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The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle (1959)

by J. Glenn Gray

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1713126,351 (3.93)1
Selected for the 2019 Commandant's Professional Reading List J. Glenn Gray entered the army as a private in May 1941, having been drafted on the same day he was informed of his doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University. He was discharged as a second lieutenant in October 1945, having been awarded a battlefield commission during fighting in France. Gray saw service in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany in a counter-espionage unit. Fourteen years after his discharge, Gray began to reread his war journals and letters in an attempt to find some meaning in his wartime experiences. The result is The Warriors, a philosophical meditation on what warfare does to us and an examination of the reasons soldiers act as they do. Gray explains the attractions of battle--the adrenaline rush, the esprit de corps--and analyzes the many rationalizations made by combat troops to justify their actions. In the end, Gray notes, "War reveals dimensions of human nature both above and below the acceptable standards for humanity."… (more)
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An extrapolative memoir with some research.
  librisissimo | Oct 15, 2016 |
I have never experienced combat or even war for that matter, but it has always consumed my thoughts. (this would be the single point of contention between me and the author who believes no one gives thought to these matters.) To me, war constitutes all of man’s extreme qualities and concentrates them into a single moment. Cruelty and Love, Fear and Courage, can coexist in the same moment and in the same person. If we want to really understand what it is that makes us human, I think we need to understand men in combat, or at least reflect on it and try. This observation is the first part of Gray’s ‘thesis’.
WWII interests me not because of the American involvement in what is hailed as “The good War€?. I think that is mindnumbing nationalistic propaganda. MY interest in WWII stems from the fact that more civilians died in that war than did combatants. (Another point of the author) What is happening to society? When did the line between combatant and innocent civilian disappear and why, is the second part of Gray’s ‘thesis’.
This book, written by a philosophy PhD (awarded his doctorate with the same mail that brought him his “greetings from the presidentâ€? letter–his ‘draft’), and a soldier who spent 4 years in the war, is an attempt to answer these questions as best he can. It was written in the last years of the Vietnam conflict. This is what prompted him to reflect on his own war experience and the quesitons philosophical, ethical, and moral which had haunted him. He does NOT make any claims that one war is better or different than the next. It is NOT a book about the glory of WWII and the vulgarity of Vietnam, like one might assume.
Gray witnessed the material and human destruction of war from all angles. Having been involved for so long in this otherworldly event transformed him. It disrupted the continutity of his life. While in the war, his past life was meaningless, and then when away from the war, his war years became faded and irrelevant. This was his greatest fear and the ultimate impetus for his writing. This is an important work.
He ends the book with Lee’s quote…â€?It is good that war is so terrible, else we should grow to fond of it.â€? ( )
  thethinslice | Nov 12, 2005 |
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Gray, J. GlennAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arendt, HannahIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Selected for the 2019 Commandant's Professional Reading List J. Glenn Gray entered the army as a private in May 1941, having been drafted on the same day he was informed of his doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University. He was discharged as a second lieutenant in October 1945, having been awarded a battlefield commission during fighting in France. Gray saw service in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany in a counter-espionage unit. Fourteen years after his discharge, Gray began to reread his war journals and letters in an attempt to find some meaning in his wartime experiences. The result is The Warriors, a philosophical meditation on what warfare does to us and an examination of the reasons soldiers act as they do. Gray explains the attractions of battle--the adrenaline rush, the esprit de corps--and analyzes the many rationalizations made by combat troops to justify their actions. In the end, Gray notes, "War reveals dimensions of human nature both above and below the acceptable standards for humanity."

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