An interview for StoryCorps of 86-year-old WWII veteran Joseph Robertson reveals how, even after about 60 years, he is regularly haunted by images of a young German soldier whom he had no choice but to shoot and kill. “I still see him in my dreams,” says Robertson . . .

While hoplophobes like to portray gun owners — and especially CCW holders — as vigilantes just itching for a chance to use their firearms on other humans, this is virtually always the furthest thing from the truth. Although I carry a firearm primarily to defend myself and my family, I sincerely hope it never has to clear leather for that purpose.

While I’m not typically one to speak for other people, I think it’s fair to say that nearly every last one of us feels the same way for a long list of reasons. Robertson’s story is concise and poignant and worth a listen.

104 Responses to On Killing

      • How do you know the German soldier was a Nazi? Life is more nuanced than most people think.

        • Just curious, is your screen name a motorcycle reference? Man I would love to have a green Triumph Scrambler.

        • I don’t buy into the “just a soldier” nonsense. He was killing to perpetuate a dictatorship. He had a moral duty to refuse. You do not have a right to kill people in such a cause even if it is to defend your own life.

        • I don’t buy into the “just a soldier” nonsense. He was killing to perpetuate a dictatorship. He had a moral duty to refuse. You do not have a right to kill people in such a cause even if it is to defend your own life.
          Unfortunately a lot of mediocre and good people get sucked into bad wars.
          The USA had had its share of questionable military adventures.
          Remember US Grant was adamantly opposed to the Mexican American War, even though he was an officer.
          I always thought our adventures in Iraq were totally bogus.

        • Damn Skyler, I wish I could live in your world of black and white, good vs bad. I’m very envious.

        • You do, Rudy. You do. You’ve been taught that everything is grey, but if you examine a question in detail, the black and white elements are clear.

          But there is no quibbling about whether Adolf Hitler was a good man. And if you pick wrong and fight for him, then you are wrong. If you live in that regime and you don’t actively fight against it, then you are wrong. Civilization requires it. We have too long adopted an ideology that excuses the citizen for the evil committed on his behalf and the result has been Hitler and Hirohito, and now the rise of murderous nongovernment organizations such as Al Qaeda that operate within nation-states where even the state claims innocence. We cannot tolerate nations that plead innocence to hosting them and we cannot tolerate a population that tolerates evil perpetrated by their government.

          Was supporting the Mexican-American War right? To Henry David Thoreau is wasn’t, but to others it was. Pick which one and be a man. There are always arguments for and arguments against, just as there will always be some level of corruption in any human organization. There is a level of corruption or evil that is intolerable. Was the war against Mexico at that level? It’s hard to say, but that is not the same as the level of evil of Hitler or Saddam Hussein, where there is absolutely no way to conclude that they were just.

        • There are always good men on both sides. This does not mean that war should not be waged, nor that there is never one side better than the other, nor that it is wrong to kill a good man on the other side.

          “nazi” is synonymous with “evil” in most US minds, I think partially because WWI was the last war we’re allowed to feel was a righteous struggle. But there were good men who were doing their duty to their country. Other men who fought because they had a wife and children at home (and refusal could put them at risk). And there were those who dreamed of creating a better world. A world without want for their children- these men who had seen real starvation during WWII and the depression. A world with a strong nation- so their children would never wage war. And while we can assuredly condemn the 3rd Reich- it is not so easy to condemn the men who who simply wanted a better world. Yes- of course we should have fought and destroyed Nazi Germany. Yes I believe it was morally correct to wage that war and that those who fought in it are in no way murderers. But some of the men on the other side were good men. If you cannot accept that- then you do not understand and you know less than you think you do.

      • If the German soldier was enlisted in the Heer (Army), and not the SS, odds are he was not a member of the Nazi party. He may not have been serving for that ideology as much as for patriotism / nationalism.

        I have read that Hitler was known to joke that he had “a conservative army, a Nazi air force, and a communist navy”. Not sure if it is a factual quote, but there was definitely an ideological division between the bulk of the three branches of the Wehrmacht. The Luftwaffe tended to be the most nazified, as Hitler had re-created it under his regime.

        I personally choose not to refer to all WW2 German soldiers as ‘Nazi soldiers’ for the same reason that I don’t refer to all current US military forces as Democratic Soldiers. Their commander in chief may be a democrat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are.

      • Most of the Germans were not Nazis. Where the Germans did screw up was going with the flow and going along with the band wagon. If you really want to know what was going on in pre-WWII Germany, I would suggest reading Soldat by Siegfried Knappe who actually was a staff officer in the Wehrmacht High Command and was actually in the presence of the Fuhrer.Some parts of his book was used in the making of the movie Downfall. Siegfried actually was thinking of killing Hitler, and after the war moved to Xenia Ohio. Siegfried was pretty disgusted with both the Nazi and the Soviet System. Another book that sort of dispels the stereotype of SS Grau Hemden soldiers is Black Edelweiss.

        • Das Boot (1981), which is probably the greatest submarine movie ever, and one of my favorite films, gives a good depiction of how many in the Kriegsmarine, even among the officer corps, were more than a little disillusioned with Hitler and the Nazis in the latter part of the war. They fought on for Germany and their crewmates, anyway.

          It is a testament to the quality of that film that it features WW2 Germans as protagonists (instead of the usual ‘bad guys’) and makes you identify with the crew, while still winning over 98% of movie critics and 96% of audience members at RottenTomatoes.com and ranking #25 in Empire magazine’s 100 Best Films of World Cinema.

