For those who know me and the few who followed a few of my writings (and believe me I am eternally grateful you would even give me a glance) you may
know that I have a military history. Now unlike the past few things I wrote I am going to make a couple of key differences here.
1. This will be largely a non-personal journey. The first section will be on my expertise (nuclear weapons) and after that, the rest of the tales and
discussions will be based on many different soldiers I have met and will meet (explain that in a moment) who have travelled this world and fought the
fight (whether they agree or not)
2. It will cover a vast array of topics but will stick with the central theme of depersonalization. Short of that theme this write up will be all over
the map. I will cover historical jobs such as the paratroopers (with which I had the extreme pleasure of meeting a member of the famed 101st Airborne
who is one of few on his drop plane that survived) to combat pilots, and even support staff such as office workers and administrators.
3. And here is the biggie…ANY military members on ATS can help contribute to this. I know people like Stop-Loss and Rotorwing (who coincidentally
inspired me to write this) but there are plenty of soldier out there that I don’t know. If anyone on ATS or BTS wants to come tell me your story I
will listen and ask some questions. I can be reached via skype, AIM, MSN, Yahoo messenger, and U2U. I will not mention your name in anyway. The only
demographics will be what job you fulfilled and your experiences. U2U me if you would like to contribute.
As always I welcome questions of any sort and in this case I am VERY interested in comments to include if you disagree with me 100%. I want to hear
about how people feel on this subject.
So…let’s get to it
Introduction to the Depersonalization of the Military:
In history from the earliest dynasties of Egypt and earlier to ancient times until today in 2010 we have seen a massive set of changes in the way we
as a people do combat. Now this collection is not looking into why we do combat as much as where, how and when we do combat. Depersonalization is what
I and others have seen and I think there are humongous implications behind the way we fight. When we look to the days of King Leonidas and Sparta
during his epic battles of the mystical 300 we saw hand to hand combat with raw and fearful instruments of death and destruction. In the battles of
William Wallace and the King of the Britons, massive armies would charge each other and clash steel to steel. The Revolutionary and Civil Wars of the
United States saw an early form of combat that involved thousands of troops marching into the eyes of their own mortality with an honest sense of
uncertainty of whether they would return alive let alone victorious. In World War I we were treated to a particularly horrific scene when trench
warfare was much maligned but often used. Today we see mortar attacks on our camps in the Arabian deserts and mountains. So you may wonder, what is
the point of this collective essay; to discuss the growing anonymity of war. I use the word depersonalization at first but really this discussion will
be more so about anonymity.
Even in the days of Sparta, the psychology of war was present and to start the discussion I look at one of humanity’s first ranged weapons, the bow
and arrow. Now some may initially say, ‘well what is the difference? The bow and arrow can kill just as much as the sword.’ That person is very
much right but there is indeed a difference; range. In forensic psychology groups I have been part of we discussed methods of murder and how personal
those methods were.
(PLEASE BE WARNED: From here on out there may some graphic discussion!!!!)
To some there may me a feeling of murder is murder and according to laws they are often right but I ask you to consider the following question:
If you murdered another, what would you think was more personal? Would it be a gun from 20 feet away or a knife where you are up close?
When King Leonidas and his opposing commander Xerxes went into battle, sword clashed on sword. The faces of the dead and soon-to-be dead were right
their in plain view. However, the archers from the Persian army had the distinct emotional advantage of possibly never seeing what they did. Not only
that but when several thousand arrows were lobbied into the air in such an indiscriminant fashion, how could you as a Persian archer ever be
completely sure you actually killed a Spartan? That to me is where anonymity began. Throughout the discussion I am going to delve into wars ranging
from ancient Greece to the wars of today. I will be focusing on two major themes; the technology we use to kill and maim and the people who build and
ultimately use that technology. I will try of course to add links to battles and technology I discuss then will follow up with what I believe about
said technology. As I said a few times I highly encourage anyone (military of otherwise) to drop in and make your comments.
