"Combat Exhaustion"

Combat Exhaustion (Signal Corps, 1945)

This training film presented a dramatization of Army doctors visiting an aid station in which soldiers suffering from “combat fatigue” are being treated. They learn about the physical and psychological results of battle fatigue, and various treatments ranging from rest, chemical hypnosis, electric shock, insulin therapy, and occupational therapy. Much of the film is explicitly aimed at training viewers to administer these treatments. For instance, Reel 3 focuses on the use of chemical hypnosis to treat “hysterical amnesia.” It teaches viewers how to prepare and administer the drugs for this treatment, and shows a patient under the influence of these drugs, reliving his combat experiences . The techniques described here are clearly indebted to the work of American psychoanalyst Roy Grinker, and possibly to London psychiatrist William Sargant; they are similar to those recounted in John Huston’s Let There be Light (1946).

Related films:

“Let there be Light” (1946), “Shades of Gray” (1948), “Combat fatigue irritability” (1945), “Combat psychiatry the battalion medical officer” (1954)

Further reading:

Grinker, Roy R., and Spiegel, John S., “Brief Psychiatry in War neuroses,” Psychosomatic Medicine April 1, 1944, vol. 6 no. 2 123-131.
Grinker, Roy R., and Spiegel, John S., War Neuroses (1945).
Grinker, Roy R., and Spiegel, John S., Men Under Stress (1945).
Winter, A., “Film and the transformation of memory in psychoanalysis, 1940-1960,”  Science in Context (2006), 19 (1), 111-136.
Winter, A.,“Screening selves: sciences of identity and memory on film,” History of Psychology, November 2004, 367-401.

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