Tag Archives: UK

GI: Owned Lock, Stock, and Barrel

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

A former special operator has remarked that his generation suffers from a kind of moral relativism that assumes all purported “truths” are equally valid. He pointed out that it matters little that someone disagrees with the proposition that “2 + 2 = 4.” Mathematicians don’t waste time listening to arguments otherwise. And neither does the military, he explained.

Calculating and acting on the correct answer to complex mathematical equations was the job of, among others, World War II bombardiers. And tens of thousands of Allied navigators and radiomen and pilots and gunners died getting bombardiers to their job sites, so they could do what they’d been trained and tasked to do. More people than anticipated died 20,000 feet below when a bombardier got the math wrong.

Of course, the mathematics of calculating the correct and desired damage to a target – computer assist or not – has never been the only part of the military’s mission that’s nothing more than a car on blocks if alternative, or preferred, truths are given the time of day.

grandad dress and decoration post DPRK. 225 x 300Facts no one in our family ever talked about, truths about where and why and how my grandad was critically wounded in combat, have made me reflect on another non-negotiable fact of military service that is both unknown and unfelt by most of the 92.7% of us in this country who have never served under arms: the fact of being government property to be used as the nation deems necessary.

What I’ve learned by researching the Korean combat experiences of other soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division has told me much I never knew about what grandad was made of. It’s given me a narrow space in a fence through which I can see part of why this World War II drill instructor I called “grandad” was never the same after Korea. And what I’ve seen has forever axed the thought that I might one day change my hard-to-spell surname from that of a soldier from Queens with an 8th grade education who adopted two Tennessee boys and then raised my dad and his kid brother as best he knew how.

In a September 13, 2017 Brookings’ blogpost, “Catastrophe on the Yalu: America’s Intelligence Failure in Korea,” Bruce Riedel, the Director of Brookings’ Intelligence Project, suggests that the bloodletting at Unsan – during which U.S. Army Master Sergeant Charles Bloeser was forever wounded – didn’t have to happen. Three days of fighting legions of battle – hardened Communist Chinese troops who weren’t supposed to be there was due to “a catastrophic intelligence failure. . .. the result of terrible intelligence management, not the poor collection or analysis of information.”

Casualty records at the National Archives report that grandad was “[s]eriously wounded in action by missile” on November 2, 1950. In an excerpt in Vanity Fair from The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam explains what happened one day earlier, when the two-star general commanding grandad’s division asked for permission to pull back:

On the afternoon of November 1, Major General Hobart R. “Hap” Gay, the First Cav division commander, was in his command post with General Charles Palmer, his artillery commander, when a radio report from an observer in an L-5 spotter plane caught their attention: “This is the strangest sight I have ever seen. There are two large columns of enemy infantry moving southeast over the trails in the vicinity of Myongdang-dong and Yonghung-dong. Our shells are landing right in their columns and they keep coming.” Those were two tiny villages five or six air miles from Unsan. Palmer immediately ordered additional artillery units to start firing, and Gay nervously called First Corps, requesting permission to pull the entire Eighth Cav several miles south of Unsan. His request was denied.

honor-guard-w-flag-arlington-natl-cemetary-multi-sourced. 300 x 166

 

The Army’s Military History Center describes what happened next:

“Thousands of Chinese [] attacked from the north, northwest, and west against scattered U.S. and South Korean units moving deep into North Korea. The Chinese seemed to come out of nowhere as they swarmed around the flanks and over the defensive positions of the surprised [] troops.” As the lead to the Halberstam excerpt puts it, “hundreds of Americans got slaughtered at Unsan, one of the worst defeats of the Korean War.”

In “one of the most shameful and little-known incidents in U.S. military history,” writes Charles J. Hanley (quoting Korean War historian Jack J. Gifford), some 600 of the 3rd Battalion’s 800 men” were “[t]rapped by two Chinese divisions,” and “left to die in far northern Korea.”

“The Yalu disaster was completely predictable,” writes Riedel in his Brookings blogpost. “The intelligence failure was the result of a policy maker’s determination that intelligence support his preconceived views, not challenge them. It is a timeless lesson.”

