Men Against Fire: How Many Soldiers Actually Fired Their Weapons at the Enemy During the Vietnam War

Men Against Fire: How Many Soldiers Actually Fired Their Weapons at the Enemy During the Vietnam War

6/12/2006 • Vietnam

In a squad of 10 men, on average fewer than three ever fired their weapons in combat. Day in, day out — it did not matter how long they had been soldiers, how many months of combat they had seen, or even that the enemy was about to overrun their position. This was what the highly regarded Brigadier General Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall, better known as S.L.A. Marshall, or ‘Slam,’ concluded in a series of military journal articles and in his book, Men Against Fire, about America’s World War II soldiers. Marshall had been assigned as a military analyst for the U.S. Army in both the Pacific and Europe. The American, he concluded, comes ‘from a civilization in which aggression, connected with the taking of life, is prohibited and unacceptable….The fear of aggression has been expressed to him so strongly and absorbed by him so deeply and pervadingly — practically with his mother’s milk — that it is part of the normal man’s emotional make-up. This is his great handicap when he enters combat. It stays his trigger finger even though he is hardly conscious that it is a restraint upon him.’

Marshall’s claims did not go unchallenged, but despite the disagreements they were widely accepted as truth both within the nation’s military and by those writing about the war and its American fighting force. Marshall continued in his role as analyst and self-proclaimed military historian before, during and after the Korean War, authoring many more books and frequently appearing as a guest lecturer at Fort Leavenworth and other installations around the United States. It is not an exaggeration to say that he was more or less a living legend by the mid-1960s. Largely due to his influence, noncommissioned officers and officers sent to Vietnam at the beginning of the American buildup were concerned that their soldiers and Marines would not fire at the enemy.

The American fighting man made sure that these concerns were short-lived. He showed little hesitation to use a rifle, pistol, shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher or whatever other weapon he carried. Marshall himself visited Vietnam to conduct studies similar to those done during World War II and later emulated in Korea. He concluded that much had changed since those earlier conflicts and that it was not unusual for close to 100 percent of American infantrymen to engage the adversary during firefights in Vietnam. It seemed that all was well. Marshall had seemingly found that the Americans’ hesitation to fire was all but gone.

Some 20 years later, the validity of Marshall’s analysis was called into doubt. Respected researchers interviewed those who had accompanied him in World War II and also pored over his personal notes during the mid-1980s. Convincing evidence pointed to his having fabricated his World War II ratio-of-fire values, still so widely accepted at the time. The question seemed inevitable: Had there been a problem with Americans’ willingness to engage the enemy in World War II? If so, had it actually been rectified during the Vietnam War as Marshall claimed, or was the research done there just as flawed as had been the case a quarter of a century before?

The concern was fundamental to the nation’s military readiness. Americans would die needlessly and wars would be much extended if U.S. troops failed to perform the essential act of firing on the enemy. Compelled to determine whether a problem existed, I conducted a survey of 258 1st Cavalry Division Vietnam veterans in 1987. My motivation had nothing to do with determining Americans’ willingness to use their weapons in World War II; any results from Vietnam would not apply to a war fought decades before. The question was whether there might be an existing problem in the U.S. armed forces. Despite Marshall’s fall from grace, there were those who had agreed with him. The issue was important enough to investigate rigorously. Since Vietnam was the most recent U.S. war, its veterans were the men who could provide answers to critical questions addressing willingness to fire. Ultimately it was their responses that formed the basis for a detailed study of this issue and the influence of training, the 12-month rotation and the six-month command tour on the American fighting man’s combat performance. The results of that study were published in 2000 in the book Reading Athena’s Dance Card: Men Against Fire in Vietnam. This article summarizes those findings relating to whether men fired their weapons and what factors influenced their willingness to do so.

Only nine of the 1st Cavalry Division veterans reported that they never personally fired on the enemy, a far different result from what Marshall had written was the case in the Pacific and Europe. But some might suspect that a man would hesitate to admit his own shortcomings under fire. The veterans were therefore also asked to reflect on the performance of their comrades in arms. When asked what portion of their fellow soldiers fired during any given engagement, the veterans estimated that about 84 percent of a unit’s men armed with individual weapons (rifles, pistols, grenade launchers, shotguns) and approximately 90 percent of those manning crew-served weapons (generally the M-60 machine gun) did so.

