(not) Killing in the name of....
I caught the end of a really interesting documentary on channel 4 last night about killing.
It turns out that, unlike you might expect, humans seem to have a natural built in desire NOT to kill each other.
They looked into things like battles and kill ratios and came up with a few really interesing facts.
There was a study where a napoleonic company had a 90% hit rate in training, and when in battle they fired 3 volleys into a mass of enemy troops at half the range they should have killed 500 of them. they infact killed 3.
Apparently when they recovered weapons from the civil war battlefields most were still loaded, many had 2 or three shots in them... one had 23 shots loaded. SO someone stood there, UNDER FIRE, and loaded and pretended to shoot his musket 23 times but never actually pulled the trigger.
It also seems that d-day landing shouldn't really have been possible if a lot of the germans were actually trying to kill people.
It seems that people want to kill and fight for their country, but when it actually comes down to it they cant. Its not that they are cowards, they don't run away or refuse to fight, they just miss.
Apparently close combat almost all kills in WW2 were made by a very small percentage of troops... most of the others busied themselves supporting those troops by bringing them amunition, helping wounded, spotting, firing randomly at positions and so on.
Researchers reckoned 98% of soldiers didn't really take part in fighting. Of the 2% that did most of the killing 1% were mildly physcopathic (ie, felt no emotion about killing) and 1% were the rare breed of human who could manage to put aside their feelings to do what they had to do.
So a lot of "war heroes" were actually psychopaths. (although not in a serial killer kind of way).
Cooincidentaly, about 98% of soldiers suffer from some form of ill effects after combat (depression, gulf war syndrome, etc..)
Of course, this only applies when you are actually facing your victim... which is why in WW2 large numbers of the dead were due to long distance attacks such as artillery and bombing.
The final comment (for next week) was that recently our armies have managed to overcome this 2% barrier and get up to 80% of their soldiers to kill (although they still suffer from the feelings afterwards) by training their bodies to almost bypass their mind.
It has always struck me as odd how in recent wars (gulf, etc..) there tend to be firefights with incredibly mismatched casualy figures (2 Us, 200 iraqi etc..). I always thought this couldn't just be down to the Us troops having better aim or weapons... seems it might be down to the fact that only 2% of the untrained troops would be trying to kill, but 80% of the trained troops might.
It's an interesting theory.
Perhaps it's something that is totally related to firearms, I hardly think that during the middle-ages and the antiquity people stalled and wouldn't kill their enemy.
Obviously you wouldn't wanna kill people for no reason. You wouldn't have a conscience otherwise.
Re: (not) Killing in the name of....
Oh, and about D-Day: A lot of the germans were holed up in machinegun nests. One of the scary discoveries during WWI was that when you sit in a machinegun nest, the moving shapes in front of you don't register as people. They're just targets, much like the crew in the heavy bomber merely reckons the factory below them as a target, not a house full of people. At least that's what I heard. The relatively easy victory on D-Day could come down to other things as well: The weather provided great cover for a surprise attack, the german commanders fuddled around with their Panzer reinforcements rather than committing them, and the bulk of the german army was tied up in an untendable situation on the eastern front.
On the firearms thing, they did say that longbows were faster, cheaper, more reliable, far quicker to reload etc.. but guns make more noise and flash and cause more fear. Of cause, this wasn't the only reason for moving to guns as they require much less training, but it may be a factor.
Its strange, becasue people alwasy think that on some primal level people are animals and wanting to kill each other, but it turns out that on a primal level we are exactly the opposite. Survival of the species is the driving factor, not your own survival.
if you think abou it, this actually matches with the animal kingdom, as there are very few species that don't go out of their way to not kill each other, even if they are killing every other species.
good thing we have now evolved to the stage where we can be trained to overrule our natural tendancies to not kill each other. :D
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