View Full Version : Battle Fatigue and PTSD

08-20-2006, 11:55 AM
This thread is Lancer's idea. Here's a portion of the script from a PBS documentary on "The Battle of the Bulge" (American Experience).

Narrator: [War Department Film Bulletin] For every four men wounded, one soldier will become a psychiatric casualty. Such men may be shaking or crying, but more often they are just very tired and dirty and depressed. They are unnerved and have no initiative. They're not quitters, but are truly ill.

1st Medic: So, soldier, what's your trouble?

Soldier: I can't stand seeing people killed.

1st Medic: What were you afraid of?

Soldier: Everything.

1st Medic: What, in particular? What, in particular?

Soldier: Dead.

1st Medic: What?

Soldier: Dead.

1st Medic: Dead what?

Soldier: Dead people. Can't stand seeing them.

1st Medic: I can't hear you.

Soldier: Can't stand seeing dead people.

Ben Kimmelman: (veteran interview) People who were not necessarily severely wounded but who were no longer in charge of themselves, they would put them in a detachment or an installation to put them through a kind of a very quick and dirty process in which they were given sodium amytal or one of these other-- it's a sort of a truth serum-thing, but it was in the form of tablets. And this would give them a very deep, deep sleep, sort of almost a trance-like sleep for 24, sometimes or 48 hours.

During this time, the enlisted men and myself would sometimes go by. We had to supervise it, because there'd be screaming and they would be deep, deep asleep and there'd be terrible expressions of their fear and their fright.

2nd Medic: You're back on the battlefield now. Watch out, those shells are coming. Watch out! Duck!

Ben Kimmelman: The assumptions were that this would have some kind of cathartic effect, the sodium amytal, which the men called ''blue 88's.'' You know, the most effective artillery piece of the Germans was the 88 and this was ''blue 88's,'' because the sodium amytal was a blue tablet.

And then they would-- they would come out of this in, depending on the dosage, 24, 48, 72 hours, and they'd be walking around, completely numb. Sometimes they would be slipping and falling. That took a few more hours. And then they would be given a shower, new clothes and a pep talk and the attempt was made to send them back. I say the attempt because it didn't always succeed. They weren't suitable to be returned.

And in a sense, the thing that repelled me so badly was that you were talking to men who weren't quite yet still in charge of themselves and you were sort of shepherding them back to the front.

And one time, the chief of staff asked me to go out and talk to them. He said, ''You're good at that, you go out and talk.'' I said, ''Colonel, I really don't want to do it.'' He said, ''I know, Ben.'' He said, ''Do it, anyhow.'' And I went out and I tried haphazardly to try to get them-- to persuade them to get in the trucks and go back. They'd finished with their 72 hours, they'd gotten their clothes, and they just looked at me. And half of them looked as if they couldn't focus.

And finally one of them said, ''Don't you guys understand? If you can still walk and see, they'll keep shipping you back.'' So I didn't do that again, and I told my commanding officer I wouldn't.

From: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bulge/filmmore/pt.html

More info: http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/library/randrep/marlowe_paper/mr1018_11_ch7.html