From these responses it seems that Americans in Vietnam had little hesitation to engage their enemy. Yet the observations of these veterans prompt the question of why, on average, nearly two of every 10 men were not firing when their unit was in contact. The apparent problem was not of the magnitude Marshall had reported for World War II, but losing the firepower of so many soldiers was still no small matter. In a unit with 500 riflemen, some 80 would not engage. Unlike the numbers from Marshall’s work, these estimates came directly from the men who had fought in the cities, jungles, firebases and rice paddies of Vietnam. Why did so many not fire?

No single factor explains it. A man’s duty position was one critical element. Soldiers surveyed in the 1st Cavalry Division can in general be said to have come from one of two basic groups. The primary job of the first group was to engage the enemy with small-arms fire. These men served as riflemen, machine-gunners, helicopter door gunners, vehicle crewmen or others who were to kill the adversary with the weapon they carried. The second basic group consisted of others who accompanied those of the first group. It included men who might sometimes fire on the adversary, but that was not their primary responsibility. These Marines and soldiers were squad leaders, first sergeants, platoon leaders and company commanders directing maneuvers, distributing ammunition, calling for fire or performing the many other tasks that success in a firefight demanded. They included assistant machine-gunners, whose first responsibilities were to load an M-60 and help the gunner to identify targets. Others were artillery forward observers who called for and directed artillery and aircraft fire; medics caring for the wounded; engineers destroying bunkers, removing mines or investigating tunnel complexes; chaplains; radio operators passing information; or pilots flying helicopters.

In the case of the second group, vital duties were left undone if on contact these men first raised rifle to shoulder or drew a pistol to engage. There were occasions when firing their weapons was essential, but many times their choice to engage rather than perform their other duties would have done more harm than good. Lieutenant General Harold Moore recalled what his responsibilities as commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, demanded of him in his classic book We Were Soldiers Once… and Young. Moore noted that he was tempted by the opportunity to join his riflemen in firing on the enemy during fighting at LZ X-Ray in 1965, but he ‘resisted the temptation. I had no business getting involved with the actions of only one company. I might get pinned down and become simply another rifleman. My duty was to lead riflemen.’ For a very different reason, chaplains rarely engaged the enemy. Regulations proscribed men in those positions from carrying weapons, though some felt compelled to do so in a war in which medics and chaplains, who were not legitimate targets under accepted rules of war, were shot and killed nonetheless.

But even the men whose primary job was to engage the enemy found that at times they could not fire. Location was a second factor that determined whether a man pulled, or should have pulled, the trigger of his weapon. A soldier at the tail of a column winding through the dense foliage of a Southeast Asian jungle might hear an engagement to his front, yet be unable to see where his comrades were located. If he fired, he risked shooting his own men. That same infantryman might later be on the perimeter of a defensive position when the enemy attacked the other side of his firebase. Sluing his weapon around in the dark and firing meant those bullets could strike other defenders in the back.

And it should be no surprise that at times fear kept men from firing. Although the habitual coward was rare, 80 percent of those explaining why a fellow soldier did not fire cited fear as one of the causes. Yet these respondents noted at the same time that fear was generally a passing condition; a man not engaging on one occasion could be expected to use his weapon later in the same engagement, or during subsequent battles. Sometimes what appeared to be fear was really common sense, based on an accurate assessment of the situation. A man could be pinned down by heavy and accurate incoming fire. Given that everybody in a unit rarely faced such focused attention, men would wait until the enemy pointed their weapons elsewhere before engaging. One veteran recalled situations when ‘many soldiers don’t return fire because they are behind a tree or log under heavy suppressive fire. Once artillery or other units create a distraction of fire with the enemy, these same soldiers will return fire with relish.’ Another bitterly recalled that his platoon leader ‘chickened out and let a large NVA force through our ambush without engaging them,’ perhaps because he had been fearful. Then again, perhaps it was good judgment on the part of an experienced lieutenant. It was not unusual for an ambush party to let the enemy pass because the Americans were so greatly outnumbered that engaging would have led to disaster. Several veterans recalled that they had been on ambushes where they did not spring the trap for just such a reason.