Knowing that men my grandad trained with and fought to keep alive – men from what Sebastian Junger would call his “tribe” – died in or after a battle that looks like it never had to go down the way it did, infuriates me. And I regret that I didn’t know these things when grandma was alive and might have found in this history at least some solace after living through some very dark years with her husband after he came home.

To my way of thinking, the men who fell at Unsan died with honor. But the likelihood that their lives were wasted is disturbing.

And knowing that many of these men would have died on other battlefields on the Korean peninsula before two years of peace talks would bring an armistice is no comfort. Quite the opposite.

The warriors ordered into a Chinese hornets’ nest with grandad were sons and brothers and husbands and fathers – all soldiers who deserved to fight where they could do the most good. Not here. Not this way.

Ms. Elizabeth M. Collins writes in a November 2016 retrospective at Army.Mil that “[a] 1954 Congressional report termed the Korean War “one of the most heinous and barbaric” periods in history, citing some 1,800 cases of war crimes involving thousands of victims: “Virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of war prisoners was purposely violated or ignored by the North Korean or Chinese forces.”

 

But here’s where grandad has a lesson for those of us who have never served. Had he known earlier what the intel really showed – that Communist China cared a great deal about what happened the other side of the Yalu river – it wouldn’t have mattered. It must not be allowed to matter.

Like all who serve, grandad was owned by the United States lock, stock, and barrel, to be used as his nation deemed necessary. Even if ordered to march into Hell itself.

The thing about that is this. We who are civilians might see such an order as time for a career change without giving notice. U.S. Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, and members of the U.S. Coast Guard who refuse to obey lawful orders breach the law and threaten the order, discipline, and unit cohesiveness without which the nation can neither defend itself nor otherwise pursue its interests.

That was true for grandad, who had solemnly sworn, among other duties, that he would “observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over [him].”

It was true for grandad’s commanding general whose request to pull the Army back had been denied.

 

ENDNOTE content supplied in sequence. Links to numbers to be updated.

[1] Author: Charles L.K. Bloeser, M.A., J.D. Member, Bar of the State of Tennessee; member, Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

[2] (“. . . what if we told you that 2 +2 = ? has stumped even some of the smartest mathematicians because it doesn’t necessarily have to equal 4?”) Elena Holodny. “Here’s How Your Watch Can Prove that 2 + 2 Doesn’t Equal 4.” Businessinsider.com (June 24, 2014).

[3] Mona Chalabi. “What Percentage of Americans Have Served in the Military?” Fivethirtyeight.com (March 19, 2015).

[4]Sixty years later those fallen soldiers, the lost battalion of Unsan, are stranded anew.

“North Korea is offering fresh clues to their remains. American teams are ready to re-enter the north to dig for them. But for five years the U.S. government has refused to work with North Korea to recover the men of Unsan and others among more than 8,000 U.S. missing in action from the 1950-53 war.

“Now, under pressure from MIA family groups, the Obama administration is said to be moving slowly to reverse the Bush administration’s suspension of the joint recovery program, a step taken in 2005 as the North Korean nuclear crisis dragged on.

“If I had a direct line in to the president, I would say, `Please reinstitute this program. There are families that need closure,'” said Ruth Davis, 61, of Palestine, Texas, whose uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Benny Don Rogers, has been listed as MIA since Chinese attackers overran his company — I Company, 8th Cavalry — at Unsan in late 1950.

It was one of Rogers’ I Company comrades, Pfc. Philip W. Ackley of Hillsboro, New Hampshire, whose identifying dog tag appeared in a photo the North Koreans handed over at Korea’s Panmunjom truce village in January of this 60th year since the war started. The North Koreans also delivered photos of remains, a stark reminder that Unsan’s dead still wait to come home.” Charles J. Hanley, “Lost Korean War battalion awaits US MIA decision,” Associated Press (July 18, 2010).

[5] Sebastian Junger. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (London: 4th Estate 2017).

[6] Another soldier from the “First Cav” whose honorable service at Unsan was recognized publicly was Tibor Rubin. Mr. Rubin had survived the Holocaust while his family did not. He thanked the United States for his rescue by enlisting in the Army shortly after he arrived in the States and when he could barely speak English. Mr. Rubin was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor in combat at Unsan, but his official citation describes in detail how the soldier single-handedly kept alive as many as 40 of his fellow POWs during 2 years he spent in a Chinese prison camp.

