Grossman: On Combat (3)

Further thoughts about On Combat: The Psychology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace (Warrior Science Publications, 2008) by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman with Loren W. Christensen.

What I haven’t yet found in the Grossman book—granted, I’m only half way through it—is a discussion of what motivates men and women in combat more than anything else: the desire to save the guy fighting next to you.

That was the dominant motivation I had on the battlefield. And from watching and talking to combatants, I believe that each of them felt the same way I did. I would have willingly sacrificed my life to assure the safety of my fellow combatants. I knew they’d do the same for me.

And Grossman’s categorization of men in combat differs from mine. He speaks of men who looked forward to combat as being the best fighters. Those who wished they could avoid it, he says, were less effective. That wasn’t my experience. I did come across a small number of men who reveled in the fight to the death. They enjoyed killing. They were men I wanted by my side when the shooting started, but I found these men strangely lacking in normal human feeling. It was as though part of their humanity was missing.

The soldiers and Marines I loved—and, yes, it was love—were those who hated war but did their job in combat anyway. They fought as well and as bravely as men who loved killing. More than once, such a man saved my life. Those who loved killing never did.

More when I’ve finished the book.

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