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The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle

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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.”

242 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1959

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J. Glenn Gray

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews
Profile Image for Jimmy.
Author 6 books206 followers
December 7, 2016
I had never heard of this book before, but it was a great study of men in combat. J. Glenn Gray was drafted on the same day he received his PhD in philosophy from Columbia University in May 1941. He was discharged as a 2nd Lieutenant in October 1945. Fourteen years later, Gray reread his war journals in an attempt to find some meaning in his wartime experiences. He wrote this book, a philosophical meditation on what warfare does to us and why soldiers act as they do. By the end, he notes, "War reveals dimensions of human nature both above and below the acceptable standards for humanity."

His second chapter is called "The Enduring Appeals of Battle." Already I'm thinking, "This is a man who gets it and isn't afraid to say it." We can hide our heads in the sand and not appreciate why we have war, or we can look at it head on. For many men, war is what Dixon Wecter has called "the one great lyric passage in their lives." Gray lists the three appeals of war: "the delight in seeing, the delight in comradeship, and the delight in destruction." Fighters may know one or more of these appeals or some others that Gray is not aware of. If I were to add one more to Gray's list, it would be the delight in feeling alive. I have never been more alive than when I knew I could die at any moment.

The delight in seeing is probably the least understood. It is that rubberneck urge to see what is happening. Perhaps it is the Aristotelian idea of a catharsis. If we experience it and escape alive, we now know and go out and tell others. We need to see the unusual and not just the everyday.

War is beautiful. I have a line like that in one of my poems. I was surprised at the great beauty of it all. It is "wrong to believe that only beauty can give us aesthetic delight; the ugly can please us too." Every artist knows this. In addition to the disorder, war has "color and movement, variety, panoramic sweep, and sometimes even momentary proportion and harmony." As Robert E. Lee was reputed to have said, "It is well that war is so terrible--we would grow too fond of it."

The next point I have to quote verbatim: "Happiness is doubtless the wrong word for the satisfaction that men experience when they are possessed by the lust to destroy and to kill their kind. Most men would never admit that they enjoy killing, and there are a great many who do not. On the other hand, thousands of youths who never suspected the presence of such an impulse in themselves have learned in military life the mad excitement of destroying."

Hemingway said in For Whom the Bell Tolls: "Stop making dubious literature . . . and admit that you have liked to kill as all who are soldiers by choice have enjoyed it at some time whether they lie about it or not."

Chapter 3 is called "Love: War's Ally and Foe." Again, right on the money and not afraid to say so. The Greeks understood when Aphrodite mated with Ares.

Gray describes a moment when he went through a cave in Italy where there was no sanitation. A woman grabbed his hand in a move that was "unmistakably amorous."

Soldiers tend to concentrate on sex and women. Perhaps their most common word is "fuck." Many soldiers seemed "unable to utter a sentence without using it at least once." Just invoking the word seems enough. Legal brothels have often been provided for soldiers throughout history. Prostitution and soldiers seem to go hand in hand. A WWII expression: Soldiers want three things: Get drunk, get laid, and get home. But I also saw love between soldiers and the "girls" they coupled up with in Vietnam.

The darkest side of this is, of course, the rape that goes on. We see sex slaves in the Mideast today. My girlfriend in Vietnam had been sold to a soldier and raped in a locked room when she was younger.

Women also bring a "gentleness and affection" needed by men in wartime. All soldiers will remember some connection to their wartime experiences. Many times the soldiers and their loved ones did not even understand each other's language. The inability to communicate only "heightened the joy of discovery for them."

It is surprising that the French did not understand why French women found lovers with the German soldiers. These women were shamed publicly.

Chapter 4 is "The Soldier's Relations to Death." Death in combat is a reality. We know it is out there coming at us. Outside of combat, we plan for a long future. No one appreciates life more as he who is about to die or could possibly die. When you think you can live forever, you lose sight of the value of this moment. Death becomes something that happens to someone else, especially for the young.

"Soldiers fall and die in such contorted and unnatural positions, as a rule, that even their comrades find it hard to believe that, shortly before, they were alive. This is part of the mystery of death: those who enter its realm are quickly far removed from the living."

