June 2007


The Armed Services Officer, Chapter 3: Responsibility and privilege, pp. [27]-[33]:  This is the chapter where the practical starts stepping in and the theoretical becomes a little less of a high flight.

When I went to school at Texas A & M University, there used to be two acronyms floating around campus: ‘R.H.I.P.’ and ‘R.H.I.R.’ and stood for “Rank hath its responsibilities” and “Rank hath its privileges”.  In the common parlance, they were both terms that were supposed to encourage stoicism: do your job, no matter how distasteful or inconvenient, and don’t look at what others have that you don’t.  Unspoken in the Corps of Cadets, I think, was that what you don’t have you can get by assuming the responsibilities of each progressive year at A & M.

The ASO tracks a theoretical progress out in real situations.  Some officers are in situations where promotion might be faster or slower, just as in business promotion.  The ASO is very direct on this point.

There is a comon saying. . . that greater privileges grow out of larger responsibilities, and that the latter justify the former.  This is part truth and part fable.
In military organization, as in industry, business, and political life, the more important a man’s position, the more lavish he is likely to be in his office appointments and living arragements, and the greater the care that is apt to be taken in freeing him of trifling annoyances.
But that is only partly because of the need for thim to conserve his time and energy.  When men are successful, they like the good things. of life.  Why deny it?

So a combination of incentivizing (“privilege a reward for effort and enterprise”) and efficiency create the trappings of higher office.  Rank is like a double-sided suitcase, with higher rank meaning more baggage.  And at one point, baggage is used as an example: 

In the early stages of World War II, it was not unusual to see a junior officer walking on the public sidewalk, hands free and looking important, while his wife tagged along, trying to keep up, though laden like a pack mule.  This was because somone had told him that is was not in keeping with an officer’s dignity to be seen heavily burdened.  In the nature of things, anyone so lacking in gallantry as that would stimulate very little respect for the officer corps. [29-30].

I think the unspoken part of this example (ha ha) is that anyone who treats his wife that poorly is bound to be a burden on the troops he commands as well.  A similar reading of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, under feminist lines, compares the fate of the unlucky horse through various owners as an exploration of the plight of women across class and personality of “owner”.  But never mind that now:  the idea is that there are universal codes of conduct, and those whose fortunes are somewhat dictated by a leader will invariably scrutinize that leader for indicators of fairness, temperament, style, and content.  Along with assessment, those observers begin to calculate a rudimentary comparison of benefits conferred and responsibilities undertaken: a ratio of efficiency factors versus prestige factors, and a ratio of prestige factors to contributions made.  It is a calculation that stock owners need to make with the presidents of companies, voters make when in the voting booth, and HR representatives make when deciding whom to hire and whom to promote.   The ASO notes in particular however, the friction between leaders and their staffs with this problem:

What puts most of the grit into the machinery isn’t that privileges exist, but that they are exercised too often by persons who are not motivated by a passionate sense of duty.  . . . .  [28]
In recent years, we have learned a lot about American manpower. (. . .) American young men when brought into military organization do not resent rank and are amenable to authority.  Indeed, they expect that higher authority will have certain advantages not comon to the rank-and-file, because that is normal in society in all of its workday relationships.
But they do not like to have their noses rubbed in it by officers who, having no real moral claim on authority, try to exhibit it by pushing other people around.  And when that happens, our men get their backs up.  And they wouldn’t be worth a hoot in hades if they didn’t.  [28-29].

Then the rest of this chapter talks about American military culture as it modifies this explanation of rank and privilege:

It is a paramount and overriding responsibility of every officer to take care of his men before caring for himself.  . . .  Hw deeply does this rule cut?  In line of duty, it applies right down to the hilt.  When a command is worn, bruised, and hungry, officers attend to their men’s creature comforts and make sure that all is going well, before looking to their own needs.  If a command is so located that recreational facilities are extremely limited and there are not enough to go around, the welfare of the ranks takes priority over the interests of their commissioned leaders. 