[7] “The first oath under the Constitution was approved by Act of Congress 29 September 1789 (Sec. 3, Ch. 25, 1st Congress). It applied to all commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers and privates in the service of the United States.” Information courtesy history.army.mil, accessed May 28, 2018.

 

 

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

Below the Sahel 24 November 1970: Childhood Innocence No More

The following is excerpted from mom’s recently completed manuscript for her historical memoir, Vaccines & Bayonets: Fighting Smallpox in Africa amid Tribalism, Terror and the Cold War.  www.vaccinesandbayonets.com

embassy seal 1.95MUSICAL MINISTERS – AGAIN

Excerpt from November 19, 1970 letter to William Foege, M.D., Director, Smallpox Eradication Program, CDC, Atlanta,

From Carl Bloeser, Operations Officer, Equatorial Guinea

Once again we’re having a week of ‘musical ministers,’ something we’re all getting used to. The Minister of Health has been appointed Minister of Mines and Industries. The Minister of Mines and Industries is the new Minister of Justice, and of course that means that Dr. Rafael Obiang, the Minister of Justice and head of the Juventud, is the new Minister of Health.

I think it would be fair to say that Dr. Obiang would win hands down any contest for Equatorial Guinea’s most sinister man.

He is out of the country now. I doubt I’ll have the chance to see the new Minister before next week….

Certainly in the months to come, we will have to consider the political override to our programming in Equatorial Guinea. I will keep you informed of developments in the monthly activity reports.

* * * 

THE TERROR

November 24, 1970

“Don’t speak. Just listen. Grab the kids and an overnight bag. Be ready in ten minutes.”

 Carl was calling from his office at the American Embassy. My husband could be a bottom-line person if he had to be, but this time his voice sounded different, wooden.

Questions whirled in my brain.

 What’s happening this time? Who’s coming for us? Where are we going?

No opportunity to ask. Not safe to ask. The phone clattered back into its cradle as I ran to get our children and a few essentials.

Minutes later our family and Chargé d’Affaires Al Williams rode in palpable silence through the sultry equatorial afternoon. The pungent smell of moist earth and decomposing undergrowth hung on our clothing and stuck to our skin. My preoccupied stare settled on the

American flag fluttering from the miniature flagstaff of the embassy car, its presence announcing that either the ambassador or the Chargé was in the car. In theory that would give us diplomatic protection. I counted on more than theory.

monster image. 315 x 175

No one spoke until we were safely inside the Embassy Residence and out of earshot of the driver, who we were sure worked for the police.

Answers to my questions came soon enough. We would spend at least this night under the protection of the flag. Dr. Obiang, the new Minister of Health, had let loose his gangs of armed youth against the Portuguese community, and they were slashing their way through the street three blocks away. Their clubs and machetes were demolishing shops and bludgeoning any Portuguese they could get their hands on.

Minutes earlier Carman had phoned the alert to the chancery. She had just left it herself and stumbled into the attacks as she walked the few blocks to the Residence. She escaped harm only because her hairdresser spotted her and rushed from the shop screaming to the mob.

“No es portuguesa! Es americana!”

We learned that farther up the West African coast, the citizens of Portuguese Guinea (later Guinea-Bissau) fighting for independence from Portugal believed they had sighted a submarine off their shores. On the heels of a November 22 Portuguese-led attack on their neighbor, Guinea-Conakry, the sighting triggered a massacre there. So Equatorial Guineans would also go after the Portuguese—a show of solidarity.

Our embassy residence with its spacious entry hall and curving staircase stood on a slight rise a block from the harbor. Across the street sprawled the hacienda-style police station. The juxtaposition was jarring—serenity and hospitality on one side of the street, official torture and murder on the other. But on this night, most of the killing was a few blocks away.

Al telephoned President Macias and told him he had gathered all the Americans at the American Embassy Residence, and that we were under the protection of the United States Government. He expressed confidence in Macias’s ability to make sure no harm would come to us.

It appeared that nothing could ruffle either of the Williams. Carman liked to “let her hair down”—I often pictured her in a hippie commune—but when she needed to observe protocol she did it with flair. Al epitomized the calm and collected diplomat. His stance when in peril: It’s just part of representation.