In one story, fleeing Germans steal horses. But when they are killed, no one is able to look at the horses without shuddering. Death came through with such clarity when looking at the eyes of the horses.

In the war poems of Rupert Brooke, death is longed for as the only possibility of giving life authenticity and creative power. All creation is a kind of dying. Combat soldiers become almost dedicated to death. Soldiers can find a meaning in their wartime experiences not available at home.

Chapter 5 is "Images of the Enemy." Even in this WWII book, armed warfare was becoming more where civilians were being killed from a distance with planes and cannons. Military ethics were disappearing. We begin to reach the conclusion: "Any act that helps my side win the war is right and good, and any act that hinders it is wrong and bad." We learn "Never give your enemy a chance." Restraints fall. We are conditioned to hate the enemy. They become easier to kill.

A civilian removed from the battlefield may be more bloodthirsty than the front-line soldier. Many WWII soldiers were appalled to receive letters from home wanting to know how many kills they had. The front-line soldier takes prisoners and knows a human being who wants to live.

Gray describes a scene where prisoners hum a tune and everyone joins in. Reminiscent of the perhaps the greatest ending to a war movie of all time: the ending of Paths of Glory directed by Stanley Kubrick. A must-see war film.

But when a soldier loses a friend, his anger turns to absolute hatred and a desire to exterminate every last one of the enemy.

The German general Rommel always treated his prisoners as comrades in arms.

Sometimes the enemy is seen as sub-human. Officers may even train their soldiers in hatred.

Chapter 6 is "The Ache of Guilt." In WWII the number of civilians who lost their lives exceeded the number of soldiers killed in combat.

Combat soldiers often fail to support their comrades in warfare at a critical moment, either by a sin of omission or commission. Sometimes officers can expose their men to needless destruction. Add to this the unnumbered acts of injustice so omnipresent in warfare. How could any soldier be free of care after all of that? The fact is that a great number of veterans are able to free themselves of responsibility. And our former enemies often show little regret or repentance. Gray says: "Americans in Germany after WWII, for instance, feel aggrieved that the German populace does not feel more responsibility for having visited Hitler upon the world. Germans, for their part, resent the fact that few Americans appear to regret the bombing of German cities into rubble and the burning and crushing of helpless women and children." We tend to point a finger and ignore our own faults.

Gray speaks of listening to Fascist and Nazi police and party functionaries saying, "My conscience is clear! I have done nothing wrong!" And "I was just carrying out orders!" It reminds me of police on trial today saying, "I felt my life was in danger." Say it no matter what.

Gray tells a story of a German soldier who refused to fire in an execution squad. He was then lined up and killed by his comrades.

Guilt often comes gradually. Older soldiers often feel the pain. There is no escaping the uniform you wear. Many American soldiers felt shock and shame at the nuclear bombs in Japan. Men of conscience know that the people there are not guilty of war.

Collective guilt can overtake a country as it did in Germany.

The final chapter is "The Future of War." As a young man, Gray secretly wished for a war he could participate in. That desire is in others. Thus, war will go on. And may I say from experience, life after war can seem boring. The intensity of life during war knows no equal.
Profile Image for Naeem.
388 reviews234 followers
October 26, 2008
The very best thing I have read on the attractions of war come from this book. Gray fought in WWII, survived, went to graduate school in philosophy, and decided to write a book.

I suspect that Chris Hedges War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning performs a similar function. In the Western canon, this line of thinking comes from Hegel. (See especially, D.P. Verene's chapter, "Hegel's Account of War," in Hegel's Political Philosophy: Problems Perspectives edited by Z. A. Pelczynski.) Hegel argues that war will never end so long as the warrior continues to be a viable human identity. What Hegel, Hedges, and Gray ask is: what qualities in the identity of a warrior attract us? What aspects of war draw our ethical -- yes, ethical -- desires?

To answer these questions Gray has chapters on the following: the aesthetic spectacle of War, the creation of camaraderie, and the opportunity to sacrifice one's life for a larger purpose.