 Preserving service reputation is also included in this chapter, where poor conduct by a member of the armed services can be corrected by an officer who is using “judgement, tact, and [a required] nerve.”  Likewise, an officer has a duty to befriend a service member who has been left in uncomfortable or dangerous straits, such as a picked pocket or transportation delay from leave.   

The last set of adjurations in this chapter deal with skipping rank to get things done.  Quite frankly, in public life this is less understood, but generally true: any time you skip a supervisor, you are asking for trouble.  But there are ways and ways . . . 

And even though people who work for bosses could use much of this advice, far more could bosses in the private world take these maxims to heart.  Because in essence, they are about a strict, but essentially servant-based, leadership.

And if I had been that J.O.’s wife, I would have clonked him with this portmanteau.

In my home town, certain up-and-coming homeless people sell a newspaper with city news, homeless news, columns, fiction, poetry, games, and editorials.  One can purchase it for a dollar on the street from a licensed vendor, who retains USD .70 of the price paid.  I buy every issue.  It’s a nice counterpoint to mainstream news: you should hear what they have to say about criminal justice and that notably talent-bereft hotel heiress whose name will likely never hit this blog.

My all-time favorite article is how to make a bed on the street: how many layers of cardboard, etc, in order to sleep as well and safely as possible.  But this month has another how-to article: How to deal with panhandlers:  written by panhandlers:

1. Acknowledge people, whether you are going to give money or not.
2. Give from the heart: don’t question the use of the gift.
3. Prefer to give Food over money? Hand out cereal bars or fruit instead.
4. Hand them a Street Sense (this is the newspaper) in order to educate them about local services.
5. Know the boundaries: it is illegal for a panhandler to approach you aggressively.

Well, this is a nice mix of what’s true and what isn’t.  As a person who frequently follows (1) and (2), I know that sometimes I do not acknowledge panhandlers if they look like they will be difficult–or for that matter, if I feel like I am going to be difficult.  Second, anyone who has handed over “spare change” only to have it dumped in the street as a less than worthwhile amount, one learns that good will is not everything.  You have to pick your recipients, too, and that’s sometimes difficult to judge.

To me, panhandling is a sales job with an undefined product–it sells intangibles.  Sometimes those intangibles are defined, as in “fund drives” for the denizens of a particular park in New York, yesterday.  I was asked for oney by a guy in a tie but poor dental health, with an undeterminable name badge clipped to the shirt.  I gave that guy two dollars: he was either sincere or had put some effort into the con.  Other intangibles: one purchases the sense that one has cared for another, or is connected to humankind in general, or even “what goes around comes around”, meaning that random acts of generosity will come back to one in greater goodwill from others.  In another sense, it acknowledges that we are all here partly on the goodwill and sufferance and efforts of others.

I don’t give much, actually.  And as for having it come back to me: twice my life has been saved by homeless men.  Both times, it was from a mugging, and once in an extremely tight spot.  So you can call me a soft touch, or you can imagine that in general I think it’s good to make nice with the neighbors.

For those outside the D.C. area, you can subscribe to the Street Sense paper (24 issues/year) for USD 40.00.  Street Sense, 1317 G. Street NW,  Washington, DC, 20005.  This is a job for those that sell the paper, and it has helped many of the vendors develop jobs and even careers– or obtain homes in the DC area.  The road up and out of dire poverty has, at least in this case, a reputable background.

From 1862 to 1865, the poet Walt Whitman worked as a nurse in D.C’s Civil War veterans’ hospitals.  At that time, nursing did not have the same educational requirements: as Whitman put it, he would “visit the sick and wounded of the Army, both on the field and in the Hospitals in and around Washington city.”  He kept memorandum books of his experiences; ten years’ later, he edited the number of entries down and published them as written.  In the introduction, he wrote:

In the mushy influences of current times the fervid atmosphere and typical events of those years are in danger of being totally forgotten.  I have at night watch’d by the side of a sick man in the hospital, one who could not live many hours.  I have seen his eyes flash and burn as he recurr’d to the cruelties on his surrender’d brother, and mutilations of the corpse afterward.        . . . .