Level of personal experience could be linked to how scared a man was. New men were too frequently overwhelmed by the sudden roar of a contact, the flying debris of dust, leaves and wood. Even experienced men could find such situations difficult; they were potentially terrifying when first encountered. The consequence of a replacement’s failure to respond could sometimes mean the new man’s death. A 1st Cavalry Division veteran recalled one recent arrival who lost his life ‘because he was apparently looking for a foxhole with a concrete lining. As he was dying, he kept saying, `I couldn’t find a hole.’ He was hit about 10 to 15 seconds after we received the first shots and was standing up looking confused. He didn’t respond to the `get down’ yells by other troops.’ Another soldier concluded that when someone failed to fire, it ‘was usually during their first firefight experience and was mainly due to fear or the unsure feeling of how to respond.’ A third admitted that this was undoubtedly the case for at least one rifleman: himself. He wrote that he did not fire in one of his first encounters with the enemy due to fear, adding, ‘I am ashamed to admit this.’ Not firing on one or two occasions did not mean the same man’s response would not be far different during a subsequent event, however. And in fact fear could also have just the opposite effect, as was the case with a veteran who recalled that he was ‘too damned scared to do anything else than shoot and hope I did not get shot.’

Weapons malfunctions sometimes kept a man from engaging even if he wanted to — as did unfamiliarity with a weapon. Controversy regarding the M-16 rifle and its variants developed soon after it was designated as the rifleman’s primary weapon in the theater. Many veteran respondents remained bitter about what they perceived to be a failure to properly train them during the transition from the M-14 to the newer rifle. A considerable number recalled how the weapon they used during basic and advanced individual training was the older M-14, but that the M-16 was issued on their arrival in Vietnam. Too often these men received inadequate training on the unfamiliar rifle before they were committed to active operations. Others are equally passionate about the M-16’s alleged mechanical unreliability. Whether he carried an M-16 or some other weapon, a soldier was fortunate if a rapid reaction drill corrected the problem. If not, a replacement weapon had to be found either during or after the firefight. In either case, the warrior was under fire with no means to engage his attackers.

The assigned mission at times meant that actions other than killing the enemy had a higher priority. Units on intelligence collection operations frequently let a threat pass by unmolested. The members of these patrols sometimes called for artillery to engage the targets after they passed; in other instances, the Americans simply reported what they had seen. Firing their weapons risked compromising a patrol’s position, whereas resisting the temptation could provide the information-collectors with several more days of unmolested activity. Given the difficulty of inserting a patrol in many instances, preserving secrecy could easily outweigh the immediate benefit of a few enemy taken under fire.

Similarly, good tactics at times meant that a soldier did not use his primary weapon, if he engaged at all. Experienced units often shifted some if not all of their men just before or after darkness fell so that the NVA or VC could not mark American locations for attack later that night. Enemy sappers routinely made post-sunset attempts to determine the location of U.S. perimeter defensive positions. They sought to cause the Americans to fire so that muzzle flashes would give the defenders’ positions away. Determining the location of heavy weapons such as machine guns was especially desirable; those were primary targets during any attack because of their greater killing potential. Men in well-trained units knew when to detonate a Claymore mine, call for mortar or artillery support, or throw a grenade instead of using a rifle, pistol, machine gun or grenade launcher. These alternatives were means of dealing with a threat without compromising firing positions.

Personal beliefs did play a role, though a far less pervasive one than Marshall claimed was the case during World War II. Conscientious objectors accompanied infantry units into combat as medics, ammunition bearers for machine guns, or in other noncombatant roles. They often put themselves at greater risk by not carrying weapons. If the 1st Cavalry Division respondents reflect the majority veteran view, such men generally performed their duties well and were often respected for their convictions. A veteran respondent remembered that he ‘had a medic who was a conscientious objector in the platoon. He chose not to carry a weapon during his tour. When asked if he would fire a weapon if our platoon was being overrun and some of his buddies might die if he did not, his answer was that he `would not fire a weapon.’ He was still respected for his deep conviction against weapons.’

A unit could be in a no-fire zone, an area in which using weapons was prohibited. Poor training that improperly prepared soldiers for combat underlay other cases of failing to engage. In at least one instance a man turned to point out an enemy soldier rather than firing as he should have. Finally, one veteran recalled his simply being outgunned as he stood ‘naked on top of a shower stall put-ting water in. I threw the water can at the enemy, but the round fell way short.’

