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Mystery of Shellshock "Solved?

Discussion in 'Military History' started by The_Historian, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    Would still say its early days.
    "When the war poet Wilfred Owen wrote of “men whose minds the Dead have ravished” he was attempting to describe the mysterious effects of shellshock which started appearing during the First World War and of which he himself was a sufferer.

    Now, a century after the first cases began to appear, scientists believe they have for the first time identified the signature brain injury that could explain why some soldiers go on to have their lives blighted by the condition.

    After conducting autopsies on US combat veterans who survived improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan but later died of other causes, researchers in the US found the ex-soldiers had a unique type of brain injury.

    Described as a ‘distinctive honeycomb pattern of broken and swollen nerve fibres’, the injuries were not the same as those found in car crash and drug overdose victims, or sufferers of punch-drunk syndrome, which is caused by repeated blows to the head.

    The lesions occurred in critical regions of the IED survivors’ brains, including in the frontal lobes, which control decision making and reasoning, lead the scientists to conclude that hidden brain injuries may play a role in the social and psychological problems faced by some combat veterans.

    Vassilis Koliatsos, professor of pathology, neurology, and psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “This is the first time the tools of modern pathology have been used to look at a 100-year-old problem: the lingering effects of blasts on the brain.

    “The location and extent of these lesions may help explain why some veterans who survive IED attacks have problems putting their lives back together.”

    The heavy artillery bombardments of WWI meant that shellshock rapidly became one of defining features of the 1914-18 conflict. As early as December 1914 up to ten per cent of British officers and four per cent of other ranks were suffering from what was then termed “nervous and mental shock.” "
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/the-mystery-of-shellshock-solved-scientists-identify-the-unique-brain-injury-caused-by-war-9981443.html
     
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  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Its complicated, and this looks like one small piece.. Shell shock was used to refer to more than just the physical damage to the brain from the effects of an explosion. It was also used for a range of psychiatric conditions resulting from prolonged exposure to the stress of combat.
     
  3. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    I'd say humans were not made for /designed-to-live under arty fire/explosions/etc..so there will be problems.....as Shel stated, physical and mental....if you read the news everyday, human brains think in many, many different/irrational ways...so I would conclude some humans would be effected differently by combat,/under fire, as for as the mental aspect is concerned<>as with what Shel stated<>complicated
     
  4. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    It certainly might explain one facet of shellshock, but not the varied cultural and psychological causes of the WW1 variety IMHO.
     
  5. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    WW1 vets display different symptoms/?
     
  6. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member Patron  

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    I agree. Each human brain is succumbed to different environmental and physical factors which modify behavior. Overwhelming fear brings the human condition to another level. Some can handle it and others need strategies to cope.
     
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Lord Moran in Anatomy of Courage described a mans stock of courage as a bank from which a man draws upon. For most people that stock runs out. Thats where the Tour of Duty was establshed.
     
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  8. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    Was thinking more of the cultural shock effect on WW1 vets being hurled into a completely new and brutal form of warfare, with a non-stop cacophany of noise, violence and stress that was unknown in civvy street.
    People led very ordered lives with rigid values; they knew what was going to happen more or less every day. They grew up with very romanticised notions of warfare, and then suddenly they're in situations where they can't afford to relax for a minute, the only thing that matters is staying alive and no-one cares how you do it, and you've no idea when/if you'll ever be going home or what you're doing there.
    We've had a century and umpteen wars to see how all that affects the human body, and decades of becoming blase to it thanks to Hollywood glorifying violence . It must have been horrific being first to experience it.
     
  9. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    I would think the wars earlier were just as brutal--cannon balls careening through the ranks/decks of ships, full bayonet charges,swords hacking and hacking, much more close combat,etc??? I'll have to start a thread on the pre-medieval wars
     
  10. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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  11. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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  12. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    Sorry, the wars.
     
  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Thgis has been discussed in the literature about shell shock and military history.

    1. Pre WW1 soldiers at war experienced a lot of marching about, a fair amount of sickness and starvation and the occasional very violent day. In a battle such as Waterloo the chances of becoming a casualty might be very high - 15-30%. it was rare for an individual soldier to experience more than a handful of major engagements. By contrast the warfare of the two world wars would but the soldiers in the forward areas, *and operational airmen) at a daily danger for long periods of time.