And as I say in any of my lengthy threads I am very please and appreciative of anyone who decides to follow this be it silently or in a boisterous
You are all good people and I could care less if you are a hardened veteran who took 3 tours in Vietnam or a teenager who has done nothing but play
Call of Duty (which we will get into later)
Thanks you all again who decide to join this discussion
You will hear me make a lot of references to the Spartan/Persian Wars of ancient Greece. I do this because I often believe it is a wonderful contrast
to how we do battle today. As I mentioned in the introduction, Spartans and Persians clashed steel to steel and I believe the psychology of war is far
different today from where we started. Now clearly this war was not the first but it is famous and many people will know much more about it then a
less significant or lesser known battle. Now I am sure we all know that the movie 300 probably contained many inaccuracies and will never be a perfect
representation of what truly happened at the Battle of Thermopylae but there is an important factor to the movie. It shows us what war was like on the
side of technology and strategy. Look past all the epic speeches and Gerard Butler’s acting and focus to the technology. The swords, spears, shields
and plentiful arrows on the side of King Xerxes are the relevant items in this discussion. When the Persians and Spartans met they had to face each
‘Face’ is the key word in that statement. With the exception of Xerxes’ archers, each soldier could see the face of the one he killed or
possibly who was killing him. Each man with a sword or spear had to see the person’s face that he was dispatching. I cannot imagine a more personal
moment. Even if you take out the ideas of life, freedom and liberty that are typically important in a battle, there remains the fact that you had made
a personal decision; kill or not to kill. It is such a simple concept. You have two decisions; kill or not kill. Obviously I am simplifying the matter
but when you tear away all the talking points it comes down to that epic decision and from every soldier I know who will even admit to a confirmed
kill they will tell me how much it changes your life. That one simple decision CHANGES you forever whether you want to admit it or not. So the
question becomes, who feels it more? Does the Spartan who stabbed an opposing soldier and watches him die feel it more or does the Persian archer who
flies his arrow from hundreds of yards away, not sure if he struck a target, feel it more? I would imagine seeing the face of the dispatched would
affect me a lot more. So where does that tie into WMD’s?
Conspiracies aside, in 1945 the United States of America entered a new age. We had already invented and tested the atomic bomb but we were and still
remain the only country to ever use one in combat and twice. The changed the world.
Hundreds of thousands died in a flash and hundreds of thousands died slowly and painfully over years from radiation sickness, burns and other atomic
bomb-related incidents. Now we flash forward to today and my only personal contribution to this discussion. As a 2W2 (nuclear weapons builder AFSC of
the Air Force) I worked on the technical marvel of the nuclear age, the Minuteman III ICBM. After 6 years of building these monstrosities I fell into
a horrible anxiety that I chronicled somewhat in my thread on that subject. I will leave out the lengthy details save for one; where my anxiety
spouted. What upset me was the thought that if today America entered a nuclear war, items I had built would be responsible for millions and millions
of deaths. Now the odd part it I am very non-confrontational and a pacifist at best, so what I was doing in the Air Force at all was a mystery, let
alone such a career field. The point is I didn’t want to be responsible for civilians dying. So after I finished my tour in North Dakota, I moved to
the Reserves and became a 3M0 (chef) and couldn’t be happier. Was better to serve to then destroy was my feeling. Now let me make this absolutely
clear…I do NOT think less of anyone who kills in combat so please don’t take it that way this was merely a personal mantra I developed.
So let’s look at the two; the incident over Hiroshima and the potential incident due to launching missiles.
As described the bombing was complete and utter devastation. The difference between the crew of the Enola Gay and the missileers of our current launch
control facilities the personal account. When Little Boy (bomb dropped by the Enola Gay) detonated, the pilot, Paul Tibbets banked hard right to avoid
the blast but soon after he turned the plane for the crew to see. It was described as fire and smoke completely covering the city. Each member dealt
with the psychology of the events in their own manner but still witnessed the utter destruction they caused. Nowadays if word from our current leader
comes down, there are switches flipped and codes entered and the missiles leave on their mission. The fact is the missileers will never witness first
hand what they have done. This is anonymity at its best in my opinion. Launch a horrific weapon and sit and wait. You’ll never witness the fire
ball, the extreme winds and the burning of millions of men, women and children. That is how we make a catastrophic, self-controlled event so
impersonal. If a great war breaks out, no longer do we look each other in the eyes in the ways of the Spartans and Persians, we simply flip a switch.
