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View Full Version : Does the US Military still assign a Batman to their Officers?


aceplace57
01-03-2010, 08:35 PM
No, not that moody guy that skulks about Gotham city's darkened streets. :D

A Batman is an orderly or personal servant assigned to high ranking officers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_%28military%29

A lot of people may not be aware that David Niven studied at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He served in WWII and his batman was Private Peter Ustinov. Yes that Peter Ustinov.

Eisenhower had aides and a driver (batwoman??), Kay Summersby. That may have had additional after hours duties. :D
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kay_Summersby

I'm not sure. Did the U.S. military assign a Batman or Batwoman to military officers like the British, Germans and other countries? Wikipedia mentions the term dog robber instead of batman. Given the choice, I'd prefer being called Batman.

Is this practice still continued today?

I wonder, why Bob Kane choose to use a term (Batman) that already had widespread use?

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
01-03-2010, 08:55 PM
I have nothing to add, other than I got a chuckle reading that in German, he might have been called a putzer.

toofs
01-03-2010, 08:56 PM
Depending upon the number of stars an admiral wears, they can have staffs, including cooks, boat coxswains, drivers, etc.

Kimstu
01-03-2010, 11:27 PM
Of course the US military still assigns assistants of various kinds to its officers. AFAICT, though, they aren't the "dog robber" or "dogsbody" functionaries you're talking about---i.e., individual orderlies or personal servants whose chief function is looking after housekeeping/wardrobe duties.

I can't find any evidence that personal aides or orderlies of this kind were ever called "batmen" in the US military.


Eisenhower had aides and a driver (batwoman??)

Batwomen were orderlies in the UK women's armed services: that is, they were female soldiers who performed personal duties for female officers. Kay Summersby was Eisenhower's driver or chauffeur, not his batwoman, even if you like to snicker about some of the "personal duties" she was rumored to have performed for him.


AFAICT, the category of batman/batwoman/personal orderly, more or less an officer's personal or domestic servant, was phased out of the UK military services after WWII. Interestingly, the personal orderly system has lasted longer in the militaries of some British ex-colonies, having been downsized in the Royal Bhutanese Army just last year (http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?653515). The Indian Army version, called the sahayak system, was officially abolished last July (http://timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6731047.ece)---that is, officers still have sahayaks or orderlies but they're not supposed to use them as domestic servants. The Pakistani army still officially called their orderlies "batmen" up to the time they got rid of the system (I think) in 2004.

aceplace57
01-04-2010, 12:14 AM
That's very interesting. Thank you.

I can see the need for a personal servant or aide in war time. Generals have to present a certain professional command image. The uniforms have to be immaculate. Given the choice, I much rather have Eisenhower spend his time running the war then ironing his trousers and polishing brass.

The Wikipedia article also mentioned the Officer's Batman served as a bodyguard in combat situations. There's always a possibility an assassin could get past the main security forces. I guess he was the last line of defense.

Kimstu
01-04-2010, 01:13 AM
I can see the need for a personal servant or aide in war time. Generals have to present a certain professional command image. The uniforms have to be immaculate. Given the choice, I much rather have Eisenhower spend his time running the war then ironing his trousers and polishing brass.

Yes, such high-ranking officers do still get enlisted-personnel "aides" for such minor tasks, but AFAICT your average lieutenant or major nowadays is responsible for his own brass-polishing. Even for generals, there's apparently still rather a fine line between employing an aide to perform minor professional duties and using an aide as a personal servant. As this article (''http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m6052/is_2002_August/ai_94511776") notes,

The General Officer Aide and the Potential for Misuse

[...] The sole mission of enlisted aides is to assist the general in the performance of military and official duties. They are "authorized for the purpose of relieving general and flag officers of those minor tasks and details which, if performed by the officers, would be at the expense of the officers' primary military and official duties."

There are several limitations on enlisted aides' duties, however. First, officers are prohibited by statute from using "an enlisted member of the Army as a servant." This generally precludes requiring an enlisted aide to perform duties that personally benefit the officer, as opposed to duties that professionally benefit the officer. Second, the duties of enlisted aides must "relate to the military and official duties of the [general officer] and thereby serve a necessary military purpose." The language of Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 1315.9 more specifically prohibits the use of enlisted soldiers for "duties which contribute only to the officer's personal benefit and which have no reasonable connection with the officer's official responsibilities." Finally, the Standards of Ethical' Conduct for the Executive Branch, or the Joint Ethics Regulation (JER), further limit interaction between officers and their subordinates. Under the JER, subordinates' official time may only be used for official duties.