Now he and Carl periodically cracked the door for an instant to look and listen for any up-to-the-minute sliver of intelligence. They otherwise talked, smoked Cuban cigars, drank the Spanish brandy Fundador and looked for things to laugh about. Gallows humor. One had to distance oneself in order to survive this place.

The Residence had moved from smaller quarters a few weeks earlier. I helped Carman hem new draperies for the massive windows to the accompaniment of her upbeat conversation and laughter.

Charles and Ginger drew pictures and devised paper creations, hopefully not hearing enough conversation to be aware of our situation. (Later I would learn of Charles’s being traumatized by his memory of human screams coming from the police station.)

Just now, he looked over at his dad at the sound of furtive conversation and hollow laughter coming from the far corner of the room.

dad state ID. 250 x 166Al and Carl were discussing the embassy’s Escape and Evasion Plan.

Seriously? This was our E and E plan? We would sneak down the arm of the bay to the Bahia, and swim thirty yards to that tiny button of land that peered above the surface of the water. Al lowered his voice and I strained to hear the hushed exchange. I wondered at the few words I could make out.

…if we…rescue team…

Then I think I heard something about a submarine rescue. Would they really come for us?

Carl leaned forward, his balding head shiny with perspiration. He rubbed a hand across his chin, further muffling his voice.

…don’t like it, Al…kids…sharks…rather try rainforest…

I’d read somebody had invented an inflatable life boat. If only we had one of those.

So here we were, the six permanent Americans on this small island where tropical foliage and black sand beaches camouflaged the struggle for survival under a brutal and xenophobic government.

I felt oddly unafraid, and Al and Carman took their “just part of representation” attitude. But after they concluded that we should all go to bed for what was left of the night, a stealthy disquiet settled beneath my calm exterior. I was thankful for one thing—this was not, at least, one of the few times when Al had to be away and left Carl as acting de facto chargé d’affaires. I’d have hated for him to have to deal with such a touchy situation.

Sleep eluded me that night as the hands of the clock made their rounds. Thoughts picked their way through streets and alleyways of littered memories. I searched. I teased out threads.

Why on earth had Carl agreed to come to this place after reading all those cables? And what did he see when he came and investigated in person?

I knew he couldn’t share all that he learned. But whatever it was, he had said he was needed here. Being needed seemed to override everything else in Carl’s mind. He welcomed tasks that no one else would take on and thrived on accomplishing the impossible. It seemed to be something he could not resist.

In a high-ceilinged guest bedroom Carl’s quiet, regular breathing told me he was sound asleep. I was wide awake.

Can’t get comfortable. Will try not to wake Carl.

The brain that I could not turn off ruminated in a continuous loop. I worried about our UN friends. They were no longer allowed to have contact with embassy people. Where could they find a safe haven tonight?

I turned my pillow over. The cooler surface soothed me. Maybe now I could sleep.

Macias Ngueme coin 1978 president for life, ie. until 1979. 225 x 223But no. President Macias was on his way to slaughtering, imprisoning or driving into exile a third of his people. Amnesty International would attach the nicknames Dachau of Africa and Auschwitz of Africa.

Have to put these dark visions out of my brain. I need to pray. Why can’t I pray?

I slipped out of bed and wandered in silence through the darkened expanse of the Residence. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.

Despite the night’s anxiety, neither escape option had to be employed, and in the morning Al deemed it safe for us to return to our own house. We exited the embassy into a sunny day and surface calm. There were no sounds, as yet, coming from the police station across the street. So far as I know, no one ever learned the body count for the night just passed.

 Carl put the crisis behind him and pursued his objective with even greater resolve. At home, we continued with what passed for normal. Carl and I added more pieces to the jigsaw puzzle on our dining room table. Ginger played with her dolls. Charles played in his fortress, barricaded behind its walls.

* * *

SINISTER MINISTER

Two days later, Carl wrote in a follow-up to the November 19th letter to Dr. Foege, that despite repeated requests to meet with the new Minister of Health, he had not yet succeeded. In understated bureaucratic-speak, chilling as I look at it now, he said:

“Dr. Obiang is just not available at present. He seems to be quite occupied at this time with Juventud activities. On Tuesday, November 24, the Juventud was unleashed on the Portuguese community of Fernando Po. It now appears that I may be able to meet with him on Monday, December 7….