        • I have read both those memoirs and many more like them. The “Nazis nazis everywhere!” approach to teaching WWII and the Holocaust cheapens the real message of just how socially malleable people are. The majority of Germans, both conscripts and volunteers in combat roles, went into the service as political/moral blank slates. Until July 20th, 1944, any soldier could opt out of participating in the execution of civilians and other “special actions” without fear of a court-martial or punishment of any kind whatsoever. There were no official orders to do so, no commissar dynamic as seen in the Red Army. So many men chose to partake in war crimes because of simple peer pressure from platoon-mates, akin to schoolyard bullying. Concentration and Death Camp duty was also a strictly volunteers only affair, anyone who argues otherwise is an apologist. These facts make the history much more sobering, frightening, and intriguing from a psychological perspective than the army of card-carrying party members caricature we’re constantly given in movies and tv.

        • A really great movie! Saw it in the theater three times, then later, bought the DVD. I still remember the performance put on by “Johan” when he “lost it”

      • “I do not know what could be more ugly than a Nazi.”

        That would be anyone trying to take my civil rights.

    • That was my reaction too. I guess if he were old and ugly then he wouldn’t be bothered. What a shallow man.

      • Well, I really don’t want to judge an old soldier. But yes, I did get the impression that he was deeply moved mostly because the German was young and handsome. And more likely than not, the young and handsome German had been responsible for the death of young and handsome people who hadn’t sworn personal allegiance to the Fuhrer.

      • I think its less to do with appearance and more due to the fact that he was so close.

        I would imagine killing someone from that close would tend to make the details stick in your head.

      • My Dad fought in World War II and participated in a number of the most bloody battles in Europe. He wasn’t in the Battle of the Bulge, but that was a bad one. You need to think twice, and three times, and then shut your mouth before you decide to criticize the “shallowness” of a man who fought on the lines in that battle. He’s seen things, endured things, you can’t imagine. My Dad was haunted by memories of things he did and saw for the rest of his life. 40 years later, he’d still be fighting that war in his sleep. He’d wake up yelling and lashing out. To dare suggest that the only thing that man cared about was that the young German was handsome is shameful of you. To imagine that you know and understand all that he thinks and feels about the incident from a two minute sound clip is incredibly presumptuous of you. Show a little respect.

        • Nope. I’m going to judge him based on his own words that he very clearly considered very carefully. Else what are words for?

        • Skylar displays a nazis level of nuance in his arguments. Don’t question him. Everything is clear, the German soldier was evil, the old man was weak and a simpleton, and don’t you know it”s easy to judge the men of Germany based on his deep research of history and the fact that anyone who did not immediately march down to the fuehrer bunker to take hitlers life was surely in favor of national socialism and needed killing. Skylar you couldn’t hold the mans (the ww2vets) jock strap.

      • Don’t you maybe think that the youthful handsomness was just psychologically equated with “innocence” and just simply that.

        It was not in the middle of battle but a pure one on one.

        Who here says that killing someone in that situation would not have a lasting affect.

        I would think that killing someone under any circumstance SHOULD stay with you forever.

        • “. . . not in the middle of battle . . .”

          It was the BATTLE of the bulge. Of course it was in the middle of a battle. And there was no “innocence.” He was way up in front ready to kill Americans and acted quite eager in all respects.

          I feel bad for the old man’s night mares, but objectively he is equating beauty with innocence and the two are not at all the same.

  1. The distance between thinking that it’ll “never happen to you” or that “the police will protect me” is shorter from “I may have to protect myself” than “I may have to protect myself” is from “I want to kill someone”.

    Self defense is the antipode of wanton killing, not defenselessness. Defenselessness is simply an enabling factor for violence.

  2. You faced a simple choice. You killing him, or him killing you. I think you chose right. You were very lucky to survive the war, and that decision made it happen. Do you regret being alive? I think your family would disagree. We are all grateful for your service.

  3. Old wise man once said, “I don’t shoot to kill, I shoot to defend my life and end the threat.”

  4. I thank Mr. Robertson for drilling that fu@king Nazi.

    I guess the lesson is the same that RF has been extolling lately….. distance is your friend….don’t let them get too close….it’s too messy in all kind of ways.

    • I’ll echo what someone said above- you have no idea who that German was. He was probably not a Nazi (which is not a synonym for “German Soldier”). He was probably not all that different from Mr. Robertson.

      • His party membership is not germane. He was killing for a murderous dictator. That is sufficient to condemn him.

        • Near the end of the war, my Dad and his buddy were scouting an old farm. They can through a gap in a hedgerow and found themselves face-to-face with about 40 German soldiers. He and his buddy thought, “Well, this is it. It’s over for us.” But to their surprise, the Germans didn’t open fire. They surrendered to my father and his buddy. They were ordinary men. Beaten. Tired of war. They weren’t baby-killing Nazi caricatures. They weren’t the guys running the gas chambers. They were just men who were soldiers for their country. I’ve still got a copy of a photo that ran in Stars and Stripes of my Dad on horseback — the Germans had two horses, and he rode one of them back — at the head of the column of Germans as he led them back.

          It’s really easy to sit in your desk chair and condemn men you’ll never know, on either side of a war. My Dad killed often and readily during his time in that war. He believed in what he was doing, but he never held any ill will against any particular German soldiers. He knew they were just men in a bad situation, just doing what they thought was right.

