The way the details of war have been communicated has changed quite a bit in the last few hundred years, then again in the last hundred years, and finally again since the dawn of the internet. What was once a void of information has been filled, and sometimes oversaturated with reports, books and firsthand accounts of what goes on overseas. It has gotten to the point where many are taxed with the constant stream of memoirs or accounts of who shot who.
I used to feel the same way, but over time my ideas on the subject have changed.
It started when I was reading literature that was written before, during and after WWI. Most of what I was reading was either fiction or poetry, but it was very enlightening as to how people viewed war in general, and how those views drastically changed during the great war. We debate now about the “glorification of war,” but no facet of society quite glorifies war in the ways many did back then. Movies like “Saving Private Ryan” would look completely different if produced prior to WWI.
Some of the contributing factors to this change was quite obviously the war. People went from thinking they were the pinnacle of human existence having transcended beyond the primal instincts of the past, only to realize that they were still just beasts scraping along in the mud (as we are today and always will be). When World War II rolled around, those glorious, highfalutin thoughts were long gone, and they rolled up their sleeves for round two.
However, it would be disingenuous to discount the role of technology in the change of the public’s perception of war. For example, the distribution of books had come a long way. The swathes of younger generations who did not come home during the first World War was supplemented by detailed descriptions of the battlefield, and their subsequent reports back home. This meant news, memoirs, poetry and even fiction rooted in reality.
Over the years, these things have become more common. Some get tired of it — again, I used to count myself among them. However, I remind myself that I am grateful to hear the stories of the men and women who fought on the ground. Those are the stories I want to hear. I’ll read the biography of the occasional politician, but if I’m reading about a war, then I want the thoughts and experiences of both the officers in charge and the men in the trenches. That goes for wars of old, our present conflicts and it will apply to wars in the future — these stories have been actively combating propaganda efforts from governments all around the world for a very long time, not just in the U.S.
Fiction is my passion, personally. But I hope that people continue to tell their stories as we move from one conflict to the next. Without them, all we have are the voices of the politicians and the generals, and that is not an accurate picture at all.
Featured image: Deployments often leave soldiers missing loved ones from home, one soldier takes the time to write his loved one a note. | 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division