Such was the War.  It was not a quadrille in a ball-room.  Its interior history will not only never be written, its practicality, minutia of deeds and passions, will never be even suggested.

This interior history of U.S. military engagement lives on most acutely in veterans who have suffered battle fatigue, or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 200,000 veterans are without a home–and a total of 400,000 veterans homeless for at least a portion of the year.  Twenty-three percent of all homeless people in the U.S. are veterans.  Others estimate that it is more.  In 1998, one census carried out at Gospel Missions identified more that 40% of its population was former servicemen from Vietnam.  In 1996, and again ten years later, a one-day survey of 139 homeless shelters nationwide took a poll.   Here are the stats:

Korean War Veterans:  10% in 1996; 4% in 2006
Vietnam War Veterans: 43% in 1996; 39% in 2006
Gulf War Veterans:  10% in 1996; 16% in 2006.
Total veteran populations: 63% in 1996; 59% in 2006.

With a significant population of veterans already in the worst economic straits, the returning veterans of the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq will continue to put a burden on the systems of the VA, homeless shelters, local mental health and emergency medical practices,  and other city services.  For these veterans, I believe we should expect numbers of distressed military personnel very similar to those of the Vietnam War.   Vietnam was an insurgent war, with guerilla forces that blended into countryside, villages, and cities.  So too, Afghanistan, with unrelenting community diplomacy required; large numbers of civilians affected by Taliban measures and by miscalculations/collateral casualties.  The same can be said for Iraq, with an even more bewildering array of political alliances, hostile forces, and chaotic community fighting.

Sometimes one reads that PTSD started with Vietnam: as Whitman’s passage above shows, this cannot be true.  The name of the affliction has changed, but our veterans have always suffered from it.  And the community at large also remains much the same.  Whitman’s “fervid atmosphere”– we now call “at the mall”, or “at Wal-mart.”   In the end, the only remedy for the veteran’s painful, interior history of war  is Whitman’s solution: to be involved, either as advocates or personally, for the Veterans whose lives are at risk in combat and then return home to find that combat memories still leave their lives, and potential, in continued grave risk.  Whitman knew:

May 12 [1863]–A Night Battle, over a week since.–We already talk of the Historics of the War, (presently to accumulate)–yes–technical histories of some things, statistics, official reports, and so on–but shall we ever get histories of the real things?—-There was part of the late battle at Chancellorsville, (second Fredericksburgh,) a little over a week ago. . . 

I’m almost done with the newest bibliography for the obsessed with books.   “Elevated Erudition” includes the Classics, philosophy, and myths, anonymous gems of literature, and so forth.  Its title might be a bit snobbish, but that’s far from the intent.   Some of us want to read on our own, and can’t afford to be constantly in school.  

Even so, some of the work, like for instance Kant’s heavier philosophies, I would never tackle alone.   That and calculus were like Waterloo for me.  With Kant, I was lucky to have a great teacher, Wellington’s best aide; with calculus, I was somewhere near Napoleon’s backside.  If you ever come here for a bibliography of mathematics, you will come in vain. 

I have to ask myself: why this seemingly-obsessive effort?  First, it’s been a nice review of things I’ve read before.  I’ve been taking little dips into the books and remembering great passages as I go along.  Second, I love books in general: particular editions for their beauty, funkability, or utility.  I love small beautiful books like the Everyman Pocket Poets new; art books sufficiently large to really show the works within; scuffed browned copies of Modern Library or well-illustrated children’s books bought used and with other people’s names in them.  Norton Critical Editions have great backgrounders, but some have more background than content.  Library of America makes a beautiful series–beautiful paper, oh!  But sometimes a too-beautiful book is not the best choice.  For instance, when I read philosophy, I have to make margin notes.  I’m not scribbling all over a LOA.  And to only read Whitman in the library would be contrary to nature: you have to carry him around until he becomes shabby from being tossed into the pickup truck, the picnic basket, the backpack.  If you read Leaves of Grass in the gilt edition, you might not do that, and miss something important.

