The American Soldier
Roger Conarty (L/276) told us of of a study done on material collected by the War Department in WW II, a portion of which was based on interviews of 70th Infantry Division soldiers conducted during division training at Camp Adair and follow up interviews after the war. Karl Landstrom located a copy at the Library of Congress and photo copied the pages applicalble to us. This portion of the study is Volume II, Combat and its Aftermath. It relates the attitudes of a sample of infantry recruits to their individual combat performance in Europe over a year later. The authors indicated that this study represents the only available data directly relating attitudes to the performance of individual men.

"In the fall and winter of 1943 it was possible to ascertain attitudes of a sample of a newly activated division, then in training at Camp Adair, OR and to identify the questionnaires by background information like induction date, age, and state of birth with information on the Form 20 personnel cards. The questionnaires were filled our anonymously and faith was kept with the men, since by agreement with the division commander the identifying information was known only to the Research Branch and never released to the division.

The study recognizes that the division lost more than half of its infantrymen as overseas replacements in early 1944, thus reducing greatly the number that could be followed up in their original units. However, it was found that the questionnaire responses of those transferred and those remaining were almost identical on all items , so that those remaining proved to be representative of the division with respect to attitudes.

The 274th Infantry Regiment, to which was assigned the greater part of the men for whom pre-combat data were available, arrived in France in December 1944 with the other two regiments as part of a task force and were attached to other divisions as needed. In February 1945, they operated as part of the 70th Infantry Division. Their battle history includes heavy fighting at Phillipsbourg, France and in cracking the Siegfried Line outside of Saarbrucken. In their main actions, they suffered quite severe casualties. The 275th and 276th Infantry Regiments and the 270th Engineer Battalion had much the same history. The division was withdrawn from combat March 25th, 1945.

Shortly after VE Day, a team of psychologists from the Research Branch, ETO, was sent to the 70th Division to obtain data on the combat performance of as many as possible of the individuals who had participated in the attitude surveys in Oregon. A carefully planned interview procedure was employed, and out of the interviewing were obtained reliable evaluations of the combat performance of individuals. The conditions were perhaps optimal for obtaining the kind of evaluation sought. Most of the men had been on line for about three months-long enough to provide a thorough test under fire, yet short enough that there were still some men left to tell about it. And memories were still fresh.

Usable combat ratings were obtained for 393 men for whom the questionnaire data were also available. The rating interviews were conducted by specially trained interviewers, and in almost all cases the raters were the officers or noncoms who had worked most closely with the man being rated. These men fell into three categories of combat performance: Above average 33%,  Average or indeterminate 39%,   Below average 28%.

Because it was desired to control the influence of education, AGCT score, age and marital condition on performance and to evaluate the relationship between attitudes and combat ratings with these background factors held constant, the sample was reduced to 279 cases in the process of matching the three performance groups on these background factors.

Attitudes Relating to Combat as Correlated with Combat Performance

In the initial attitude surveys at Camp Adair, four questions were asked:

1. If you went into actual fighting after finishing one year of training, how do you think you would do? 

2. Do you ever worry about whether you will be injured in combat before the war is over?

3. How do you think you would feel about killing a Japanese soldier?

4. How do you think you would feel about killing a German soldier?

Percentage giving indicated responses

Combat Performance Groups

  Below Average Average Above Average
Answers to Question #1      
I think I would do all right. 23 29 31
I think I would have trouble at first but after a while I'd do ok. 42 39 55
I haven't any idea how I would do. 17 20 9
I don't think I would do very well. 18 12 0


  Below Average Average Above Average
Answers to Question #2      
Never worry about it. 31 42 42
Hardly ever worry about it. 38 33 40
No Answer. 0 1 2
Worry about it fairly often. 26 20 15


  Below Average Average Above Average
Answers to Question #3      
I would really like to kill a Japanese soldier. 38 44 48
I would feel it is part of the job, without liking it or disliking it. 35 32 34
I would feel it is part of the job, but would still feel bad about killing a man even if he was a Japanese soldier. 16 18 17
I would feel I should not kill anyone, not even a Japanese soldier. 5 6 1
Some other idea or no answer. 4 2 3


