This is in most regards a piece related to this op-ed article here:
by Carol Costello
I found the article pretty engaging, as well as being %100 correct. I love the authors work and I thought this article was particularly well done but I think that they are misjudging past war veterans compared to those returning from the Middle-Eastern conflicts of the past two decades. In the article, Terry Lyle, a psychologist states that we (as a Americans) are cowboys and living in a violent society, a statement I have to disagree with. Any other country is more or just as violent compared to America, you look at places such as Russia in its current state where kids are growing up seeing their brothers, fathers, and relatives leaving to go to Ukraine, a neighboring country to fight or at least wait for a fight. You look at Israel where guards are posted on streets and problems can arise daily. You look at anywhere and guarantee there is violence, America is no better and no worse than others (except maybe compared to Canada).The sentiments of the past of the American cowboy is really getting tiring, especially when it is all but true. Sure there are some real hardened cowboys who stand in the shadow of that exact image, but to say we are raised differently regarding violence in our upbringing because we are American is a bit closed-minded. Kids are growing up being more likely to grab their phones instead of grabbing their guns, and that is not a bad thing. Yet, comparing our veterans to past wars is impossible due to the constant changes, the situations, the technology, the soldiers, the culture. One thing stays the same however, every war has suffering…Not one war left combatants mentally unscathed. I do not need any statistics to understand or comprehend that.
The feelings out there today are completely different of those a decade ago. Today you have so many outlets for talking and communicating, there are forums and websites completely dedicated to PTSD and war-related mental anguish. I am not downplaying the fact that it is hard to talk about and that veterans with PTSD have a difficult time relating what they’re feeling to others, especially professionals. Comparing this to soldiers of the Vietnam war or the Korean War you’ll see that it was even harder because they did not have any outlets such as these. This is why books on their experiences are so popular and widespread, it is an outlet to express what they have experienced without directly opening up in person.
In regards to veterans of World War Two, many assume that PTSD was not widespread and/or just wasn’t talked about. This is absolutely untrue except for the fact that, many did not report such troubles because of the culture at the time. Veterans of World War Two recognize today that they have PTSD, though they may say that they had bad dreams, thoughts, and feeling lost in the world. This is because they probably never realized what they had as it wasn’t advertised as widely as today. In our culture, you can get PTSD from a car accident, a surgery, and now from just being in the military and before going into combat in some few cases.
Back in the 1940’s, PTSD cases were as prevalent as they are today, proving that PTSD is no stranger to combat vets. In that time, the soldiers were described to be exhausted or hysterical and were sent to the aid station behind combat zones. In most cases they returned to their friends in fear of letting them down and appearing weaker than the man next to them. Patton himself had infamous run-ins with a few of these troops where he gave them a few slaps and called them cowards. In the Battle of the Bulge, many exhausted troops were taken off the front-lines where a few hours away from danger proved to be a remedy in most cases, while some deserted, lied, cheated, and tried to bribe their way out, with many facing consequences and being ostracized by other troops. In the Pacific theatre where the fighting was especially fierce and unmerciful, many came back toting mental anguish. This can be seen in infamous pictures of fighting on Peleliu, Okinawa, the Philippines and other small pacific islands. In many cases, the trophies of war were Japanese skulls, ears, golden teeth, and other grim objects.
What is interesting is that these feelings were hidden from others, and that is what was advertised and practiced amongst the troops. During the build-up to D-Day, a training mission at Slapton Sands in the UK went awry when a German U-Boat sneaked past Allied defenses and torpedoed transports carrying combat troops who were to be the tip of the spear of the invasion of the French coast. Many troops died in Britain before they could even embark to France, and those who witnessed it and survived were quarantined and treated like diseased soldiers. They were literally kept away from the troops as if to stop an infectious illness, and rightfully so. To say that soldiers of the second world war did not feel PTSD as much because they were fighting a battle and knew the enemy and stood for something is untrue as well. In the days before the invasion of Sicily, or Operation Husky, the soldiers of the first divisions to fight in ground combat in Europe were for the most part, already disillusioned with the Army and its mission. Many wanted to get into combat just so they could go home and many didn’t know their part in the war and thought they would be more useful as factory workers back in the states.
Post-war you have so many vets in the states or on occupational duties and many fought replacements or newbies both drunk and sober. This, as my grandfather would put it, was a way to cope with things. Most came back to parades, parties, and people loving and thanking them which differs greatly to returning vets from Vietnam. So in all I don’t believe that looking at past wars and their rates of PTSD is accurate. I do find the rates to be scary and foretelling but I also know that all vets come back with invisible scars, even those that don’t see action and that is what war is… The scarring and destruction of the human soul.