"Psychological Effects of Combat"
The Trauma of Close-Range, Interpersonal Aggression
During World War II, the carnage and destruction caused by months of continuous German bombing in England and years of Allied bombing in Germany was systematically inflicted in order to create psychological casualties among civilian populations. Day and night, in an intentionally unpredictable pattern, civilians, relatives, and friends were mutilated, killed and their homes were destroyed. These civilian populations suffered fear and horror of a magnitude that few humans will ever experience.
This unpredictable, uncontrollable reign of shock, horror, and terror is exactly what psychiatrists and psychologists prior to World War II believed to be responsible for the vast numbers of psychiatric casualties suffered by soldiers in World War I. And yet, incredibly, the Rand Corporation's Strategic Bombing Study published in 1949 found that there was only a very slight increase in the psychological disorders in these populations as compared to peacetime rates and that these occurred primarily among individuals already predisposed to psychiatric illness.
These bombings, which were intended to break the will of the population, appear to have served primarily to harden the hearts and increase the determination to fight among those who endured them.
The impact of fear, physiological arousal, horror, and physical deprivation in combat should never be underestimated, but it has become clear that other factors are responsible for psychiatric casualties among combatants. One of those factors is the impact of close-range, interpersonal, aggressive confrontation.
Through roller-coasters, action and horror movies, drugs, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, parachuting, hunting, contact sports, and a hundred other means, modern society pursues fear. Fear in and of itself is seldom a cause of trauma in everyday peacetime existence, but facing close-range interpersonal aggression and hatred from fellow citizens is a horrifying experience of an entirely...