odd behavior had begun before joining the Army but only got worse during his enlistment.  Since he spent 30+ years later in his life in a mental institution, it seems like this was a long-lasting illness (and not a Klinger-like bid to get out of the military).

As a new immigrant to the United States, his one year in the Army helped David to be well-traveled.  He was living in Pittsburgh, enlisted in Ohio, served in Texas and Mexico, and was discharged in Colorado.

Things started out well.  David was accepted into the infantry on January 25, 1911.  His next-of-kin was his mother (and my great-great-great grandmother), Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff.
David Marienhoff; US Army Assignment Card, 1911
He enlisted on January 28, 1911 in Ohio and was described as a 25-year (and 8 months)-old plumber who was born in Russia.
David Marienhoff; US Army Enlistment Papers; 1911
Unfortunately, that was the pinnacle of his military career.  Several of his fellow soldiers gave testimony as to his odd behavior (including during battle in Juarez, Mexico):

Corporal Washington Donaldson, stationed with Private David Marienhoff in Fort Bliss (Texas), noted that "When the Officer of the Day...asked him his orders and other questions, he merely answered, 'I don't know' repeatedly."  He also noted that when drilling Private Marienhoff, that "he would laugh right in my (Corpl Donaldson's) face.  He would never take any corrections."
Corporal Washington Donaldson's Testimony against Private David Marienhoff; 1911

He also had some more violent tendencies.  Corporal William H. Howell was a witness to some of this behavior:
Corporal William H. Howell's Testimony against Private David Marienhoff; 1911
Apparently David pulled a knife on another soldier.  He also put salt in his coffee and didn't realize it was sugar until it was pointed out.  And he wouldn't follow orders.

The testimony gets a bit more X-rated from this point.  Suffice it to say that there was more than enough evidence to discharge Private David Marienhoff from the United States Army quite quickly.  Some excerpts:
  1. "During the Mexican troubles, there was never a time that he did not suddenly originate an excuse such as sore feet, vomiting or sick stomach whenever he was called upon to perform his regular routine of guard or patrolling." 
  2. "On the day of the fight at Juarez, he...stated to me upon three occasions that day that he was sick to his stomach...and wished to be doctored." 
  3. "The first thing that I noticed pecular about him was his remarkable propensity for hunting trouble; often seeing him fooling with men while knowing that he was about to get kicked around." 
  4. Several times I have ordered him to do things and he would say, 'for why.'" 
  5. "His actions were, in general, those of a man mentally unbalanced."

I did learn that he was involved with the Battle of Juarez in April of 1911 (although he tried to hide and not fight).  And although he registered for the World War I draft, it seems like the Army did not let him reenlist.


  1. Wow. When one puts this in the context of what was understood at the time (not much) about mental illness and how me must have been treated with hospitalization, his condition must have been quite sad for his family.

  2. Definitely true. Even though he only died in 1962, no one around today knew that he existed!