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War Experience and Trauma in American Literature

A Study of American Military Memoirs of «Operation Iraqi Freedom»

Lena-Simone Günther

Walt Whitman wrote: «The real war will never get into the books.» To this day, however, American soldier-authors write about their war and translate traumatic experiences into language accessible to the reader. Veterans of the recent Iraq war do not differ here. Joining the post-draft American military, the selected soldier-authors are thrust into a conflict which soon exceeded governmental, military and public expectations. Focusing on core elements which link the selected military memoirs of Nathaniel Fick, Colby Buzzell, Clint Van Winkle, John Crawford and Matt Gallagher together, this book follows the soldier-authors’ process of soldierization, their loss of innocence, moral responsibility and, finally, coping mechanisms for traumatic experiences sustained in combat.
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I. Introduction


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War – What Is It Good For?– Edwin Starr “War”

I.   Introduction

In response to the despair and destruction of the Vietnam War, Edwin Starr demands in his song “War” the answer to the question: “What is it good for?” Answering himself by forcefully stating “absolutely nothing,” he, additionally, details circumstances, events, and consequences which have been the result of war and its physical and psychological destruction for centuries. Starr, singing against the killing, death, and trauma of the Vietnam War, does not forget the plight of the common soldiers, including their “experience”1 in his song to illustrate the personal aftermath of war and to formulate what men should – after centuries filled with war – already know:

War has shattered many a young man’s dreams, made him disabled, bitter and mean, life is much too short and precious, to spend fighting wars these days, war can’t give life (Edwin Starr “War – What Is It Good For?”)

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