    2. There were some instances of psychiatric casualties. General Thomas Piction, killed at Waterloo, and a veteran of many combats exhibited some of the symptoms.

    3. The normal living conditions prior to the C20th were much more dangerous making warfare much less of a contrast with "normality".
     
  14. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    good point on time in combat....I would have to think it HAS to have some effect on just about everyone, as you state, being in combat for long periods...that's another interesting question<>what was the longest time in combat for a unit?
     
  15. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    But urban living conditions were different to the rural variety, and neither was anything like being at war.
     
  16. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    That'll depend on the definition of period of combat, since it might not be one continuous battle.
    Found this piece on combat stress, it's a bit old but still interesting-
    http://www.military.com/NewContent/0,13190,Defensewatch_012104_Stress,00.html
     
  17. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    it says the average time in actual combat for WW2 was 40 days for a soldier/Marine who served 4 years???? can this be correct?? that doesn't sound right?? 1st Mardiv was at Guadalcanal for how long? Aug 7 to Dec....and 250 days per soldier/Marine for Vietnam in only one year?????? I call bullS on this.....yes, you say definition of combat...that is a good point..I can see, being in Nam, they got to battles more often because of the choppers and only one airplane ride to the AO.....but actual combat??...250 out of 400?..
     
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Gosh I find myself ina topic salient - under fire from different directiuons ;)

    This is a very interesting subject. The British, commonwealth and US armies produced some kind of graphic and came up with models of combat performance against time, with a rookie gaining confidence and experience and then that value eroded as they became steadily more bomb happy/ jumpy etc to there came a time when they were no more use as a soldier. What that limit was varied from individual to individual. It applied in the air as well as on the ground., Hence the "Tour of Duty" after which an individual would have reached their limit. Navies don't seem to have had that concept. Though I suspect odds of survival as a submariner might be quite short (I think Das Boot has some reference?)

    The Japanese and Red Armies and the Wehrmacht took a different line. Psychiatric casualties did not exist. Penal battalions were the place for men who ran away. The old hares and luftwaffe experten flew until the fell. (Though in practice places were found for some individuals who were otherwise seen favourably. I suspect that the high rates of casualties within the German and Russian units meant that for practical purposes the entire combat strength of some of the units was replaced. E.g. the 352nd Infantry division defending the Bayeux sector on D Day was nominally composed of "East Front " Veterans. Sure there was a nucleus of perhaps 2,000 men from formations which served on the Eastern Front. But, I'd suspect that the core 2,000 would be disproportionally from the service and support arms as these are the bits that survive, and a sprinkling of returned wounded & sick who were not there when disaster struck..


    Before the industrial revolution mortalities rates from ordinary living might compare with losses on campaign. Sickness and plague could kill soldiers and civilians alike. Napoleon lost al,ost all his army in Russian from non battle causes, and far more on the advance to Moscow It wasn't uncommon for the number of dead siblings in a family to match the mortality from a battle. Mining and seafaring were hazardous. Look at the records of the European colonies. Check out the lyrics to the Victorian hit ballard "Here’s to the Last One to Die" Scroll down and hit the playback below the words .

    https://folkcatalogue.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/1972-various-artists-songs-and-music-of-the-redcoats/

    If death is an imminent possibility this may change your way of looking at life and danger.
     
  19. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    This is a complicated topic - and thought provoking..

    Although a division may be "in combat" not all of its units may be in the an area where they are under fire. Formations are usually disposed in some depth and the "divisional front" might be held by a small fraction of its combat troops. Soem campaigns such as the Western Desert there might be long periods when the armies are not in contact at a\ll and the line is merely patrolled. Charles Carrington a British Officer who served in WW1 calculated that he was only in the front line for a few dozen days in a year in which his infantry battalion had served continuously in the BEF in 1915-16 He had not seen a single German during that time. (Though that did change a lot after July 1916)

    In WW2 in NW Europe and Italy there were far fewer formations and spread much wider.

    I suspect that the non linear nature of Vietnam might have meant that more GIs felt in danger for a higher proportion of the time..
     
  20. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    correct my math if wrong, but that's 6 times days in combat with 4 times less the time in theater?....yes, the nature of Vietnam different...I would think they had fewer combat troops per battle area?...yes, complicated, considering how vast WW2 was compared to Nam
     

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