Friday, August 04, 2006

PTSD And World War II

I am reading The Best War Ever (1994) by Michael CC Adams about the myth regarding World War II. He points out that a societal myth has been created, especially about the American servicemen, that they all came back happy and well adjusted. Our point - exactly. The lack of understanding of PTSD left an entire generation of children feeling confused about the gap between the reality in their households and the societal myth. I only hope we don't continue to ignore the returning soldiers. Even though we now recognize and diagnose the effects of war, the support needed for the combatant and their families is sorely lacking.

29 Comments:

Anonymous sharon taylor said...

Carol: Thank you for your note in response to my blog. I am a psychologist and I am very interested in PTSD among our troops. You have hit upon a subject that is rarely associated with our WW II fathers and I was raised by a very damaged man who survived the war and married my mother when I was four. He refused to allow my mother (or me) to discuss or mention my dead father among other things. I worked in Germany a few years ago on an Army base with soldiers coming from and going to Iraq. It was a telling experience and I knew then that we should expect another group of damaged souls when they returned from this war. I am very intersted in your work. Stay in touch and tell me more about your group. Sharon Estill Taylor

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether tragic events touch your family personally or are brought into your home via newspapers and television, you can help children cope with the anxiety that violence, death, and disasters can cause.

Listening and talking to children about their concerns can reassure them that they will be safe. Start by encouraging them to discuss how they have been affected by what is happening around them. Even young children may have specific questions about tragedies. Children react to stress at their own developmental level.

The Caring for Every Child's Mental Health Campaign offers these pointers for parents and other caregivers:

* Encourage children to ask questions. Listen to what they say. Provide comfort and assurance that address their specific fears. It's okay to admit you can't answer all of their questions.
* Talk on their level. Communicate with your children in a way they can understand. Don't get too technical or complicated.
* Find out what frightens them. Encourage your children to talk about fears they may have. They may worry that someone will harm them at school or that someone will try to hurt you.
* Focus on the positive. Reinforce the fact that most people are kind and caring. Remind your child of the heroic actions taken by ordinary people to help victims of tragedy.
* Pay attention. Your children's play and drawings may give you a glimpse into their questions or concerns. Ask them to tell you what is going on in the game or the picture. It's an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions, answer questions, and give reassurance.
* Develop a plan. Establish a family emergency plan for the future, such as a meeting place where everyone should gather if something unexpected happens in your family or neighborhood. It can help you and your children feel safer.

If you are concerned about your child's reaction to stress or trauma, call your physician or a community mental health center.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Father was a POW during WW II. He entered combat at Anzio, Italy, and about six months later he was captured by the German near Florence, Italy. He was held captive for 8 months (Stalag 7). My dad never talked abot the war or his POW experiences. He was depressed, withdrawn at times, and later started receiving treatment at the VA hospital for PTSD. After he died, I sent for and received his medical records from the VA. I was able to read the psychiatrists' reports and found out what he experienced from what he told them. It was horrible and he was somewhat haunted by his memories for the rest of his life. Don't get me wrong, he was a wonderful man and a tremendous father and I will never be half the man he was, but, WW II left huge scars on him.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading what others have written here has encouraged me to seek out as much service information about my father as I can.

Sharon, my father like yours was a very damaged man. It is truly painful to write that I loathed him and wished him or me dead for much of my life. I am just learning his story, because he never told it, and the more I learn the more I realize he had untreated and undiagnosed PTSD.

His wartime naval hospital records contain contradictory medical information which makes me believe it was known that my father was nuts after surviving a year of combat and a typhoon (with an active ulcer no less). After being discharged from a naval hospital after spending four months there my father married my mother and immediately deserted her. She said he returned from the war a different man.

It is both difficult and liberating to realize at this late stage that WWII never ended for my family. Even though my father came to recognize his demons just before he died, my mother can't. She can not see him as an injured combat war hero, even though she knows he was rated at 60% disabled, but not for PTSD. She continues to be very angry at him and the VA for not helping her. Everytime she sees a story about the traumatized families of returning Iraqi soldiers sufferring with PTSD, she relives her own horrors with my father, as do my siblings and I.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous carol said...

