This rarely seen U.S. Navy film BATTLE FATIGUE DEALING WITH FEAR was produced during or just after WWII, and attempts to explain the condition known as “Battle Fatigue” or what we now describe as PTSD or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. It was intended to be shown to those suffering from battle fatigue, including those who were hospitalized.
As the psychiatrist host of the film explains, fear is a fighting man’s friend, but it can overrun you. A case study named Corporal Edwards is presented. In the case of Edwards, the symptoms are recognized, treated and he recovered, and they want to do the same for you. There is a fine line in exploration of these feelings that never crosses over into calling a man a coward or mentally ill, the focus is on the experience of the battle and how a useful emotion, when used to much can really harm a soldier.
Film begins with a uniformed officer speaking about being in a hospital and the pain that will come with the upcoming footage as a natural path of healing, physical or emotional.
Fear is the first emotion explored as rational and necessary.
1:22 A cat is demonstrated as being in “Condition Red” a fear based position of being on guard, the clip is related to what a soldier experiences on the battle field as they embark on a mission. The cat goes back to a relaxed position after the dog leaves.
3:15 The problem of remembering and how it makes it difficult to return to a relaxed state. We see a corporal who seems to be having a nightmare, we enter his dream and see he is in a battlefield, marching with a unit through the jungle, a bright something goes off and he wakes up crying.
5:21 The troops are in the barracks singing together. Talking to pass the time.
7:39 The corporal is excited, the men are tense, beginning to be afraid and trying to prepare for battle.
8:20 A live war scene as the soldiers ship out, ready to go, using their fear to make them keep, aware of every danger. The fear is natural and useful in battle.
9:26 The men assume a position in the jungle as orders are given to hold an area, two men are ordered ahead for security as the remaining troops execute the order and start digging. The troops joke and work diligently as the fear subsides.
12:00 The fear: The troops are in a downpour, starting to sound agitated, next a pair of troops are in a dugout trench waiting still. The agitation turns to real frustration as a soldier is shot.
14:10 Troops are raided while eating. Men are dropping to the ground, some in defense some from being shot. The excitement has completely given way to disillusion and fatigue.
15:26 Soldiers are in a trench, they hear an accented voice crying out Americans to the Beach.
16:00 The enemy, the Danger is always present so the corporal is never available to rest.
16:50 The soldiers are taking orders as they are warned that there may be snipers. The scene from Cpl. Edwards dream plays out. He’s visibly nervous as he reminds himself to keep five paces. A bomb goes off, the soldiers are told to spread out, and they move on, another mine goes off and a man is down. Corporal Edwards looks shocked and realizes it could have easily been him. Shooting continues as he aims and takes down a sniper from a tree limb. The bombing and shooting turns to chaos and the corporal slowly moves through the scene.
20:00 The doctor returns to the scene to explain that the remaining footage is a show of illness reached from Edwards pushing past his breaking point.
21:00 Edwards is irascible, everything annoys him to anger. His only calm is visiting the friends who are now gone. Every little sound set him to action, he’s hyper-vigilant. His attitude is carried over to an assessment for a shooting that should not have occurred.
25:40 The doctor explains how the physical traits take over and the fear would not subside. The doctors inviting the patient watching the film to share what they are holding in, reassuring them that it’s normal to feel these things. The troops are encouraged to learn about what’s happening and how to manage the feelings. Fear is a part of living, help, not a handicap. Fear is a fighting man’s friend.
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