View Full Version : Was WWII too "youthful"?

05-28-2006, 08:29 PM
We are seeing research that our brains don't finish wiring themselves until much later than was thought. In fact I have read more than once that the thinking now is that we don't become adults until around age 25.

The military today seems to reflect that thinking but it wasn't so during WWII.

One of my favorite WWII book types is where they find a crashed airplane and they research the site to discover what happened. My favorite is the story of Lady Be Good which crashed in the desert in Libya after it overran it's base after returning from a bombing mission. I have read many other such stories.

The common thread in these stories isn't the gory details of combat but the amazing negliance of youthful crews. In the case of the Lady Be Good, they became lost because they got separated from the other bombers and their navigator hadn't really been keeping track of where they were. How many bombing runs will you make in your lifetime and you don't have time to run the numbers? They know this because they found his papers in the crashed bomber and he hadn't been navigating.

I don't blame these crews because they were being thrown into the fight but why was the Army Air Corp using 21 and 22 year old pilots, co-pilots and navigators? They were doing it by design and I can't follow their thought process.

05-28-2006, 09:31 PM
Older men start wars...younger men fight them. So it has always been. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif

05-28-2006, 10:22 PM
the younguns are the ones who can fight a war.. old folk know from wisdom that the true enemy is war itself.

05-30-2006, 06:56 AM
Well, even today, in the US Army and Marines the platoon leaders are only 22 - 26 (they lead a platoon of 28 - 35 or so). Company Commanders are only around 28 - 32 years old. It has always been this way since the inception of the Military Academy and ROTC as commisioning sources. So they are right out of college.

I will add though that the Platoon leader and Company Commander have a strong Non-Commisioned Officer Corps (Sergeants) to provide them sage advice.

Many times, it's not the enemy you are fighting but your own NCOs who seem to have un-ending advice.

05-30-2006, 07:50 AM
Its very difficult recruiting older men into front line duties as they make pretty unwilling soldiers and they are usually poor at accepting orders and lose the reckless attitude of youth. So its easier and better to get them young.

The US Navy SeeBees the combat construction teams were some of the oldest combatants in the war and were drawn from experienced construction workers, engineers, architectsm designers etc. They utterly ignored their co's and did roughly what they wanted...its was fortunate that they got the job done as they did.

Quite an illuminating thing I saw was on the special ed version of Black Hawk Down, in the extra bits they show the actors going through boot camp. The younger guys like Orlando Bloom take to it quite readily and are willing to listen and do pretty much as they are told whereas Ewan Mcgregor et al couldn't see the point...

05-30-2006, 07:59 AM
The younger guys like Orlando Bloom take to it quite readily and are willing to listen and do pretty much as they are told whereas Ewan Mcgregor et al couldn't see the point...

That doesnt surprise me. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

Those broadway musical guys seem to have that one thing in common.

Imagine Alan Alda in an Boot camp.... http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

Even the toughest drill seargant http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/crackwhip.gif would make http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/bigtears.gif after a few days with him http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

05-30-2006, 08:11 AM
I recall from a documentary that compared American soldiers from WW2 to those that fought in Viet Nam. It was dealing with the post war phase of the soldiers lives and how they handled the stress from combat after they went back to civilian life. Now I acknowledge that WW2 and Viet Nam were entirely different wars, with the morality and popular support issues being different. What I remember most is how the narrator stated that the average age of the soldier in WW2 was 26 while the average age of the soldier in Viet Nam was 18. Quite a difference in maturity, especially when you consider that an 18 year old in the 1940's was more emotionally grown than an 18 year old in the 60's and 70's.

After WW2, the men returning mostly came home in the company of their comrades, often on a long ride home on a troopship. The soldier in Viet Nam came home alone, on a fast plane which took only hours, after which he was dumped off and left by himself. I am under the impression that WW2 veterans had fewer mental and emotional problems in civilian life than did the Viet Nam veterans. Some of this no doubt is due to the WW2 vet having fought in a "popular" war while the Viet Nam vet fought in an unpopular war and was more likely to commit suicide or have trouble returning to a normal civilian life. I can't help but think that the youth of the Viet Nam vets was a factor in this sort of thing.

I think younger men are sent off to war beccause they are more physically fit than older men, but also they are more malleable, and because they have not fully emotionally matured they are more likely to follow orders. They tend more often to be single, thus not having to think about their wives and kids like an older man would. Of course, that has all changed, as being a professional soldier is now a lifetime career.

05-30-2006, 01:33 PM
I don't think the average Vietnam Vet was in such bad shape as people think, and the World War II vets were not in such good shape.

The fighting in WWII was a lot worse than in Vietnam.

You had infantryman and bomber crews in WWII, who suffered every bit if not more than the Vietnam Vets as far as straight up fighting goes.

And even in the United States, during WWII, the recruits kept getting younger and younger.

And a lot of the psychological/chemical dependancy problems that afflicted the WWII vet were not really "discovered" until Vietnam or after.

Betty Ford afterall was the one who turned alchoholism into a disease, instead of a dark family secret.

God bless anyone who has known the horrors of combat. More power to them if they came through physically and mentally in one piece.

05-30-2006, 01:58 PM
You all forgot one important thing !

The military food. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif

Thats something that nobody will forget in his life when he was among those you were forced to eat "food that even the enemy doesnt want" http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

It breaks even the hardest man and turns stomachs ! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

Sometimes i came to the conclusion that this must be some sort of secret "let god sortâ´em out" tactic. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/touche.gif

Those who survive the slow and painful murder of their taste and their stomachs will survive the toughtest combat too. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/crackwhip.gif

05-30-2006, 04:06 PM
I agree with celeon, while I was in my recruit training with the RAN, the food was terrible. You only ate it because there was nothing else, and you didn't complain because you'd be seen as a 'whiner'.
Crumbed lambs brains for breakfast? I went hungry that day
But as I seemed to remember, the younger guys had a lot of problems settling in and following even the most basic orders, whereas the older guys got into the swing very early. Yes the younger guys were faster etc, but had no real stamina or commitment.
The married guys (like i was) were used to having orders thrown at them, but I was extremely fit then even at 26. I could not even begin to imagine the horrors of any war, but I do know just how those around you become your family and I can only imagine just how devastating it must have been to see them killed.
In all conflict, the question of combatants age will always be there, but the real question must always be, why the hell don't the mouths who start these wars, fire the first shots?

05-31-2006, 02:24 AM
Many times, it's not the enemy you are fighting but your own NCOs who seem to have un-ending advice.

I remember an old WW2 vet saying "They select officers by getting a doctor to look into each ear, if they could see each other they made him an officer" LOL http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/mockface.gif

More on topic, I have friends who joined the Air Force, the navy or the army at 16/17... isn't that below the age that they were allowed to enlist in WWI/WWII? Wouldn't you say that along with increasing awareness of their 'mental abilities' that the age would have gone up? Especially with the attitudes towards the armed forces today...

Edit - Just read through it and it sounds like I am saying your wrong, I am not, I agree with you, just sort of thinking... strange isn't it...