Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

A Soldier Strips the Romance Out of Life at War

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by JCFalkenbergIII, May 31, 2008.

  1. scrounger

    scrounger Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2011
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    12
    Hello; I must congratulate you on an excellent post. To quote General Sherman "war is all hell" it was true in 1864 and it's true now. While going through my late father's things I came by a letter that was written to my dad from his kid brother who was with The Canadian Army (dad was in the navy ) It never glorified anything, he spoke of tough fighting and how much he loves and misses his new wife, and he complaines about the lack of mail he's been receiving and how he wrote 3 letters and was still waiting for a response. The letter was dated August 28,1944, sadly my uncle Victor Doiron was killed in action on Sept 5 and all dad had to remember him was a couple of tattered pictures and his last letter ...
     
  2. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    6,286
    Likes Received:
    857
    Veterans Day is coming up and I thought it a good time to bump this thread, for another read by those of us who have already read it and all the newbies who may not have seen it yet.
     
  3. Tribecablues

    Tribecablues recruit

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    I really enjoyed your posts, I am curious if you have any more information on General Mas Hoffman? I am actually doing some research on another Hoffman and I am wondering if its possible he was his son, his name is Frank Hoffman. He was also a bavarian gangster and ran a speakeasy in Manhattan during Prohibition. Any information on General Hoffman's children if any would be appreciated. I also noticed you posted a picture of the Hoffman family, would you happen to know what year that photo was taken? I appreciate any help you can give.

    Sincerely,

    Ash in NYC
     
  4. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    6,286
    Likes Received:
    857
    :poppy: Thank You Veterans, Day :poppy:

    One of the Best threads on WW2f, has it really been a year without comments?
     
  5. coolhandmac

    coolhandmac recruit

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2012
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    This interests me. At 40 i have outgrown the glamour of war. Realizing now it was perfectly natural to glorify it as a youth, but now knowing better. All my grandfather told me, all my books read and quotes sucked in, one thing sticks in my mind the most.. My grandpas first wife once said to me " Leonard was such a good boy. The nicest boy you ever met before he went over there...the meanest, angriest drunkard you ever saw when he came back". This spoke volumes to me....
     
  6. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    424
    Haunted


    Did the soldiers of the Good War really come home psychologically unscathed by the horror and stress they experienced? Or did they simply suffer in silence?

    by Mark D. Van Ells
    Combat stirs up a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. Feelings of exhilaration, love, hatred, guilt, rage, helplessness, disgust, and fear race through the minds of soldiers in battle. How the human mind responds to these emotions has long perplexed military officials, medical professionals, and especially veterans and their families. Sixteen million Americans served in World War II. Of those, perhaps one million were exposed to extended periods of combat. These men often suffered deep emotional pain as a result of their battle experiences, and the effects lasted for years. Some carried the pain for the rest of their lives.

