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Subject: Vietnam Vets and PTSD
GOP    3/8/2006 11:57:42 PM
Why is it that so many Vietnam vets have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder compared to vets of other wars, most notably WW2? In WW2, even more friendlies died, even more enemies were killed, etc...but most WW2 vets do not or never had PTSD, while I would argue that most Vietnam vets do. I have know two Vietnam vets, and both of them have forms of PTSD. One of them passed on recently, but he was a drunk (not trying to disrespect the dead at all) caused from depression from the Vietnam war (he also told me and my friend that he had violent nightmares where he went back inside 'Nam and saw his friends die or where he killed the enemy)...and the other never talked about Vietnam at all and his wife, who was best friends with my Mom, told us that he also had very bad nightmares, he would sometimes cry over what he saw in flashbacks, and would react sometimes react kind of violently if you walked up behind him without him knowing you were there (very weird). I say they had PTSD, but I am no doctor so I can't be sure, but they seem to have the symptoms from what I have read about it. Also, if this is in the wrong place, I apologize. I am just curious as to why it is and I kind of feel like the government has hung them out to dry by not providing them timely mental care after the war.
 
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Horsesoldier    RE:Vietnam Vets and PTSD   3/9/2006 4:12:44 AM
>>Why is it that so many Vietnam vets have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder compared to vets of other wars, most notably WW2? In WW2, even more friendlies died, even more enemies were killed, etc...but most WW2 vets do not or never had PTSD, while I would argue that most Vietnam vets do.<< Complicated and big question. For a detailed look at the topic I'd highly recommend On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. (ret) Dave Grossman. Actually, I'd recommend it as something anyone looking at the idea of a career as a shooter should read. A couple points Grossman and other researchers have noted about Vietnam versus WW2 -- a) WW2 units were coherent for the duration and deployed for the duraction, +/- replacement personnel, whereas Vietnam deployments were mostly individual troops falling in on units already deployed in country, rotating in and out of country on personal timelines. Lower unit cohesion seems to play a part in PTSD rates. b) The ability in Vietnam to rapidly transition from the battlefield to CONUS and even civilian life also seems to play a part in the difference of PTSD rates. Guys in WW2 were kept in uniform after the war and shipped back on troop ships -- lots of time to sort things out before you got back stateside. In Vietnam you could get on a plane going or coming back from SE Asia and make the trip in a matter of hours, not weeks. c) Vietnam, as a COIN situation, had murky boundaries on safe zones and danger zones. Guys in most places in WW2 could rotate out of the line to safe locations for R&R. In Vietnam you had to leave the country for Thailand, Taiwan, Hawaii, etc., to find really solid safety. d) Vietnam was a stigmatizing sort of war. WW2 vets were regarded, with some justification, as the saviors of western civilization. Vietnam vets were often regarded, with little justification, as baby killers and the guys who helped American lose a war. e) I can't recall if Grossman touches on this, but one thing to bear in mind is that PTSD did not exist as a diagnosis in 1945. It emerged from shrinks dealing with Vietnam vets and has been growing and spiralling out of control since then (i.e. nowadays you can be diagnosed with PTSD for being in a car wreck or mugging or because your parent's never bought you a pony; it's specific association with protracted hugely stressful environments has been watered down by a lot of psychiatrists). A lot of those guys from WW2 came home with just as many problems as guys from Vietnam, but were never treated for stuff beyond self-medicating with alcohol and telling war stories at the VFW. That's really just the tip of the iceberg. LIke I say, it is a big topic and has been extensively analyzed by researchers in America, Israel (who have high rates of PTSD, especially, echoing the American pattern, with their operations in Lebanon and since more than the conventional wars Israel has fought), and elsewhere. >>Also, if this is in the wrong place, I apologize. I am just curious as to why it is and I kind of feel like the government has hung them out to dry by not providing them timely mental care after the war. << Also a very big topic, with lots of books and papers out there. Short version of the story being that the whole field started from something very close to a zero point for assorted reasons and has been evolving and improving over the last hundred years. It's still a tricky issue, and will remain tricky, I think.
 
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shek    RE:Vietnam Vets and PTSD   3/9/2006 8:23:48 AM
GOP, I'd second HS's recommendation of "On Killing". Also, I'd recommend Lewis Sorely's "A Better War". I don't think there's any mention of PTSD; however, it is a good read of Vietnam during the 68-72 years and it has a chapter dedicated to dispelling many of the myths about the supposed high levels of maladjustment/malperformance among Vietnam Vets. So, it would be a good background read in that respect to put the PTSD reports into perspective.
 
