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Battle Fatigue and Combat Stress

#1
Just been chatting with a mate who is reading a book that he got yesterday off the fat bearded one.

It claims that during WWII Soldiers were pretty much too mentally hammered to keep fighting after anymore than 2 months of prolonged fighting.

Physically after 36 hours or so we all know that you have to rotate and rest soldiers as they start to get fcuking hungry get lathargic and let their admin go to sh1t. (That is my personal opinion) So you let them sleep. I'd say after no more than a week they need proper rest in order to maintain high levels of efficiency.

Soooooo, with all this in mind are the lads in the FOB's of Helmand being burnt out more quickly than we can replace them. Or is the difference in intensity of WW2 - Op Herrick vast enough that soldiers can cope with more time in contact due to less "Tiger Tanks/Air Bombardment/Panzer divisions" being involved?

Kind of links in with the push for longer tours. I like the idea of longer tours for a few reasons one of which being the longer you spend in theatre the more tuned in you are so the easier you will spot the combat indicators and adapt. However hand in hand with that is boredom and complacency kicks in.

Also I would like to add the affects that those on Op Telic have suffered. The last couple of tours were no push over to say the least not to mention the likes of CIMIC house 2004 etc.
 
#2
and of course the Americans are doing this so well with their year long tours?
Why not do it the way the army was deployed in WW2 one old boy I nursed left Belfast in August 1939 for TA Camp and returned in October 1946 returning from Burma. It will save a fortune on shifting units to and From Afghanistan and Iraq and what an incentive you don't get to go home till the war is over!!!!!
Is that a long enough tour for you?
 
B

Brandt

Guest
#3
I chose to take the last R&R on my last tour- 5 months almost to the day. It was quite a busy tour, and with about a week to go to R&R I became aware that I really needed a rest. On my way back to the UK, I met up with a couple of mates, over on a recce, and after me talking to them for about ten minutes I noticed they were staring at me as if I was mad. R&R really recharged the batteries, and I was fine again to the end of the tour.

If longer tours were to be considered, I reckon you need R&R about once every 4 months, and in addition troops would really need to be rotated in theatre to maintain full operating capability. That said, even small periods of change or 'rest' can really make a difference- we were placed on reserve for another op one night, which pushed us down to about 30 min NTM, based in a camp. We were very unlikely to deploy (we didn't) and it really gave us all a rest.
 
#4
Nurse2 said:
and of course the Americans are doing this so well with their year long tours?
Why not do it the way the army was deployed in WW2 one old boy I nursed left Belfast in August 1939 for TA Camp and returned in October 1946 returning from Burma. It will save a fortune on shifting units to and From Afghanistan and Iraq and what an incentive you don't get to go home till the war is over!!!!!
Is that a long enough tour for you?
Well i assume you have your own experience on operations to back that one up.

I'm also sure that the old boy wasn't in contact the whole time he was away and will have been rested and rotated as units did at the time because the numbers were sufficient. Not saying it was easy by any stretch of the imagination!
 
#5
Bad_Crow said:
Just been chatting with a mate who is reading a book that he got yesterday off the fat bearded one.

It claims that during WWII Soldiers were pretty much too mentally hammered to keep fighting after anymore than 2 months of prolonged fighting.

What is the book Crow? I'm interested.

John Ellis (I think) wrote a very good book about troops in battle the Sharp End of War?? worth a look, it talks about this point.
I think the general point is that everyone has his breaking-point which can be reached faster if he is in an intense zone of combat like, taking WW2 as example, Normandy, or slower if he is not, like Western Desert (though not all the time).
The BP can be retarded by RR, and time in safe jobs or areas. Obviously individual differences kick in, but the rule is clear.

An interesting point was made by Spike Milligan of all people, he was mortared in Italy in WW2 being badly shocked and the medics recommended resting behind the lines for a time. His BC insisted that he return to the guns, and his nerve broke completely leading to him being finished in a combat unit (arty).
His own comments were to the effect that had he been rested like all the others in the group were, he is sure that he would have been alright.

All this is to say that you could adjust the length of tours but you have to monitor the state of the troops and have regular decompression depending on intensity of action.
Longer tours may have advantages in troops being tuned in for longer, but they would need more resting.
Also don't forget if the tour is quiet (or for periods) the ennui can be just as deleterious, and troops can lose efficiency quite swiftly leading to problems if it kicks off again, look at the problems the frog legion had with 'Le cafard' for example.