It is amazing how many of us were in the dark about what the war did to our fathers.Thank you for your comments. They make me realize that I was not alone in my journey to understand my war damaged dad.

Carol Schultz Vetno

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol,

Thank you for answering my post.

The men of our father's generation would never have admitted to being afraid-they, as one VA examiner explained "sucked it up." Unfortunately, this kind of emotional steeling is not without consequences, ones I wish I had never experienced.

My father's undiagnosed and untreated PTSD kept my family from living full and normal lives, lives others take for granted. Someone must be interested in these battle stories that span the decades. I was never "daddy's little girl", but I certainly was his POW.

7:50 PM  
Anonymous carol said...

That is such a powerful statement about being your father's POW. There is so much unrecognized and unacknowledged trauma that the WWII vets brought home and the war was never truly over in our households. I think this is the untold legacy of WWII.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I listened to a discussion with Carol on public radio yesterday when she talked about her father and his three divorces and his PTSD. I think that is only part of the story. For myself, my father fought in WWII and stayed in the military. Many men did. For them, war never ended. They went from WWII to Korea and the Cold War to Viet Nam. The response of the outside world to PTSD was a problem. The response inside the military was no better. In some ways it was even more horrible.. The Army had a very interesting way of dealing with PTSD, they simply sent soldiers out of the US to Korea for instance. By not acknowledging PTSD, they allowed seriously ill men to serve when and where they never should have.

In my father's case, while in the Army, he suffered psychiatric breakdowns (1954-55) that sent him into Walter Reed twice, where he was treated as a nut case rather than someone suffering from PTSD. Ah, but the Army was happy to keep him and use his talents. Rather than discharge him, they kept him in the Army. In 1957 just before his 37th birthday he committed suicide. I was 10.

In 1983 I decided to find out what my father had done in the war. Like so many others, his records were lost in the National Personnel Records Center fire. Through reconstruction, I was able to tell where he was and some of what he did throughout his life. I don't know how he withstood his military career as long as he did.

For the men who went from WWII to Korea and then to Viet Nam, life was a disaster. And there are many who did.

So, yes I am a Daughter of D-Day. That day was probably the happiest day my father ever had. Within a few short years, he was already a dead man, even if he did not physically die in a battle on some field in Europe.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

Thanks for your post. Your story about your dad is heartwrenching. It is the "dirty little secret" of our dad's generation about how traumatized so many of them were and how ill-treated by the Army and VA as in your father's case. Hopefully, as their children, we can lift the veil of secrecy that has affected many of their children. That is the true legacy of the war for many of us.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Carol,

Where and when can we lift the veil?

Where and when can we be heard?
Daddy's POW

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

To Daddy's POW

This site is our small step to at least have a dialogue amongst those of us who did not experience WWII as "the good war" at home. Any ideas on how to form a network beyond this website and blog?

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following is from a website called 'Helping women and families recover."

Children of combat veterans with P.T.S.D. generally exhibit one of three response patterns. The most destructive pattern is that of the over-identified child. Through a process it has been determined that in secondary trauma, children come to experience an emotional distancing similar to the veteran with P.T.S.D.. Children with secondary trauma are often their father’s closest companion and are at risk for "reliving" their father’s trauma, experiencing his flashbacks, and sharing his nightmares. In general, these children fail to develop their own friendships because their lives revolve around their father. In school, they often have difficulty with concentration because they are distracted by their concern for their father’s well being.



Another common pattern of children is becoming "rescuers," whereby they take on parental roles and responsibilities. They often feel guilty about trouble at home and blame themselves. They assume that if they are good, life at home will go well. They believe it is their responsibility to keep their parents happy and to insure nothing goes wrong. These children often lose spontaneity and interest in daily activities. Similar to children of alcoholics, these children are at risk for continuing this pattern into adult life.