The list is not exhaustive, but it helps to explain why a unit might have several men not engaging despite being under fire. Often every man fired during a contact; at other times, only a few had the opportunity. And there were occasions when fear, cowardice, poor judgment or confusion kept men from employing weapons against their foes when they should have. However, such occasions were the exception in Vietnam.

It is evident that the vast majority of those whose duties put them in harm’s way fired when the situation dictated they should do so. But what factors influenced how many times a man had the opportunity to engage the enemy during his time in Southeast Asia? Were there factors that made it more likely for some men to fire than others? We already know that duty position had such an effect, but the likelihood that someone engaged varied even among those whose primary job was to shoot to kill. More than a third of the 1st Cavalry Division veterans fired on the NVA or VC less than 15 times while in-country. Nearly 80 percent engaged 50 or fewer times. Members of one group in particular, however, consistently saw much more action: aviators and their door gunners. Enlisted men, warrant officers and commissioned officers who flew or crewed aircraft tended to have considerably more engagements on average. A third of this group engaged the enemy more than 100 times; fewer than half fired on the enemy less than 50 times.

Besides influencing whether and how often a man fired, duty position also greatly affected his chances of coming home alive. On average, two 1st Cavalry Division soldiers awoke to their last sunrise every day of the 612 years the unit was in Vietnam. Riflemen, door gunners and others who served at the cutting edge, men like the vast majority of those who took my survey, were of course more likely to suffer wounds than others in less exposed specialties.

Climate was another element that made a given day more or less likely to involve enemy contact. The northern part of South Vietnam normally had its rainy season from September to January, the southern part from May to September. That meant enemy infiltration routes were difficult to travel during all but the February-to-May period. Not surprisingly, American units (and the French before them) suffered their largest numbers of casualties during these late winter and spring months.

Likewise, men quickly learned where the chances of enemy contact were greater. That was true locally, in that a given village or region habitually had more contacts than did others in the vicinity. It was also true at the province level. Three of South Vietnam’s provinces (Quang Tri, Quang Nam and Thua Thien) accounted for more than 40 percent of American casualties. More than three-quarters of U.S. servicemen were killed in action in just 10 of the country’s more than 40 provinces.

Time likewise played its part. Although it was not evident until after the war, 1968 was undeniably the year in which the chances of being killed were greatest. It was the only year during the U.S. participation in the conflict in which more than 10,000 Americans lost their lives. For every 1,000 Americans in Vietnam in 1968, 28 died, a higher ratio than in any other year.

Time influenced fatalities in another way, too. The amount of combat experience played a dominating role in the likelihood a man survived. The replacement who was killed while in a panic-stricken search for a ‘concrete foxhole’ lost his chance to learnthe skills needed to survive. Veterans repeatedly cited how vulnerable the new man was until he had a chance to learn the ropes after arriving in the combat theater. The chances that a man would die during his first three months in Vietnam were virtually equal to those for the last nine months of his tour combined. The likelihood that a man survived to return home alive dramatically increased if he lived long enough to discover the lessons of war.

A nation sending its youth to war must prepare them well if those individuals are to survive the experience. Veterans who responded to the survey regarding their months at war passed on many thoughts regarding their performance, expectations, weapons, training, the 12-month tour of duty and the six-month command tour. The lessons of Vietnam are there for those willing to learn.


This article was written by Russell W. Glennt and originally published in the April 2002 issue of Vietnam Magazine.

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35 Responses to Men Against Fire: How Many Soldiers Actually Fired Their Weapons at the Enemy During the Vietnam War

  1. Bill Schroeder says:

    Interesting . I need to find that book .

    • Bill Randall says:

      IF you call spraying the brush, from prone, with your rifle held over your head, not even shouldered, “engaging” the enemy, MAYBE.

  2. R. Bloomfield says:

    This is utter twaddle. Every single one of my men in the 3/B/2/503 fired his weapon at the enemy in every single one of my firefights. SLA Marshall may be correct about WWII but he is full of crap about RVN.

  3. jimh says:

    some of us gi’s where in an area where we only saw our wepons on sunday to clean them.I still have guity to this day.I was single and feel I should have died instead of a man with a family.

  4. […] resources to increase the percentage of soldiers willing to engage the enemy with direct fire. Men Against Fire: How Many Soldiers Actually Fired Their Weapons at the Enemy During the Vietnam War… […]

  5. Peter Kamp says:

    The understandig of this problem is still crucial – men (or women) should not face combat alone. The fire team will ensure peer pressure to participate, give wider observation arc and first aid in case of casualties.