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Cato    RE:Vietnam Vets and PTSD...GOP   3/9/2006 4:36:47 PM
GOP, One thing that I have had pointed out to me by some Vietnam veterans was the notion that oftentimes those who suffered the most from their experiences in the war ,were men that possibly had a predisposition to some sort of psychosis. Meaning that if you went into war with some psychological issues, the odds were that the intensity of the experience would cause damage down the road. I don't know how this jibes with the observations of the military posters here. Vietnam did produce a bucketload of men who were psychologically damaged by their experiences, but as Horsesoldier said, that is only because the vocabulary to describe these illnesses developed in the 1970s. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but there were HUGE numbers of "combat fatigue" in the Second World War, but no mechanisms to deal with the aftermath. On top of the excellent titles mentioned by Shek and Horsesoldier, I've gotta throw one into the ring for ya'. "Embattled Courage", by Gerald Lindeman is a survey of notions of bravery, cowardice, and the psychological illnesses generated by combat in the Civil War. They called it "soldiers heart" back then, but it is PTSD by another name. I've also used the U.S. Army's History of WWII, military medicine volume. Fairly dry as far as narative goes, it gives a glimpse of the raw numbers of Second World War soldiers who were psychologically damaged by combat. Sobering stuff. If this is something that is of interest to you, I've got a couple of titles stashed away that would probably be helpful. Thanks, Cato
 
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GOP    RE:Vietnam Vets and PTSD...GOP   3/9/2006 7:41:00 PM
I am going to start with On Killing, I have heard good things about this book from several places. As Horsesoldier said, I think that it would also be good for me to read since I want to be a SEAL (sorry guys, I really do hate to harp on this).
 
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interestedamateur    RE:UK Troops in Iraq and PTSD   3/17/2006 10:03:52 AM
I've recently done research on PTSD on UK soldiers coming back from Iraq. MoD figures are quite confusing, but in one 12 month period during 2004 there were around 2,500 injuries, of which 52 were severe PTSD cases and many more mild cases. I'm no expert, but many of the points Horsesoldier mentions have now been incorporated into the UK army - for instance troops coming back from the Gulf are now not sent straight home on leave, but go through a period of "decompression" where they remain on base and are monitored and interviewed by counsellors. This process hasn't applied to TA (Reserve) soldiers, and the problems have been quite severe apparently. I did look quickly at the US Army and I believe you guys do something similar.
 
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jerk    Vietnam vet   2/27/2008 3:26:20 AM
   You haven't read as much as you say, or you would know for vets before Vietnam it was called shell shock, battle fatigue, and many others. You just want to mouth off about someting you know nothing about. As for the vet you say was wierd for reacting if you walked up behind him, I like to see what would happen to you if you tried that with about 80% of us that served in any war, you more than likely would not ike the results.
   And I'll tell you like I tell all ther others if you were not there shut your mouth because you'll never know what you're talking about and you'll never understand it.
 
 
 
            Larry
 
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GOP       3/7/2008 2:48:51 AM

   You haven't read as much as you say, or you would know for vets before Vietnam it was called shell shock, battle fatigue, and many others. You just want to mouth off about someting you know nothing about. As for the vet you say was wierd for reacting if you walked up behind him, I like to see what would happen to you if you tried that with about 80% of us that served in any war, you more than likely would not ike the results.

   And I'll tell you like I tell all ther others if you were not there shut your mouth because you'll never know what you're talking about and you'll never understand it.

 

 

 

            Larry


Thanks for the rude, uninformative, holier than thou post.
To be frank, I have nothing but respect for most Vietnam vets. But you are a douchebag.
 
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larryjcr    PTSD and past wars   3/7/2008 3:36:22 AM
Actually, the condition was recognized since at least the American Civil War, but the name changes.  In WW2 it was 'battle fatigue', in WW1 it was 'shell shock' and in the CW it was called 'melencolia'.  As symptoms, but in the modern context, PTSD seems to be a label that is applied much more liberally that the same condition was recognized in past wars. 
 