    To be effective in combat, soldiers must learn to suppress the feelings it generates, a process psychiatrists refer to as "emotional numbing." For some, the numbing begins in basic training. In the civilian world, killing is a most grievous crime, but in war, it is a necessity. According to James Jones, noted novelist and combat veteran, "To teach a young American male to love war and enjoy killing his fellow man–even a Jap or a Nazi–was about comparable to teaching his fresh, dewy-eyed, virginal sister to love the physical aspects of simple [sex]."
    The anticipation of combat was an emotionally taxing experience in its own right. Raymond Gantter of the 1st Infantry Division simply denied the prospect of death. "I willfully repudiate the possibility of death," he wrote his wife. "My reason, insisting on cold logic, tells me ‘maybe,’ but emotionally I reject it entirely." According to Jones, the soldier must think of himself as "essentially a dead man" so he can "function as he ought to function under fire."
    Fear is the most common emotion associated with combat. "We are all afraid," wrote B-17 pilot John Bennett, "and only liars and fools fail to admit it." The aspects of combat that soldiers feared most varied from individual to individual. Gantter found patrolling behind German lines the most unbearable. He wrote in his wartime diary:
    I think I have never been so cold, so wretched, so frightened. It is the slow piling up of fear that is so intolerable. Fear moves swiftly in battle, strikes hard with each shell, each new danger, and as long as there’s action, you don’t have time to be frightened. But this is a slow fear, heavy and stomach filling. Slow, slow…all your movements are careful and slow, and pain is slow and fear is slow and the beat of your heart is the only rapid rhythm of the night…a muttering drum easily punctured and stilled.
    What marine E.B. Sledge feared most was shell fire. "During prolonged shelling," he wrote, "I often had to restrain myself and fight back a wild, inexorable urge to scream, to sob, and to cry." For airman Bennett it was the feeling of helplessness. "The bomber pilot can’t fight back, but must sit there and take it," he wrote. Jones reflected, "Learning to live with [fear], and to go ahead in spite of it took practice and a certain overlay of bitter panache it took time to acquire. There were damned few fearless men."
    Study after study has shown that the primary motivating factor for most men in battle is not patriotism but the respect of their buddies. Combat veterans develop unique bonds, and watching close friends die was tremendously painful. Jones recalled a time when he saw a fellow soldier killed: "He cried out, ‘Oh, my God!’ in an awful, grimly comic, burbling kind of voice. Thinking about him, it seemed to me that his yell had been for all of us lying there, and I felt like crying." Many soldiers felt pangs of guilt about escaping death when their friends died, a phenomenon known as "survivor guilt." Francis O’Donnell of the 1st Infantry Division survived the carnage of Omaha Beach on D-Day in June 1944, but asked himself, "Why was I chosen to make it when men with wives and children didn’t?"
    Soldiers felt guilty about killing the enemy, too. Sledge remembered shooting a Japanese soldier about to throw a grenade at him. "I had just killed a man at close range," he wrote. "That I had clearly seen the pain on his face came as a jolt…. The expression on that man’s face filled me with shame and then disgust for the war and all the misery it was causing." Half a world away, in Italy, future US Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii–then a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team–entered a farmhouse and found an injured German soldier inside. The wounded man "reached into his tunic," he wrote, "and I thought he was going for a gun, and I pumped the last three shots in my rifle clip into his chest." As the man fell, he "held up a snapshot, clutching it in death"–a photograph of a woman and two children whom Inouye presumed were the dead man’s family. "For days I fought the image down," he remembered, "but it kept returning."
    The sights and sounds of battle could be disturbing. In Burma, Richard Bates of the US special operations unit commonly known as Merrill’s Marauders remembered listening to a wounded Japanese soldier "scream all night" and then "spending three days out there looking at that corpse and watching it swell up." He found nighttime in Burma most unsettling. "You think the silence bothers you," he remembered, "but in the jungle areas the noise bothers you. There are so many bugs making noise, and so many things going, that if things are quiet it’s almost deafening. God, anyone could pick up a rung on me and I wouldn’t hear." For many, continued exposure to combat conditions wore them down. "It was not going [into battle] the one time, but the going back again and again, that finally got to you," " a sailor from the USS Yorktowntold Jones in a Honolulu bar in May 1942. A navy veteran from Texas compared his service on a destroyer off the Tokyo mainland during the Okinawa campaign to a death sentence:
    They strap him in the electric chair, he can see the warden’s hand on the switch, he knows he is going to die, and he waits all day. Then at the end of the day they come and get him, take him back to his cell, and all night the other prisoners try to kill him. The next day they come get him and strap him in the chair and he expects to die again–this goes on and on day and night for three months….
    Combat veterans had to find ways to block out the madness and tragedy of war. Marine non commissioned officer. William Manchester claimed that "a foot soldier retains his sanity only by hardening himself." Wrote E.B. Sledge, "I vividly recall grimly making a pledge with myself. The Japanese might kill or wound me, but they wouldn’t crack me up." Inouye remembered that humor was effective, even in the face of death. "Even knowing that every agonizing second may be their last on earth," he wrote, "a man has to vent the terrible pressures inside, and of course laughing is better than crying. So we laughed, sometimes heartlessly, sometimes hysterically, sometimes in the final instant of life."
    Soldiers also turned to alcohol to numb themselves. It was widely available to troops in Europe as they liberated towns from German control. "Wine was given to us by the gallon," wrote infantryman Charles Golub from France to his wife in Massachusetts. Wilbur Berget of the 12th Armored Division wrote to his parents that drinking "makes me forget where I am and brings me back to better days, because it changes the ever present atmosphere that adheres to everything we do or say during the day, [and] can expel the serious thoughts that run through our minds as we go about this business of fighting a war."
    Some soldiers could not cope with the stress of combat. Nearly every combat veteran can recall an instance when someone broke down under fire. During the Battle of the Bulge, Gantter recalled, a seasoned veteran of his 1st Infantry Division suddenly "went to pieces" during an artillery barrage, "weeping hysterically and cowering in a dugout." Combat-induced mental and emotional breakdowns like this have always been a part of war. Historically, soldiers who fell apart in battle were viewed as cowards or considered predisposed to psychological problems. During World War I, the phenomenon was known as "shell shock." In World War II, the term was "battle fatigue." By that time, most psychiatrists understood that any soldier could suffer a mental collapse. According to one team of army psychiatrists, most men could tolerate only about 180 days in combat before their fighting effectiveness diminished.
