Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

Fussell, Paul

Oxford University, 1989

pp. 285 - 286

Eisenhower on the carnage in the Falaise Pocket, reported in his Crusade in Europe: ''’It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh'--formerly German soldiers who could have lived by surrender but who chose, madly, not to.'” Why were these data unfamiliar to Americans till after the War--and then not widely? “One reason is the normal human talent for looking on the bright side, for not receiving information likely to cause distress or occasion a major overhaul of normal ethical, political, or psychological assumptions.” More directly, “the wartime correspondents kept quiet about a lot of the horrors 'on behalf of the War Effort.' 'It is in the things not mentioned that the untruth lies.''

pp. 285 - 286, 288

People at home in the U.S. during WW II got “the impression that there were no cowards in the service, no thieves and rapists and looters, no cruel or stupid commanders,’ . . . (P. 286) “People at home were kept in ignorance of malaria, dysentery, bad attitudes, and 'psychoneurosis.'” In Germany, too, people [p. 288] got “nothing but fairy stories of total heroism, stamina, good-will, and cheerfulness.” Everything was “sanitized” and euphemized. . .each side was offered not just false data, but worse, false assumptions about human nature and behavior, assumptions whose effect was to define either a world without a complicated principle of evil or one where all evil was easily displaced onto one simplified recipient, Jews on the Axis side, Nazis and Japs on the allied.”