To treat war as a regrettable aspect of the human condition, to treat it merely as a part of us that has gone wrong is (1) to not take war seriously, (2) therefore to offer palliatives for deep social wounds, and (3) to perpetuate the hidden culture that secretly and not so secretly valorizes war.

What Hegel, Hedges, and Gray do instead is to admit and face head on how war attracts us, galvanizes us, and gives our lives substantial meaning. Then and only then do they begin to offer a diagnosis.

The writing is beautiful but one must labor through this book because initially the terrain seems so foreign. If we accept the familiarity of this new country, then we return to it again and again.
Profile Image for Chris Tolve.
29 reviews3 followers
August 15, 2022
In 1941, J. Glenn Gray received two letters in the mail. One was his doctorate, officially naming him a philosopher. The other was his induction from the U.S. military into the Second World War. He fought for four years in Europe and Africa, recording his thoughts in a journal and letters to friends, and years later he wrote this book reflecting on the experience.

To be sure, this is a book about war. But it is really much more; despite the misleading title, Gray's conviction is that the warrior lives within all of us, civilian or soldier. If you're looking for a WWII memoir, this isn't it. What you'll find is a deeply stirring philosophical meditation on war, love, death, freedom, history, religion, psychology, human community and friendship, the construction of meaning, guilt, dehumanization, the attractions of violence, and what it means to be human. The author never ceases to struggle through the tension between imagining a world without war, if such a thing is possible, and confronting humanity as a species that needs warfare to sustain its very vitality. Gray refuses to flatly condemn violence as something wholly irrational and undesirable. Instead, he grapples with the ways in which it renders our lives meaningful, giving us purpose and adventure, making passionate love possible, showing us aesthetic beauty and communal ecstasy, and allowing us to purge ourselves of our destructive impulses. The question he poses is -- can we find an activity through which to channel those impulses without violence? No easy answer is given.

One powerful insight Gray forces us to accept is the danger of what he calls "abstract hatred." He observes, counterintuitively, that the soldiers battling at the front possess the least enmity toward their enemy, whereas those directing the fighting from non-combat positions, or those not involved in the military at all, are the most bloodthirsty. This results in funny anecdotes where soldiers are shocked to receive letters from girlfriends back home urging them to kill as many Japs or Germans as possible in a "do it for me babe" fashion. The explanation for this discrepancy is that for non-combat observers of the war, the enemy is a mere abstraction, constructed through images, sentiments and ideas to form a one-dimensional picture. For soldiers in the thick of battle, conversely, the enemy is a concrete experience, leaving much less to the imagination. It's easy to hate what you can't see.

I am reminded of a survey taken during WWII in which 50% of the U.S. military responded that the entire Japanese nation should be wiped out after the war. Unmitigated genocide. However, those respondents in non-combat positions were more likely to advocate extermination than those actually fighting. The same pattern can be observed in genocides which become actual, such as in Bosnia and Rwanda, where the state had to bus people into ethnically mixed communities from the outside to carry out the bloodbath. This is despite popular stories of grassroots, organic violence with neighbors slaughtering neighbors as if possessed by madness. To pick a less violent example of the phenomenon, it only appears puzzling that the areas of the United States where immigrants are least likely to settle -- white, conservative, rural communities -- are also the most rabidly anti-immigration if you disregard abstract hatred. The same applies for Britain, where the neighborhoods least affected by Polish immigrants are the most opposed to Brexit.

I wrote down notes or copied quotes exceptionally frequently for this book; you won't go more than a few pages without passing upon some remarkable sentence or passage. Consequently, there's too many insights to write about here, but I would highly reccomend this book to anyone with an ounce of curiosity.
Profile Image for Robert.
25 reviews9 followers
January 8, 2009
An excellent read if you are in any way interested about the psychology of soldiers in war. Gray had a PhD in philosophy when he was enlisted as a private in WWII and this book is a work of both psychology and philosophy. He discusses WWII and the soldiers in it frankly, openly, and objectively as possible; none of the good war bullshit. For the time he was writing in, the 50s, some of his conclusions are surprising and prescient. As a veteran myself, Gray gave a specific and clear voice to many things I could only vaguely identify about my own Iraq experience. I checked this out from the library, but will be buying a copy to flip through again.