      • I’ll echo what someone said above- you have no idea who that German was. He was probably not a Nazi (which is not a synonym for “German Soldier”). He was probably not all that different from Mr. Robertson.

        Leftist tripe that all cultures are equivalent in values and worth and everybody is entitled to their own ideas of good and evil. Big load of BS from top to bottom.

        • “Leftist tripe … [blahblahblah]”.

          Oh for heaven’s sake, doesky.

          As opposed to ‘rightist tripe’, where ‘our side’ is always pure, good & worthy of God’s love & forgiveness, while ‘their side’ is always dirty, evil & deserving of nothing but condemnation (if ‘our side’ decides to be merciful … today) or death (if we don’t).

          Calling you a jackass – for taking the obvious moral struggle this old soldier had long after he stopped being a soldier, and turning it into a FOX news political thing – does a disservice to jackasses.

          But I hope they’ll forgive me anyway, you jackass.

    • I shot somebody else’s dog once, for endangering my livestock. My regret is that hitting it once with a .22 at about 80 yards, wasn’t a clean kill, but the .22 was all I had, and I was mad about losing animals. Shortly thereafter, I picked up my first centerfire, a Mosin M44. A 200 grain softpoint would have put that dog down quick.

      People, keep your dogs away from other people’s animals.

      • @Art–I hope that you spoke with your neighbors about their animal before you killed it. If it was an ongoing problem I am sorry that your neighbors have no respect for another man’s property. You should have discussed it with your neighbor and because you were so willing to use violence to solve your problem anyways, you should have just assaulted the irresponsible human.
        My silver shepherd snapped his chain and unfortunately a cop was driving by at the exact moment. My puppy ran over to my neighbors, which means I respect and talk to them. The cop got out of his car and drew his weapon with children in the line of fire, and was just about to point it at my valued property, whose continued life, meant more than the cops. I saw how excited the cop was that he was about to get to use his gun and I politely warned him that if he shot that animal on private property he was going to hear another gunshot. The cowardly cop was in the wrong and I used my second amendment to stop a tyrant from depriving me of my property, exactly as intended. I called my dog who came running back after licking hello my neighbors kid. The cop ran back to his car and went on to look for a victim.

        What I’m saying Art is that your violent act should have been handled better between neighbors, and it sounds like you have adjacent property owners not neighbors. Some of your neighbors may believe in the old belief of shooting a man only kills him once, but taking what a man loves makes him die everyday. Sounds like you violated that old saying and could experience it from your neighbors since that saying is about principle.

        • Dude if your “puppy” snapped its chain and came over and started harassing/attacking my animals, I’d put it down then and there. Your dog might mean the world to you, but at the end of the day, if its attacking what means the world to me, or my livelihood, then the gloves come off.

          That being said, most dogs are friendly, and I’ve gone out of my way in the past to return lost dogs.

        • I actually had no idea whose dog it was. I had not seen it before. It was not a neighbor’s dog, to the best of my knowledge. If I knew it to be a neighbor’s dog, I would have spoken with my neighbor rather than shooting the dog. Killing a neighbor’s dog without prior warning seems improper. Killing an unknown agressive dog threatening your animals is a different matter. Actually there were two dogs. I only hit one, and it ran off (body shot with .22). I don’t know what happened to it, and feel bad about that fact.

          A lot of people in the country let their dogs roam freely, where they get into michief, and often get run over, or shot. That sucks.

        • By the way, you threatening a cop’s life over a dog makes you sound pretty irresponsible. The cop was probably a bit trigger happy, but that does not justify you threatening him. If you killed a cop for shooting your dog, I’d vote to hang you as a juror. People matter more than animals.

        • Theres a duck hunting saying Ive heard since I was a kid:

          “If you shoot the dog, youre probably going to have to shoot the owner.”

      • I agree. I have seen firsthand what peoples pets can do to livestock and someones livelihood. It isnt pretty. I have lost count of how many dogs i or rancher friends have had to shoot for that reason. Even after talking to the owners, the dogs would still return to tear up and kill livestock.

        i am also a combat vet. I am not some special forces operator nor am i some ‘fobbit’ or pogue. I worked as a fire supporter for a light infantry unit in AFG. Nothing special but ive been in a fight or two. Ive seen stress and guilt at work in soldiers first hand, and all different.

        This stuff affects every person differently. Some more, some less. This vet in the video above served honorably, did his job, and regretably had to take a life. His actions were right and just, and his reaction to it is no less so. Dont criticize him or ‘i woulda’ his experience. Its his, not yours. For me, family and faith in my risen Savior helped me and many of those i know.

        Last point since im already long winded. My great grandfather served as a prison guard for german pows. My grandmother would go visit many of the prisoners amd recalls the kindness of many of the germans. They would share their chocolate ration with her. There were some however that she was not allowed near. These were the ‘mean ones’ as she described them. Usually hard line nazis, but it goes to show you that nothing is as simple as we would like to make it.

        P.s. i will state that ISIS and radical islam is pure evil. And that evil must be fought. Would like to make my stance on war very clear.

      • Yes, had to kill him because the owner of the animal it maimed demanded it. That dog was a lot ‘smarter’ about fences and restraints than I had thought. Felt humiliated, embarrassed and real sad when I shot him. That look of curiosity and that wagging tail I’ll never forget.

