Best Defense

George Patton, meet Joseph Heller

So on my day off over the weekend I paging through the July 1944 issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry and this passage, about the experiences of a psychiatrist serving with an infantry battalion in North Africa in 1943, jumped out at me (italics are his, not mine): It soon became apparent that a ...

U.S. Army
U.S. Army

So on my day off over the weekend I paging through the July 1944 issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry and this passage, about the experiences of a psychiatrist serving with an infantry battalion in North Africa in 1943, jumped out at me (italics are his, not mine):

It soon became apparent that a tense, tremulous soldier was not necessarily a psychiatric casualty. He was if we made him one and sent him back, but often he was not a casualty simply because he was not permitted to be one. A state of tension and anxiety is so prevalent in the front lines that it must be regarded as a normal reaction in this grossly abnormal situation.

The second sentence made me think of General Patton slapping two soldiers in the August 1943 in Sicily, and made me wonder if he thought he could “not permit” them to become casualties. (Of course, the first soldier he assaulted, Pvt. Charles Kuhl, was suffering from dysentery and malaria, and those afflictions were not going to be knocked out of him, no matter how hard Patton swung or kicked-and he did both.)

And the third sentence seems to me to be a great summary of the message of Joseph Heller’s wonderful Catch-22.   

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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