Translations
Also, as for publishing these bibliographies, it reminds me how hard it is to get the edition that’s readable or right.  This is particularly true with translations.  For me, that is the occasional limit of The Modern Library–sometimes the translator is not the best one.  And what is the best translation: umm.  One example:  Thucydides was translated by Thomas Hobbes, and that gives one a little of both Hobbes and Thucydides, in terms of studying political science.  Then Thucydides and Hobbes were both gone over by the great Greek translator, David Grene.  And it’s very readable.  That’s the great translation, as far as I’m concerned.   But it’s not always so easy to decide (and that was my third pass at the right Thucydides, too). 

Verse can be translated for meaning, for rhyme schemes, or for the sense of the words.  Sometimes I’ve had to choose, and it’s not always easy.  Easy ones for me to discount include verse that has been translated into prose (which usually makes it boring even as it makes it easy).  I detest a translation that has rendered everything but the racy parts.  This is frustrating: I don’t share his/her language skills or sensibilities.  Similarly, I detest the translations where all the references have been dumbed down for moral purity.  This approach pretty much ensures that students will be bored with Sophocles, Aristophanes, Francis Villon, and Chaucer for the rest of their life. 

And then there is Ezra Pound–literature’s Schliemann–who tried to bring cultures and works into English that had not been translated before.  In his quest to make them relevant and timely, he forswore most of the academic rules of translation, making each work at once a translation and his own.  Because of his contributions and his attitudes, he has been one of the academy’s thorny thickets ever since.  So, with his translations, you either read for enjoyment alone, or because you are a Pound scholar, or, you want to say something nasty about his translations with respect to your own.

But to return to my own pleasures with this project:
On the inside cover of a very shabby schoolbook on Ezra Pound, Kenner’s The Pound Era, I found an inscription from ten years or more ago: “this book is a part of my soul.”  It’s past time to re-read that book, I would say–and would I have plunked it on my bedstand had I not typed these bibliographies?

Whoa!  Lots of projected spending up ahead.  In fact, insane amounts:

Great idea, wrong venue:
The DesMoines Register opined on June 24 that the Farm Bill include Mental Health Clinics for Farmers in the bill.  Food producers could access mental health clinics which historically have been absent in rural areas.  It’s a great idea to have rural health care–but isn’t this something we need in a Mental Health Bill? 

Sad story, wrong cause and effect
Since farmers are greying, and the “young are turning away from the farm”, only agricultural businesses are farming nowadays.  The Phoenix Examiner-Enterprise suggested on June 24 that the bill include incentives to young people to start farming by giving dollars in aid and lower interest rates to start-up farmers.  The reasons young people going away from the farm is that there are barriers to entry–okay, I got that–but this is because we are funding agribusiness so that small farmers can’t compete.  The biggest vector for farm unemployment is agribusiness: their crops are highly mechanized and include economies of scale.  So instead of Adding to the Farm Bill, how about we cut big payments and re-introduce competition? 

Healthy food, or commodity program: Your choice:
On June 24, Edward Marty wrote in the Birmingham News that a good farm bill would include initiatives for healthy crops, and the distribution of these crops to local schools and food banks.   However, the Enid Oklahoma News reported that Representative Lucas (R-Oklahoma)  came out blasting Ron Kind  (D-Wisconsin) for trying to remove commodity crops from the bill.  The commodity program is the worst feature of the Farm Bill, a waste of billions of dollars per year that go to big agricultural consortiums for the kind of food we should not eat.  Ron Kind is also in disagreement with another Wisconsin representative, Mr. Peterson, over his plans to greatly overhaul the program.

