News Release

Realities of War 


CHARLES GLASS,, @charlesmglass

Glass in his new book Soldiers Don’t Go Mad reveals the lessons learned from  shell shock treatment during the First World War that the military failed to apply in World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Psychiatrists treating shell shocked officers and men in history’s first mass industrialized war discovered therapies that worked for some victims and failed with others whose experiences were so horrible that cure was impossible. A few patients emerged from the trenches and the mental hospitals to depict their demons in some of the most compelling poetry of the 20th century. Shell shock became battle fatigue and then PTSD, an inevitable concomitant of combat everywhere. Glass recently wrote the piece “From ‘Shell Shock’ to PTSD, Veterans Have a Long Walk to Health.”

From the description of Soldiers Don’t Go Mad“From the moment war broke out across Europe in 1914, the world entered a new, unparalleled era of modern warfare. Soldiers faced relentless machine gun shelling, incredible artillery power, flame throwers, and gas attacks. Within the first four months of the war, the British Army recorded the nervous collapse of ten percent of its officers; the loss of such manpower to mental illness — not to mention death and physical wounds — left the army unable to fill its ranks. Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen was 24 years old when he was admitted to the newly established Craiglockhart War Hospital for treatment of shell shock. A burgeoning poet, trying to make sense of the terror he had witnessed, he read a collection of poems from a fellow officer, Siegfried Sassoon, and was impressed by his portrayal of the soldier’s plight. One month later, Sassoon himself arrived at Craiglockhart, having refused to return to the front after being wounded during battle.
“Though Owen and Sassoon differed in age, class, education, and interests, both were outsiders — as soldiers unfit to fight, as gay men in a homophobic country, and as Britons unwilling to support a war likely to wipe out an entire generation of young men. But more than anything else, they shared a love of the English language, and its highest expression of poetry. As their friendship evolved over their months as patients at Craiglockhart, each encouraged the other in their work, in their personal reckonings with the morality of war, as well as in their treatment. Therapy provided Owen, Sassoon, and fellow patients with insights that allowed them to express themselves better, and for the 28 months that Craiglockhart was in operation, it notably incubated the era’s most significant developments in both psychiatry and poetry.”

Glass’s prior books include Syria Burning and Deserter.