War is Hell

some people are born with mental challenges.
others have them thrust upon them.

It's one of those statements so brief and true that the real horror of the meaning can almost slip away. In it's original context, the point is much clearer, and inescapable:

    "I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine.
    It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard
    the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud
    for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell."

It was said by a man who had good reason to know - William Tecumseh Sherman. He was a general who led Union troops during the American Civil War, one of the bloodiest conflicts of modern times... but Sherman knew before the war started what lay ahead. Less often quoted is an observation he shared with an enthusiastic Southern friend before a shot was fired:

"You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing!"

Soon after the war began, Sherman himself had what we would now call a nervous breakdown, but he was recalled to service and with Ulysesses S. Grant can be credited with winning the war for North.

Many soldiers on both sides would be diagnosed with what was called "the soldier's disease". In the first world war, it would be called "shell shock".

Symptoms ranged from uncontrollable diarrhoea to unrelenting anxiety. During World War One, four-fifths of men who had entered hospital suffering shell shock were never able to return to military duty. By the end of World War One the British Army had dealt with 80,000 cases of shell shock

In the second, it would be called "combat fatigue". One in four WW2 casualties was caused by "combat fatigue." For those in lengthy, intense fighting, the ratio was one in two.

"I remember the experience as I do a nightmare. A demon seemed to have entered my body."

Audie Murphy

Combat fatigue researcher Frederick Hanson discovered that evacuating a patient home, besides losing him forever as a fighting soldier, often exacerbated his condition. Hanson and others realized that battle fatigued soldiers were often, more than anything else, just fatigued.

The First Armored Division reported that by giving "mentals" complete rest in a safe area near the front, plus hot meals and a bath, 50-70% returned to combat within three days.

1,393,000 soldiers were treated for battle fatigue during WW2. Of all ground combat troops, 37% were discharged for psychiatric reasons. During World War II, 23 percent of US evacuations were for psychiatric reasons. But in Korea, psychiatric evacuations dropped to only six percent.

Now, it's called "post-traumatic stress disorder".
A bigger name for a bigger problem.

For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost
more troops to suicide than it has to combat
in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There's reason to believe that the numbers
are actually much higher.

Fifteen to fifty percent of battle fatigue casualties do not recover within 72 hours. Five to fifteen percent of battle fatigue casualties fail to improve sufficiently to return to duty in the combat zone.


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