As the title. If someone asked you what images immediately spring to mind when you’re asked to imagine ‘war’ and then ‘battle’ what do you think of?
Do specific historical incidents spring to mind or is the idea more nebulous? For me, purely because it’s fresh in my mind because of recent reading, ‘war’ makes me think of shell girls in the First World War manufacturing tons of high explosives, the noise of the factory floor. ‘Battle’ makes me think of the Somme, the rattle of the MG-08s and Vickers, shells exploding and screams.
My image would change based on recent context. If I had just been talking about Medieval warfare, then I’d have that kind of image. In a more modern context, I’ll probably default to something like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan that someone else mentioned.
Either way, my image is always going to be the grittier, more chaotic version of battle. No glamorous, heroic, idealized version here.
Chaos, pure chaos. Adrenalin, heart pumping, FEAR, you have to make a decision right now, duck, shoot, is that the enemy or one of yours? Nothing happening? Out of Ammo, do have anymore? shit shit shit.
I sometimes wonder what would make me piss myself from fear the most: Walking into machine gun fire or artillery in a WWI or WWII style battle, or an ancient battle, where the killing is up-close and personal, and you get to look your foe in the eye before he stabs you in the groin with a sword.
On the one side, the modern style battle seems the worst, especially something like going over the top in a WWI offensive, because you’re less in control of your destiny. A bullet or grenade coming out of nowhere can get you. On the other hand, an ancient battle might suck even more, because the idea of being stabbed in the groin with a sword really, really gives me the willies.
There’s a 3-frame cartoon which immediately springs to mind. The first frame is of a man and a woman talking. Both have images of what they’re saying. The man has images of parades, victory, and glory; the woman has images of the horrors of battle (craters and exploding shells). The second frame is the man enlisting. The third frame is of the man and woman, both rather older, talking, with the man in an armchair and has the images from the first frame reversed.
The images of dead bodies after a battle, like Brady’s Civil war pictures, the torn terrain of WWI or of Japanese soldiers at Guadalcanal. Any of us who watch TV or movies has seen thousands of images of dead bodies. Pictures of the real thing have a different, terribly depressing quality I can’t put my finger on.
I’m ashamed to say – because I really do know better – but it’s the “glory” images that come first to mind. Civil War regiments in new uniforms, lined up in perfect order; aircraft flying in formation; immense artillery pieces pointing (phallic symbol) at the sky; Scottish regiments marching to the bagpipes; a “Vee” of T-34s raising trails of dust through a wheatfield.
But also Bill Mauldin’s “Willie and Joe,” slope-shouldered, exhausted, bearded, soul-weary, but still marching along, never defeated.
My impression of modern war and battle has largely been captured by films like Full Metal Jacket and Jarhead. I imagine a lot of industrialized monotony, punctuated by a mortar, sniper or boobytrap occasionally taking out someone at random. Every now and then a “pitched battle” firing or calling artillery down on distant humanoid shapes doing the same to you.