The types of authorized duties that a superior may assign to an enlisted aide are diverse. Army Regulation 614-200 outlines a "not all inclusive" list of "official functions" or duties, including cleaning the officer's quarters, uniforms, and personal equipment; shopping and cooking; and running errands. Many of the enumerated duties seem personal in nature. But, "[t]he propriety of the duties is determined by the official purpose they serve, rather than the nature of the duties." In United States v. Robinson, the Court of Military Appeals asserted that a different interpretation "which would apply the proscription to the kind of work done, and not to its ultimate purpose, would so circumscribe the military community that the preparation for, or the waging of, war would be impossible." The duties assigned to an enlisted aide only need to have a "reasonable connection" to the military duties of the general officer.

The general officer himself often determines what duties his aides are to perform and whether the duties are reasonably connected to the general's official duties. Aides perform many of these assigned duties inside the officer's quarters. Consequently, little or no monitoring of the enlisted aides' activities occurs. Whether the duties actually are official is seldom questioned or known. Enlisted aides would unlikely protest if the rules were bent. After all, working for the general is a privilege and the position is highly sought. Consequently, a Specialist, or even a Master Sergeant, is unlikely to tell a general officer, "No, sir. I think that assignment crosses the ethical line." Even if the aide knows that the task is personal, rather than official, the aide may perform the assignment loyally without ever considering a complaint. [...]

Moreover, the general officer must take care to avoid requesting favors. Favors conjure the concept of personal, rather than official, requests. While requested favors may include chores reasonably related to the officer's military duties, it may be more appropriate for the general to direct or order the performance of such official duties.

Favors may also require legal and ethical analysis. While an aide may voluntarily perform a favor, the nature of the aide's willingness may be an issue. Whether a Specialist could freely decline to perform a requested favor is questionable. Additionally, if in performance of the favor the aide "labors or exerts himself for the personal benefit of an officer," then the officer may be in violation of the prohibition against using a subordinate as a servant.

Moreover, favors may be improper for other reasons. Aides may only perform official duties during official time. To the degree that it is improper to use official time for personal purposes, it may be unethical for an aide to perform favors during duty hours. Furthermore, it follows that a supervisor may also violate ethical rules by allowing a subordinate to use official time for unofficial duties. Cognizant of the proscription against using official time for unofficial duties, an aide may volunteer to perform personal duties after duty hours.

An aide's "off-duty" performance of a "favor," however, could also be subjected to the Standards for Ethical Conduct's gift analysis. As a general rule, subordinate employees may not give gifts to superiors, and superiors may not directly or indirectly accept gifts from subordinates. Although the Standards for Ethical Conduct provide several exceptions to the general rule, these exceptions do not apply to the "gift" of services. As most people realize, time is money; people do not normally undertake responsibilities without some sort of compensation. Therefore, the time an aide spends conducting the general officer's unofficial or personal chores could be viewed as compensable. To the extent that the aide receives no remuneration, the favor may be a gift. That an aide conducts the service secretly should not affect the analysis. Consequently, both aides and general officers must be vigilant to ensure that aides' duties are official, rather than personal, in nature.

The article goes on for 22 pages on the regulations, practices, and potential problems concerning the role of the general officer aide. So you see that your lighthearted query about officers' personal orderlies actually opens up a whole military-legal complex can of worms!


I wonder, why Bob Kane choose to use a term (Batman) that already had widespread use?

Given that Kane was an American artist pitching his material to mid-20th-century American audiences and that, as I noted, the term "batman" doesn't appear to have been a common designation for a personal orderly in the American military, why would he think there was anything confusing about using the name "Bat-Man" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Kane#Batman) for a superhero with bat-like characteristics?

RealityChuck
01-04-2010, 09:04 AM
I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman (http://youtube.com/watch?v=zQQ5sEOhbjQ)

Alessan
01-04-2010, 09:35 AM
The Wikipedia article also mentioned the Officer's Batman served as a bodyguard in combat situations. There's always a possibility an assassin could get past the main security forces. I guess he was the last line of defense.

Nowadays, the officer's radioman basically has the same job. That's one reason that the guys carrying radios for higher ranked officers in battle are often experienced, highly-trained troops.

robby
01-04-2010, 10:51 AM
Yes, such high-ranking officers do still get enlisted-personnel "aides" for such minor tasks, but AFAICT your average lieutenant or major nowadays is responsible for his own brass-polishing. Even for generals, there's apparently still rather a fine line between employing an aide to perform minor professional duties and using an aide as a personal servant...It is indeed true that most officers in the U.S. military do not have any aides. I left active duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and I took care of my own uniforms.