Profile Image for John.
82 reviews
May 30, 2016
I had read this book as a textbook while an undergraduate, but it was wasted on me then. It was just words. Now, as a slightly more mature adult in my 50s, who has served in Bosnia and a couple of times in Afghanistan, it had more resonance. I re-read it over Memorial Day weekend.

I was struck by a couple of things. The first was the depth and complexity of his entries in his war journal. Amazing that he had the time and discipline to keep up with it.

Another was that soldiers are fundamentally unchanged. Despite circumstances that could not have been more different than the type of total war he experienced, many of his observations ring true today. On the other hand, I was struck by the callous disregard for human life that he was exposed to daily and thought how different that was from the way war is fought now (at least by the USA). I think he'd have been amazed at the amount of effort spent on minimizing collateral death when striking a target, and the idea that the population IS the target, at least kinetically, is long gone. We also take measures at great cost in money and logistical support to protect our soldiers - like dedicated support from heavy bombers for a small tactical unit - that reflect the shift from draftee soldiers being expendable cogs in an industrial war machine to precious professional assets that are spent sparingly.

I didn't agree with everything in this book, and I daresay several veterans of WWII would disagree with some bits too. But his observations and conclusions are a product of his experience, and perceptions of war (or life for the poor civilians who happen to live there) in a combat zone are different for every person there. The lens through which experiences are viewed is also different based on culture, education, and personality. Ultimately, I agreed a lot more than I disagreed with his conclusions, and I understand his viewpoint even when I disagreed.

There's so much more. This is a relatively short book. But it will stay in your thoughts long after you finish it.
Profile Image for Steven Meyers.
411 reviews2 followers
September 11, 2020
The late Mr. Gray (1913-1977) offers a unique perspective on the effects of war for soldiers. The book was published in 1959 and is about his experiences during World War II. He had just received his doctorate in philosophy when he was drafted and saw campaigns in France, North Africa, Italy, and Germany. The author’s book is not a memoir as much as an analysis of the effects war has on soldiers and civilians. Don’t kid yourself, war leaves lasting psychological scars on all soldiers, even on Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation.” The author portrayal of soldiers and civilians is consistent with the other works I’ve read on the subject, all the way back to the Civil War and up to today’s engagements.

Mr. Gray used a handful of his short journal entries during World War II as examples of what occurred on a psychological and sociological level. The extreme surreal environment forces men into actions that are sometimes primal or contradictory to their personality that they display in more peaceful times. Soldiers can one moment be compassionate individuals then quickly display the most abhorrent behavior, never dreaming they had such ugly sides in themselves. ‘The Warriors’ is a 260-page condensed book but filled with acute observations on each page. Its incisiveness reminded me of the 1951 Eric Hoffer book ‘The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.’ Mr. Gray covers such issues as the spectacle and aesthetic satisfaction of battle; comradeship; the delight in destruction; how love manifests itself in soldiers; their relationship to death being so near and arbitrary; the struggle between courage and cowardice; how soldiers envision the enemy; and how guilt factors into a soldier’s psyche. Much of the book deals in philosophical speculation by the learned author. All the issues addressed are multifaceted and understandable, even the abhorrent ones. It is not a cynical book. My only disappointment with ‘The Warriors’ was the last chapter “The Future of War.” Much has transpired since the book was published in 1959 and what the author states about efforts to avoid future wars seem simplistic and pollyannaish.

