Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

By Paul Fussell | Go to book overview

what life is for, every ambition of the mind or delight of the senses."43 Both civilians and soldiers were right to perceive in the war, as Dwight Macdonald has said, "the maximum of physical devastation accompanied by the minimum of human meaning."44 It takes some honesty, even if that honesty arises from despair, to perceive that some events, being inhuman, have no human meaning. It thus seems natural for the Canadian bomber pilot J. Douglas Harvey, visiting rebuilt Berlin in the 1960s, to say: "I could not visualize the horrible deaths my bombs . . . had caused here. I had no feeling of guilt. I had no feeling of accomplishment."45


11
Accentuate the Positive

That was melodic advice from Bing Crosby (and the United States Government) in the early spring of 1945, when everyone's "morale" needed a special boost, the war having gone on months (or even years) longer than expected. By that time, almost everyone had had a relative killed or wounded or knew someone who had, and one would have to be pretty unobservant not to perceive by that time that the war had something very gruesome about it. In the absence of a credible positive ideology, motivation was always a problem. Consequently, raising and sustaining morale became all-important, and morale itself developed into one of the unique obsessions of the Allies in the Second World War.

It had never been unimportant in war, of course, and most military theorists had recognized for centuries the importance of what they sometimes called "the moral factor." Until the middle of the nineteenth century it was called esprit de corps, and why that term went out and why morale replaced it no one seems to have considered. Perhaps as secularism spread, the connotations of esprit began to seem objectionably proximate to things "spiritual." Perhaps some suggestion of moral justice or moral

-143-

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Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Other Books by Paul Fussell *
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • 1: From Light to Heavy Duty 3
  • 2: "Precision Bombing Will Win the War" 13
  • 3: Someone Had Blundered 19
  • 4 - Rumors of Wa 35
  • 5 - School of the Soldier 52
  • 6 - Unread Books on a Shelf 66
  • 7 - Chickenshit, an Anatomy 79
  • 8 - Drinking Far Too Much, Copulating Too Little 96
  • 9 - Type-Casting 115
  • 10: The Ideological Vacuum 129
  • 11: Accentuate the Positive 143
  • 12: High-mindedness 164
  • 13: With One Voice 180
  • 14 - Deprivation 195
  • 15 - Compensation 207
  • 16 - Reading in Wartime 228
  • 17 - Fresh Idiom 251
  • 18: The Real War Will Never Get in the Books" 267
  • Notes 299
  • Index 321
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