“I would suggest that authorized personnel review two classified cables concerning this matter at an early date: [Carl listed two classified cable identifiers.]”

A representative from the International Commission of Jurists would report a few years later that the Juventud was responsible for much of the looting, killing, execution, torture, burning of villages and “informing on anyone.” His report says that they practiced “violence as a line of conduct generally aimed at terrorizing the population.”

The new Minister of Health was efficient.

 

The foregoing is excerpted from mom’s recently completed manuscript of her historical memoir, Vaccines & Bayonets: Fighting Smallpox in Africa amid Tribalism, Terror and the Cold War. vaccinesandbayonets.com

Image attribution: Seal of the United States Embassy, public domain; Mask of death from “Africa’s Greatest Dictators,” Vice.com (July 15, 2010); image of 1978 EG coin featuring Macias Nguema as “President for Life,” public domain.

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200About the Kid From the Fortress

Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked this author to share with those best able to prevent the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that. http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide, urge an American Soldier and a U.S. Marine

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

allcallsigns.org graphic 263 x 182 accessed google images 4 September 2018A QUICK WORD FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND RE INFORMATION THAT FOLLOWS THIS POST: “We’re shit at talking. It’s time to change that. All Call Signs is a peer-to-peer communication app for Veterans and serving Military Personnel. Our chat service is manned by volunteers who have served in The Forces and understand the stresses and struggles that come with daily life in and out of uniform. “

 

“Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide.”

[Please note: since this opinion piece came out last year, the VA has clarified that its reported veteran suicide data include, and have included, active-duty, guard, and reserve in addition to separated veterans (June 2018).]

The following is an excerpt from a 27 September 2017 opinion piece by a couple of veterans who know what they’re talking about:

Paula Broadwell is the director of the Think Broader Foundation, a co-host of On Point Women Warrior Writing Workshops, and an Army veteran.

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is an assistant professor of Public Health at Charleston Southern University and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran

. . .

“Of the 40,000 veteran organizations offering services, a minute number have proposed these programs and even fewer have offered funding for existing initiatives. Even the big national non-profits that are focused on veteran support initiatives have a dearth of programs that are exclusive to women. Corporations who might support these programs seem unmoved by the statistics. We’ve been told frequently and verbatim by corporate funding entities that “they have sponsored their woman’s event for the year.”  Checking the box isn’t going to save female veterans lives any more than simply tweeting about the problem does.

“Improving access to women-specific programming matters for many reasons, not in the least because opening up in group therapy sessions with men who may have dismissed women’s service or even been perpetrators of harassment or assault can be difficult if not impossible, so many women opt out of co-ed programming and therapy altogether.”

“Earlier this year, Paula co-hosted with fellow service women a “women warriors writing workshop” in Tampa, Fla. The published mission was to provide skills training to aspiring female veteran historians, memoirists, novelists, and op-ed writers. Our implied mission, however, was to help create small tribe and provide mental health support for our sisters in need.

“Besides learning of their valor, adventures and inevitable mishaps along the way, several common issues surfaced in our discussions:

  1. Most women said they had never been a room with all female veterans in the past.
  2. Many women, including one of the authors of this column, had experienced depression or suicide ideation following some trauma in life but had avoided seeking VA help.
  3. All of them were eager for support and connectivity but many were challenged to find it in their civilian lives.
  4. Many of us feel our voices don’t matter; just look at the Army Chief of Staff’s recent recommended reading list (one of 115 authors is a woman, despite the plethora of excellent literature by female academics and historians.)”

[end of excerpt]

http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/352728-dont-abandon-americas-female-veterans-to-staggering-risk-of-suicide#

These experts urge:

And to our sisters in arms, please reach out if you need help.

“If you or someone you know is at immediate risk for suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.”