If you want a good example of PTSD before the name was applied, read Audie Murphy's autobiography, TO HELL AND BACK sometime.  The California HP and LAPD all knew enough to be careful when they had to deal with him.  He rarely made any trouble, but he ALWAYS carried a gun and it was very important not to do anything suddenly around him when he was upset about something.  You did NOT want him to mistake you for a threat! 
 
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historynut       3/7/2008 10:49:14 AM

>>Why is it that so many Vietnam vets have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder compared to vets of other wars, most notably WW2? In WW2, even more friendlies died, even more enemies were killed, etc...but most WW2 vets do not or never had PTSD, while I would argue that most Vietnam vets do.<<

Complicated and big question. For a detailed look at the topic I'd highly recommend On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. (ret) Dave Grossman. Actually, I'd recommend it as something anyone looking at the idea of a career as a shooter should read.

A couple points Grossman and other researchers have noted about Vietnam versus WW2 --

a) WW2 units were coherent for the duration and deployed for the duraction, +/- replacement personnel, whereas Vietnam deployments were mostly individual troops falling in on units already deployed in country, rotating in and out of country on personal timelines. Lower unit cohesion seems to play a part in PTSD rates.

b) The ability in Vietnam to rapidly transition from the battlefield to CONUS and even civilian life also seems to play a part in the difference of PTSD rates. Guys in WW2 were kept in uniform after the war and shipped back on troop ships -- lots of time to sort things out before you got back stateside. In Vietnam you could get on a plane going or coming back from SE Asia and make the trip in a matter of hours, not weeks.

c) Vietnam, as a COIN situation, had murky boundaries on safe zones and danger zones. Guys in most places in WW2 could rotate out of the line to safe locations for R&R. In Vietnam you had to leave the country for Thailand, Taiwan, Hawaii, etc., to find really solid safety.

d) Vietnam was a stigmatizing sort of war. WW2 vets were regarded, with some justification, as the saviors of western civilization. Vietnam vets were often regarded, with little justification, as baby killers and the guys who helped American lose a war.

e) I can't recall if Grossman touches on this, but one thing to bear in mind is that PTSD did not exist as a diagnosis in 1945. It emerged from shrinks dealing with Vietnam vets and has been growing and spiralling out of control since then (i.e. nowadays you can be diagnosed with PTSD for being in a car wreck or mugging or because your parent's never bought you a pony; it's specific association with protracted hugely stressful environments has been watered down by a lot of psychiatrists). A lot of those guys from WW2 came home with just as many problems as guys from Vietnam, but were never treated for stuff beyond self-medicating with alcohol and telling war stories at the VFW.

That's really just the tip of the iceberg. LIke I say, it is a big topic and has been extensively analyzed by researchers in America, Israel (who have high rates of PTSD, especially, echoing the American pattern, with their operations in Lebanon and since more than the conventional wars Israel has fought), and elsewhere.

>>Also, if this is in the wrong place, I apologize. I am just curious as to why it is and I kind of feel like the government has hung them out to dry by not providing them timely mental care after the war. <<

Also a very big topic, with lots of books and papers out there. Short version of the story being that the whole field started from something very close to a zero point for assorted reasons and has been evolving and improving over the last hundred years. It's still a tricky issue, and will remain tricky, I think.
Problem is a large number of people that claim to have PTSD never went to Viet Nam. A large number never were in the military. Nothing like having someone talk about how the he was in such and such unit and was in Nam in '68. While you were in the same unit and know that no one from the unit was in Nam.
A lot of people make claims that are not true.

 
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GOP       3/7/2008 1:16:20 PM

Actually, the condition was recognized since at least the American Civil War, but the name changes.  In WW2 it was 'battle fatigue', in WW1 it was 'shell shock' and in the CW it was called 'melencolia'.  As symptoms, but in the modern context, PTSD seems to be a label that is applied much more liberally that the same condition was recognized in past wars. 

 

If you want a good example of PTSD before the name was applied, read Audie Murphy's autobiography, TO HELL AND BACK sometime.  The California HP and LAPD all knew enough to be careful when they had to deal with him.  He rarely made any trouble, but he ALWAYS carried a gun and it was very important not to do anything suddenly around him when he was upset about something.  You did NOT want him to mistake you for a threat! 

 
I wasn't aware of the different names being used outside of 'shell shock', good info.

Thanks for the book advice, I'll check that out soon. That sounds a little "Marcinkoesque", especially if it came from Murphy's biography. However, Audie Murphy is the real deal, so it's probably true.

 
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