Academic journal article Military Review

Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima

Academic journal article Military Review

Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima

Article excerpt

MEN OF WAR: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima Alexander Rose, Random House, New York, 2015, 460 pages

Widely published author and historian Alexander Rose has delivered another outstanding book with Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. Rose examines three iconic battles from the perspective of the participants, in answering the question, what is it like being in battle? Inspired by John Keegan's The Face of Battle, Rose goes beyond a general description of the battles. He includes historical accounts and vignettes that provide the reader with an overview of the individual soldier's experience at these battles, and with an understanding of the ever-evolving nature of war.

Rose's description of each battle's aftermath provides insight on how the experience affected individuals. Two of the more interesting insights are on the psychological scarring of combatants and the looting of the dead. The traumatic experiences associated with warfare often result in psychological scarring of combatants. Assigning diagnoses of posttraumatic stress syndrome to veterans of earlier wars is difficult, partly due to changing standards and definitions. Rose, however, refers to a sophisticated statistical analysis of the postwar medical records of 17,700 American Civil War veterans that found a strong correlation between the percentage of regimental soldiers killed and an increased incidence of postwar gastrointestinal and cardiac problems, nervous disorders, and depression among survivors. Rose concludes that the number of a man's friends killed stands as an index for the effects of psychological stressors, such as experiencing intense combat, handling corpses, witnessing death and dismemberment, killing others, and realizing the probability of one's own death.

Rose finds looting of the dead, like psychological scarring, common among combatants at the three battles. Looting goes beyond the collecting of equipment and personal items of dead enemy combatants for souvenirs. …

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