What is interesting about this however is that in my opinion, the government recognizes the potential for intense emotional uprising and ultimately
regret with such a decision. There is always the important human factor. Ask yourself this and answer it in silence, if the message came down, could
you turn your key? Well the government asked this as well. They came up with the inevitable answer that no matter how hard you try to train the
humanity out of a person, it will not leave. That is the human condition and it is unavoidable. What’s the solution? Redundancy.
Many of us have probably seen the iconic movie Wargames starring Matthew Broderick. In it, a young boy hacks a system known as the WOPR to play a
game. He unwittingly brings the world to near complete annihilation. In the early scenes two missile launch commanders are shown in their facility.
Suddenly word comes down to launch their missiles. They begin their complicated task when suddenly the higher ranking officer freezes. He is unable to
turn the key. The lower rank pulls a pistol from his holster and threatens the other commander to turn his key. This is the duality of man and I am
sad to say this is not far from truth. Each launch facility has a backup crew that will be standing by in case one or both of the missileers fails to
perform their duty. So in reality the government appears to have already recognized that they cannot defeat humanity, so instead they skirted around
it with redundancy.
This is where anonymity takes place and things become impersonal. These missileers have zero clue where their missile will end up and will not be able
to see the actual destruction they have caused. This is why being a missileers is such a tough task. You hold the keys to an ultimate power to
decimate life, but unlike the Spartans and Persians, you do not have to see a single of the myriad of faces that simply vaporized when the intense
heat wave and plasma ball expands. No, all you do is turn your key. This exact impersonalization (if I may coin a new word) may be your saving grace
between being able to sleep at night and intense emotional tremors that may indeed be permanent.
As we move throughout this discussion we will see this theme of anonymity and impersonalization will be present in many forms. The archers of early
wars, the howitzer users of today, the remote controlled weaponry and vehicles and perhaps the most shocking of all, the impersonalization of future
troops through media.
Thank you all for listening. I will move onto the next topic once I talk to a certain individual here and get some notes prepared.
WOW. What a great thread! I totally agree with you.
What I think is that it is very personal no matter what. Granted, pilots who drop bombs or missilers pushing buttons may never see what they did, but
eventually they will come to terms with it later in life.
I know that I would feel even if I sit behind a computer pressing the button to bomb people I don't know in a country I have not heard of. I would
not be able to deal with it. This is the reason why I declined CIA's invitation to work for them years ago.
But you are correct. Wars used to be very personal. Soldiers could see the faces of other people they were about to kill. Even archers could see them
from a distance. But warfare technology has gotten better over centuries. Soldiers now no longer see the enemies they kill (except for close killing
You will never see me kill no matter how impersonal it is, unless I feel that there is a sufficient threat to me and my people and country. Even when
I face a threat and decide to defend by killing people, I will still have to struggle with it for the rest of my life.
Having been raised by a Vietnam era Marine and living under the Art of War, turning it into the Art of Peace, I have studied
enthusiastically the Spartan's and the Battle of Thermopylae, and the coward Xerxes.
I disagree with your assessment that the arrows were the first area where anonymity of warfare came from here first, for if we are to know the Bible
and or agree it is a historical reference then one of the first impersonal fights was David verses Goliath, and the sling and stone would be where one
man fought against another from a distance.
The stones he used as a sheperd to keep his flock free of wolves would be the equivalent to the first "missile" of a sorts, where distance
was ensured so as to keep the physical strength of Goliath at bay.
And the Bible uses many more stories to show espionage as a means to demonstrate less than lethal means through covert nature in the Battle for
Remember the men sent in to spy for Joshua and recruited the spy, Rahab.
