Monday, August 7, 2017

Purple Heart Day, 2017

Acts of War:  Behavior of Men in Battle – Richard Holmes

This is an interesting book not only about the behavior of men in combat and its after effects, but also about basic training, male identity, comradeship, homesickness, and the preoccupations of most soldiers, i.e., when the next chance for warmth, food, sleep, tobacco, alcohol and sex are coming.
Holmes, an historian with a military background, gathers data from memoirs, interviews with vets, and the popular press. 

The soldiers are mainly British and American, from the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Falklands, which was a recent conflict when the book was published in 1989. One drawback is that he uncritically applies the work of Freud, Jung and LeBon (of crowd psychology fame) to the subject, which nowadays is a sure way to induce shrugs and eye-rolling and the cool response, "Possibly" from scholarly types and readers that have read of stack of militaria.

Generally, this is a readable book that I have no reservations recommending to readers who enjoyed John Keegan’s The Face of Battle, J. Glenn Gray’s The Warriors, Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory, or Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam.

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