    World War II soldiers had mixed views of battle fatigue. Many continued to see it as cowardice or as angling for the infamous Section Eight discharge. General George S. Patton’s slapping of battle-fatigued soldiers is legendary. Roth Schleck, a combat officer with the 32nd Division, attributed battle fatigue to poor leadership. While some units suffered high battle fatigue rates, Schleck noted that others were "subjected to about the same thing and they didn’t have that at all." Other veterans were more sympathetic. Of the man he saw collapse in combat, Gantter wrote that he had simply "reached the saturation point. He couldn’t take it anymore, that’s all, and no one blamed him." Manchester remembered a hardened veteran sobbing and unable to fight. "I priggishly disapproved," he wrote. "A Marine is supposed to cry inside; he can be afraid, but he can’t bring shame upon himself for showing fear." Yet, he added, "The fact is that I wanted to weep myself."
    Despite the host of conflicting opinions about battle fatigue, few people questioned that combat had profound effects on the minds of soldiers. "We were all psychotic, inmates of the greatest madhouse of history," claimed Manchester. Two psychiatrists who worked with veterans after the war noted that "mild traumatic states…are almost universal among combat troops immediately after battle."
    Most psychiatrists believed, however, that once a soldier was removed from the battlefield, his emotional state would return to normal. Unfortunately, veterans often found that the ghosts of war followed them into the postwar world. Memories long buried began to resurface upon returning home. "As the old combat numbness disappeared, and the frozen feet of the soul began to thaw, the pain of the cure became evident," recalled Jones. "The sick-making thoughts of all the buddies who died. The awful bad luck of the maimed."
    These veterans were showing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The term–coined in 1980, after the Vietnam War had brought the subject of combat stress back into the public spotlight–was unknown in 1945. The symptoms fall into three categories. The first is the persistent reliving of the trauma. Nightmares, for example, were common among veterans. Some "woke up in the middle of the night, thrashing around and trying to get their hands on their wives’ throats," wrote Jones. Suppressed war memories often leapt from the subconscious through memory flashbacks during waking moments, too. Manchester once had a war memory hit him while on an airplane "with a clarity so blinding that I surged forward against the seat belt, appalled by it." The second category of symptoms involves intensified physical responses that psychiatrists term "increased arousal." Some carried guns or knives, because having a weapon nearby "just made them feel more comfortable," according to Jones. Manchester recalled, "The sudden zip of a heavy zipper made me jump for a year after I discarded my uniform." The third category is avoidance of stimuli that might trigger war memories. Veterans often refused to discuss the war with loved ones, in part to keep memories suppressed, though also because, as Jones described it, there was "no common ground for communication" between veterans and civilians.
    Nearly all combat veterans experienced some of these symptoms, but not all developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. To diagnose a soldier as having the disorder, he must exhibit symptoms in all three categories, and the symptoms must significantly impair his ability to function normally. They can be acute (short term) or chronic (long term) and can sometimes emerge years after the trauma occurred.
    Why did some veterans develop the disorder while others did not? Susceptibility to it is determined by a "complex interplay of the event and the psychological baggage one brings into the event," according to Dr. Jerry L. Halverson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. The severity of the trauma, the absence of social support (which increases feelings of isolation), stress from other causes, and a history of emotional trauma can all make a soldier more likely to develop the disorder.
    Returning veterans coped with their symptoms in various ways. Many continued the process of emotional numbing by keeping their memories buried. Italo Bensoni of the 99th Division stated simply that war memories were not "going to drive me off my rocker." How successfully veterans were able to do this is debatable. John Bradley, one of five men who participated in the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima in 1945, wept in his sleep for several years after the war. "His body would shake," his wife recalled, "and tears would stream out of his eyes." Some turned to alcohol to dull painful memories, which led many to addiction and more misery. "You can’t drown your troubles, not the real ones," wrote Manchester, "because if they are real they can swim." A few turned to suicide. Years after the war, Edward Wood, a replacement soldier severely wounded on his first day of combat, wrote that he took the belt from his bathrobe, "tied one end of the belt to a hot water pipe, stood on the stool, [and] tied the other end around my neck. It seemed like the only reasonable thing to do." He changed his mind and called a psychiatrist.
    For some veterans, the shock of war memories gradually began to fade. "Time heals," wrote E.B. Sledge, "and the nightmares no longer wake me in a cold sweat with a pounding heart and racing pulse." According to Halverson, "Most people learn to be less stressed by their memories and live normal lives." Many suffered in silence for decades, fearful of the social stigmatization often associated with mental illness and ashamed of not being able to handle their emotions. Said Halverson, "Every psychiatrist has many stories of the 85-year-old World War II veteran reduced to tears in their office with a flashback."
    Despite the greatest return of veterans in American history from the greatest war in human history, a comprehensive understanding of the emotional effects of combat eluded World War II America. The activist veterans of the Vietnam War, however, spoke to a generation that enjoyed a more thorough, scientific understanding of the human mind. So, they had some success convincing people to recognize that war can have severe, long-term consequences for those who do the fighting. The emotional experiences of America’s World War II veterans are familiar to anyone who has been in war. As an Iraq War veteran recently wrote to me:
    There are times that a door is slammed, or a clap of thunder will get me startled and my heart will beat a little faster. I find myself being reminded of events and sights from over there. It sounds silly, but round-abouts [traffic circles], and certain situations, specifically while driving will create feelings of anxiety. In general, the vets that I have spoken to have related a feeling of being separated, and that we can only speak to others who have been there and who can associate with our feelings.
    Some aspects of war are timeless. The emotional trauma it causes is one of them.
    Mark D. Van Ells, a history professor at the City University of New York , wrote the book To Hear Only Thunder Again: America’s World War II Veterans Come Home. This article originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of America in WWII.