The Muskegon Michigan Chronicle pointed out that big commodity farms, which certainly have the profit margin for better work, do not produce as healthful a product as small farms.  For both environmental and food safety reasons, they want the Farm Bill to consider dumping the agribusinesses.  Makes sense to me.

This is such an important bill!  Please remember: it is your dinner table, your refrigerator, Your legislators, Your government, and your tax dollars.   We have the chance to save money at the grocery checkout and in our taxes all at the same time.

Search Farm bill here at Ramblin’ Gal for other posts on this issue. 

So, I’ve been going through my Ezra Pound books in order to make yet another library page, and I opened the ABC of Reading to find out whether or not I would include the book on the list of stuff I’m typing to whatever purpose.   So I’m sucked in from the Dedication:

The book is not addressed to those who have arrived at full knowledge of the subject without knowing the facts

No period at the end.

Oh yeah

It’s a Wordsworth sonnet.

The world is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the Moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
Are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.  –Great God!  I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Proteus

That’s Proteus; and a lea (I had to look it up) is a grassland or meadow.

Wordsworth: Poems.  Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets.  New York: Alfred A Knopf.

Etching: Atown.comics

Robert Weller of AP wrote an article on military responses to PTSD prevention.  Specificially, a Department of Defense task force recommended that  that active-duty personnel receive one month of in-theatre R & R for every three months on the line.  Instead of following this recommendation, they will get two-to-three days for every eight in a combat zone.  They cite personnel deficits in a time of crisis, and they are right on both counts–the deficits and the crisis.  All the more reason to take care of who they have. 

The “weekend approach” works out to about the same number of days, but it’s not the same thing.  We can think about this in terms of our own, far-from-the-front lives.

Personal business:
Most people that work in non-combat settings barely get their errands done with a weekend off.  For our troops in combat theatres, you can take away the part about having to shop for groceries, but then you have to add in the problems of doing business entirely over the Internet or by long distance telephone.   You also have to add in the problems of keeping your personal relationships by Internet, long distance telephone, and letter.

Varied existence/varied ambitions:
Those of us with jobs get to leave them and go home and sit with our own people and our own stuff.  We change our venue and we change our clothes; we can take a walk, play with our children, go meet people with different outlooks and different values.  We have a choice to stay home, take small forays, or a weekend long trip to another place.  Any of these choices we make on our free time allow us to have a more varied existence, multiple perspectives–and recharged energy.   Time off in a battle theatre does not change one’s venue, or, for that matter, the variety of people with whom one can interact.  When we blow off steam, we often pick people that don’t have the same pressures on them to complain to: in a battle zone, everyone has the same pressures. 

Loss of sleep
Accounts of battle I have read concerning World War I, World War II, Vietnam, the 1991 Gulf War, and the current conflicts, no active-duty personnel has uninterrupted sleep.  This is one of the biggest reasons I see for having the full month off.  Getting only two, four, an occasional six hours of sleep wears on a person’s strength, emotional stability, and anxiety levels.  Inability to sleep is psychologically and biochemically damaging.  Adrenaline runs out just as patience does.  When this becomes chronic, a person is ill-equipped to deal with daily matters in a calm way–that’s here, state-side–and so much worse, in combat theatre.   And I imagine the term “theatre” is in itself a clue: like dramatic theatre, an exhausted soldier or Marine ends up donning a mask and playing the part s/he has both sworn to play and that the situation demands, without relief.  A longer furlough out of harm’s way would go a long way to reestablishing sleep patterns, or at least, a long enough time to get somewhat caught up on sleep: more naps more often.  And a corresponding restoration to his or her personality.

