Jun. 13, 2019

CAREFULLY EVALUATE ALL TALES OF MILITARY HEROISM

The recent D Day celebrations in Europe exposed some who fraudulently claimed participation. Others claimed deeds beyond the reality. Psychologists explained that exaggerating one’s deeds of daring do is common. Those who do so may even come to believe them, or they create an exaggerated or false reality to hide their traumas. Shakespeare recognised that old soldiers relate their deeds ‘with advantages’ in Henry V.

We can see this in many exaggerated memoirs of the Special Air Service and those of US Navy Seals. The writers were likely brave men, with an opportunity to sell books. Hilary Clinton falsely remembered being under fire in the Balkans. Lyndon Johnson claimed he was a hero on a bomber raid against Zeros. He was decorated, but his aircrew saw him as just a passenger. John Kerry remembered events that those who were there did not.

This may all be part of the fog of war or PTSD. Some see an opportunity to cash in reputationally or financially. Largely this is driven by the propaganda needs of the various combatants.

All media stories need careful evaluation. ‘Who benefits’ is always the critical question.

Some of us write about our exaggerations or fantasies of our time in the military.