Eric Dean relates the psychological problems of veterans of the Vietnam War to the mental and readjustment problems experienced by veterans of the Civil War. Employing a multidisciplinary approach that merges military, medical, and social history, Dean draws on individual case analyses and quantitative methods to trace the reactions of Civil War veterans to combat and deatEric Dean relates the psychological problems of veterans of the Vietnam War to the mental and readjustment problems experienced by veterans of the Civil War. Employing a multidisciplinary approach that merges military, medical, and social history, Dean draws on individual case analyses and quantitative methods to trace the reactions of Civil War veterans to combat and death. He seeks to determine whether exuberant parades in the North and sectional adulation in the South helped to wash away memories of violence for the Civil War veteran. His extensive study reveals that Civil War veterans experienced severe persistent psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and flashbacks with resulting behaviors such as suicide, alcoholism, and domestic violence. By comparing Civil War and Vietnam veterans, Dean demonstrates that Vietnam vets did not suffer exceptionally in the number and degree of their psychiatric illnesses. The politics and culture of the times, Dean argues, were responsible for the claims of singularity for the suffering Vietnam veterans as well as for the development of the modern concept of PTSD....
|Title||:||Shook Over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War|
|Number of Pages||:||315 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Shook Over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War Reviews
This book is a very good piece of work. The author was trained as a lawyer before he became a historian.He applies that forensic training to examining the perceived image of the Vietnam veteran as being in some way a special case among America's veterans. that quality of being special somehow being determined by the nature of the war and their reception on returning home. He does this by comparing their experience to the experience of Civil War veterans who participated in a conflict that was won, and fought in a noble cause, the veteran's of that war, on both sides being given heroic status by their communities.I found the book of interest because the Civil War is of interest; essentially because it had the same kind of impact on a young America that the First World War was to have in Australia; because of the number of casualties sustained, (Australia had the greatest loss per capita of population of all combatants)and because of the hardships endured and the particularly bloody nature of both conflicts.In addition Australia was to respond to our veterans from WW1 as the Americans did to their Civil War veterans, they were welcomed back as heroes, and monuments to the fallen appeared in every settlement in the land, form the smallest village(they had all lost someone) to the state capitals and eventually a War Memorial Museum was dedicated in the national capital. A generous Veterans benefit scheme was established to care for returned servicemen and the widows and children of the dead. Not it must be said without some opposition from the political class but the force of public opinion was just too strong around the matter for the issue to be eschewed.The book was also of great interest to me as a Vietnam veteran who has been diagnosed with chronic combat related ptsd. I am therefore intimately acquainted with the history and nature of that conflict and with the trial and travails of veterans returning after that war. We had an experience on returning home that was similar to that of many returning American veterans. It was not much different to other wars until 1968 after the Tet offensive and support for the war waned as the brutality and indiscriminate destruction practised by American forces gained greater publicity on the daily news. Although Australian forces conducted a very different counter insurgency war, an approach that the Americans just couldn't get a grip on in their arrogance until it was too late,(the primary driver in that being Westmoreland who resembled in competence the butchers who ran the western front during WW1) Australian soldiers were seen during the later stages as having participated in the pointless surrealistic devastation of an entire country in the service of American ego. And this well beyond the point when it was perfectly clear that we did not and had never had a national interest there.In addition the Australian government was much less accepting and generous towards veterans returning from Vietnam than were the Americans who had open access to things like the GI Bill despite the failings of an unprepared VA. That mean mindedness of Australian politicians opened extensive wounds among Vietnam veterans who instead of feeling supported by of Veterans system that already existed and was designed to serve their needs found themselves largely excluded from it and in constant conflict with it even in often obviously deserving cases.In America the myth of the Vietnam veteran as a special case was in the creation. It became perceived wisdom and a sacred cow, as the author of this book points out, that they had suffered more than their forefathers, particularly from psychological wounds as evidenced by the definition of ptsd in the DSM and the politicization of this illness by people with all sorts of vested interests including the veterans themselves.Veterans in Australia were swept up in the stream of this myth creation just as we had been swept into the American