The red ribbon left as a message, that was a coded message of sorts.
Espionage would be one of the first means to make war impersonal.
A faceless enemy who sneaks in and steals information, supplies, weaponry, people.
As for Thermopylae and the Persian use of arrows over hand-to-hand combat, this is because the Spartan's were bred for warfare, hand-to-hand combat,
and would face their enemies toe to toe on a battlefield, whereas the Persian's were always filled with captured soliders, slaves, and peasants from
other countries, and were forced to battle or suffer death.
With whips and threats of death Xerxes taskmaster's drove the Persian army upon Spartan and Greek swords and shields, and when Leonidas made Xerxes
pay with 10,000 men, the first day, and 10,000 men the second day, Xerxes advisors recommended arrows and a corruptable spy recommended the goat path.
The problem with this is that Leonidas knew of the goat path and put the Phocians, one of the weakest, tactically speaking, of the Greeks to guard it
knowing they would be overwhelmed.
The Battle Of Thermopylae 1
The Battle Of Thermopylae 2
This is because Leonidas lead this battle to the Pass of Thermopylae, with all intents and purposes of this being a suicide mission, to fulfill the
To serve and obey the commands of Sparta and die in battle, a glorious victory.
Only a in death in battle would ensure to united all of Greece against the tyrant, Xerxes, because the alleged King of Kings had bought the
Greek politicians through subversion, promised Persian gold and power.
Most people mistake often enough that there were only 300 Spartan's at Thermopylae, but this is incorrect, there were 11,700 Greeks, and when
Leonidas knew the Immortals were coming through the goat path, he ordered all other Greeks, except his 300, to flee the pass, because he knew they
would be needed to defend Greece, once their country was united.
The History Channel says 7,000 Greeks, but Helot slaves were not counted in the number, because Helot's being slaves, were not counted as
thank you so much for the corrections. I mean that too. And good point on the stones I didn't think back to that point. Do you agree SKL about the
impersonal way we fight war? Do you think we are cowardly?
thank you so much for the corrections. I mean that too. And good point on the stones I didn't think back to that point. Do you agree SKL about the
impersonal way we fight war? Do you think we are cowardly?
Personally, I prefer face-to-face, toe to toe battles.
There is at least a semblance of honor to it.
Over all though, I am a man of war, using war to make peace.
I would not say, "corrections", more so just disagreement about facts.
One of the things I do know about the Spartan's is they did not like politics.
And I was told by a friend, a self-proclaimed "psychic", I was Leonidas.
In a past life.
Considering I have made Sparta, Leonidas, and Thermopylae a focal point, she is not too far off the mark, but I use my knowledge of warfare.
To cease hostilities and bring peace.
From the "Art of War" to the "Art of Peace", Yin and Yang.
I find it interesting you chose the word dehumanizing. That is precisely what I see here. We try so hard to take away the human factor and yet we
still have one HUGE human factor...the HUMANS! Unfortunately even if we wanted to magically go to an all robot army somebody still has to build the
robots. What upsets me is the sntiment you gave RW. Not that you said it, but that government refuses to listen. Our soldiers are tired.
As I mentioned to you in our first chat, I now work as a 3M0 (Chef) and we cook for returning airmen/soldiers/marines/sailors after they land. Often
times they are met by their spouses in a reuinion that could melt the hardest heart...and yet...we pick more wars.
Look let's make no mistake about it. I have never deployed to war in my life. I consider myself lucky but in the same respect I don't hold myself in
anywhere near as high esteem as I do the people that pounded the dirt or deesert (as it is now) but I am not stupid. The wars of old had reason and
The Revolution, Civil War, WWI and WWII had reason. We fought for our freedom, to reunite the country and to save our allies (though of course there
is debate on the happenings of Pearl Harbor but then soon the remaining wars becamse less popular in some people's eyes. This is fine. They are free
American's and are free to have and voice any opinion they want so long as they don't harm others. The protestors of Vietnam were strong and loud
and now we have them again today. Are we fighting because we found WMD's? Are we fighting for oil? Who knows but it's clear what some people think.