  Below Average Average Above Average
Answers to Question #4      
I would really like to kill a German soldier. 5 6 9
I would feel it is just a part of the job, without liking it or disliking it. 45 52 55
I would feel it is part of the job, but would still feel bad about killing a man even if he was a German soldier. 41 34 32
I would feel I should not kill anyone, not even a German soldier. 5 6 1

"The foregoing charts indicate that the men rated above average in combat tended to show, during their training period-over a year before combat-atitudes with respect to combat which were superior from, the Army point-of -view, as compared with the other men. That is, they were more likely to manifest confidence they would perform satisfactorily in combat, they were more likely not to express anxiety about future injury in combat, and they were somewhat more likely to accept killing as their business. The attitude differences between the above and below average performance groups are consistent on all four items and are statistically significant on all items except that on killing Japanese."

"It is also of interest to note that corresponding attitude differences between above and below average combat performance groups, analyzed separately for the smaller sample of men who fought in line Infantry companies, tended to be even more marked than the differences charted. For example, in line companies of the 274th Infantry Regiment the proportion who said during training that they 'never' worried about combat injuries was 48% against 24% for the below average group."

"The better educated, the men with the highest AGCT scores and highest mechanical aptitude scores (120 or over) and over 24 years of age, the older men, and the married men tend to get the better performance ratings." 

"If we consider only men with high school education, relatively high AGCT (Class 1, II or III), relatively high mechanical aptitude (120 or over), and over 24 years of age at the time of the attitude survey (33 cases in all), we find that 58% are in the above average group on combat performance and 6% in the below average combat performance group. At the other extreme, if we take men with grade school education only, mechanical aptitude scores below 120, and under 24 years of age (58 cases in all), we find only 2 % rated above average in combat performance but 40% rated below average."

The findings in the remainder of this volume are based on data from divisions other than the 70th. While I found no real surprises, I have summarized what I found to be the more interesting data and I hope you find it of interest also:

Military units at division level and below carry close interpersonal ties, and serve two principal functions in combat motivation: Set and enforce group standards of behavior, and support and sustain the individual in stresses he would otherwise not have been able to withstand. The units enforced standards principally by offering or withholding recognition, respect and approval, which are among the supports they had to offer and the more subjective reward of following an internalized group code enhanced the soldier's resources for dealing with the situations that confronted him.

Masculinity and the Combat Soldier

The codes according to which a combat unit judged the behavior of its members, and in terms of which conformity was enforced was summed as: Be a man. While conceptions of masculinity vary among American groups, there is a common core: courage, endurance and toughness, lack of squeamishness when confronted with shocking or distasteful stimuli, avoiding a display of weakness, reticence about emotional or idealistic matters and sexual competency. Combat posed a challenge for a man to prove himself to himself and others. Combat was a dare. One could never be sure he could take it until he showed that he could.

Loyalty to Outfit and Pride in it

Loyalty to one's buddies and more generally to the outfit was another stringent group code. It is allied to the code of masculinity, but independent in the sense that someone who let his buddies down through irresponsibility, not cowardice, might not have his social manhood called into question. Loyalty to one's buddies were founded on the fact of mutual dependence and supported by the cluster of sentiments grouped under the term, "pride in outfit". Closely related to the code of group loyalty is the sentiment of pride in the outfit. It is involved in the loyalty code, for if a combat soldier were to disparage his outfit and its record, it would have been taken as disloyalty by his fellows. Also, the pride that a soldier, as a member of his outfit, could take in its accomplishments was one of the recompenses which supported him in his loyalty. Pride in his outfit was thus both an indication that the soldier had identified with his fighting unit and one of the forms in which this identification supported him in his combat role. It is therefore not surprising that the members of a veterans organization were typically more likely to be proud of their outfit than members of untried divisions.

Reviewed by Jim Hanson

Related Items:

History || Honor Roll