Stay lucky on the next one Brandt.
 
#6
TELIC 1 we did a shade over 6 months without R&R in very poor conditions indeed, still in bashas with DTLs at the 5 month point...

...we were pretty fcuked physically and mentally, a fact commented on by 19X who relieved us...could we have pushed out another 5 1/2 months?

Yes, but it would have carried significant risk due to fatigue etc....would I have wanted to....probably not
 
#7
I too remember a reading a psychology book which stated the same, however it wasn't necessarily combat, but the threat of physical harm -mortal danger which so tires the mind into breakdown. Time away from the mortal danger, in a place without threat of bombardment or sniping is thought to be enough to recharge enough not to succumb. This was known in WW2 by some armies, with British lines being rotated from the front every 14 days wherever possible (probably as a result of spending 4 yrs learning about shell shock in WW1), US soldiers often fought until wounded or they fell to combat stress, and as a result suffered far worse psychological casualties during and after.
I'll reference it when i find out what its called but its a fascinating read, superb first hand accounts too.

The book was #Richard Holmes- Acts of War: The Behaviour of Men in Battle, (1986) ISBN 9780029150207

Edited to add book title and author.
 
#8
Brandt said:
I chose to take the last R&R on my last tour- 5 months almost to the day. It was quite a busy tour, and with about a week to go to R&R I became aware that I really needed a rest. On my way back to the UK, I met up with a couple of mates, over on a recce, and after me talking to them for about ten minutes I noticed they were staring at me as if I was mad. R&R really recharged the batteries, and I was fine again to the end of the tour.

If longer tours were to be considered, I reckon you need R&R about once every 4 months, and in addition troops would really need to be rotated in theatre to maintain full operating capability. That said, even small periods of change or 'rest' can really make a difference- we were placed on reserve for another op one night, which pushed us down to about 30 min NTM, based in a camp. We were very unlikely to deploy (we didn't) and it really gave us all a rest.
On Telic 7 & 8, Div HQ staff were getting 3 day R&R packages in Kuwait every couple of months. It's a great idea, although for some reason it wasn't offered to the Infantry lads who could have really done with it...
 
#9
goon_bde said:
TELIC 1 we did a shade over 6 months without R&R in very poor conditions indeed, still in bashas with DTLs at the 5 month point...

...we were pretty fcuked physically and mentally, a fact commented on by 19X who relieved us...could we have pushed out another 5 1/2 months?

Yes, but it would have carried significant risk due to fatigue etc....would I have wanted to....probably not
I don't think my colleagues and I could have continued much beyond 6 months at that time (and some of them had been working at an operational level for much, much longer). I was shattered on my return and it took me months to recover, by which time... but that's another story!

Litotes
 
#10
On telic 3/4 OSD was availble towards the end of tour but due to company work comitments not many got to go, on Telic 9 our OC said only good boys could go anyone agaied was not alloweda wee break. bear in mind this came from a man who had daily afternoon naps in the comfort of his bed while he said he was visiting the boys at work.

A book on 7 armoured div in Normandy mentions the fact that nco's were cautious and more wary after spending 2+ years fighting in the desert.
 
#11
mattspanic said:
I too remember a reading a psychology book which stated the same, however it wasn't necessarily combat, but the threat of physical harm -mortal danger which so tires the mind into breakdown.
The book must mainly be referring to being shelled or mortared which i found is worse than actual combat as you have no control over your destiny. In combat you are at a heightened state of readiness and the adrenalin is working overtime. Being shelled and/or mortared is just a complete lick. I suppose that's why PTSD was once called shell shock as it was the shelling that sent many soldiers over the edge.
 
#12
The book must mainly be referring to being shelled or mortared which i found is worse than actual combat as you have no control over your destiny. In combat you are at a heightened state of readiness and the adrenalin is working overtime. Being shelled and/or mortared is just a complete lick. I suppose that's why PTSD was once called shell shock as it was the shelling that sent many soldiers over the edge.[/quote]

I think you might be right, it certainly suggested that the helplessness was one of the deciding factors in the mental stress, at least behind a berm you can consider yourself in relative safety and maybe breathe for a minute or two. Its quite interesting having heard that from youthat even today with undefined front lines a soldier who has seen combat is happier facing direct rather that indirect fire.

