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Monday, May 28, 2007

Flashback - WWII and lobotomies

The book Flashback by Penny Coleman deals with PTSD and suicide. Even though the focus is on Vietnam, there is a small section about WWII. I am quoting for educational purposes. "Fully 60 percent of the postwar VA patients were psychiatric. Limited funds and limited space opened the door for one of medical history's most obscene experiments: the ice pick lobotomy" (p. 54). The vast majority of lobotomies in the 40s and 50s were "hysterical women" with the main exception being traumatized veterans.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Julia Collins book - My Father's War

This 2002 book was the first one that really focused on the combat trauma the WWII generation suffered and what it did to a family. Collins' father had left Yale in 1943 to join the Marines and returned after the war "emotionally and invisibly scarred". He never lived up to his early promise. She notes that the young boy who went to war came back a "soul weary man". Like so many of the children of the WWII generation, the author's realization of the impact of the war on her dad and her family did not come until her adulthood. The full understanding didn't occur until after her dad's death. This is a great read for insight into post war family dynamics and the effect on the children of a traumatized vet.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In The Shadow of the Greatest Generation

Tom Matthews' book , Our Fathers' War - In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation, outlines the difficult relationships between sons of combat vet fathers of World War II. He intertwines his story with that of 9 other sons who have the same strained, tense relationship with their fathers. I don't know if the WWII fathers were tougher on their sons than their daughters, but from the description in this book, it seems like they wanted their sons to keep the same tight control over their emotions that the fathers themselves had to exhibit to deal with the aftermath of combat. By the end of the book, Matthews comes to an understanding of his father's psychological scars as he states, "my bet would be that anyone who's seen real combat would have for the rest of his life something going on inside him. Some wound. Some secret".

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Civil War and PTSD

A 2006 study done by investigating Civil War records at the National Archives demonstrated that war trauma can be documented in this country back to the Civil War. It was called "irritable heart or soldier's heart" and was connected with a lifetime of higher rates of physical and mental disorders in those who had seen combat. The factors that had the most significance were the youth of the soldier, intensity of combat (represented by percentage of soldiers killed in a company) and finally, prisioner of war status. This study is especially important because researchers were able to analyze the soldier over his entire lifespan.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Support group for elderly WWII vets

At this Maine vet center, there are support groups for surviving veterans of past and current wars. There are 2 groups for WWII veterans who are now in their 80s. Many of them have been living with unexpressed trauma for decades. Mental health programs were not available to anyone except Vietnam era veterans at the vet centers until 1991. A debt of gratitude is owed to the Vietnam vets for bringing the issue of war trauma to the forefront. The WWII vets were a product of the era where men had difficulty asking for help for emotional issues, because society would consider them to be weak.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Nurse's Perspective on PTSD in the Aging WWII Combat Vet

In a 2003 American Journal of Nursing article, Charles Kaiman discusses the therapy group he ran for elderly WWII veterans with delayed onset PTSD. Aging can cause the intrusive memories, survivior's guilt and unresolved grief of the combat vet to appear after many years of repression. Exacerbation of PTSD in elderly veterans is common. This should be taken seriously since there are many generations of combat veterans following their WWII fathers and grandfathers in having to deal with effects of combat.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

How PTSD Affects the Veteran's Children

Children of vets with PTSD have often been ignored in discussion of the issue. Some research has been conducted - mainly on children of Vietnam vets - that is probably applicable to children of combat vets of other wars. There are a number of mechanisms used by the children: over-identification with the PTSD affected parent; secondary traumatization; a rescuer role; depression and anxiety. These children are at greater risk for behavior, academic and interepersonal problems. Jennifer Price, Ph.D. has developed a fact sheet for the National Center for PTSD that explores some of these problems.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Emotional numbing of combat

The article by Mark Van Ells (click on post title for link) published in VFW magazine in 2002 demonstrates how for a small number of WWII vets the war never ended. According to the author, only about 6% of the 16 million servicemen actually saw sustained combat. Maybe that's why the myth of the well-adjusted WWII vet began. So many had not seen combat and therefore had not experienced the trauma of war. My dad, a paratrooper, told me that when he came home, nobody wanted hear about that side of war. So they were left silent with no outlet or support.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PTSD Combat blog

Ilona Meagher's blog(click on favorite links) is a wonderful resource for all who are concerned about our military who have PTSD. I have been inspired by her commitment to this issue and credit her with making many aware of the limitations of the care given to our brave veterans.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


This link (click on title) is to an interview with a poet who has captured the allure and madness of war. Patricia Monaghan is a daughter of a WWII and Korean war vet who is eloquently breaking the silence of the boomer children who never quite understood the trauma experienced by their fathers. It took the Vietnam war and discussion of PTSD for me to personally comprehend the journey my father had to travel.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Organization for children of World War II veterans

I am in the process of getting tax exempt status for our Daughters of D-Day nonprofit, which is still in the beginning stages. We would like to create an educational program for schoolchildren wherein the children of the vets can tell their dads' stories in the historical context, but their children can add the personal touch which makes history more compelling.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Long lasting effects of PTSD

This article (click on title of Post) in the Ledger-Enquirer shows the long lasting effects of PTSD on a Vietnam Vet. The alcohol abuse, the nightmares are similar to that of WWII vets who were never diagnosed correctly, just like the Vietnam vet in this article. The therapist mentioned, Dr. Bridget Cantrell, had a WWII and Korean war veteran dad and she is empathetic to what the families go through.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Daughter of World War II veterans

I'm the daughter of two World War II veterans - one (my dad) a "hero" who was portrayed in the movie and The Longest Day and written about in quite a few military history books. My other dad (my stepdad) is one of the nameless millions who did their service and came home and lived the Greatest Generation mythical life.

Just guess which one had the alcoholism, 2 children dying premature deaths and 3 marriages?

That's right - my hero dad. All the attention he got in his later years for his war exploits never talked about the legacy of war and the trauma visited upon our family.