        The game I killed? All the deer and ducks? No, I went after them. Killing them was the point. In discussing ‘On Killing’ I suppose that could make a difference on how we view ‘killing’.

    • @Yngvar–Shooting an evil man intent on harming you, is nothing like having to kill a loved pet. You will sleep like a baby and that could scare you, but remember it is perfectly human to know and accept that you are the Apex predator, it is our nature unfortunately.

  5. Everyone deals with death and killing a little differently.

    Some carry around those they kill in self-defense for the rest of their lives.

    Some aren’t too bothered by it for very long at all.

    Some people get past it after a few years.

    • Thanks for saying that. I was always a little worried about myself. I had to shoot some rapist (we later learned) who had broken into my mothers house. I was coming over to help move some furniture and found her before anything had happened and he tried to come after me. And yet I have zero remorse. Maybe its how I think about evil “people” but to me they arent people. They arent animals. Theyre filth. Meant to be scraped off and disposed of.

      On the other hand the animals ive rescued and the ones who didnt make it even after that? They haunt me almost daily. Oh well.

  6. What happens after a self defense shooting is the story that’s not often told. Alcohol abuse, divorce, social withdrawal, endless nightmares, suicide, these are all things that seem to follow defensive shootings yet few people are talking about them.

      • Because there’s one in every crowd, and I was waiting for you. Here you go. Read, don’t skim, all of it.

        http://www.helpforpolice.com/shooting-debriefing.html

        http://www.nij.gov/journals/253/pages/responses.aspx

        http://www.tearsofacop.com/police/articles/aftergun.html

        http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=2291&issue_id=12011

        This is just for starters, the footnotes and references should keep you busy for a bit. It’s nice that the NIJ and some large states have studied this situation, a length, and published a metric ton of research on this very topic.

        Unfortunately, the ones who fall the hardest are the ones who brag about sleeping like a baby after taking a life – there seem to be way too many of those guys reading and commenting on this site.

        • Yup, and there’s one in every crowd like yourself that doesn’t have a clue what the F**k he’s talking about, just because he’s read a few studies on the Internet. Those studies are done on police, which from phycological stand typically find themselves in one on one scenarios, as opposed to the group scenarios of warfare. Therefore it’s much more personalized. Also, there is a difference in the type of person that becomes a police officer and one that becomes a soldier. Though police have occasionally have to kill, it’s not their job discription. The U.S. Military job is to kill, I don’t care what the commercials or recuiters say, it’s a military, it’s job is to kill. Therefore you naturally end up with people you are more ok with it from the outset.

        • There’s also the aspect that the police officer has to make the decision whether to kill or not. In the military that decision is made for you. You kill. You don’t have to wonder afterwards whether you made the right decision or not.

          The military and the police are entirely different.

        • This is getting more fun now. Let’s see. Every year the State of Pennsylvania drills us with “after the shoot” training. Being that PA has like 850+ law enforcement agencies and is the 6th most populous agency, it’s a big state that puts a lot of resources into this. I’ve worked with three people, two different agencies, who were involved in fatal shoots – all good shoots. Two of them left the job within three years, one was within a year. The third shows now long term effects from the shooting. The other two were a wreck. It didn’t happen right away, but, it happened. Remember, these were people who were psychologically screened before being hired.

          There are little to no tracking efforts outside of officer involved shootings. But, from OIS the picture is pretty clear and it’s worse for the tough guys who bury what’s going on inside and hide it.

          I will take a university research paper or NIJ study over your profanity laced post.

        • Yes, profanity laced, because I used the F word once. Wa wa wa. I really don’t care what you’re experience with 2 officers was. The comment above spells it out perfectly, everyone handles things differently. It’s that simple. Some people can’t handle a divorce, and kill themselves. Others, shrug off divorce as if it was a minor break up. Some people can’t handle the death of a loved one, and let it ruin their lives and drown themselves in pity, liquor, and cry woe is me until they die pathetically. Some, grieve for a while and get on with their lives. It’s the same with killing. Some people let it define them, and ruin them, and others deal with it and carry on. You’re blantant statement relying on personal experiance and one study, (if it was even scientific) isn’t even close to true.

          Oh, I highly suggest you research what a “phycological screening” for a police officer entails.

        • “Yup, and there’s one in every crowd like yourself that doesn’t have a clue what the F**k he’s talking about,”

          Wait WTF!?

          I think he does know WTF he’s talking about, unlike you all american.

          I mean, its almost like you are completely ignoring the news about murders, domestic violence, etc that occur after soldiers return from deployment.I take it you haven’t read post publications recently?

          They are affected just like every other human being, like police officers.

    • Those people should have never been carrying a tool that is designed to efficiently destroy matter, and that fact is cemented in their destructive actions. Granted in America today armed citizens have more to fear from the state destroying your life instead of the criminal that had to be killed in self-defense.(Zimmerman, Ferguson) Those people are obviously lacking self-control, and they should have exercised that little self-control to never by a defensive firearm in the first place.

      What is the point of surviving a violent situation, especially if afterwards you allow that situation to ruin you? The death of an imminent threat is the most comforting feeling in a violent situation, since it makes you thankful to be alive. If you are going to be a victim your whole life after the fact, just let the evil man win the confrontation and accept a cowardly death. It is better for some men to die alone dishonorably than to waste the gift of life by pretending, which makes life miserable for all.. I can guarantee you that the act of killing is not what leads to those problems after a defensive gun use. It is the shooter fooling himself about his mental capacity and coping skills and they interject themselves into a situation they should have avoided, because they were ill equipped for it.(some dogs don’t hunt) If you don’t think you can mentally handle the aftermath of killing an evil man, who is intent upon harming you or another innocent, then don’t carry a gun. That moral questioning should have been been resolved before purchasing a handgun.

      The veteran in the video should have never been in combat, and he should have listened to that inner-conscientious-objector. He survived, not lived another day, but some men are so consumed with guilt that they never leave the battlefield.
      Disclaimer: I say kill the threat because I will never wound an evil man and give him years to plot revenge or make better criminal connections in prison, plus I have some earned tattoos that will poison any jury pool against me. After a defensive shooting I will be arrested by the state for justifiable homicide, not justifiable suppression of a threat.

  7. Although I’ve stated I could kill, it’s the last thing I want to do. Contrast that with a criminal who wants to rob, assault or hurt my family and only considers killing to cover his crime. Against this backdrop an army of legislators want to remove the tool I don’t want to use in public or my home and empower a criminal who employs a gun to assist in a crime. Two mind sets and more often than not, CA legislators actions support the criminal.

  8. Personally, I would find it much easier to shoot a violent street criminal, than to kill an enemy combatant in war. Both are lawful in the sight of the universal Moral Law, but the criminal is responsible for his own death, and the enemy combatant is likely just a conscript, and a pawn of a tyranical government.

    I never want to harm anybody, but if necessary would probably kill in both cases above. I would prefer to kill a violent criminal than some pitiful peasant conscript.

    • I would kill a normal enemy soldier to actually defend the USA, but I just do not see most Russian or Chinese potential enemy soldiers as really necessarily evil persons. ISIS may be a different story. I would kill a thug with more prejudice if I did catch them in a life threatening dastardly act.

  9. there actually a book called “on killing” it talks about why the army got rid of bullseye targets and went to silhouettes and the mindset of a soldier / fighter

    • On killing is now on required reading for Marine war collage ( if that is their term for it)

      Paints a very real picture about violence, why it happens and what happens to cause killing along with the aftermath. Should be linked on this website for being an excellent source of information.

    • That’s b.s. David Grossman is a fraud. This review on amazon said it best:

      “I cannot recommend this book to anyone. I hoped I would find in it a well-documented, well-thought-out treatment of the subject matter. To my surprise, I found instead a sensationalized polemic advocating the censorship of violent video games.

      The author was unconvincing in his arguments. It is clear from his cherry-picking of statistics that he wants us to believe that we live in a society of ever-increasing violence. Unfortunately for Grossman, US Department of Justice statistics contradict this assertion. According to DOJ numbers easily found through a Google search, violent crime rates (including homicide)in America skyrocketed from about 1960 to the early 1990s, but have been falling steadily since then. Would anyone argue that the use of violent video games in the US is falling steadily as well? He also fails to mention that certain societies with arguably even more violent video games than the US have much lower rates of violent crime than we do, for example Japan.
      The author seems to rely heavily on a few secondary sources, particularly John Keegan’s Face of Battle and Richard Holmes’ Acts of War. His few primary sources include articles from Soldier of Fortune magazine; he appears to take them at face value that they are true, accurate first-person accounts of combat experiences. He claims that he himself conducted several hundred interviews of combat veterans, but didn’t seem to use their accounts as sources.

      His personal bias in on display here, but he seems unaware of it. He lionizes the American soldier. I served as an American soldier for two decades before retiring in 2001. I came to view my fellow soldiers as ordinary fallen beings sometimes performing unpleasant tasks in unpleasant places. Hero worship is a poor tool when one seeks the truth.

      Most troubling is Grossman’s frequent citing of controversial assertions by Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall. Marshall, better known as SLA Marshall, or SLAM, a newspaper columnist and US Army officer, claimed to conduct hundreds of interviews with US combat veterans in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. His claimed insights about the reticence of men in combat to fire their weapons were influential in how the US Army shaped its training in the latter half of the 20th Century. As an enthusiastic young Army officer in the 1980s, I eagerly read his works.

      In the early to mid 1990s, several people began to re-examine Marshall’s assertions (google Roger J. Spiller and Harold Leinbaugh). Attempts to confirm Marshall’s claims of how he conducted his research have cast serious doubts on the accuracy of his assertions. First-person accounts of people who were present during his claimed interviews in WWII and Korea differed dramatically from SLAM’s accounts of how many interviews were conducted, how they were conducted, what subjects were discussed, etc. Attempts to confirm SLAM’s accounts with physical evidence have been unsuccessful. At some point, he claimed to have filled about 800 notebooks with the results of his interviews, but only two of his notebooks have surfaced, despite the fact that his voluminous personal and professional papers are in the possession of the University of Texas at El Paso library, and have been extensively searched.
      Marshall established a reputation for exaggerating his personal accomplishments, including those in wartime. He claimed to have won a battlefield commission in WWI but records indicate he was commissioned in 1919, after the war ended. He claimed to have been an infantryman leading other infantrymen in combat in WWI, but records indicate that he was instead a sergeant of engineers, attached to the 90th Infantry Division, doing construction and repair work on roads.

