The 1944 U.S. Army training film Introduction to Combat Fatigue (T.F. 8-1402) is designed to help U.S. soldiers suffering from combat fatigue understand the origins of their physical and emotional symptoms. An officer narrates the short film, which uses combat scenes to recreate the stresses that lead to combat fatigue, following U.S. Marine Ben Edwards as he experiences combat situations that lead to combat fatigue. The narrator explains that fear is a universal emotion, and it has its uses. Soldiers storming across a field bunker down when taking fire (02:56), before pushing forward. However, the negative impact of fear on humans is that humans continue to remember the fear-inducing events, and this can take a toll on the person’s psyche. The narrator introduces viewers to a hospital ward (04:13) where Edwards is struggling with combat fatigue. The story of Edwards begins in a ship’s sleeping quarters, where Edwards and several other soldiers discuss the upcoming assault. The narrator explains that the anticipation of fighting can wear on a man’s nerves. The soldiers then descend the side of the ship into LCPs (09:11) and make their way to shore. As Edwards and his unit step onto the beach, the narrator explains that Edwards is a good fighter because he uses his fear as a useful tool to be cautious and alert for signs of danger. The troops move into the jungle and dig in (11:25). According to the narrator, their fear disappears as they realize that the enemy doesn’t know where they are. However, after four weeks of no fighting, the anticipation of fighting and its consequences make the men irritable. This is then followed by the death of a soldier and an aerial attack on the men while eating at base (15:37), which increases the soldiers’—and especially Edwards’—stress. Sleep deprivation and constantly being on alert compound the stress levels. The narrator notes that these factors are not enough to cause combat fatigue: a climax is needed to trigger the disorder. For Edwards, the climax is when a soldier in his unit trips a land mine while out on patrol (20:10). The death of his friend and the realization that it could have been him who died causes Edwards to develop combat fatigue, though he doesn’t realize it. Edwards is no longer on constant alert; rather, he falls into a dazed and somewhat disoriented state of mind. It is Edwards’ breaking point, and his inability to admit he hit his breaking point results in frustration and increased irritability. Edwards becomes paranoid and eventually fires his weapon at a phantom Japanese soldier (25:35), an action that is then determined to have no actual justification. This leads to Edwards being diagnosed with combat fatigue. The narrator explains that other signs of combat fatigue include vomiting, diarrhea, hostility, headaches, and insomnia. The film ends with the narrator emphasizing that the consequences of being in a constant state of fear and always on alert can be combat fatigue, and its cure is far from easy. The road to recovery for men struggling with combat fatigue involves accepting that they suffer from combat fatigue and acknowledging the constant fear, seeing a doctor, going to support groups, and staying physically active.
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