    The absence of artillery in Vietnam allowed closer formations and thereby increased the inclination to fire as the others do. The sound of fire is a moral boost and much louder than the opposit ;-).

  6. Kevan Mynderup says:

    During my 9 months in country with the “C” 1/8th Cav, 1st Air Cav Div, being shot in the chest Nov 21,68 shortened my tour, I never once saw or heard of someone NOT firing his weapon.
    Everyone in the company, except the C.O., his RTO and the medics always fired their weapon.
    Talking to other guys from 1/8th Cav, it was the same way. Everyone fired their weapon.
    If this article was based on S.L.A. Marshall’s research, that research has been proved totaly false.

  7. […] Posted by flylooper Best I can do. My best friend wrote a book called Tears of the Dragon: The Other Vietnam War in which he claims […]

  8. Warner DeFord says:

    Having a radio on my back and the responsibility of ground to air liaison and directing close air support and anything else involving aircraft had me to tied up to do any shooting except once….. My company was on sparrow hawk/ bald eagle at Vandegrift combat base and sent out to the 1st brigade of the 5th mechanized division and since the Army did things very differently and relied on the air force for close air support I was in a situation where I had nothing better to do but fire on enemy in the open in a valley between us and the army to keep them pined down until Hueys followed by high flying air force jets came over to kill the same guys that were for the most part already dead…. We had to walk down and count the bodies that were pretty well roasted by napalm from the jets. My issue weapon was a Ka-Bar and 1911A1 Colt but I had picked up a M-16 on Operation Dewey Canyon from a guy that would have no more use for it so I wouldn’t stand out from the other Marines by looking different.

  9. […] book entitled Men Against Fire in which he claimed that during World War II, in a squad of 10 men, only 3 men would fire when called upon to do so. He conducted similar research during the Vietnam War and […]

  10. wardad says:

    Marshall is a thoroughly discredited liar ! and this garbage he connected through falsified after action reports ( it was worked out that he would have had to be in several places at once and done nothing but do interviews 24/7 !) is a slap in the face to WW2 Vets ,even if it were true it certainly wouldn’t apply to other nations ! I couldn’t imagine letting 8 out of the 10 men in my section sit on their butts and hide in a sh.t fight! and it’s galling to see Marshalls rubbish trotted out as ” fact ” time and again ,even a whole documentary series based on this bs premise !

  11. […] General S.L.A. Marshall concluded in his book, Men Against Fire, about America’s World War II soldiers that most soldiers on all sides neither killed anyone […]

  12. […] his arguments. Perhaps inevitably, his readers would mistake his certitude for authority. Here's another good article that better explains the history of that false belief about hesitation to fire, including an […]

  13. […] Men against fire: how many soldiers actually fired their Men against fire: how many soldiers actually fired their weapons at the enemy during the vietnam war: originally published by vietnam magazine. […]

  14. At says:

    Has any research been done about numbers of soldiers firing weapons but not killing. I.E. missing by subconscious pulling shot or other

  15. Bob Williams says:

    You are spot on except for SLA Marshall who was shown to hae fabricated all his after action reports .
    Marshalls lies still get quoted as fact even now when we know its rubbish .
    As is this book .

  16. […] Canadians Under Fire: Infantry Effectiveness in the Second World War – Robert Engen – Google Books Men Against Fire: How Many Soldiers Actually Fired Their Weapons at the Enemy During the Vietnam War As for actual named officers criticizing Marshall's work, I'm going to dig for it but its not […]

  17. Lee Whiteley says:

    of the 612 years the unit was in Vietnam. Rifle

    surely 612 days?

  18. […] don’t want to kill and will tend to fire over the enemy’s head, or not at all. While some studies have been contested, there still appears to be grains of truth in these claims. Either way, perhaps this is in part why the overlord tends to have armies of orcs rather than […]

  19. Huey Doorgunner says:

    I flew in and out of Vande during Dewey Canyon, and EVERYONE I know of was firing their weapon NO HESITATION!
    Semper Fi

  20. Joseph P. Conrad 'Doc' says:

    Conscripted as a 1AO (objector status), assigned to 1st Air Cav 2nd of the 8th Alpha, I couldn’t fire what I refused to carry – a weapon (did carry M 60 ammunition). My men did not pay price for my decision. This wounded infantry medic recognized the wounded, the dying, and those suffering, as my sole responsibility and respond accordingly, at times at great personal peril. When dropped of a ‘duce and a half’ to implant with my platoon, ‘Speed’ one of our M60 gunners ask ‘whats up with the no weapon’, I responded I won’t kill anyone but I will die for you, his response was Doc we’ll cover you, it was the brotherhood of GI blood that bound us. Both parties were good to our word.

