This was interesting:
"There are no atheists in foxholes," the saying goes, but according to this important book there are many conscientious objectors. In World War II and before, only 15 to 20 percent of soldiers fired their weapons at enemy soldiers in view, even if their own lives were endangered. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Grossman, a military historian, psychologist and teacher at West Point, builds upon the findings of Gen. S. L. A. Marshall in Men Against Fire (1978) and confirmatory evidence from Napoleonic, Civil and other wars. "Throughout history the majority of men on the battlefield would not attempt to kill the enemy, even to save their own lives." (p. 4)
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The compunction against killing occurs in close combat situations, including aerial dogfights where pilots can see each other. It does not prevail with killing at a distance by artillery or bombing from airplanes. Machine gun teams also boost the firing rate because individuals cannot simply pretend to fire or intentionally mis-aim. In aerial combat one percent of pilots made over thirty percent of kills; the majority of fighter pilots never shot down a plane, perhaps never tried to.
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In the U.S. Civil War, well-trained soldiers fired over the enemy's heads, or only pretended to fire. Of 27,000 muzzle-loading muskets recovered at Gettysburg, 90 percent were loaded, almost half with multiple loads! That could not be inadvertent. Further evidence was the low kill rate in face-to-face battles. Like Marshall's assertion about World War II, "Secretly, quietly...these soldiers found themselves to be conscientious objectors who were unable to kill their fellow man." (p. 25) The secrets were well kept, in "a tangled web of individual and cultural forgetfulness, deception and lies tightly woven over thousands of years....the male ego has always justified selective memory, self-deception, and lying [about] two institutions, sex and combat." (p. 31)
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About two percent of soldiers lack the killing inhibition; they score high on measures of "aggressive psychopath." Another one percent in this diagnostic category cannot endure military discipline. Grossman says the adaptable two percent serve well, return to civilian life and function as good citizens.