    http://www.americainwwii.com/articles/haunted/
     
    ptimms likes this.
  7. ptimms

    ptimms Member

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2011
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    98
    My Aunt lives next door to a WWII fighter pilot, he still dreams of being trapped in a burning Spitfire. It happens less often now but after 70 years he still wakes in terror gripped by the fear of what could have happened.
     
  8. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2008
    Messages:
    6,679
    Likes Received:
    479
    Location:
    Shambhala http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv9DwzU3K
    That bit made a little saltwater leak from at least one eye, JC...Shell shock/battle fatigue are original terms for PTSD, so was it really coined in 1990? Or maybe that was the year it was recognized as an actual ailment that should be treated/covered?...Canada has had some issues with soldiers not being adequately covered for their mental injures in Afghanistan, resulting in 4 suicides lately.
     
  9. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2014
    Messages:
    3,086
    Likes Received:
    326
    Location:
    New England
    I consider myself one of the younger ones, 32, ha ha. And I agree with the mindset of the young. Being an educator and historian in the United States my students consistently harp on call of duty and other shooters. Growing up in the gaming generation myself I see the draw and the historical accuracy that these games FIRST had in mind when they were beginning. Now they are ridiculous and bent on complete violence. Unfortunately, the young these days are not historians, few and far between, and will not and are not interested in the reality of the Second World War. I go off on tangents during curriculum discussions when we talk of battle but have to remain diligent to not go into too much detail although I try to portray what I have encountered in my research appropriately for public school. Thank you for posting this first hand account .
     
  10. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2014
    Messages:
    576
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    The Good old USofA
    Very sobering letters JC, really gives a glimpse of what soldiers experience during war, and shows that it is not 'glamorous,' 'fun,' nor 'awesome,' and I hope more people of my age and younger actually read this thread.
     
  11. Cadillac

    Cadillac Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2014
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Lone Star State
    I am no doubt one of the youngest members of this forum. However, I have understood that war is nothing to be glorified from a very early age. My mother lived with a PTSD-stricken Special Operations veteran for the first 18 years of her life. She once went to her parents' room in the middle of the night because she had a bad dream, and before she even got to the bed, my grandfather's hand was clenched around her neck. He had reacted in the way he had been conditioned to, and nobody blamed him for it. To this day, Grandpa won't talk about his experiences in the military. Although I enjoy playing games like Battlefield and Call of Duty, I recognize them for what they are: games.
     
    USS Washington likes this.
  12. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2014
    Messages:
    576
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    The Good old USofA
    Hear hear, Infantry, and your grandfather has my utmost sympathy and respect. :salute:
     
  13. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Messages:
    3,000
    Likes Received:
    325
    Location:
    Vernon BC Canada
  14. Diesera

    Diesera New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well If your grandfather was killed in action remember he was do the same thing to other side.
     
  15. JimmyMac

    JimmyMac New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2015
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Goosebumps. Powerful.
     
  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2007
    Messages:
    665
    Likes Received:
    521
    Fred Wilson was generous enough to give a link to my tale about Adrano
    (See posting 313 above)

    To explain why the photo was so evocative to me I now repeat the only poem I have ever written, titled simply "Adrano"


    I've heard it said that everyone has at least one poem inside them.

    I wrote mine after passing through Adrano in Sicily, shortly after 78 Div infantry had taken the town.

    "Darkness was falling as we entered the town,
    but t'was light enough still to see,
    the shattered ruins of what had been, a town, in Sicily.

    It wasn't much to call a town, compared with those of greater size.
    It wasn't built for modern war and now a stinking heap it lies,
    Rotting beneath the azure skies, of Sicily.

    It seemed as if an angry God had run amok with gory hands,
    Then dropped a veil, a canopy, of dirty, blinding, choking sands
    And as to wreak his vengeance more, had propped a body in each door

    We drove on by with sober thought,
    Of those poor bastards who'd been caught,
    We grimaced at the sick, sweet, smell, of this small piece of man made hell

    This could be you, the bodies said,
    This could be you, soon gone, soon dead
    We hurried by, enough to be, alive that day, in Sicily"

    Ron
     
    LRusso216, Poppy and USS Washington like this.
  17. JimmyMac

    JimmyMac New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2015
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Great stuff Ron
     
  18. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,170
    Likes Received:
    2,011
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    A great poem, Ron. Very poignant and powerful.
     
  19. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2007
    Messages:
    665
    Likes Received:
    521
  20. 15thusinfantry

    15thusinfantry New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2015
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Midwest
    In the movie To Hell and Back Audie Murphy's best friend Brandon dies, he picks up an MG42 and moves forward. In real life Murphy grabbed Lattie Tipton (real name) up in his arms and he dies. Audie wanted to film it that way, but he was told it was basically "too Hollywood." Not to take anything away from this post, but sometimes war is surreal. I like this post very much and feel it's important, but I wanted to show that real life can be different. Read the novel The Big Red One, it's a thinly disguised look at combat in the war. Fuller based everything he wrote on notes he took and his diary entries. He also wrote things down right after the war. Griff in the movie and book on a real squadmate who was KIA. Fuller also had a 16m/m hand held camera he carried later in the war. Only pieces have been shown of those movies he took. No romance in the book, and it pulls few punches.
     

Share This Page