I think that part harms our soldiers as well. They go and fight and watch friends die and yes...they kill another human. I really don't think that
killing a human, justified or not, is going to be without its effect on the psyche. Again, I don't know the effects because I have never killed but
even if I have my effects will not be the same as others.
I see alot of people angry at the government for several reasons; one being the wars. I think they have every right to be but I just don't like
seeing it taken out on our fighting troops. Then again...welcome to America...and I am happy to serve to give someone the right to tell me to go jump
off a bridge.
Outstanding concept for a thread. I don't have much to add yet, but i am sure i will.
As it pertains to your specialty, i have often wondered how effective it is psychologically to use drones and other nonpersonal, long range weapons.
The guy who enters the nuke launch codes...is he affected by the killing of hundreds of thousands, if not millions?
BTW, i am not a teenager (37 years old), but LOVE Call of Duty. I play a couple hours a day.
furry...I think it affects us all. MAD (mutually assured destruction) has been ingrained in all of us. We have grown up with the thought of "it
could happen" in the back of our collective minds.
In my opinion, the person that has to actually "launch" is going to suffer tremendous psychological consequences...I would suspect for what remains
of a very short (self shortened in some cases) life.
I flew some very intense individuals around (insertion and recovery) combat zones. All of them were selected for their ability to complete a mission
with total disregard for their emotions. Yet on successful recovery...there was a percentage that were mission in-effective in short order.
My crew was trained to watch for the signs...and react accordingly. The mission was to be accomplished with whatever means needed.
ok first off...I am a 30 year old who plays CoD every day :-p total nerd I am
Now as I mentioned before I am a builder and not a launcher so I have zero control of any codes or buttons. The other problem is that since 1945 no
nuclear weapons have been used in war unless the most amazing coverup ever took place. So I know how I THINK I would feel if one of my missiles killed
but really until it happens how do you know how to react?
A further question is am I innocent now that I am a chef or am I just as guilty still since I support troops who kill? Tough questions.
So to answer your question I don't honestly know how the missileer would feel if that fateful day ever comes. I can't imagine all of them will be
stone cold though...hence the guns and backup crew
Yeah, but that video made me shiver...and it wasn't because it was so graphic. War is not pretty, and collateral damage is inevitable. Reuters
shoulda had their people out of there, and if people are picking up bodies that still have weapons then they need to be stopped.
War is not meant to be seen by those that can't smell it. Sounds trite, but it's sorta the way it is.
Bravado is a necessary element when it comes to combat. I want the guy who goes and pukes then shows up for the mission with a little swagger in his
step. Sounds bad, but it's been my experience.
The radio chatter in the video is the most telling...the bravado allows the name calling and the swearing...and the crass remarks. That chatter is
the dehumanizing I have mentioned above. Now it's unprofessional as all get out, but it does happen in the rank and file. We tried to be dead
I have been called all of the bad things I can be called, and I don't like it. This posting will fill my U2U and comments with some more of that.
Even so, I had to say it.
This is off topic with this thread...but my views:
I do not do battle. I have not served. This gives me no real basis to lodge a complaint.
Will I have my opinions? Sure. But my opinions are harsh mostly in the civilian rank and file, and occassionally the higher level commanders.
I know that war is dirty and ugly. Because of this i do not get too involved with details.
What bothers me the most is the lying. If there wasn't a lie, then there wouldn't be the appearance of a cover up.
I placed that video here because it addresses this thread from the position of "depersonalization", a la the video game type environment. Would it
not hurt even more to see actual hand to hand combat performed by remote controlled mechs? This is why i am so interested in the thread by
Astroengineer (well, one reason). having FTL communication would allow for instananeous communication between mech and controller. For
interplanetary exploration, a boon. For Earth bound military needs? Not likely so good.
When firing squads execute someone, they do it in a large number so that no one person shoulders the burden of killing. It is a known phenomena that
this thread is discussing.