A third pattern centers on children who are emotionally uninvolved in family life. They often know about their father's war experience and need for support, but generally receive little emotional support themselves from their parents. In an effort to gain recognition, they are apt to perform well academically, yet their emotional and social constriction may cause symptoms of depression and anxiety, and later cause problems in their adulthood efforts to form intimate relationships.
http://homecomcast.net/PTSDfamilies/children.htm


Daddy's POW

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

I can certainly identify with the rescuer role in terms of feeling like it was my responsibility to make things better. Another legacy to carry from our battle damaged dads.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol,

The rescuer role is mine, too.

George Santayana wrote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

It is truly heinous that there will be another generation of children who will grow up in homes darkened by the ominous cloud of chronic PTSD.

It is false economy to shortchange veterans who have combat stress related issues. The pennies saved by mis-labeling, or failing to accurately label our veterans so that they are denied appropriate psych services is insignificant when compared to the enormous tab of the long term costs to our society.

Daddy's POW

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

To Daddy's POW

How right you are. By the silence of the children of WWII veterans, there has been an acceptance of war trauma because the myth of the "Greatest Generation" has denied the reality of war. By elevating those veterans to heroic status, the story has been lopsided and easier for the American public to hold onto. It's time to break the silence so a new generation of veterans and their families don't struggle alone.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol,

The research to find the truth about my father has taken me on an emotional roller coaster ride. I have gone from sad; grieving over what might have been, to a state of anger.

The documents I recently found in my father's VA file (which BTW were not sent to him despite multiple requests) tell a story of a seasoned enlisted sailor, who had no prior history of a personality disorder, being invalidated for a "severe ulcer." But once the history/dates are reviewed a very different picture emerges. My father, who earned 6 combat battle stars while ill with his ulcer, who was nearly electrocuted after a typhoon while ill with his ulcer, who had to help with the wounded while sick with his ulcer, was not sent stateside, but was instead put on a munitions ship doing runs in the South Pacific for weeks, no wonder at the end of his life my father kept yelling at me " Don't you understand I was trapped at sea."

I believe my father cracked from the one two punch of the relentless war situation and his intense physical pain; like Humpty Dumpty there was no one to put him together again. His ulcer was minimally addressed with amphigel and he was given a disability rating for it. (IMO even if it had been possible to give my father a 100% disability rating for this, the outcome would have been the same, thus my concern is not about percentages)

Unfortunately, by not assigning my father a battle fatigue rating of any percentage, omitting a combat designation and focusing solely on the symptoms of his ulcer-my father would never receive the mental health treatment he desperately needed, no matter how often he sought it at the VA.

What is most disturbing is finding that my father was, within 6 months of his discharge, put in a VA neuro-psych unit and diagnosed with a "personality" disorder, which of course, is not service related and was not treated.

I am planning to read Sarah Haley's book, A True Child of Truma," because imo if not for her, Vietnam Combat Veterans with mental problems stemming from their service to this country would have continued to be treated the same way my father was.

The International Society For Traumatic Stress Studies Org. details Sarah's involvement in the history of the development of the PTSD diagonistic code in detail at http://www.istss.org/whathistory.cfm

"Sarah Haley was a social worker at the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital. Unlike most of her colleagues at the time, Haley recognized that many of her patients who had served in Vietnam, were being misdiagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics or character disorders because mental health professionals were failing to recognize the symptoms related to combat. But she knew them.

She had grown up with a father who was a veteran of World War II, a special agent for the O.S.S. and an alcoholic. She had heard stories of trauma and wartime atrocities from the time she was a little girl and she had personally experienced the long-term impact of war on her father's behavior. What other colleagues found unbelievable, she found entirely realistic."

Where are today's Sarah Haleys?

Does the wheel have to be reinvented after every war?

My experience is that there is little institutional memory left at the VA and without it-the cycle is ever repeating. It was difficult to be told that what happened to my father back in 1945 is happening six decades later.