It’s easy to be judgmental of a soldier’s actions when a person is sitting comfortably, far away from any potential harm. I’m sixty years old and have never served in the military. If I’m honest with myself, there’s no way I could really know how I’d act in such hellish circumstances unless I was in the thick of it. No one knows. What Mr. Gray did so well in ‘The Warriors’ is explain the multitude of ways a human may react during war. It is dealing in many shades of gray and not black-and-white issues. He’s seen them all, up close and many of them personal. War is the “gift” that keeps on pummeling the survivors long after the victims have been devoured by worms. ‘The Warriors’ requires a little more concentration than a straightforward memoir but I thought it was well worth the effort. Mr. Gray’s book will linger in my thoughts for a long time to come.
Profile Image for Christaaay .
379 reviews167 followers
Shelved as 'reference'
July 15, 2017
Poignant and revealing about the soldier's experience before, during and after warfare. Very helpful for writing in a soldier's POV, in fact. I'm just reading short selections, but I bought it to keep on hand for moments when I'm struggling to get into my character's head.
Profile Image for Joseph Stieb.
Author 1 book133 followers
December 7, 2015
Gray, a WWII veteran, reflects on the experience and psychology on this thoughtful if somewhat hit or miss book. Clay weaves diary entries and letters into his argument, and he presents really profound and compelling experiences through these sources. This is one of the first major works of combat psychology, although it is really more of a philosophy book because there's not much genuine psychology in here.

There were a number of points in this book I thought were fascinating. One was the difference between comrades and friends. Gray argues that most people are capable of forming comradely relations because this is essentially bonding over a specific purpose and necessity. Comradeship reduces the individual into the group, making him more capable of fighting and surviving. In contrast, he argues that most people struggle to create friendship because friendship maintains or even enhances the individual personality in its connection to others. It requires a much stronger sense of self. Those who can't create friendship will often miss wartime terribly because comradeship was the closest they ever got to deep connections with other people.

Most of Gray's points rely on inherent logic, anecdotal evidence, and his own experience rather than systematic evidence. He's deeply a part of mid-20th century social psychology, and you can see the influence of Freud, Hoffer, and Fromm on his work. In other words, a lot of his points just hang in the air without much evidence to back them up, as do the work of these other psycho-philosphers. For example, I don't really buy Gray's conclusion about what it will take to end war. He finds the origins of war in the appeal of war as a spectacle and meaningful collective and individual experience to those who lack meaning in their own lives. He argues, quoting Nietzsche, that people need to morally decide to prefer vulnerability to other rather than being hated or feared in order to destroy war. He also contends that people who get meaning out of human relationships will no longer find war appealing. (family, work, art, etc) will not find war appealing I think this argument completely ignores the geopolitical factors that cause war. Moreover, it also ignores the fact that people will fight to protect the meaningful aspects of his life. There is a strong argument to make that people are becoming more anti-war and that war is less frequent today, but I don't think Gray has found it. Still, as a preliminary exploration of the soldier's social and psychological experience of war, this is an important and interesting book.
Profile Image for Tom.
396 reviews36 followers
July 9, 2008
I read this ages ago in college, and found it even more moving when I reread it recently. Gray essentially makes the same argument that Simone Weil does in her famous essay "The Iliad or The Poem of Force": Where Weil states that force turns combatants into "things ... stone," Gray says "Man as warrior is only partly a man, yet, fatefully enough this aspect of him is capable of transforming the whole."

In describing the abstract, Weil's style has the power of near poetic epigram, whereas Gray's style is somewhat more academic. However, Gray also weaves in many personal reflections in the form of actual diary entries from his experience in WWII. This has the effect of creating an immediacy and human connection sometimes lacking in Weil's essay.

And in the end, I think Gray is more hopeful than Weil of one's ability to recover one's humanity in the wake of war: "Atonement will become for him not an act of faith or a deed, but a life, a life devoted to strengthening the bonds between men and between man and nature."

