Behavior of American Soldiers in the World War II

Automaticity and leadership are important concepts that help understand cognitive readiness, which is expected in the military context. In the process of military training, cognitive readiness that results from effective leadership and a demonstration of automaticity is given much attention. The skills of automaticity and effective leadership were applied by American soldiers in the World War II to enhance their operational effectiveness. Automaticity is also referred to an automatic behavior that involves compliance of war combats that is attained after extensive training (“Combat Compliance”). Training enables soldiers to automatically comply with instructions that are issued to them by their leaders. The mode of behavior among soldiers in a combat can also be said to be reflexive. The model of automaticity suggests that when soldiers participate in war, their success is dependent on their compliance with instructions given by those in authority. Automaticity is often developed through practice that involves provision of feedback.

Leadership entails application of conceptual, technical and interpersonal skills that are essential for one provide direction to a group of people. War combats face numerous challenges that imply effective leadership for them to remain motivated in the fight. The reason for this is the fact that combats are trained to respect the hierarchy of leadership during war and adhere to all instructions that are given to them. Leaders must effectively use their personality and experience to execute their leadership roles so as to enable a combat emerge victorious (Kindsvatter 230). Soldiers often show motivation at war despite facing several challenges. Their comrades are killed, but they develop an assumption that they will always remain safe; hence, they fight to the end of the battle. This discussion utilizes automaticity and leadership models in explaining the behavior of American soldiers in the World War II.

Kindsvatter (2003) looks at the factors that motivate soldiers to brave the adversities in war. He presents a clear picture of the experience that American soldiers went through during the Second World War. Effective leadership and proper training enabled soldiers to withstand the harsh psychological and physical environment that they were exposed to during the war. Under normal circumstances, it is expected that one would down his or her tools in a struggle after facing unbearable challenges. However, it is not always the case with combats as they have some intrinsic motivation to fight till the end of the battle. American soldiers were able to keep together and brave all challenges that came their way due to their unity (“War, Democracy, Autocracy”). They were always surrounded by harsh environment such as extreme weather conditions, bland rations, unfavorable terrain and thirst, among others (Kindsvatter 67). The soldiers had to survive the challenges while always remaining strong enough to pursue their enemies. Through effective leadership, American combat managed to develop new techniques and tactics that enabled them withstand threats from their determined enemies (Kindsvatter 94).

It is difficult to understand what motivates soldiers to get to battlefield and withstand all challenges to the point of death. Kindsvatter (2003) gives a general view of soldiers’ encounters during the twentieth century’s significant wars. To understand the role of automaticity and leadership in determining the results of a combat, it is important to look at the changes that take place in soldiers’ life style starting from the time when they join the military, when they are taken through induction processes, during training, and as they get to the battle field. American soldiers went through a similar process during the World War II. In the course of the war, soldiers undergo a great number of changes in their lifestyle that differs significantly from civilian life to become suitable for military service. When American soldiers got to the combat zone during the World War II, they had undergone extensive training to have them prepared for the extreme environment of war (“Combat Compliance”). The soldiers were in a position to adjust to the changing conditions and survive throughout the battle. The victory that American soldiers realized at the end of the war is attributed to proper coordination of troops and efficient response to different moves that were made by the enemies. Automaticity model asserts that soldiers are trained to subconsciously respond to different situations in the battlefield. It means that American soldiers had good psychological preparedness that enabled them apply various tactics to respond to different situations. The skills enabled them to survive during the battle and aggress from the combat zone.

Good leadership facilitated mobilization of resources for American soldiers during the World War II. The whole American population rallied behind their soldiers at war and adhered to calls for rationing of resources for soldiers to have enough resources to take them through harsh conditions (Kindsvatter 125). Along with the support that soldiers received from civilians, they were effective in the war due to the cohesion of the primary group, the squad or the platoon. Soldiers got encouraged to serve on in the fight as unity helped to hold them together at all times. The model of automaticity explains the essence of unity among soldiers so that they can face their enemy as a unified force. Respect to the authority enabled American soldiers to cooperate with the other allied forces so that they could jointly face the common enemy. Military cohesion is only achieved when soldiers are trained to comply with instructions that they get from their commanders (“The security Dilemma”).

According to Kindsvatter (285), soldiers should not have high expectations when they decide to take part in war. The suggestion is made based on a critical analysis of American soldiers’ experiences during the main conflicts with the Second World War given much attention to.  Most people often join the military with high hopes of getting financial benefits. Highlighting the encounters of American soldiers during the World War II helps to give a clear picture of the war environment. Soldiers were not motivated in the fight by any financial benefit. American soldiers were determined to fight for the good of their state. Several challenges that they encountered during the war did not kill their spirit as they knew that their main objective was to emerge victorious in the war. Civilians also played a significant role in the war as they adhered to requests that leaders gave them to give moral support to soldiers at war.

Automaticity and leadership models help to understand the ability among American soldiers to develop and maintain social cohesion throughout the war. As mentioned earlier, American soldiers’ effectiveness in the World War II is attributed to their ability to maintaining combat cohesion. Cohesion can hardly be achieved without good leadership and compliance that enables soldiers to take instructions from their commanders (Dunne 123). Throughout the war, American soldiers knew that they would emerge victorious; hence, they were determined to stop at nothing until they achieved their objectives. The relationship between American soldiers during the World War II was instrumental in enabling them adapt to dangerous conditions at war. It is through the group spirit that soldiers were able to understand hardships and cope with unfavorable environment at war.

There was much commonality among the soldiers. The commonality is viewed with respect to the experiences that soldiers faced and the way they reacted to them. Although racial segregation was evident in the war with black American soldiers given less supply of war ammunition, soldiers generally showed a high degree of comradeship. The war presented an opportunity for Americans from different social backgrounds to come together in the pursuit of a common enemy. They needed to fight to defend the interest of the innocent civilians and show love for their country (Magagna 15 April, 2015).

