Shell Shock War: Every Soldier’s Nightmare


Amazing facts on a soldier’s journey from the US draft during the Vietnam War to their return to US soil


shell shock war



It is widely accepted that the Vietnam War erupted in the 1950s, although the intense conflict in Southeast Asia began in the 1800s. Over 2.5 million US soldiers were sent to fight in Vietnam from 1956 to 1975 pursuant to US foreign policy to assist any country whose security is disrupted by communism, otherwise known as the Truman Doctrine. The Vietnam War draft system called the Selective Service System picked men from eighteen upward to be drafted to participate in the war.


Of that 2.5 million, one-third got in the US draft during the Vietnam War while the remaining two-thirds volunteered. From that moment on, the Vietnam War claimed millions of lives from both sides. Out of those millions, more than fifty-eight thousand US Military servicemen lost their lives on foreign soil, while over seven hundred thousand soldiers lost their sanity from the shell shock war.


The term shell shock was first used during WWI when hospitals received an exceptionally high medical case of psychologically disturbed soldiers along with other physically injured comrades. “Shell shock” was given to psychiatric casualties from the early months of the war. The symptoms brought by the shell shock war include the state of sudden muteness, deafness, general tremor, standing or walking disability, convulsions, and unconsciousness because of battle hypnosis.


During the Vietnam War, it was popularly known as the “Vietnam Syndrome”—a postwar syndrome that was later changed into PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder. Thousands have suffered greatly from this psychological disorder. This even led to many veterans committing suicide when not addressed quickly.


In terms of combat, those who served during WWII saw 40 days of combat in 4 years, while those who in the Vietnam War saw an average of 240 days of combat in just a year. The average age of soldiers who served the war in Vietnam was twenty-one years old, and most of them were well-educated young professionals.


The shell shock war brought these young, intellectual men and women into desolate states—seeing their comrades getting maimed at or killed and barely escaping a landmine or bomb explosion—that render them unable to resume fighting and, worse, to resume on living a normal life. Such events bring trauma that is usually beyond repair.


In the next several years, when the war revealed no positive outcome as what was claimed by the government, a draft resistance movement during the Vietnam War was pursued in hopes of ceasing the draft system and ending US involvement in the Asian war. As a result, some deserted, others illegally resisted, while some more immigrated to Canada to escape.


The Vietnam War brought major changes to current policy-making and a new definition of war and patriotism. Nobody likes going to war—that’s for sure—and it is still true to this day when shell shock or Vietnam Syndrome continues to haunt our heroes.


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Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 2(1), 47–55. Accessed October 24, 2017. Accessed October 24, 2017.

The Vietnam War, July 25. Accessed October 24, 2017.

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD