Combat, Physical and Psychological Impact

Military historians have debated whether those who write of combat should have had experience fighting on the battlefield. The British author John Keegan questioned whether he could write and teach about it, or even make reference to it, since he had never been in combat. So the issue of what it is like to kill with a gun, stab with a bayonet, strangle with hands, or use weapons of great lethality such as artillery and hand grenades has perplexed scholars for many years. This entry explores what we know about the act of killing, how it affects the soldier physically and psychologically, and the costs of such activity on the individual and on the society that sent him or her into combat.


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