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/military-crisis-line

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/education/signs-of-crisis

 

union-jack-with-royal-crest-250 x 147A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

 

 

Depression-DNI-SFW_0 image with Forces Radio story re allcallsigns.org 800 x 450

The following is taken verbatim from online content to accompany a 4 September 2018 broadcast on Forces Network BFBS Radio (this image accompanies the story.)

https://www.forces.net/radio/all-call-signs-veterans-fighting-your-mental-health

A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

The former soldiers’ battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) inspired them to set up a new peer to peer chat support network to help those struggling with mental health.

All Call Signs co-founders Steven James and Dan Arnold both served with The Second Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and created All Call Signs amid concerns over high waiting times for mental health services and a growing number of veteran suicides.

In the audio clip below Forces Radio BFBS Aldershot’s Natasha Reneaux caught up with the friends and first spoke to Steven to find out about the tri-service support network.
“We’ve got 60 plus users at the moment who are all ex-military, have all been in the same shoes as the people that are calling in.

“They understand the language; they’ve been in the same places so they get it.”

The ethos and mission statement of All Call Signs is “camaraderie in the face of adversity, whether in uniform or out.”

All Call Signs isn’t like a call centre. When someone clicks the Chat Now button you’re automatically connected to a volunteer via WhatsApp.

The volunteers have all served so understand what life is really like in the military.
“Once you’ve made that connection, you’ve got someone to chat to whenever you just need a pick me up…

“You can check up on each other and make sure you’re doing OK.”

However, this isn’t just a text service. The initial contact via WhatsApp can develop into a phone or video call, whatever the user feels most comfortable with.

It’s not just a service you can find on WhatsApp.

All Call Signs launched their Beacon, an AI-powered geo-location search assistance app in September which is already being embraced and used by the military community they are here to help.

The aim is for people to subscribe to Beacon on Facebook Messenger so that if a vulnerable member of the military community goes missing they will be sent an alert.
“Getting boots on the ground in response to an at risk person going off the radar can literally mean the difference between life and death.

“Our hope is that Beacon will prevent a lot of the misinformation and confusion that has hindered search efforts in the past.”

All Call Signs is designed to complement and not replace what’s already available for veterans.

Dan and Steve were increasingly becoming aware of suicides within the veteran community and felt like something more needed to be done to support the vulnerable members of their military family.

“There’s fantastic support out there with agencies like Combat Stress, The Royal British Legion and Hague Housing.

If you want to volunteer your time or are interested in looking after your mental health visit http://www.allcallsigns.org

https://allcallsigns.org/

 

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative that will continue to contribute to bridging the gap in experience, knowledge, and understanding that divides those who’ve never served under arms from those who have. He’s the civilian son and grandson of veterans and a lawyer who’s spent most years arguing criminal and constitutional issues in America’s state and federal trial and appellate courts. His most recent publication chronicles a tragic story that a former client asked him to tell, from his deathbed:   

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

A cure for PTSD: swift. efficient. soul stealing.

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Here’s the second of three excerpts from this author’s draft article mss about the successful effort by a clandestine, multi-national, public-private partnership to rescue from German-occupied Europe the bombardier of a B-17 downed over Holland in 1943.

* * *
“. . .

“Among American airmen forced to undergo lobotomies were “Melbert Peters, a bomber crewman given two lobotomies—one most likely performed with an ice pick inserted through his eye sockets. And Mr. Tritz, the son of a Wisconsin dairy farmer who flew a B-17 Flying Fortress on 34 combat missions over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe.”

“But like a friend who drinks naively from a cocktail of radiator fluid and rat poison and then tells his friend, “Try it, you’ll like it,” American doctors encouraged British psychiatrists to take up the practice. As Hugh Levinson writes in his 2011 BBC News Magazine article The Strange and Curious History of Lobotomy, “From the early 1940s, it began to be seen as a miracle cure here in the UK, where surgeons performed proportionately more lobotomies than even in the US.”

“Naming the procedure for the sharp instrument that’s thrust into the brain, practitioners in Britain performed more than 1,000 leucotomies a year at its peak. “It was used to treat a range of illnesses, from schizophrenia to depression and compulsive disorders.” As recently deceased historian Ben Shephard pointed out in poignant detail, the Crown’s heroes from World War II were not spared the irreversible procedure.

“It’s disturbing to watch a combat veteran who beat terrible odds to make it home alive only to have his brain benevolently “stirred” with a sharp spike. And history has already begun to judge the procedure and its proponents with a declarative “WTF?”

