Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

By Paul Fussell | Go to book overview

8
Drinking Far Too Much, Copulating Too Little

The soldier, especially the conscript, suffers so deeply from contempt and damage to his selfhood, from absurdity and boredom and chickenshit, that some anodyne is necessary. In Vietnam drugs served the purpose. In the Second World War the recourse was to drunkenness. In its alcoholic culture, this war was very different from its 1914-18 predecessor, at least as that earlier one was experienced by Americans. Although then drink was much sought after, the wartime atmosphere was gathering to the thunderhead that would burst into the Volstead Act. Cantonments and bivouacs, and even places fairly near the front lines in France, were frequented by thousands of do-gooders, Christers, and snoopers--YMCA secretaries, teetotal lecturers, anti-saloon-league zealots, and similar temperance fanatics who kept the troops under close surveillance and who were quick to note and repress signs of excess, or more often even indulgence. No drink, not even 3.2 beer, was available in army camps. These vocal hordes opposed to drink in any form are easily forgotten because few survived the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933, and by the time of the Second World War, the notion that everyone has a perfect, even a Constitutional, right to a binge was thoroughly established in the United States.

In Britain that understanding had never gone underground. In one demoralized and unruly British unit in North Africa, we are told, "In a large marquee . . . a wet canteen was opened and Battalion Orders bore the amazing instruction that all ranks might get drunk provided they stayed within camp lines."1 Although in the States the song "Rum and Coca-Cola" was popular, nothing there went so far in brassy alcoholic

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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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