Daddy's POW

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

To Daddy's POW

It sure seems as if the wheel is still being reinvented now. Your father's diagnosis of personality disorder sounds just like the VA's practice today of labeling the returning vets with that same diagnosis just so they can avoid paying benefits for PTSD. It is so sad that the story of what happened to the traumatized WWII vets has not been adequately told. Our fathers were ignored by the government for which they sacrificed the best years of their life and our dads were never the same after the war. And we, as their children. lived and still live with the aftereffects. In my case, it's taken most of my adult life to truly comprehend what the war did to my family,

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol,
Very few people can understand how difficult it is to live in a house with a PTSD person. My father put bells on the doors so no one could sneak up on him. He was at my house so often I put sleigh bells on the main entrances to appease him. Visitors just think I'm Christmas nuts.

Lately, I've been wishing I hadn't learned the truth, because I'm so conflicted.

I've disovered that my father took only 1 sick day in a 17 months period for his ulcer problems, he didn't take any others either. I can't imagine how he was able to serve as a First Class Boatswain's mate ( always on deck) with chronic stomach pain and be in combat and survive a typhoon.

He spent 114 consecutive days recuperating with "sedation" right after this typhoon. The average recuperation for an ulcer at the time was between 30-45 days. There is no mention of either combat or typhoon in his medical survey. There is no psychiatric eval, but continuous reports about him having "no complaints" and doing well over this 114 day period. And when he was rated on the day of discharge, at the bottom of the page it is stamped "no combat disability." This is the only time the word "combat" ever appears in his paper trail.

It helped me a great deal to talk to a shipmate of my father's, because even though this gentleman did not recollect my dad, he remembered all the boatswain's mates, because he worked with them as a "deck ape" until after the typhoon and he said not one of them had a personality disorder. He said a person like that could not have done the job. Amen.

Today I heard that this new war has a price tag in the trillions, a sum I can't even wrap my mind around, but it will be nothing compared to the cost in human misery it has/will generate.

Daddy's POW

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

Some mental-health specialists are especially worried that commanders and military medical staff are abusing the diagnosis of "personality disorder," which commanders have used to discharge some soldiers who were also diagnosed with PTSD.

Psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who has been studying combat veterans for more than 20 years at the Department of Veterans Affairs and other institutions, criticizes the use of personality disorder partly because it's a "deeply stigmatizing diagnosis," he says. Shay says that when the military diagnoses soldiers with personality disorder, it is saying, in effect, that fighting in the war didn't cause their mental health problems.

"It's saying, in essence, you're rotten and have been rotten since childhood," he says.

If true, Shay wonders, why didn't Army doctors diagnose such a serious and deep-rooted psychological ailment when they were recruiting the prospective soldier?

Shay says the Army's statistics, showing that discharges for "personality disorder" have increased in recent years by almost 40 percent, suggest that the military may be abusing the diagnosis because doing so is convenient.

Under the Army's rules, it takes a commander months to expel soldiers on the grounds that they can't function due to PTSD — and the military has to pay the soldier disability benefits. But if a psychiatrist diagnoses a solider with a "personality disorder," the base can discharge him or her in less than two weeks without paying any disability.

"It troubles me that it appears that sometimes, mental-health professionals are ready to be the willing servants of the command," Shay says. He worries that military doctors are telling commanders, in effect, "'If you want me to get this kid out quickly, I'll do it. It doesn't matter how much I have to bend my own conscience or bend the facts to do it.'"

NPR submitted requests to five spokesmen at the Pentagon and U.S. Army to interview a top official about these issues. These requests were not granted.

The above from NPR shows that the Army and VA are still trying to forget about the veterans one they get home. I guess "support our troops" only means while they are on active duty. It seems that both in WWII and today that it is easy to forget them once they return home

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol,

If what you have shared is truly the case, a price will be levied and paid for by our society.