The experience that American soldiers went through during the Second World War and Vietnam had a number of similarities. There were intense levels of violence that impacted on the mental state of soldiers. Kindsvatter gives a description of how American soldiers’ primitive human psyche was largely affected by the extent of stress that they suffered throughout the World War II. Making references to the statement that was made by Richard Ogden in his account of the Vietnam War, Kindsvetter (125) stated that American soldiers faced stressful events that posed a great challenge for them to maintain their humanity. The occurrences at war caused subtle changes in soldiers’ mental state. Soldiers had to fight for them to remain alive as they faced fierce attacks. In the fight, soldiers struggled to maintain their humanity as their reactions happened subconsciously. The modes of behavior that American soldiers portrayed in some cases were against the normal moral standards (Doyle 213). At some time, they got involved in immoral acts such as rape. It happened automatically as soldiers looked for everything that could motivate them. The extent of immorality that they showed in the fight can be understood by analyzing the automaticity model. Soldiers’ reactions to different situations happened automatically, and it became difficult for them to create a balance between the need to remain human and the essence of adjusting to the prevailing circumstances during war (McPhearson, 132). The soldiers’ situation is similar to other combat situations. At times, people fail to understand why soldiers get involved in immoral acts while they should be dedicated to offer solutions to problems.

Most soldiers gave shocking accounts of how they found it difficult to grasp their sense of humanity in a war environment that created a need for them to adjust to a primitive state that was the only way available for them to survive. They got immersed into a warfare environment, in which almost every act was a response to a given situation. All that soldiers did were meant to sustain them in war either by enabling them to be safe from their opponents or to help them regain their morale after a series of hardship (“Combat Compliance”). After they voluntarily joined the military, soldiers were taken through an extensive training that enabled them to transit from civilian to military lifestyle. The training enabled them to subconsciously react to situations as opposed to the way they would respond before undergoing military training. Soldiers had to be brave so that they do not feel scared by strange events that occurred in the course of the war.

American soldiers’ humanity was degraded throughout the World War II. It shifted into a primitive state that would enable them withstand the horrific brutality, to which their fellow soldiers were subjected (Kindsvatter 124). In some cases, the soldiers saw mutilated bodies of their comrades who were killed, some were decapitated. Coming in direct contact with such situations was disturbing to the soldiers. In one way, soldiers’ human nature made them feel pity for their comrades while the scenes also contributed to their adjustment to the extent that they got used to unusual occurrences. After getting used to the brutal acts, they slowly lost compassion for other humans. It was necessary for soldiers’ effective adjustment during the war as they needed to withstand nasty scenes that they witnessed such as mutilated bodies, which could have undesirable psychological impacts on them.

When soldiers had gone through of the great number of frustrations and tension, they got involved in heinous crimes with an aim of inflicting pain on others (Kindsvatter 132). They participated in inhuman acts such as setting people’s homes on fire. Non-stop combat made soldiers become psychologically tortured. The decision to set people’s houses on fire was very inhumane, and it can leave people wondering about the reason behind it. Soldiers were expected to protect civilians, and they were expected to execute their combats against fellow soldiers in the battle field. The decision to cause harm to innocent civilians can hardly be explained, without making reference to the model of automaticity. The model helps to understand the way soldiers’ minds operate. At times, they act in a way that is unpopular to the public in their attempt to cope with the prevailing circumstances. The actions are naturally executed without premeditation. As such, it is necessary to understand that the atrocities that soldiers conducted during the World War II were not entirely the result of immorality but took place because of a change in mindset that is mandatory for soldiers (Doyle 221). Soldiers went through swift changes in their acts. They moved from being disciplined soldiers to be savages who could not be restrained and later changed to soldiers. The changes occurred due to the need for soldiers to cope with various emotions (Kindsvatter 125).

Automaticity made American soldiers lose their personal identities and reach a state of depersonalization. They rarely acted as individuals. In most cases, they performed their activities jointly as they had undergone the same transformation process. During the Second World War, fear acted as the stimulant that caused courage and cowardice. Soldiers were aware that their presence in the battlefield exposed them to the danger of death. To brave the combat, most soldiers adopted funny behavior. For example, the majority of them started smoking while in the battlefield as a way of expelling stress. At times, the reactions happened subconsciously and the soldiers could not explain the change of behavior. They were in war, and they needed to act like those in war. They had no option to retreat as such a move would make them suffer a defeat. Kindsvatter (124) refers to the behavioral changes that soldiers went through as coping mechanisms.

In conclusion, Kindsvatter suggests that American soldiers developed an automatic mental state that enabled them emerge victorious in the World War II. They lived in fate or luck. The adjustment helps to understand why soldiers kept fighting although they came into direct contact with death and destructions. They were firm in hope that they could not get hurt. When some soldiers were killed, the rest remained motivated believing that they could not be victims of such circumstances. They had a kind of youthful ignorance that made them believe that they were immortal. They trusted in the skills that they gained during training and believed that such skills could help them keep safe in the battlefield. Soldiers were convinced that they had obtained a battle prowess that was enough to enable them survive attacks. According to Kindsvatter, the battle prowess refers to a period of peak efficiency when soldiers had active senses and reflexes that enabled them to effectively sense and react to danger (Kindsvatter 230). Kindsvatter explains how soldiers got immersed in the environment of war that made them undergo transformations. Before joining the battlefield, they were overconfident as there was nothing to fear. Facing the conflict caused soldiers fear, which later made them develop the sense of courage. Later, they lost their personal identities and started acting like zombies in a non-responsive state.

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