Edited to add that although PTSD is the long term sum of the stress, I think it was descibed as Combat Fatigue or Combat stress
 
#13
If I know how long I'm out for I can live with it. What I can't cope with is extensions.

IDF is a lottery, but when the bang goes off your happy.
 
#15
Fallschirmjager said:
thegimp said:
IDF is a lottery, but when the bang goes off your happy.

Though when it's lots of bangs and each one gets closer it's a different story! 8O


Yep drunk (gin and bitter lemon you c\=nts

Getting there but on vodka and red bull! :D
amen to that, it was always better when you could hear the whistle too.. that usually meant it was going to be far enough away.
 
#17
OSD This was available to the Infantry although not everyone got to take it ask C coy 1 PWRR and A coy 1 LI a lot of the men got to go on it , So please dont play the the card that Infantry were hard done by on telic 8 (cant comment on telic 7) Just tell the facts as they are!
 
#19
The24Bmech said:
OSD This was available to the Infantry although not everyone got to take it ask C coy 1 PWRR and A coy 1 LI a lot of the men got to go on it , So please dont play the the card that the Infantry were hard done by on telic 8 (cant comment on telic 7) Just tell the facts as they are!
The point is that the Infantry are, for the most part, the lads on the ground putting rounds down, taking casualties, and living with a lump in their throat.

The facts as they are, are that Div HQ went on holiday to Kuwait whilst the city-based troops (most of whom were Infantry) stayed behind.
 
#20
Fallschirmjager said:
mattspanic said:
I too remember a reading a psychology book which stated the same, however it wasn't necessarily combat, but the threat of physical harm -mortal danger which so tires the mind into breakdown.
The book must mainly be referring to being shelled or mortared which i found is worse than actual combat as you have no control over your destiny. In combat you are at a heightened state of readiness and the adrenalin is working overtime. Being shelled and/or mortared is just a complete lick. I suppose that's why PTSD was once called shell shock as it was the shelling that sent many soldiers over the edge.
I have to agree with you on this. In my own experience, this was true. I also thought that the almost nightly, mass wave attacks by the NKs and Chinese troops on our positions, preceded by much use of taunting remarks in English, on the loud speakers and bugle blowing and finally the mortar and/or Arty barrage sort of played on your nerves.

Actually, as a result of WWII troop problems with soldiers in combat to long, etc. the US Army decided that tours of duty, of one year instead of the old way, of keeping troops for the duration plus, etc. was started.

The Korea war being the first use of this policy, followed by Vietnam. In Korea the R&R policy was started as well. One if lucky, could get a (5) day R&R in Japan at least once during your tour and twice if you were really lucky. I only got one and it was a blast! I still look back at that five days with many fond memories! :wink:

In Korea and Vietnam, I think that this rotation policy had both it's pros & cons.

The #1 con, was that units suffered from having to learn the same old things the hard way over and over again. Soldiers who had learned to survive in combat, were not there to teach the new replacements, simple survival in a combat zone. The enemy, operated on the duration, plus theory and of course, had because of this more operational experience, etc. Which holds true in the GWOT both in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course the #! Pro was the soldier had a date that he knew he would be rotated out of combat & Country, plus usually at least one R&R.

Of course along with this pro was the con, that as the rotation date got closer, the soldier was more hesitant about going out on patrols and other operations, etc. It also worked on his mind.

Of course, in both Korea and Vietnam, depending on when you served there (Years) the tempo of the war and the tactics of the enemy could be much different.

Another bad factor in WW II, Korea and Vietnam, was that individual soldiers were rotated through the 'pipeline' not units, as is the custom now. At least, where units are rotated the level of experience at some level in the unit, will remain. Usually in the ranks of senior officers and NCOs.

IMHO one year in a major war, should be the longest tour of duty, with at least one R&R out of country for the individual soldier. As for more tours in the same combat zone, I have no answers for this, IMHO it will increase the long term cases of PTSD and other mental problems. Perhaps a larger Army and USMC, might help with this problem as there would be more units and/or manpower.

I think all of these same things apply today!
 

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