What about the constraints?
We are frequently balked by experts just when we shouldn’t be.  Next to the claims of military leaders who cite necessities and shortfalls, the above sounds perhaps soft in heart and soft on data, and certainly not a comprehensive list of problems for those in combat.  Yet in our daily lives we constantly confront the lack of Managerial Will to make a change in work procedures, work settings.  In such cases, we complain, or from the other side of the counter, we demand service.  That’s my point: we already know enough, if we stop to think, just what kinds of things are required when we read about a policy for R & R, or for counseling in military zones or afterwards in the U.S. at the VA or elsewhere. 

Every time we feel stressed at our jobs, or furious with some idiot on the road, or angry with our neighbor who parties all night when we have to go to work the next day, or find ourselves hoping for Friday:  that’s the appropriate feeling for us to have–we should have it.  It’s also the appropriate feeling that helps us understand why our service men and women need a heck of a lot more than what they’re getting.   And that would be: time off to break the lack of sleep problems; to start some new project unrelated to one’s job, in sports, study, a hobby; to conduct some sustained personal business, or relationship repair; and maybe even to get some breadth of time to mentally process the three months before. 

Even as onlookers, we know enough to look at these policies and evaluate them.  And we can and should expect our military leaders to take care of the people they command.  Period.  And if we choose to do so, we can insist upon it. 

To write your Congressional representative, check here.
House Armed Services Committee
House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs

To write your Senator, check here
Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs

Asia/Pacific:
♦ A couple of great posts on Melanesia at the Strategist.  The first has to do with empathy, and the second, an overview of conflict.
Might actually happen: North Korea is expected to close its reactors within the month.  One U.S. hero if it does: Christopher Hill.
India stands firm against US and EU at G-4 talks–for WTO rounds–for agricultural subsidies.  See U.S. politics below, this entry. . .

The Middle East:
♦ The International Crisis Group’s Robert Malley & Aaron David Miller brilliantly and concisely explain why the current Bush Administration tactics for polarized Gaza and the West Bank won’t work.  ICG does such great work, well-researched, and it’s disheartening when they are so constantly ignored.  You can sign up for weekly updates at their site (also at RG Topic sidebar).  Also, Palestinian women get a voice.
Afghanistan: The Taliban shifts to terror tactics.  Also, Joshua Foust has been doing some good reporting and out of the box thinking about Afghanistan this week.  Multiple posts: Start here, with “Staying the Course”, and then work your way to the most current.   On the way, you’ll get Iran’s involvement in Afghanistan insurgency and some other analysis worth reading.
Iran: Stricter sanctions, and generally, more bad mouthing from all over the world in a subtle(?) manner.  Australia talks about an averted 2004 hostage crisis, which has little or no bearing on present developments; Israel presses for better, uh, human rights in Iran; and the cognitive disconnect between the Islamic Republic and the rest of the world is again emphasized with the Sir Salman controversy.  Leave Mr. Rushdie alone.
Iraq: Fighting in Baquba. Fears of sectarian violence as Iraqi troops take charge of the area.  61 die in a Shi’ite Baghdad mosque.  The limits of power . . . .

U.S. Politics:
♦ Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin, want to change the Farm Bill by reducing subsidies and using the money for resource protection and rural development.  He’s done a lot of research on the Farm Bill since the last time, and he’s definitely got the right idea.  And though RG is tracking the farm bill–Ken Cook’s MulchBlog has the most issue-based, primary information. 
♦ Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan’s conflicts are not being helped: the plight of Jeans Cruz is only one example.  What pencil-pusher turned him down?  And what about all the rest?  This is unworthy of us, and will require a sustained public awareness on the local and national level.