The ugly U2U's...blow them off. Anyone worthy hearing from would not send you hateful correspondance. Those are children and small minded
Anonymity of CBW (Chemical and Biological Warfare)
This is a rough portion of this collective essay because of what I see as the two factors
1. A lot of this can be covered in the same concepts as nuclear warfare. Both are frowned upon greatly by a lot of people. Both have instant and
severe long-lasting effects. Both have the capability of causing unbelievable levels of harm. So the similarities are there.
2. In our history there seems to be a greater nonchalance in its use. This of course makes it great to study with the theme I have chosen but again
the similarities are there
So I had a chat with a good friend of mine who works intel after departing from the 2W2 field. Then afterwards I got a second individual into the
fray. The agreement seemed to be that there is perfect anonymity in CBW and maybe even more so than a nuclear weapon. I asked why they thought this
and they agreed that while each type of weapon can cause horrific fatalities, CB weapons can be dispersed in so many methods and what is more, the CB
weaponry can cause anonymity for both the crew performing the dispersal and the victims. Like nuclear weaponry, CBW does not decide who it is going to
affect. It doesn’t discriminate between civilians and military personnel. Also like nuclear weaponry, CB has the capability of killing in minutes,
or dragging out illness and despair for days, months and even years. One of the true horrors however is in the fact that CBW can affect multiple
First we attack the anonymity of the crew. Some people know when I saw the name Col Paul Tibbets they can instantly equate it to the Enola Gay. For
those who don’t know, Col Tibbets was the pilot who flew during the release of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
When the story broke, whether you or other readers believe Tibbets a hero or a horrific killer, we knew the names. Furthermore you can find the names
of the bombardier, navigator and munitions expert. The point being that if you chose to (though most have passed on now) you could have made some
attempt at contact and if your purpose was to scold you could have made your feelings to them known.
Now, one of the individuals I talked to said the following…
“…and tell me the name of one pilot who dispersed Agent Orange? Did they know what they were doing? Did they know the implications? We don’t
know. The point is we can’t find out.”
That to me is a huge talking point. Who were they? Clearly there wasn’t just one pilot dropping the claimed 19 million gallons of Agent Orange on
So what about the victims then? This defoliating agent has caused thousands and thousands of deaths to unknown women, men, children and soldiers.
Since possibly the days of BC armies have poisoned each other. The thing is when you launch a chemical of biological attack you cannot say with any
certainty who will be affected. A gun on the other hand (though destructive in its own right and has its own abusers) can be trained to one target if
need be. If I am in Vietnam and I fire my rifle and have good notice and intelligence, I can reasonably assure that my bullet will strike an opposing
fighter. When I fly and release a substance such as AO, sarin, talbun, or launch mustard gas who am I killing? Now in the case of mustard gas you can
have a bit more accuracy since it was typically hurled at opposing trenches and the likelihood of a civilian being in said trench is low but what of
biological weapons? A biological weapon may often not have the same immediate effects. Could these then be carried to an innocent?
But the theme here is anonymity. Much like a nuclear-tipped missile being released by an officer, the pilot releasing these CB weapons will probably
never see the faces of those directly affected by his actions so the question is, how will his emotional stability fare when he realizes what he has
done and did the government purposefully give the pilot coordinates to a local village or perhaps not tell the pilot what he was carrying? As I stated
the issue here is the records. Who are the people that fired and dispersed these weapons? I for one would love to know how the pilots feel now but
then that Is just my curiosity.
Not sure which topic is next but I will have one up soon
No, you are right KZ, I couldn't be assured of all who were going to be affected. What I could be sure of was that my enemy was going to be
affected. I was going to be able to see who was near my LZ and my door gunners were going to have a clear field of fire. A visible kill zone if you
I'm going to say it again, because I really believe it. War/combat is not meant to be seen by those that can't smell it.
This content community relies on user-generated content from our member contributors. The opinions of our members are not those of site ownership who maintains strict editorial agnosticism and simply provides a collaborative venue for free expression.