      In the Introduction to the June 2009 edition of On Killing, Grossman quickly addresses the controversy over Marshall and simply dismisses it out of hand. This suggests much about Grossman’s mindset. An objective writer simply seeking the truth might have been hesitant to continue to rely heavily on a figure such as Marshall whose credibility had been so called into question. Instead Grossman charges forward, continuing to rely on Marshall, despite the serious doubts about his credibility.”

        • I believe it. David Hackworth served with Slam Marshall in Vietnam, and spoke frequently of Slam’s sloppy and even deliberately deceptive work.

          My father was interviewed by Slam Marshall during World War 2. My father’s C.O. was trying to get his self a Medal of Honor. Slam totally ignored by father’s statements that the C.O. was nowhere near the action, wrote the narrative that favored the C.O., and the dirtbag C.O. got his Medal of Honor partly in thanks to Slam.

          In the 1980s, my father caught me reading a work of Slam Marshall’s, NIGHT DROP, and he spoke at length of all the mistakes in the book. Slam basically wrote fiction.

          The fact that Grossman would use Slam Marshall as a source, it does not speak well of Grossman’s writings or Grossman himself.

  10. You don’t win a war by dying for your country, you win a war by making some other poor bastard die for his.

  11. The lives taken by your own hands will always stay with you…

    I always pray over my harvested game and thank the animal for feeding my family, as a show of respect. Taking life is taking life.

    • A little disingenuous in my eyes, since comparing killing an evil man to that of providing nutrients for your family is apples to oranges. I have found out that I only get buck fever when there is a four-legged animal that has no chance on this earth to defend itself from me. The animal is a hard earned sacrifice that is going to be used and to nurture me and mine, as intended by God.
      “Blessed are the peacemakers, who are the sons of God.” Fortunately my hands stop shaking with a 1911 in them, when there is an evil man in front of me intent upon harm, and some men’s absolute calmness in chaos is scarier to others, than the chaos is.

        • Whatever helps you sleep at night, my friend.

          I bear my cross my own way, you can do the same.

          My pain stops when I let go of the hate.

      • Sounds like GreatPlainsSower has convinced himself he’s equal to the High Plains Drifter.

        Step away from the Clint Eastwood Marathon on AMC next time, GPS. You need to decompress.

  12. I wonder how many Americans in the Pacific Theater felt bad about shelling, nuking, incinerating, bayoneting, or shooting some Tojos. My theory is that European-Americans would feel guiltier for killing Fritz (who was often one generation away from them) versus an oriental other. Not that anything is wrong with that, mind you. It’s just how I think we’re wired.

    • Imperial Japan attacked the United States and murdered 3,000 service personnel without warning. They killed as may or more civilians as the Germans did.

      new research out of china and S. korea, were a couple hundred million people were under occupation show that had we not nuke and gone with an invasion, not only would there be 2 million US and Japanese casualties, there ma have been around five million deaths form starvation in occupied areas every three months additional occupation.

      Also casualty rates that had to be inflicted onto Japanese forces before surrender or withdrawal were an order of magnitude higher than either hardcore Nazi or even soviet troops. When you kill or wound 10-15% of almost any adversary unit they tend to fade. time and time again US troops had to kill between 75% to 99%, taking casualties themselves. Ffor example in the Battle of the Luzon, which in terms of total Japanese, US and civilian death was worse than ANY battle the US participated in during the war

      • In other words, elevated animus toward Japan and its soldiers was fact based, on very specific actions by the Japanese, not some racial issue.

        Even the interment of Japanese Americans (in reality mostly households headed by persons who never attempted US citizenship), while wrong is more nuanced than currently portrayed.. It was only one the west coast, and it was after mass interment of Americans all over the E. Pacific, under conditions that made US internment camps look like club med- and before the US internment program

        • >> Even the interment of Japanese Americans (in reality mostly households headed by persons who never attempted US citizenship),

          62% of those interned were citizens.

          >> It was only one the west coast

          Yes – where the majority of Japanese were.

          >> it was after mass interment of Americans all over the E. Pacific

          It’s sort of expected from a crazy militarist dictatorship to do that sort of thing. But why would you even use that as a baseline for what the USA could have or should have done?

    • I would recommend watching The War by Ken Burns if you havent already. Great section in there about the Philippines and Bataan.

    • “My theory is that European-Americans would feel guiltier for killing Fritz (who was often one generation away from them) versus an oriental other.”

      Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers) wrote that the Germans were the enemy who was most like us. (meaning the US soldiers)

      After a bombing, the French just kind of sat there, while the the Germans would start to clear the rubble, stack the bricks neatly, organize salvageable wood, etc. for the later rebuilding.

    • I think it’s as much because the initial Japanese aggression, coupled with their treatment of prisoners quickly led to a mutual understood policy of no quarter. American troops would fight to the death because it’s better than being starved, tortured, then thrown down a hole and set on fire. Japanese troops would fight to the death at first because of devotion to their Emperor, and later because American troops just stopped taking prisoners who just might have a live grenade in their hands.

      Shit was ugly.

      • Japanese military commanders considered all peoples other than the Japanese to be no more than slaves. Under their adapted conception of Bushido, anyone who would surrender was a coward and worthy of only slavery or death. Adding the implicit duty of loyalty to country, the Japanese soldier’s expression of courage was self-sacrifice to the glory of the Emperor–for most, surrender was impossible. To surrender was to bring dishonor to one’s self, one’s family, one’s country, and one’s Emperor (who at the time was still considered akin to a god).