Energy:
♦ Oil prices, June 22:  UP again.  Brent crude, USD 70.38; West Texas intermediate, USD.  According to the WSJ and Salon.com, demand increase is higher than this time last year, and forecasters are predicting another six months of high prices at the least.  Upstream, supply is still difficult; downstream, refineries still unbuilt.  You might think even longer-term for those high prices.
♦ China’s demand has gone up 7.3%, shipping from sources such as Venezuela.  Since the easiest-to-ship customer for states like Venezuela would be North America, this represents significant change in distribution tracks as well as simple demand.
♦ Screwed again: BP lost assets in Russia in the late 1990’s; a combination of judicious diplomacy and greater technological expertise allowed them to finally recoup some of those losses with the formation of TNK-BP, a joint endeavour between the (Russian) company they lost and themselves.  Now TNK-BP has been forced to sell a large, profitable gas field site, Kovytka, in Siberia to who else? Gazprom. 
♦ The petro-state window of opportunity is short.
♦ New CAFE standards for American cars.  New lightbulb technology.   

Political Economy:
Chugging alongWe  could blame the latest adulterated products recall on China manufacture; or we could look at some managerial disconnects of the parent companies that outsource there.  Both bear responsibility, but the failure in leadership belongs to the parent company, whose Web site is hereNote: I’m not against offshoring, but I am against bad or indifferent management.  And–apropos of nothing–these things have always given me the creeps.

Funny:
♦ Like ten thousand million other people, I do check the lolcats at Icanhascheezburger.com–and here is kitty-cat commentary on your diminishing privacy.

Since I am not a mental health expert or a member of the military, it seems more relevant to feature the words of those who have experienced battle stress rather than make assumptions.  As I go through memoirs, I will post other accounts.

The Buna Campaign lasted three months (November 1942-January 1943).  In that campaign, casualty rates for combat units frequently were as high as 70%–and 30% loss is considered too stiff for troop cohesiveness and morale. 

In the Buna campaign, 2165 were killed; 3500 wounded; 15,575 treated for disease (jungle rot, malaria, dengue fever, dysentery were the major diseases).  Homer Wright served as a young officer with the 32nd Division in Buna and campaigns through the Phillippines.  He said:

Co. L & Co. M, 32nd Div, 128thThe battle fatigue we had was different from the World War I variety or what you saw in Europe.  The climate and disease wore out good men so fast.  We were tired beyond imagination.  The first impact was weight loss.  We were skeletons when we went back to Australia after Buna.  You couldn’t really sleep.  More like a fitful type of nap.  You were often interrupted.  We had guards out, but you had to be on alert at all times.    . . .
A good friend went through the phases of battle fatigue.  He never fully recovered from his jungle experience.  He was brave and a good officer.  But he was just worn out.  Beaten into the ground.  We were all tired of the war.  The 32nd was in combat through the Phillippines.  The number of people we saw massacred, both Japanese and Americans, gave all of us a bellyful of that particular phase of the war.  (Bergerud, 1996, p. 449)

In this chapter of Bergerud’s book, the stressors recounted for PTSD  (or battle fatigue, as they called it) were the discomfort of the tropical climate, but also the diseases that came with it.  Notable in these accounts is a lack of medical care personnel and medical supplies.  According to Costello (1981), the supply chain for the Pacific Theatre was particularly bad the first year: a lack of supplies and shipping assets, as well as logistical planning, was undeveloped. (318-323).

Jungle Rot, Vietnam Also the high attrition caused by disease created dissension between comrades: those who failed to take care of themselves were often seen as trying to take the easy way out.   Bergerud reports that a soldier who would stoically view the alarming disintegration of his feet from jungle rot could easily (and did) take exception to a soldier being mobilized out because of similar problems.  Some soldiers courted disaster, even by self-mutilation, in order to be relieved from this debilitating environment. 

Attrition also creates emotional gaps within survivors that affect the group morale.  For instance, newcomers into a high-casualty division were frequently not taken in by the group of veterans/survivors, who had already learned not to care for others strongly, lest they be overcome by still more personal loss.  Yet neither close attachment or its lack will obviate all survivor’s guilt. 

Further Reading:
Bergerud, E. (1996) and Costello, J. (1981) on Military Matters Library page.
32nd ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association web site: Part 3: The Papuan Campaign – Battle of Buna.  It’s interesting to note that the painting there depicts the consolation of grief as occurring among peers.

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