Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
JMA & Motorfirebox: When Marlantes made his statement:

"The ideal response to killing in war should be one similar to a mercy killing, sadness mingled with respect."

Didn't that refer to how he felt the thing as a whole should be viewed decades, maybe many decades later? I don't have a copy to refer to (the library copy isn't back yet) so I may have the context wrong but what I remember is something more along the lines of being proud of professional accomplishment but a bit sad that the accomplishment involved killing a lot of people, NVA soldiers, who may not have had much choice about being there. Again I remember him saying that after decades of reflection, this is how he felt he should best view it.

That he came to that after so much time implies that Marlantes, the old man came to the conclusion that that is how old men should best view it. But what worked good for Marlantes long after the fighting stopped. For others who knows?
I reread the chapter just to be sure I didn't miss something.

Yes the book comprises Marlantes' reflections looking back some 40 years.

At the end of the chapter he sums it up like this:

We cannot expect normal eighteen year olds to kill someone and contain it in a healthy way. They must be helped to sort out what will be healthy grief about taking a life because it is part of the sorrow of war.
You see here we go in the direction of Grossman in the thinking that killing is somehow 'bad' and will inevitably lead to feelings of guilt and grief.

Not so. Combat killing in war is not murder, it is not a homicide, it is a justifiable killing. (I'm not talking atrocities here)

I am involved with a compilation of narratives written by individuals who served in my regiment during my little war. If there is grief it is over their mates who were KIA. Here is some 'raw data' from one account:

... Literally the minute we hit the ground the $hit hit the fan. All hell broke loose and a long and fierce fire fight took place. I experienced just about everything a soldier could expect to face in a lifetime in the army. There were airstrikes that nearly hit us, a terrorist threw and hit me with an empty AK magazine, two of my friends Kevin and Kim were seriously injured and flown out, and I had my first kill. I have never forgotten that moment….18 years old and I took another human beings life. Raised as a Catholic this had a severe impact on me. The worst was to come. At the end of the day we had to retrace our movements and collect all the bodies and drag them to a pick up point. The sight of the fatal injuries were horrific, limbs shattered, huge holes everywhere, exposed internal organs and brains oozing and falling adrift from the bodies. The yellow fat, the flies and the stench of death was gut retching. No training could have prepared me for this... "
Did this kid fall apart then or later? No, like the vast majority of others who went through that mill he just got on with his life.

That viewpoint would not be so workable for soldiers during and in the immediate aftermath of fight I imagine. I read once of a B-26 crew that caught a Chinese unit in the open in the daylight and killed over 1,000, that one crew. Feeling anything but pride and happiness that those dead Chinese weren't around to kill G.I.s would have been a handicap to future missions.
Exactly. If you have heard the 'Green Leader' audio from a camp attack against ZIPRA in Zambia (nah... not a refugee camp) one can hear from the cockpit transmissions this euphoria you speak of.

I am not sure his descent into sex, drugs and rock and roll isn't anything more than a young man leaving a highly regimented world and entering the US of the late 60s and 70s (I forgot if he partied in Europe too). Sex, drugs and rock and roll was a way of life easily engaged in by a lot of people in those days. Maybe it had something to do with his combat experience but maybe it had just as much to do with being a young man in a place where it was easy.
Well maybe I oversimplify his experience by using 'sex, drugs and rock and roll'. He claims to have has visions of the face of an NVA who threw a grenade at him and who he mat or may not have killed. I don't for one minute doubt his account but I do have my concerns of his mental state if that is all it took to tip him over the edge.

Perhaps for this and other reasons your man, Ken White, has stated often here that there should be some sort of psychological screening of all soldiers attempting to enter the service. (maybe he can clarify)

My experience is that those who had issues had them already when they entered the service. Combat had little to do with their later problems although 'the war' was a convenient excuse to hide behind.

I always thought Grossman was dead wrong too. He always talked about humans instead of culture and I never remembered reading anything about the Mongols being troubled by angst. The comments section in the Best Defense junior officer preferred reads list cited by JMA tore Grossman apart.
Not in the comment I read:

7. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman
Pete Kilner: This book opened my eyes to the psychological, physical and even moral impacts of killing another human being. As professionals of arms, we recruit, equip, train and order our Soldiers to kill. On Killing gave me a much deeper appreciation for what it’s like to kill, as well as how I can help my Soldiers prepare for and make sense of killing in war.
C.J. Douglas: I read this book with my company leadership— officers and SNCOs [senior non-commissioned officers]— prior to deploying to Iraq each time. It served as a discussion primer for the company to talk about the human factors in combat.
So please guide me to the critical comment.

What is sad is that they need to work off Grossman as a base. There should be something better available for use.

Not all of the writing is about guys who have problems. Most maybe because problems are inherently more dramatic than people who are well adjusted. But not all. Bob Greene wrote a very good book called "Duty" (I think). It was about his father and also about Paul Tibbets whom Greene got to know very well. IIRC Tibbets had no guilt, was proud of his unit and its accomplishment and knew that dropping the bomb ended the war sooner thereby saving many.
Yes but... I'll bet the book 'Black Hearts: One platoon's descent into madness in Iraq's triangle of death' will sell more copies than that book about normal, well adjusted soldiers (read boring) as opposed to a bunch of head-jobs.