  21. […] it seems that Americans in Vietnam had little hesitation to engage the enemy.  Marshall himself conducted research similar to his WWII studies and concluded that much had […]

  22. buzzman1 says:

    I have to ask if the advent of automatic rifles and the doctrinal change to suppressive fire could have impacted the number of men actually firing their weapons. In IOBC decades ago we were taught about Marshalls studies but we were taught that x # of 10 soldiers fired their weapons in the general direction of the enemy but, if I remember correctly, only 3 of 10 actually actively engaged the enemy forces with the intent to inflict casualties.
    Now doctrine is to use suppressive fire until you are right on top of them before using aimed fire or a hand grenade. And don’t forget that artillery inflicts the largest number of casualties so the cannon cockers never see the enemy they kill.

  23. Allan_Frayer says:

    Something that is never, ever acknowledged in these articles is race, because it’s not politically correct to do so and thus skews any analysis and science.

    In World War II, American men fought Germans – white men. Men like they themselves. In fact, many Americans come from German stock; the US government had to suppress the German language in many parts of the country during this period as people were speaking German, their street signs and newspapers were in German, and so forth. It’s absolutely conceivable that the American fighting man did not want to kill men who were for all intents and purposes, his people. Actually, George from Michigan might very well have been shooting at his own cousins, in a war he didn’t want to be in, in a war that had little justification at the time except US imperialism. The US government spent much effort in propagandizing against the Germans in an attempt to turn them into devils from hell.

    Contrast that with Vietnam; the hodghepodge US army/marines were now faced with – excuse my language – some gooks. These people were totally foreign to the American; of a different race, speaking a language that made no sense to them, from a culture absolutely alien to the West. They were much easier to dehumanize and thus, to kill. In this light, it comes as no surprise to read of the various American atrocities. Just like nobody dropped a sweat when the atomics fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so nobody cared when entire villages were put to the torch in Vietnam.

    • Tony_Stroppa says:

      Hello Allan,

      Thinking that racism is a factor in combat effectiveness is neither politically incorrect nor politically correct, it is (in the words of Larry Wilmore) “correct correct”.

      It, however, does not seem entirely plausible that the combat effectiveness of American soldiers during WWII was significantly degraded by the prospect of shooting at their fellow herrenvolk. After all, white Europeans, including Germans, have always waged internecine and often brutal war against each other with gusto and without much regard to their common “Aryan” heritage or culture. After Pearl Harbour white Americans clearly viewed the Japanese with a visceral hatred that probably made it a lot easier to kill them. (And, say, remove some guy’s skull, boil it to remove the flesh, autograph it with your buddies and send it home to your fiance so she can pose with it for Life magazine’s “Picture of the Week” in 1944.) It’s not like the Japanese didn’t give ample cause for this during the war for similar racist reasons of their own, although anti-Asian sentiment in the USA of course predated Pearl Harbour and WWII.

      Because of doubt cast on SLA Marshall’s studies we don’t seem to have a real baseline for comparing the performance of soldiers in WWII and US soldiers in Viet Nam. Assuming as a given there was an increase in combat effectiveness in the latter conflict, part is likely due to alterations in combat training after WWII. For example in WWII marksmanship training was based on target shooting, and feedback was mainly of pointers on gaining better accuracy. Whereas training for Viet Nam became over time much more realistic and pointed, incorporated into an entire program of conditioning soldiers into overcoming the natural reluctance to kill other humans due to belief in SLA Marshall’s theories.

      In short, it might not be PC to say this but if white people don’t see a given group of non-white folks as “people” then yes, absolutely, they should logically find it easier to kill them, and thus easier to train them to do so beforehand. (The same goes of course for any group in the world that doesn’t recognise the humanity of the enemy, regardless of their nominal race/ethnicity/religion.)

