The Truth About Jeffrey Dahmer's Time In The Military

Throughout his youth, Jeffrey Dahmer struggled. His father, Lionel, a research chemist, was consumed with his work and was frequently unavailable to his family. Dahmer's mother, Joyce, suffered from mental illness, including hypochondria disorder, anxiety, and depression, which led to at least once suicide attempt. Lionel's absence and Joyce's conditions created a perfect storm for regular and explosive fights that left a significant impression on young Jeffrey. "It made me feel on edge, unsure of the solidity of the family," Dahmer said, according to "The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer" by Brian Masters. For years to come, that instability would play a role in Dahmer's development, throughout his childhood and adolescence.

At the age of four, before he even reached elementary school, Dahmer was diagnosed with a double scrotum hernia, and after a successful operation, he had become convinced that his genitals had been removed entirely, per The Journal Times. Some psychiatrists say that may have set the stage for the types of crimes he would commit as a young man. When he reached elementary school, Dahmer displayed troubling behavior. Some teachers noted he showed signs of abandonment due to growing problems at home, according to the book by Joel Norris, "Jeffrey Dahmer." And Dahmer couldn't distinguish between cruelty toward living animals and the science experiments on dead animals he and his father conducted together.

Jeffrey Dahmer's sexual murder fantasies began as an early teen

By the time he was a teen, the young Dahmer had an "off the charts" libido, Carl Wahlstrom, a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Dahmer and served as an expert witness during his trial, told A&E. Wahlstrom noted that it was around this time that Dahmer had begun to link his sexual fantasies with fantasies of murder — and to actualize the two. At 13, he planned to kill a male jogger he had been fantasizing about so he could have sex with the corpse. But Dahmer told Wahlstrom that the man didn't go jogging that day, so he was forced to abort his plan.

When Dahmer reached high school, he was drinking before, during, and after class, per a 2012 PRI report, telling one classmate he had to have his morning Scotch because it was his "medicine." Even with the help of a tutor, his grades suffered. Still, Dahmer managed to work his way through high school and graduated in May 1978. Within weeks, Dahmer committed his first murder when he picked up Steven Hicks, a teenager who was hitchhiking to a concert. Dahmer lured Hicks to his house under the pretense of the two drinking together. But when Hicks wanted to leave against Dahmer's wishes, Dahmer killed him and masturbated above his corpse. 

From college to military medic

After Dahmer graduated high school, he entered Ohio State University for the fall 1978 term, which turned out to be a total disaster. He failed all of his classes except riflery, continued to drink heavily, and when his father came for a surprise visit, he walked into a dorm room with liquor bottles spilling out of it. Although Lionel had already prepaid for the year, Dahmer dropped out with a 0.45 GPA, per University District History.

Jeffrey moves back home to his father's house. At his father's insistence, Jeffrey enlisted in the Army in January 1979. He was trained as a medical specialist at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas before being stationed in Baumholder, West Germany, as a combat medic. Military records indicate Dahmer's first year of service was "average or slightly above average," the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

In Germany, according to The New York Times, Dahmer hung an Iron Maiden poster, drunkenly told W.C. Fields jokes, and read children's picture books. But when Dahmer drank too much, he revealed his dark side. "When he'd drink, he'd get real violent with me," his former bunkmate, Billy Capshaw, told the Times. "You could tell in his face that he wasn't joking. It was for real. That's why it bothered me. It was a whole different side. His face was blank. It was kind of like he was cross-eyed-like. An expression like he just wasn't there. I've never seen it on anyone else's face."

Dahmer was discharged from the Army

Dahmer's performance seriously declined, and he was honorably discharged from the Army in March 1981, a year before his three-year enlistment was concluded. Among his colleagues, the rumor was that he had been discharged because his drinking was out of control, per CheatSheet. Dahmer later said he was discharged under Chapter 9 of the Code of Military Justice, which covers alcohol or drug use in the Army.

On March 24, 1981, Dahmer was sent to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, for a debriefing. He was also given a plane ticket to go anywhere. Dahmer later said he was unable to face his father after failing again, and chose Miami Beach for a change of scenery and to force himself to make it on his own, according to South Florida Gay News. But by September 1981, he had been evicted because he spent his rent money on alcohol, and was forced to call his father for a ticket home to Ohio.

Nearly 10 years passed between Dahmer's first murder victim in 1978 and his second in 1987, although he committed a full range of crimes that included indecent exposure and assault. But in 2010, two former soldiers in the Army came forward to say they had been raped and assaulted by Dahmer. Capshaw was one of them. "I was there for another 17 months ... being raped and tortured" by Dahmer, Capshaw told The Independent. He said the military did nothing when he reported the assaults. "They threw me to the dogs."