“But if we’re to be honest with science and with history we might at least consider what Mr. Levinson says about why the procedure became so favored in Britain:

“’The reason for its popularity was simple – the alternative was worse.

‘When I visited mental hospitals . . . you saw straightjackets, padded cells, and it was patently apparent that some of the patients were, I’m sorry to say, subjected to physical violence,” recalls retired neurosurgeon Jason Brice.

‘The chance of a cure through lobotomy seemed preferable to the life sentence of incarceration in an institution.

‘We hoped it would offer a way out,’ says Mr. Brice. ‘We hoped it would help.’”

“. . . .”

(end of excerpt)

* * * 
The following information is from the endnotes that accompany the above text (content originally appeared on Facebook, which did not include foot/endnote numbering. However, sequence and content are the same as in the original draft mss):

Lobotomy Practitioners in the United States proselytized psychiatric communities elsewhere, including in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. Rakefet Zalashik and Nadav Davidovitch. Last resort? Lobotomy operations in Israel, 1946-60, History of Psychiatry 17(1) 91-106. Sage Publications 2006.

Hugh Levinson. The strange and curious history of lobotomy. BBC News Magazine, 8 November 2011; http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15629160

See Ben Shephard, A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the 20th Century (Jonathan Cape 2000). See review by Philip Hoare in The Guardian: “And they called them cowards.” https://www.theguardian.com/…/nov/12/historybooks.firstworl…

One of the more intuitive reviews of War of Nerves appeared in The Village Voice: 
“Shephard didn’t write A War of Nerves with Iraq in mind; the bulk of it focuses on the two world wars and Vietnam, with a short section on the Falklands and the 1991 Gulf War at the end. But its unflinching look at the awkward intersection of psychiatry and the military offers a fascinating left-field perspective on war and its hidden costs. Weaving together a panoramic array of source materials (official reports, soldiers’ diaries, interviews with doctors, Pentagon memos, snatches from novels and academic treatises), he catalogs 20th-century attempts to lessen the agony of war, at least for the troops—an unenviable task.”—Joy Press, The Village Voice

* * *

Author Link:

https://combatresearchandprose.com/about-this-researcher/

 

(B-17F Flying Fortress and Crew 8th Air Force. Image attribution:  https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/aircrafts-2-3/b-17/b-17f-flying-fortress-and-crew-8th-air-force/ )

 

Combat Trauma aka PTS(D) kills on and off the battlefield, say an HBO documentary and the author of The Invisible Front

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”   -Merriam Webster

***This 5-minute clip from a James Gandolfini/HBO documentary begins at minute 34:41 – 39:53 and is excerpted from John Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent, and Matthew O’Neill with James Gandolfini, WARTORN: 1861-2010. HBO 2011; accessed at The Documentary Dude as published on YouTube on May 16, 2016. 

 

Yochi Dreazen is the author of The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. Here’s an excerpt from an opinion piece that appeared in The Washington Post on November 7, 2014:

Jeremy Sears, a Marine who had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, walked onto a shooting range outside San Diego on Oct. 6, placed a handgun to his head and calmly pulled the trigger. It was a local news story but didn’t attract attention outside San Diego for the most tragic of reasons. Military suicides have become so common — since 2001, more active-duty U.S. troops have killed themselves than have been killed in Afghanistan, and suicides among reservists and National Guard members are spiking — that they are now background noise to many Americans, unpleasant reminders of wars most of us have forgotten about. But we won’t be able to solve the problem until we understand it. Let’s get rid of some myths.

“Repeated tours through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan are often cited as a primary reason so many troops take their own lives. But the statistics don’t support that explanation. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that longer deployments, multiple deployments and combat experience didn’t elevate suicide risk. In fact, more than half the troops who had taken their lives had never deployed. A separate, massive Army study found that, while suicide rates for soldiers who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2009, the rate for those who had never spent time in the war zones nearly tripled.