Flag officers (i.e. admirals) and general officers (i.e. generals), do have aides, but the primary aides are not usually enlisted personnel. The primary aide is usually a junior or mid-grade officer. In the Navy, such officers are referred to as "Flag Lieutenants." The Flag Lieutenant is the senior aide for the admiral. As the name suggests, such officers are usually lieutenants (O-3). It is a highly coveted position, because the lieutenant can learn a lot, and is exposed to many high-ranking people, including the admiral, of course, and if he or she performs well, the admiral will give them favorable fitness reports and often use their influence to help their career.

The Flag Lieutenant usually does the advance scouting work for the admiral when they travel. They take care of the thousand details that need to be done so that the admiral's time is not wasted.

In the U.S. Army, I believe the equivalent term is the Aide-de-camp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aide-de-camp). iI knew a four-star general (O-10) in Germany (through a personal connection) who has an aide who was a Major (O-4). This section of the article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aide-de-camp#United_States) indicates that the general was actually entitled to a lieutenant colonel and a captain as well.

Elendil's Heir
01-04-2010, 10:58 AM
The affectionate, mutually-reliant master-servant relationship between Frodo and Samwise in The Lord of the Rings books has been likened to that of an upper-class British officer and his lower-class batman. Tolkien was an infantry officer during WWI and would have been very familiar with the relationship: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/tolkien_studies/v001/1.1hooker.html

Xgemina
01-04-2010, 11:55 AM
While I was in the Army (90-98), for battalion and brigade staff officers (CO, XO, S-1...), in the field their driver, while not a true batman, was largely responsible for their care and feeding.

I drove for a brigade S-2 and he was an absent-minded professor type. So, along with my other duties in the field I was responsible for making sure he slept, waking him up, that he changed uniforms every couple of days and that he remembered to eat. He was a smart guy and absolutely brillant in his job, but was also the type that had to be reminded of everything outside of his job.

Every officer was different though. The brigade CO's driver was more true batman like: laying out uniforms, managing his schedule, etc even while in garrison. While the S-3's driver basically lived in his vehicle and had no other duties.

Later I drove for the brigade HHC CO. While I drove for him I was also the unit armorer and mail clerk so the only thing he wanted from me was that the Hummer was always dispatched and that I was ready to drive at any moment.

Chessic Sense
01-04-2010, 02:24 PM
I see I was beaten to the punch, but I'd like to second "Aide du camp", as the official title of a dog-robber. They're not enlisted men at all. They're lower-grade officers. The job is not to lay out clothes and such. It's to go deliver orders and to oversee things that the general wants to have a personal touch. So that person needs to be of a slightly elevated rank in order to command the necessary respect.

Kimstu
01-05-2010, 08:51 PM
I see I was beaten to the punch, but I'd like to second "Aide du camp", as the official title of a dog-robber. They're not enlisted men at all. They're lower-grade officers. The job is not to lay out clothes and such. It's to go deliver orders and to oversee things that the general wants to have a personal touch.

In the first place, the name is "aide-de-camp", not "Aide du camp", and in the second place, you seem to be conflating two different types of military aides. C'mon folks, stop voluntarily resuscitating the ignorance after it has been successfully fought.

Yes, as robby explained, the title aide-de-camp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aide-de-camp) generally refers to a lower-ranking officer who assists a high-level officer with official duties, not valet-type personal services.

However, as you can clearly see from that 22-page article I extensively quoted a few posts ago, there certainly are other types of aides to high-ranking officers who do belong to the ranks of enlisted men. And the jobs of those enlisted aides or personal orderlies do indeed include the more menial tasks, such as looking after officers' uniforms and quarters, that the OP was inquiring about.

And the term "dog robber" was indeed used to refer to those enlisted aides who performed menial services: (http://word-detective.com/101404.html)

"Dog robber" is American military slang, dating back to the US Civil War, for an enlisted man who acts as an orderly, valet and all-around facilitator for an officer. A slightly earlier (1832) sense of "dog robber" was "a person who steals leftover food," the sense being that such scavengers were scarfing down morsels that otherwise would have rightly gone to the dogs. The transformation of "dog robber" into derogatory slang for an officer's valet probably indicates the contempt felt by other soldiers who considered such a position demeaning and those who filled it low enough to steal scraps from the camp's dogs.

It may well be that the contemptuous term "dog robber" for a military valet/batman/enlisted aide has been subsequently transferred to the officer-level aide-de-camp. However, I don't know what the Straight Dope is on that, and I'm not sure I'm willing to take Chessic Sense's word for it.

Sigmagirl
01-06-2010, 08:47 AM
I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman (http://youtube.com/watch?v=zQQ5sEOhbjQ)

You beat me to it! I have heard this term for a long time, but always thought it had something to do with cricket. I finally looked it up when reading The September Society by Charles Finch, in which it figures prominently.

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