war in Vietnam itsefl war This book presents evidence that this"special" status of Vietnam veterans is in fact undeserved and that what happened in that conflict had also certainly been in evidence among veterans of the Civil War as well and in other later conflicts, WW1 andWW2, which are touched on in passing.He also alludes to the fact that the myth itself, supported by a medical community that was highly politicized towards an anti war stance has not served the veterans themselves very well. There were indeed many who did suffer severe trauma due to their service (bearing in mind that only 15%of American forces in Vietnam were engaged in combat, the number for Australians was closer to 30% and in the Civil War it was 90%) and they deserve support and treatment.This not withstanding the arguments about what defines ptsd and how it should be treated. However this idea of special and different has contributed with major input by the mental health profession to the medicalisation of a normal human reaction to traumatic events and with that the idea that the disorder is in fact intractable and can only be managed without hope of cure or even semi permanent relief. This may be the case with some but could not in all likelihood even on the face of it, be so for the greater part of the many veterans given this diagnosis.They have become trapped in learned helplessness by a system that largely does nothing to alleviate their suffering other than feeding them drugs and sympathy. This has certainly been my experience and my observation over 20years from my own first diagnosis.Luckily I found a way forward for myself in meditation and other approaches that are now moving into the main stream of ptsd treatment in the US, sadly as always the Australian establishment, now privatized lags behind and is more interested in filling beds for profit than giving any real assistance. Given the huge problem and demand on resources being created by America's recidivist military adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq alternatives have to be found and resources are flowing in that direction.Even if for that reason alone the view that an attitude of special and different and the myth that it has created together with the idea that ptsd is a permanent and intractable condition must be reexamined.
Dean's book is a useful one, as it maps the recent cultural emphasis on PSD (made significant only in response to the Vietnam War) onto the Civil War era. Dean finds that, contrary to the popular myth that most soldiers were able to re-assimilate successfully into the"ordinary life" of reconstruction-era America, Civil War veterans actually underwent much of the "shell shock" and sustained psychological trauma experienced by Vietnam vets. Crucial to this study, which takes as its methodological focus the Indiana Sample of psychologically troubled ex-soldiers, are the emphases on the four diagnostic categories known to Civil War-era medicine: insanity; nostalgia; irritable, or trotting, heart; and sunstroke. Several useful sources are cited in footnotes through which a closer analysis of "nostalgia" and "trotting heart" can bring to light the cultural work produced by articulating (and obscuring) through medical discourse the effects of forced marching on the Civil War veteran. Also useful is a notion that Dean begins to develop which we might call the military sublime, a potential counterpoint to the typical Romantic understanding of walking in the 19th-century.
The author takes a look at the common soldier and his combat experience in the Civil War, compares it to the veteran experience in Vietnam and outlines the history of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as an actual pathological diagnosis.His conclusions could be considered somewhat controversial in light of the "special" status that Vietnam vets have enjoyed for decades:"Although one would not want to minimize the misfortune of many American soldiers in Vietnam, perhaps it is time to at least entertain the notion that contrary to the rhetoric of the past thirty years and contrary to what has become conventional wisdom in the United States, the Vietnam veteran--in the larger scheme of things-- may not have fared so badly. It would seem that the rhetoric about Vietnam vets having received "shameful" and "disgraceful" treatment at the hands of the American people and the U.S. government has, at a minimum, been exaggerated; the image of the Vietnam veteran as a uniquely troubled and scorned individual in American history may have more to do with political manipulation and a variety of social and cultural factors than with underlying objective reality." (page 182-183)
A really interesting study that starts out by examining the phenomena of PTSD in Vietnam vets and wondering if there was really something unique about the Vietnam experience to cause such trauma. Dean begins looking at the Civil War experience and digging through medical records to see if Civil War veterans showed signs of trauma and PTSD following their service. Though he only examines a small sample from Indiana, his findings are pretty incredible, with clear evidence that there were definitely *some* Civil War veterans who experienced symptoms that today would be considered PTSD. Dean comes off as a little harsh and judgmental toward Vietnam vets, but the examination of what Civil War service entailed is pretty interesting. Worth a read for Civil War buffs.
Beautiful descriptions of PTSD from the 19th century. The contrast to the Vietnam era was not particularly necessary, as this book's strength is in the civil war content, and the documentation of the presentation of PTSD in that era.