Gray and Weil complement each other quite effectively, but if I had to recommend one over the other, I'd probably pick Gray because of the personal element in his book, and because Weil's is at heart a critical reading of a literary work, the Iliad.
Profile Image for Steve Woods.
618 reviews59 followers
October 16, 2017
This book is outstanding! It is rare for soldiers to have the capacity to reflect so deeply on their experience in war. Most lack the tools, the insight or the inclination. The resultant impact on identity is so overwhelming that it fells everything leaving no room much for reflection. Gray's Doctorate in Philosophy no doubt provided a framework for him that most others lack and he kept a detailed diary to help the process when eventually, when time had passed he was able to undertake the task. His experience is common to one degree or another to all combat soldiers, and that experience is like no other. He touches on many very important concepts, his analysis and deeply felt response have been so helpful to me in understanding my own. Any mental health professional dealing with returning veterans should be required to read this book, most never will, more's the pity. As a result most will be more a part of the problem than the solution!
Profile Image for Kara Lucas.
Author 2 books49 followers
August 2, 2016
Part essay, part memoir, this spare, elegant book on the psychology of war will stay with me for a long time. Perhaps because the author has his doctorate in philosophy, I found his quest to describe the reasons why we go to war, how the soldier views war, and ultimately how war defines each soldier's quest for humanity hauntingly beautiful, and heartbreaking. My favorite parts of the book were sections of his own personal journal during his time at a soldier in World War II.
154 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2020
A smart man talking about a deep and sorrowful topic in a tender and insightful way. This book could have been written yesterday. He makes an incredibly robust topic of how many handle the rigors and horrors of war easy to imbibe. Gray is able to break down the burdens that weigh on a man and his reactions to them into digestible chunks of personal experience and philosophy is unparalleled. Why do we fight? Because not enough of us won't.
Profile Image for Andrew Davis.
381 reviews19 followers
August 12, 2019
A discourse on war by a participant of the Second War in Europe, who was also a philosopher. An introduction by Hannah Arendt adds the gravity to its contents. Based on his war time diaries the author discusses a number of aspects concerning the war. He discusses the enduring appeals of battle, love as war's ally and foe, the soldier's relations to death, images of enemy, the ache of guilt and future of war.

The author identifies the enduring appeals of battle to war as a spectacle, comradeship through organisation for a common goal, spiritual emptiness and inner hunger that impel many men toward combat.

When talking about the soldier's relations to death, I highlighted the following fragment: "Most of us remember with a shudder those endless pictures of Hitler's troops, before World War II, riding into one conquered country after another. They were frightening because they not only looked identical in clothing and equipment, but the set expression on their faces appeared to be vacant and purposeless. All humanity had eroded from those faces, so it seemed, and we were confronted by deadly efficient robots, who were controlled by a powerful, inhuman will."

The author quotes Nietzsche to argue that wars will be eliminated only when people decide to break their swords and rather perish than hate and fear.
Profile Image for Dan Downing.
1,235 reviews10 followers
January 25, 2019
I have lost track of who recommended this to me — a debt I owe. Mr. Gray served in WWII, having received, in May 1941, both his "Greetings" letter and his notification he had been granted his Ph.D. Fortunately for us, he not only survived but kept a journal during his Army days. He draws on it to aid the meditations and reflections used here to tie men in war to god, death, nationhood, humanity, and conscience. As so often happens he and I were tethered by interesting if meaningless threads. He entered his program at Columbia University as my father left him; Gray was born in Pennsylvania, not too far from where I have lived for decades. His doctorate was in philosophy, a minor of mine. Thus I delve into his work and find solid, important questions, asked and answered in smooth, workmanlike prose, devoid of jargon and deeply probed.

When I open a book published 60 years ago, I expect a different quality of paper and a writing style at variance with today's. Exactly what I found here, to my great joy. When the topics are well probed and as old as man's self-reflection, then the book and present reality entwine to our benefit.
Highly Recommended
Profile Image for Bruce.
302 reviews6 followers
October 4, 2019

This is a sober treatise on war written by a World War II vet nearly 15 years after his service in Europe. He uses his Philosophy degree, combined with a good bit of psychology, to address mankind's participation in war. The author analyzes this by using several thematic topics, such as how those in war relate to death, and to love; the nature of seeing another human as an enemy; the future of war, and so on.

Despite the sports-team connection, this 1959 work does not glorify the life or actions of a 'warrior'. To the contrary, the book is rather somber about the motivations and consequences of war, but also insightful and blunt about mankind's relationship to war - including what it does to our humanity.
Profile Image for Maria.
3,962 reviews101 followers
April 19, 2018
Gray earned his doctorate of philosophy from Columbia University the same day that he was drafted into the army to fight in WWII. This is book that he wrote years later after much reflection and relying on his war journals and letters to friends.

