When Soldiers Quit: Studies in Military Disintegration

When Soldiers Quit: Studies in Military Disintegration

When Soldiers Quit: Studies in Military Disintegration

When Soldiers Quit: Studies in Military Disintegration

Synopsis

After an introduction showing three examples of military disintegration, the author examines six historical occurrences in depth: The India Mutiny of 1857; the 1917 French Army mutinies; the depredations following the British siege of San Sebastian, 1813; the surrender of the U.S. 106th Infantry Division in 1944; the Sand Creek Indian Massacre, 1864; and the My Lai massacre in 1968. The final chapter begins with a recapitulation of the four processes shown to be the foundations of disintegration--leadership failure, collapse of the units' internal primary groups, alienation, and desperation among the troops--and continues with an analysis of the crowd behaviors to which these processes give rise. The book ends with a brief discussion of the moral dilemma that disintegration imposes on military institutions.

Excerpt

In three previous military histories (The Great Indian Mutiny, Praeger, 1991; Sieges:
A Comparative Study
, Praeger, 1993; and Desert Battle:
Comparative Perspectives
, Praeger, 1995), I explored the winning and losing of battles. I narrated who did what to whom and when, and I also identified constants and variables of particular types of battle. In doing so, I came across genuine heroes, recited a shamefully long list of military incompetents, and encountered several fools and even some first-rate villains. Yet something was missing. As I moved through various historical periods, many examples of uncharacteristic military behavior surfaced, events benignly dubbed "incidents." These included troop defections, outright mutinies, and riotous behavior of all sorts--wholesale looting, destruction, and violence even to the point of massacre.

A pattern emerged. Seldom are such incidents explained by historians in any depth beyond the occasional and often unnoticed study. Not surprisingly, there is a mountain of literature devoted to gallantry, heroism, and daring deeds, and there is copious literature on why this or that battle was lost. Losing, it seems, is the other half of the military equation called battle. In contrast, military historians have not applied equal vigor to the study of deviant behaviors. Rather, historians, and generals, choose to ignore them.

This attitude is made easy because such awful behavior is often viewed as the fault of individuals. Psycho-medical studies reveal that individual soldiers crack under the stress of war, and legal processes expose rotten . . .

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