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Panic! Battle Fatigue in WWII

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On January 19, 2019 at 5:48 PM, MikeyD said:

Long ago I worked with a former WWII Pacific jungle fighter. He said after the war ended the government brought the troops back and placed them on an island off the coast, surrounded by barbed wire. Basically considered them feral animals that needed to be reintroduced to normal society before being set loose. Pampered them and feasted them, but didn't set them free for awhile. That was the 1945 version of 'psychological decompression'.

I had read someplace that they did that with Marine Raiders. I think it was in a reference to Elenor Roosevelt, who's son was a Marine, but it was so long ago that I really don't remember the specifics. The Marine Reserve Unit that I served in, when I worked for Boeing in Wichita, shared a building with an Army Reserve unit. I was friends with the Command Sgt. Major. He wore a patch on his seat shoulder that said "Merrill's Marauders." At that time he was one of eight still living. I am honored to have known him and that he considered me a friend. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met.

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5 hours ago, Vet 0369 said:

Thank you for that. My experiences were 1969 to 1973. Do you know when then changed the process? How long between coming out of combat and back in the world? What was the time relative to WWII and the Korean War?

I think the British military started sending people to Cyprus around about 2006-2007 - I know there was talk of us going there before going home when I finished my first Afghanistan trip in 2007 but in the event it never happened. All three of my trips (Afghanistan x 2 and Iraq x 1) with the Australian Army from 2011 onwards involved about two or three days hanging around in a benign environment in the Middle East before going home. A Psych screen in Theatre was mandatory and a second Psych screen in the benign Middle East location was mandatory. On RTA (Return to Australia) going to work for three days minimum before going on leave was mandatory as was a further Psych screen between 3 and 6 months after RTA.

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On 1/18/2019 at 12:04 AM, John Kettler said:

Snipers, because of telescopic sights, have historically had much more exposure to the effects of their fire  (bullet to the head, etc.) than typical soldiers, ...

Does a sniper actually see the impact of his bullet?!

I would expect the recoil of the weapon to throw off his sight.

But having never fired a weapon in my life, I seriously have no idea.

Best regards,
Thomm

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Interesting topic. Couple of comments:

- Battle fatigue has probably always existed (there are likely references to it in older texts) but one thing that may have mitigated it was that war and combat was more a seasonal thing, not the multi-year and all-year deployments seen in modern conflicts. In other words there was more recovery time.

- Van Creveld goes into the WWII situation in some detail in Fighting Power where he compares the US and German armies. He blames the much higher US incidence of battle fatigue on the lack of primary group bonds caused by the lack of regional recruitment policy as well as the well-known replacement system, and also the lack of unit rest and rotation. The Germans despite the pressure they were under managed to do those things right, partly because of tradition and experience from WWI (the US situation improved towards the end of the war when some issues were fixed). He also mentions widespread acceptance of Freudian ideas in American society as a possible secondary explanation.

- Research I think suggests humans are somewhat like a battery, with soldiers managing a max of 300-ish days in the combat zone. Rest can recharge the battery but not up to full power. Of course there are outliers in each direction, but for the vast majority those figures should hold.

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4 hours ago, Thomm said:

Does a sniper actually see the impact of his bullet?!

I would expect the recoil of the weapon to throw off his sight.

But having never fired a weapon in my life, I seriously have no idea.

Best regards,
Thomm

I can answer this for you, most of the time, no, some times yes.

What happens is just what you thought, the rifle recoil will knock you view off and for a moment because of movement, you really cannot see anything.

now what is interesting is, depending on how well you have the weapon locked into your body and secure. You can have the weapon come right back into a resting position and be right on the original line of site basically.

In this case, it is possible to see impact. rare but possible.

What I remember more than anything was when shooting at very long ranges (800 to 1000 yards) in a hot open environment (desert) and this would happen where the weapon came back to the original sight picture. Not only at times could you see impact, but you actually could see the bullet cutting through the air, the heat waves coming up off the surface is visible in the sight and the bullet is moving the air as it flies and you can see that as it moves to target.

Now as for seeing the results of being a sniper. If you do not know, snipers now work always in teams of 2 or 3 in most armies.

One is designated as a spotter when shots are fired. they normally are viewing the target, many times with even stronger optics than the sniper. so that person has a view of the whole event. so yes they get images that will likely never leave their mind.

For a sniper , the mental challenge is war is a little different than for others in one sense.

Killing impacts most  people,  it can play on their minds. For a Sniper, they have the situation of normally being able to see the victim and know that as they pull the trigger they are taking that persons life away from them and that its within their control to do it. (its not like its a fair fight. Most of the time that person has no clue you are going to take their life or that they are presently at risk of death) So for many it can become a challenge to be a killer in such a manor.

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On 1/20/2019 at 5:54 PM, Vet 0369 said:

How long between coming out of combat and back in the world?

My experience was coming out of Iraq in the spring of 2005. It was a week back in the barracks in Germany, where we underwent medical and psych screenings, easy stuff. Most of each day we had to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. After that, the 1st ID gave everyone 30 day's leave, no issues or exceptions. So, I in essence had almost a month and a half away from regular military life before having to return to my unit.

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43 minutes ago, LukeFF said:

My experience was coming out of Iraq in the spring of 2005. It was a week back in the barracks in Germany, where we underwent medical and psych screenings, easy stuff. Most of each day we had to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. After that, the 1st ID gave everyone 30 day's leave, no issues or exceptions. So, I in essence had almost a month and a half away from regular military life before having to return to my unit.

That's great! I'm happy to stand corrected. I'm glad to hear that the military is at least doing something. As I said in one of my original statements, in our day, it took years  for the VA to recognize PTSD as a combat related disorder. I reckon I' still  a bit bitter from how my friends and comrades were treated. Thank you for enlightening me.

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