Since military suicides began increasing dramatically around the onset of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, there had been some hope that the numbers would come down once those wars were over. But the last U.S. combat forces left Iraq at the end of 2011, and the drawdown in Afghanistan is well under way. And yet the suicide rate within the military is holding steady. The number of active-duty suicides in 2013 dropped by 19 percent compared with 2012, but 2014 has seen them inch back up. This year, the military had lost 161 active-duty troops to suicide as of July, the most recent data available, compared with 154 during the same six-month time period in 2013. The numbers for the citizen-soldiers of the reserves and the National Guard have been even more dire, climbing 8 percent from 2012 to 2013, from 203 to 220. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told me in an interview, “I don’t think we’ve hit the top yet on suicides.”

. . .

Military culture has often derided soldiers suffering from PTSD or depression as cowards or worse. One unit at Colorado’s Fort Carson left mock forms titled “Hurt Feelings Report” near a sheet where troops sign out to see doctors. The document began, “Reasons for filing this report” and offered choices including “I am thin skinned,” “I am a cry baby” and “I want my mommy.”

The anonymous author might be surprised to know that Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and other elite troops from the military’s secretive Special Operations community are also killing themselves at record rates. Adm. William McRaven, who oversees those forces, said in April that he was worried about the well-being of his men — troops specially selected for their mental and physical toughness. “My soldiers have been fighting now for 12, 13 years in hard combat. Hard combat. And anybody that has spent any time in this war has been changed by it. It’s that simple,” McRaven told a conference in Tampa.

Mr. Dreazen’s complete opinion piece is available at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-suicide-in-the-military/2014/11/07/61ceb0aa-637b-11e4-836c-83bc4f26eb67_story.html?utm_term=.102c06441b61

An adapted excerpt from Mr. Dreazen’s book appears in Foreign Policy as “Tour of Duty: Ty Carter fought in Afghanistan and became a hero: now he has one more enemy to fight: PTSD.” https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/10/06/suicide-mission/

 

June 2018: VA clarifies its suicide statistics

A Stars and Stripes article posted June 25, 2018 on the blog of Special Forces Association Chapter IX suggests that the VA’s reporting of its suicide data has lacked precision:

For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported an average of 20 veterans died by suicide every day – an often-cited statistic that raised alarm nationwide about the rate of veteran suicide. However, the statistic has long been misunderstood, according to a report released this week. The VA has now revealed the average daily number of veteran suicides has always included deaths of active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve, not just veterans.

Craig Bryan, a psychologist and leader of the National Center for Veterans Studies, said the new information could now help advocates in the fight against military and veteran suicide. “The key message is that suicides are elevated among those who have ever served,” Bryan said. “The benefit of separating out subgroups is that it can help us identify higher risk subgroups of the whole, which may be able to help us determine where and how to best focus resources.”

The VA released its newest National Suicide Data Report on Monday, which includes data from 2005 through 2015. Much in the report remained unchanged from two years ago, when the VA reported suicide statistics through 2014. Veteran suicide rates are still higher than the rest of the population, particularly among women. In both reports, the VA said an average of 20 veterans succumbed to suicide every day. In its newest version, the VA was more specific.

The report shows the total is 20.6 suicides every day. Of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active-duty service members, guardsmen and reservists, the report states. That amounts to 6,132 veterans and 1,387 service members who died by suicide in one year. The VA’s 2012 report stated 22 veterans succumbed to suicide every day – a number that’s still often cited incorrectly. That number also included active-duty troops, Guard and Reserve, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Wednesday.  

https://sfachapterix.blogspot.com/2018/06/va-reveals-its-veteran-suicide.html

The VA encourages those who need help to reach out: “Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.” https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

(Featured image courtesy of Oliver Munday for The Washington Post. accompanied Nov. 7 2014 op ed by Yochi Dreazen.)

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, an open-source applied research initiative that will continue to do its part to contribute to bridging the gap in experience, knowledge, and understanding that divides those who’ve never served under arms from those who have. He’s the civilian son and grandson of veterans and a lawyer who’s spent most years arguing criminal and constitutional issues in America’s state and federal trial and appellate courts. Among his published research are works re Libyan-supported Jihadi terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, civilian-military law enforcement relations in the U.S., and the demands that an increasingly complex national security environment make for SOF forces. His research agenda includes national security/defense/veterans issues, with special attention to those facing challenges from combat stress/PTSD/TBI etc.