  13. Thank you for your service. It doesn’t really matter if Fritz was a Nazi or not. We also shot Germans 25 years before WW2.No Nazis then. That’s war-and some of my relatives probably died on the German side-my grandma & pa came over on the boat in 1913 and were Schmidt’s. Most WW2 vets(and I knew WW1 vets too) were reluctant to talk about what they did. And it’s amazing how many were underage and lied to get in. One old guy fought in Anzio at 16…and he had a fantastic life.

    • By most accounts, the youngest American on Omaha Beach on D-Day was fifteen and the oldest was 51. The old General lived. The boy died. War really is a cruel b1tch.

      • If you do not read WN62 by Heinz Severloh, you really do not know what went on at Omaha Beach. I could say our troops at Omaha Beach were heroes, but in reality our military was just sadly plain incompetent.

        • Nice to know Severloh’s book finally got translated. However, I don’t agree with you on calling the GI’s incompetent. The unique and highly developed culture of German militancy was impossible to match by most other nations. Those of WW2 were willing to turn themselves into fighters of world-class efficiency at the drop of a hat, just as their fathers and grandfathers had done. The stereotype of everything German from schools to hospitals being militarized started in 1871 under Bismarck, not Hitler. By 1944 it had simply been so finely groomed that the U.S. army, with less than half the experience of the Brits and Canadians in both wars combined, seemed like a bunch of lost kids by comparison and as products of their own environment with a less rigid culture.

    • My hunting 92 year old buddy served on a destroyer in the Pacific and often tells the story of how he tore apart at Japanese kamikaze headed directly for his gun position on his ship. He notes how the plane was so close he could see his head explode. He feels no regret, and still hates the Japanese today for how they treated his buddies that were captured and their unprovoked attack in HI. He still hunts with us every single day of the waterfowl season (now relegated to a 20 ga.).

  14. On my Destroyer Escort, off the Korean coast in 52, we never thought twice about sealing up a train in a tunnel, by blasting both end shut with our 5″38’s
    I think about it now though, but like before, only once!

  15. Its fun to knock the Germans, but some of many America’s wars were not always universally popular and many thought they were questionable.
    Some controversial US military adventures include the War of 1812, Cherokee Trail Of Tears, Mexican American War, Civil War, Vietnam, Iraq.
    I remember my Grandmother stating her Grandmother was adamantly opposed to the Civil War and did not like Lincoln. The family was living in Pennsylvania at that point in time.
    Not all Americans were really thrilled with the Revolutionary War either.

    • why do you say “America’s wars?” Don’t you mean all countries wars?

      Sure there are some people opposed to any war.

      As far as America is concerned, we are far from perfect. But if you imagine a world the past 100 years without China, Germany, Japan, Russia you just get an net neutral or more civilians living.

      If you imagine a world without the US the past 100 years you get a world dominated by Stalin or Hitler and their heirs. A VERY nasty world.

    • I would hardly call the War of 1812 an “American military adventure”. The invasion of British Canada, while in retrospect a rather worthless theater, was in concert fighting off the British invasion force that eventually sacked and burned Washington DC.

  16. First,

    I am glad this mans story, and many like his, are being recorded before the entirety of that generation die off.

    Second, it really seemed liked this guy did not want to shoot that German. He let the German get that close (could have shot him @ 100 ft. +) and he tried to take him prisoner first. I hope this man had at least some restful nights before he past.

  17. My Dad was in WW2 and came back in bad shape mentally (“shell shocked”). He and many others who were in the really bad stuff would never talk about it to anyone. They had nightmares and other mental issues. I don’t think anyone can go to way and do and see bad things can come home normal. None of my friends and classmates that went to Viet Nam came back normal. They came back dead, crippled or crazy.

  18. The Germans made a choice.

    Well before the Nazis had achieved total control of the German state, they overwhelmingly gave Hitler and his psychopathic henchmen, their stamp of approval.

    From the: Worth a Thousand Words Dept:
    Consider this 1934 image when you hear the claim that the Nazis did not have the support of the German people. This is just one year after Hitler’s election.
    https://twitter.com/oldpicsarchive/status/596050823622356993/photo/1

    Then consider this:
    German referendum, 1934
    From Wikipedia
    Image: Banner with the campaign message “Yes to the Führer!”
    “A referendum on merging the posts of Chancellor and President was held in Germany on 19 August 1934,[1] after the death of President Paul von Hindenburg seventeen days earlier. The German leadership sought to gain approval for Adolf Hitler’s assumption of supreme leadership. The overwhelmingly positive result of this referendum allowed Hitler to claim public support for his activities as the Führer and de facto Head of State of Germany. In fact, he had assumed these offices and powers immediately upon von Hindenburg’s death and used the referendum to legitimize this move, taking the title Führer und Reichskanzler (Führer and Chancellor).

    Support for merging the offices of president and chancellor was greatest in East Prussia, where 96% voted in favour. It was weakest in Hamburg, where just under 80% voted affirmatively. This regional variation was identical to that in the referendum of 1933. The relative lack of support in Hamburg in 1933 prompted Hitler to declare a national holiday on 17 August 1934 so that he could address the German people directly over the 4.3 million registered radio sets.[2] Of the democratic nature of the referendum, political scientist Arnold Zurcher writes that “there undoubtedly was a great deal” of “intangible official pressure”, but “[probably very little] downright coercion and intimidation at the polls”.

