I ask not about lawyers who serve as military lawyers.

The movies Path of Glory (1957) and Thin Red Line (1998) contain lawyers who serve as officers suffering front-line action:

in the former, Colonel Dax, a criminal lawyer, portrayed by Colonel Dax, who blows the whistle before going over the top to lead an infantry assault against the Germans.

in the latter, USMC CPT James Staros (portrayed by Elias Koteas).

  1. Would these lawyers have already been trained or served maybe in the Reserves, before the war and before they were called for duty?

  2. Or could a lay lawyer, entirely ignorant of the military, be trained and prepared only in the short time after a declaration of war?

  • 1
    This is limited to the US Military? What time period? – KillingTime Jan 22 '17 at 10:47
  • my grandfather was a lawyer 2 years before WWII started. He tried to enlist in the pacific but when they found out his education and training he was fast tracked into a type of officer candidate school, I believe at Northwestern University or somewhere near there. He came out a Lt. and skipped the ensign rank, and after he was made Lt. Commander, the rank he ended the war at. He was an officer on the LSTs. – ed.hank Jan 22 '17 at 14:10

The answer has multiple aspects. If there is a big, unexpected war coming, the training gets accelerated.

  • In WWII the US talked about 90 day wonders, lieutenants who had three months of officer training before they got a platoon. And obviously a platoon leader is two well-placed bullets (or one mortar bomb) away from inheriting a company.
  • Many forces were more likely to grant officer rank to university graduates. The assumption was that these people are functionally literate, can make long-term plans, know abstract, logical reasoning, and so on. Does that make them better officers? They thought so.

I knew a preacher who got drafted by the Germans in WWII and became the commander of an early warning radar company. Not quite infantry, but it was a mobile unit in the field.

  • Additionally, the ROTC has been around since the 19th century, offering military leadership training to college students - similar to the British University OTC - the idea being there would be a ready reserve of instant junior officers in a rapid massive mobilisation. – user13123 Jan 22 '17 at 11:10
  • @HorusKol, that means students are trained for a few hours per week over a couple of years, a different concept from a civilian quickly turning into an officer. – o.m. Jan 22 '17 at 11:15
  • But it is another way for a lawyer (for example) to quickly become a front line officer - many officers in WWII were ROTC or UOTC who were given full commissions and even breveted to then take command of the other instant officers the US and British mobilisations where churning out – user13123 Jan 22 '17 at 11:20

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