Why I started this book: Professional Reading title, and I'm always ready to read more about WWII.

Why I finished it: Deep thought in an author is rare and appreciated...
Profile Image for Leonardo.
Author 1 book61 followers
Shelved as 'to-keep-reference'
September 17, 2018
There is indeed something larger than the self, able to provide people with a sense of purpose they think worth dying for: the group. (Of course, one groups noble purpose is sometimes another groups pure evil.)

The Happiness Hypothesis Pág.238
60 reviews8 followers
April 18, 2020
Dull reading. I found myself struggling to complete this book. Each chapter carries a redundant argument. The authors argument in each chapter is interesting but very hard to get through. The personal diary entries are the more exciting bits of the book.
Profile Image for Patrick.
14 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2022
A veteran’s self reflection on his experiences in WW2, thinking through the emotions and psychology from combat, about cowardice, love, fear, the enemy, and what he thinks this means for future wars.
Profile Image for Endlyon.
24 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2021
There are many deep thoughts on man's relationship with war that probably flew over my head. I think it's a bit too wordy, but will probably return again to it someday.
Profile Image for Mick.
11 reviews
June 24, 2022
Not an easy read, quite hard to follow at times. The germ of a good book is in there but this wasn't great.
Profile Image for Wilson Lanue.
Author 2 books6 followers
November 6, 2014
Gray received his philosophy degree and his induction notice in the same batch of mail, and, instead of fighting with a rifle, served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer in the ETO.

As a set of philosophical "reflections," and as a book written by a pacifist, this is not a representative WWII memoir. For example, Gray's claim that "many an American soldier felt shocked and ashamed" (199-200) at the use of atomic weapons against Japan is not supported by accounts from frontline soldiers.

That said, Gray's philosophical bent allows him to articulate psychological effects of combat that are universal, but which most of our veteran grandfathers had difficulty explaining even to themselves after killing Germans and Japanese. For this, it is a highly useful work.

(It is similarly useful for putting what is easily referred to as "The Good War" [it stopped two genocides, after all] on the spectrum of war's universal depredations: The torture of German assets [referred to peripherally and with less revulsion than discomfort], the rape of Italian farm girls, etc, etc.)
Profile Image for John.
318 reviews5 followers
August 7, 2010
Written during the Cold War from the perspective of a conscript Army in WWII, it probably doesn't reflect well the feelings of our all contemporary volunteer force engaged in continual low intensity conflict. My only criticism is that he glossed over the use of the atomic weapons to end the war as immoral, and failed to address his own involvement in torture of enemy POW's an issue that is of current interest. But a very interesting read of the view of a combat soldier who also had a PhD in philosophy when serving in the US Army in Europe during WWII.
Profile Image for Mel.
313 reviews3 followers
November 11, 2016
Philosophy. I misinterpreted the title. I thought it would contain more individual reflections by men who had experienced battle. It does, but only as occasional reference material. It is mostly the author's own, quite dense and verbose personal reflections, insights and conclusions. Which is fair enough. He is, after all a philosopher. Not my sort of thing and I did not finish it, so it would be inappropriate for me to rate.
Profile Image for David Gross.
Author 11 books101 followers
May 14, 2011
It had all of the elements of a book I thought I'd really get in to, but it never grabbed me. A little too abstract and ethereal in spite of its subject matter. Still, a thought-provoking read. In a way, it picks up where William James's much more superficial "The Moral Equivalent of War" leaves off.
42 reviews
March 4, 2018
Great book about war. Had me thinking Red Badge Of Courage much of the time.
Profile Image for Paul.
58 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2019
J. Glenn Gray was uniquely positioned to obtain a deep understanding of how battle affects soldiers and civilians alike. I've heard before that nobody really knows who will be the one to panic when the shells start falling. Gray noticed that the ones who became uncontrollably frightened were almost always those who failed to connect with their comrades in any substantive way beforehand. One question left unanswered is whether it is right to honor a soldier who died for his comrades even when the causes of the war itself were evil.
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