    For: – 38,394,848 – 88.1%
    Against: – 4,300,370 – 9.9%
    Invalid: – 873,668 – 2.0%
    Total: – 43,568,886 – 100%
    Registered voters/turnout: – 45,552,059 95.7%

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_referendum,_1934#cite_note-Zurcher-2

    Here’s what the American’s did when they liberated Dachau and saw what the Germans had done:
    “…in 1992 former soldier Don Ritzenthaler, a 91-year-old who was among the liberators at Dachau, broke his silence. “He said in his first ever interview: ‘After what we saw, we shot any German guards we saw on sight’.”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3067988/Let-s-Nazi-dogs-Enraged-horrors-Dachau-concentration-camp-arriving-liberate-WWII-prisoners-American-soldiers-executed-50-Germans-cold-blood-reveals-new-book.html

    I would also recommend the two recent books:
    The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War – by Andrew Roberts
    http://www.amazon.com/Storm-War-History-Second-World/dp/0061228605/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431953512&sr=8-1&keywords=andrew+roberts+the+storm+of+war
    This will disabuse you of any notion of the German Army as noble Teutonic knights protecting das Vaterland.

    In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – by Erik Larson http://www.amazon.com/Garden-Beasts-Terror-American-Hitlers/dp/030740885X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431954655&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+garden+of+the+beasts+by+erik+larson
    An account of the American Ambassador to Nazi Germany during the period when the Nazis solidify their power.

    • Nazi Germany almost certainly could not have come to power without the Treaty of Versailles. The conditions imposed on Germany after WWI were excessive and humiliating, really setting the stage for Hitler’s rise to power. If post-WWI Germany had been treated with cooperation and respect, there’s no likely way public sentiment could have swung his way.

      The Third Reich was built on the sins of Europe’s previous generation of leaders.

    • By 1934, Nazi paramilitaries were routinely beating up and even extrajudicially executing opponents of the regime, and Dachau already existed for a year, stuffed mainly with political prisoners (communists and socialists). To assume that a referendum could be free and fair in such an environment is ridiculous.

  19. There are more Nazi sympathizers in this discussion that I would have guessed. Although I must admit I am very bias. My grandfather was a POW, captured in Africa. If you look at the atrocities committed by the Germans upon my grandfather, his friends and whole cites, entire nations impossible for me to defend them. But I certainly won’t stop you from trying.

  20. This guy must have been around 15 in 1944, if he is 86 now, that would mean he was born in 1929. He must have been 14 or 15 when he entered the service, since they took a bit of time to train the new troops. I guess we were getting to the bottom of the barrel age wise by that point.

  21. Being a Vet and son of a Vet, I could not figure out my Dad about WWII, It wasn’t until my first tour that my dad would talk too me about his experiences,
    Like most Vets I clammed up about my war experiences, self Medicated and have PTSD, depression TBI and a bunch of diseases cause by Agent Orange!
    I read the Colonel,s books, they helped me make a decision between the difference of killing and Murder, If you believe in the bible it clearly makes that distinction! Clearly killing a man, women or child! is hard to do Evan in line of duty! but it become’s easier and easier
    After being released from the Service, I said I would never use a rifle or handgun except in self defense! Oldest daughter wanted too Hunt! made her jump through hoops because I did not want to pick up that Rifle! She persevered and she and I haven’t missed a Deer season in 28 years!
    the other things I did included writing down every damn detail good and bad then throw it away! symbolic maybe!
    Some of it is quilt, { not supposed to Kill} or better you than me, some of it is competition, some of it is liking it! Mutilation or Disfigurement, or frustration knowing you cannot change it, any particular thing gives you the hebbi jebbi’s, then the nightmare begin!
    Civilians are held at arms length because most of them can not relate too what you tell them! or think it’s BS, or want to aggrandize it or inflate it to coin a phrase It it what it is! nothing more or nothig less
    WWII Vet Story is his story! I thank him for his service! To share that story is an Emotional strain, yes, but in some ways a relief

  22. My dad was combat vet of WW2 and Korea. He was actually captured in France during the Battle of the Bulge and spent 3 months in a POW camp. He had few regrets about killing (he manned a water cooled machine gun) and essentially said it was either him or the Germans.

    After he was liberated he transferred to the Pacific and the 11th Airborne. His brother died in Camp Cabanatuan. But still, when he occupied Japan he held no real animus toward the Japanese people. When Korea broke out he was in charge of artillery and recounted shelling refugee columns because guerrilla’s were coming with them through the mountain pass. He said it was something he had to do. Didn’t like it but it meant saving lives.

    I am sure my dad had his share of demons to battle, however he handled his later life with aplomb.

  23. 1. Let’s not forget that the vast majority of the German people were anti-Jew prior to WWII. Otherwise the German/Nazis/Hitler would not have been able to do what they did, regardless of party affiliation.

    2. As a Paramedic with a 33 year career in EMS, I have watched untold people die, often once I and my team have decided that resuscitation is futile, others despite our best efforts to save them. I don’t remember any of their faces. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t have a problem with death. I don’t think I would have a mental problem kiling in self defense, either. Again, that’s just me. Some people just can’t cope with it.

  24. This is called needing Jesus.

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mathew 11:28-30 niv

    • If that’s what it takes for you,some of us have no need for your Christ. Our old gods suffice.

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