On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Armueller2001, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. Armueller2001


    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
    Has anyone read this book by Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman? I started into it and it is one of the most interesting books I've read.

    Some of the things that are mentioned are that out of front-line soldiers in WWII, only 15-20% of them were able to actually bring themselves to fire directly at another human being, regardless of their own personal safety or the safety of their comrades. Others fell back to supportive roles such as tending the wounded and supplying ammunition to those who were firing. There are similar accounts of this during the Civil War. After battles, there would be thousands of rifles found that were unfired, or that had multiple rounds loaded up in the barrel. Soldiers would act like they were firing, and continue with the loading procedure, stacking bullets in their rifles. Others would simply fire over the enemy's heads.

    Also it talks about accounts of people that were able to bring themselves to shoot another human in battle, and how the physical and psychological effects were traumatic afterward. Apparently it's much easier for a bomber or artillery operator to "knowingly" kill hundreds, than it is for a front line soldier to shoot a man they can look in the face from 50 yds away. Thermal imaging systems on gunships are closing this gap though, they are becoming so advanced that gunners are no longer shooting at white blips on the screen, they can see the people in detail... this is causing hesitation and reluctance to fire whereas it wasn't a problem in the past.

  2. DudeistMonk


    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    I plan on staying as far away from a battle ground as humanly possible...I'm a pacifist and then some, but I feel like if I had a riffle fighting in a just war (say WWII) and my job was to kill that guy before he killed me, or the guy next to me, that I wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger. If I didn't then I would be somewhat responsible for the deaths of my fellow soldiers.
  3. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Sounds like an interesting read. Might have to pick this up.
  4. sarcastro83


    Jul 27, 2007
    Toronto, ON
    Agreed. I just started reading Preacher again, but that might have to go on the back burner for more serious fare.
  5. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    This quote from my dad:

    "In a frozen bunker on Sandbag Castle in Korea it dawned on me that some people just flat-out enjoy killing other people. A sniper told me, “Ah been huntin’ since 12 year old. It’s a hellofa lot more excitin’ when the animul shoots back.” He’d “offed” four Chinese gentlemen that week."

    He never would talk to us kids about his war experiences much.
    Gramma told me when he got back he drank for a year straight.

    He was an army infantry sgt who lost his platoon to friendly fire. His job was to go up in the chopper as a "spotter" and tell the artillery where to fire. They got it wrong.

    He was an peace activist in the 60s and an editorial cartoonist for the Seattle P-I.
  6. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    Killing does change you. Learning to kill does change you. I am waging peace as we speak. I teach PreSchoolers.
    However I am not a pacifist. I may not fight the invader if they were coming to get me. I would flee first. But I have learned that Knights whether they be European Medieval or Samurai or Jedi have a responsibility to take care of the young and innocent. So I will do what is necessary to protect a child from harm. The instigator has now "asked for it".
    We need our police forces and armies until we don't.
  7. Keyword to explain the unfired rifles.......Soldier.

    Just kidding. Very interesting topic. Killed a lot of people chadds? :ninja: :eek:
  8. DudeistMonk


    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    Just another point for examination (not that I necessarily agree or disagree with the OP)....

    As far as the civil war goes, remember those riffles where known for misfiring and being wildly inaccurate...your firing early industrial revolution era weapons (both ammunition and barrels full or defects) that require manual powder loading mid-combat (a minute long process for the best soldier)...Cannons misfired and would crack or explode, as would riffles (ever been to Gettysburg? Museums full of broken cannons and riffles) . You are also marching to a drum beat and firing on the order of a man with a ceremonial sword in unison with hundreds if not thousands of other people, so you have no idea if you hit anything, or if your round even exited the chamber, and no time to check because you've got to start reloading as soon as possible.

    Multiple chambered rounds in the civil war is poor evidence to me.
  9. Armueller2001


    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
    I'm sure that's the mindset of everyone who goes into battle.. but when the time comes to pull that trigger and end someone's life, many people can NOT physically do it. I'd like to think that I could, but without being placed in that situation, no one can know for sure.

    Makes me wonder about self-defense uses of firearms as well. I own guns for self-defense and the defense of my family, I've prepared myself mentally and trained in marksmanship... I hope that the safety of my family would be enough motivation to overstep those psychological boundaries.
  10. GregC

    GregC Questlove, Black Thought, Hamilton Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    Very interesting. I should check into this.
  11. This is from experience and thats all I'll say. There are two types of people and there is only one way to find out which you are. But only one type ever survives the trial. Love your signature by the way, Armueller. I'm gonna keep that one. And if you have already taken the step to prepare, when you're wife and kids are in danger, you will act. Animal instinct that armies don't have to deal with in combat. I'd rather be in combat any day of the week then ever have to fear that if I don't kill a man my family will die, but any man can defend his family and (as you're point originally stated) not every man can kill in combat.
  12. Armueller2001


    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
    From the book -

    Personally, all I know about civil war technology is the basics and what I've read in this book. So I'm not an expert by any means. The book also says they could fire between 4 and 5 shots per minute, and could achieve 40% hits at 150 yds and 60% hits at 75 yds.
  13. DudeistMonk


    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    I had no idea the number of multiple loads we where talking about here, and I can't argue with that evidence.

    Also I believe I mixed up my riffle load times, perhaps colonial war was a minute to reload?...or perhaps it would have taken me about a minute but they trained it down to 15 seconds...it's been a long time but I was a bit of a civil war buff as a kid.
  14. Armueller2001


    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
    That information up there was copy and pasted from the electronic book. If you guys want, you can PM me your email address, and I can send you more information on umm... where to find... the book...
  15. Riffle?
  16. Armueller2001


    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
  17. 1. Not sure what that is.
    2. Musket is not synonymous with rifle nor, I assume, riffle.
  18. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    heard snipers are picked out particularly from their psyche tests, and obviously are a whole different bunch...
  19. sarcastro83


    Jul 27, 2007
    Toronto, ON
    just ordred it from Amazon... I'm definately looking forward to reading this. His book "On Combat" looks interesting too.
  20. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    Although I don't know from personal experience having never seen combat, it's accepted by well-sourced military fiction writers such as Tom Clancy, David Drake, David Weber, etc that on average, 80% of personnel involved in a military action have nothing to do with the action itself. The other 20% are the people doing the actual shooting and killing, the rest are support. This phenomenon is quoted in their books frequently, so I'm not surprised to find other veterans citing similar information.

    IIRC, one of the reasons the current US military has been so successful with drastically reduced numbers is that modern training methods have managed to overcome the initial aversion to pulling the trigger. I could be wrong.
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