    • Triggerpuller says:

      I have heard this before kind of a left wing idea that we only kill the brown people. Having been a Marine, been in war and someone who has had a long interest in military history- I cannot think of any element of training now or in the past that leads me to believe that killing the brown man or being less willing to kill the white man is even remotely true. I think that is some lousy theory academics may kick around or the blame US first group likes to believe. Europe had centuries of basically all white on white wars. The blue water navies and eventually air transportation meant that exporting war was easier so ultimately fighting people that look different became as easy as fighting folks that look like you. And as someone of German descent I wouldn’t need anyone to convince me that the Germans were evil they provided all the proof needed because they were.

      If you read accounts of WW2 many people of german descent orItalian descent had zero problem killing fascists. If you look at wars in Europe the likelihood that you were killing your relatives (especially at the officer corps level) was much much higher and I think battles like the Somme prove that we have no problem killing people who look like this. I would need to see some very strong evidence of this theory before I took it to be anything more than something people who have never been to war talk about in their soft academic circles. And finally you mention torching villages in Tokyo and Vietnam- All well and good if you completely ignore what we did to France, Germany, Hungary etc in WW2. So for your last paragraph to make any sense we’d have to ignore a ton of reality.

      Did it happen with a small percentage of troop in a unit? I guess but if you have been to war you would realize that no one cares what someone looks like when the bullets are flying. Sorry but I think that theory is rubbish and kind of offensive to be honest. You completely ignore things like Dresden or the Somme to get to your point about Tokyo and Vietnam. I invite you to rethink your theory before you go in to the whole our military does better killing brown folks mode- it has zero evidence of a racial compulsion across the US military now or then.

    • seong pak says:

      Then, why so many whites died during the civil war on both sides?

    • BG Davis says:

      “a war that had little justification at the time except US imperialism”
      Where on earth did you come up with that idea? Nazi Germany posed an existential threat to the Western democracies – not to mention Russia and all of Eastern Europe.
      Please do explain how fighting Nazi Germany was somehow an imperialistic endeavor.

      • Phillip says:

        In the second to last paragraph… Wouldn’t calling Japanese people “Japs” be roughly equivalent of calling the British “Brits”?

        Not that it matters. soon we will be afraid to speak, lest we give offense to our Progressive overlords. (Only the new AI army can save us!) (Yes, I’m attempting a joke.)

  24. Triggerpuller says:

    If anything I’d say the most simple reason makes the most sense. Shooting someone is not nearly as easy as people think it might be and a non professional military is probably not going to be as effective as a well trained and equipped force. Many soldiers drafted in to Vietnam and WW2 had very little training compared to modern units. I hd been training basically non stop for 7 yrs before going to war. I went through every school/course possible as did many of my fellow marines. We trained as a unit and went off to schools to learn and bring info back. You go to mountain warfare leadership course- you come back with skills. I would venture to say a Marine over a 5 yr period of time had far more intensive and beneficial training than even the most advanced commando elements like SOE of WW2. I may over state a bit but I bet those guys were amateurs compared to what we trained with, for and at in modern volunteer military. The point being lack of confidence and well developed marksmanship skills can have a drastic effect on the individual.

  25. Curt Miles says:

    Being a veteran myself and working as a private military contractor for 20 plus years, I have found that most veterans embellish their military experience, just as much as there are the so called wannabe types, who never served, but lie about it anyway. As if being a “combat veteran” makes you somehow more manly than the everyday veteran. Basically, its the same bullshit, high school , “I can piss further than you can” mentality. Who really gives a shit what someone did or didnt do in the service of their nation, at least they served. the military operates successfully, because its a team effort. That means all hands share the glory, if there is such a thing. Most men who actually experienced hard core war, will tell you, it sucks.

    • BG Davis says:

      Well said. Thank you for a realistic point of view.

    • Phil Gardocki says:

      To be fair Curt, as a non-combat veteran (served 75-82, between any conflicts) I regard the wartime veteran’s service in higher regard than my own, and sometimes consider myself a bit of a fraud even to check off that Are you a Veteran checkbox.

  26. BG Davis says:

    Great article, clear, well thought-out. Raises many interesting points.

  27. Fred Doe says:

    I simply do not believe that a majority of armed, trained men of any nation, race, war or era, would fail to defend themselves vigorously with every weapon they had and secure their own lives, when under a concerted attack by a similar opponent. If that were true, no battle would ever really commence as few would be fighting and the air would soon grow silent.

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