In doing research on PTSD/WWII I found that there is a big black hole. What little research there is, does not include information culled directly from the veterans' families.

It is my perception that this is also the case for those who were allies.

Daddy's POW

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

There is so little research done on ptsd and the WW II veteran because it destroys the myth that they all were happy and well adjusted. The majority of the limited research was done decades after to determine if war trauma lasted --- and the answer to that was that it did. It makes sense, especially if the trauma was not acknowledged by the VA. One VA report on my dad done in the 1960s
said in a negative and judgmental way that he couldn't get over the
war.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol,

Did your father see that report? I'm asking because our GI's don't know what is in their records. My dad sure didn't.

The folks doing the reporting do an enormous disservice to our vets either through inaccuracy or by design. It appalled me to read accounts that were sanitized.
I knew they were incorrect because I was an eye-witness. I once requested that a particularly important PTSD report be amended and it was removed from the system.

Regarding your dad, it is demoralizing when those who are mandated by law to help you, play mind games with you instead. It certainly achieves expedient and effective results-the patient is cured from coming back for more.

Have you read or seen anything about Tammy Duckworth?

D's POW

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

My father did see that report. He battled the VA for years to get compensation for "anxiety" which they said at first was not war related. Plus, he had back problems which he finally got compensation for after 40 years by constantly appealing the negative decisions. The fact that he jumped from a plane which flew too low to avoid enemy fire on D-Day while he was carrying 120 pounds and hurt his back didn't seem to the VA to be war related either. It seems that the system operates to avoid paying the benefits the veterans obviously deserve.
I've seen articles about Tammy Duckworth and also some CNN coverage of her. I heard she is doing a good job in Illinois as the state director of Veteran's Affairs.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Is Daughters of D-Day still active? I see posts stopped in 2006. I am a daughter of D-Day and the woman who used the phrase "Daddy's POW" is spot-on!

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

Hi Lynn,

Yes, we are still active - I have recent postings at my blog Legacy of War at www.dutchschultz.blogspot.com

Would love to hear from you there about your dad and your own experiences.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

I'm Daddy's POW and I am still waiting for the VA to acknowledge that the children of combat veterans who did not get help have lasting issues.

Daddy's POW

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

Join Daughters of D-Day on facebook

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Daughters-of-D-Day/471455020396

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Ronny said...

My Father came back damaged from WWII, a Royal Marine on "special ops "

Not that we knew as children, Only that our father was without emotion,
no way to express pride for our work or effort, displeasure came easier,
Stiff upper lip and all that, somewhat enclosed as all were without valid opinion, they had not seen, the sealed no talk subject . war

Sadly as he ages and dementia starts, we have moments of the desert campaign, lived in our lounge room. some what frightening to have that closed and sealed subject aired

4:51 AM  
Anonymous Diane Dudley said...

When I did an internet search for " My father has PTSD from World War II" I did not expect to find the sharing of a community I have so much in common with. What a major find for me. I want to share my story and read other's. I feel like I have a lot to share and details to fill in. I will just say now, that 3 yrs ago when I took my 84 year old father to apply for veterans benefits, I was in for an eyeopening experience that ended up with a PTSD diagnosis. My Fathers discharge papers stunned the service rep who was a Viet Nam Vet. My father was a tank commander, went in on day 3 of Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Ruhr, and Battle of Nuremberg. When applying with the Vets he was asked if he had reoccurring dreams or visions. I was surprised at 65 years later, that he said at least once a month he dreams of a face to face confrontation he had with a member of the Nazi Army and he has flashback visions of his blood in the snow when he was hit with shrapnel every time he sees blood. He had never told anyone this! He said they told them over and over not to go back to the states and talk about the war. My Father has had numerous issues with relationships throughout his life and has always become easily frustrated especially if it is anything dealing with emotions. He just isn't good at relating to people's feelings. My family history was definitely impacted by all this and continues to be even now, as he is very challenging to work with on the needs he has, in his life, at age 87. Diane Gibson Dudley

1:38 PM  

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