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Old 30th June 2009, 04:19
Sylvester Stadler's Avatar
Sylvester Stadler Sylvester Stadler is offline
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Combat Fatigue

Combat fatigue is a subject which psychiatrists in the several armies of
WW II recognized but generally could not alleviate without severly
reducing the strength of their respective armies. In the news of today we
can read of soldiers returning home after one, two or more tours of
combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic syndrome, but we
hear little of the soldiers who actually experience combat or battle fatigue
during their actual combat tours. In past wars this has been variously
labelled as cowardice or lack of moral fiber.

In one book which I read regarding the experience of the British infantry,
it was concluded that a British soldier might experience battle fatigue
after 200-400 days of combat. The result of this experience can result in
reduced performance which can result in the destruction of unit moral or
cohesion and placing the other members of the unit in greater danger to
being killed or wounded. It can result in desertion or going AWOL, the
result of which is a reduction in the performance of the man's fighting

Martin van Creveld has written an interesting book, Fighting Power:
German and U.S. Army Performance 1939-1945, which compares nearly
all aspects of how each army performed in combat and how each differed
and how each were similar. One area which van Creveld asserts the
German Army was superior was in its handling of the psychiatric cases.
He states that the German Army had fewer cases of combat fatigue than
any other army and he attributes this to the fact that German fighting
divisions came from the same general geographic area which included
replacements from the same localities and that the replacement system
sent new soldiers to be trained by a divisions' field replacement battalion
where the new recruits could be give combat instructions and training by
the division's seasoned combat veterans. The recruits would work together
for a time and form a bond, after which they would be sent to the front line.

A famous philosopher once wrote that four cowardly men unknown
to each other would not attack a lion but that four such males bonded
to each other would not hesitate to do such. Soldiers were also given
periods of leave to visit their homes.

My question here is in regard to how the Luftwaffe and other air forces
treated psychiatric casualties. Just how much combat would it take to
affect a fighter pilot or bomber pilot before his wealth of experience
begins to turn into a liability? How many combat missions? I am
somewhat familiar with Heinz Bär where he was worn out (most probably
combat fatigue) to the extent of his arguments with Hermann Göring and
his relief from command for a while. With 2530 combat missions under
his belt, did Hans Rudel ever suffer the effects of so much combat? It is
understandably that the memoirs of combat pilots never mention or gloss
over any symptoms of combat fatigue as in the past it has been described
as a sign of weakness. Nevertheless, combat fatigue is present in war
and the strongest of the strong will be subject to it.
Sylvester Stadler

Meine Ehre heisst Treue!
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