ON COMBAT by Lt. Col. Dave and Loren W. Christensen Grossman


The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
Email this review


A former paratrooper offers a thorough examination of the emotional and physical effects of deadly conflict.

Grossman (On Killing, 1996, etc.) a war veteran turned West Point psychology professor, and co-author Christensen, a veteran police officer of 29 years, exhaustively explain how a person reacts to violence–whether that person is fighting terrorism, drugs or crime. The carefully worded introduction presents the book as intellectual fodder for both war enthusiasts and peaceniks–to understand battle is to honor those who fight in our name as well as to glean more information in the difficult path toward peace. By including a wide variety of testimonials from soldiers and sheriffs and generously quoting from literary lights such as Shakespeare and Anäis Nin, the examination of combat’s toll is both immediate and intriguing, despite the sometimes-ponderous research and occasional flat-footed prose. They provide a captivating investigation of what happens physically to a person during a violent encounter–many experience a profound visual clarity as the body turns all its attention and energy to the eyes while others disassociate themselves from the situation, claiming to see the faces of loved ones. However, the authors bog down when they try to convince readers of the honor that should be bestowed upon soldiers, and the criticism levied on those who choose to avoid battle becomes alarmingly one-sided. Still, the authors present many compelling ideas, including an explanation of the proper way to separate emotions from memories, which may be helpful to those who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.

Empathetic, educational and oddly entertaining despite an overly technical style.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-964-92052-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


IndieALONG THE WATCHTOWER by David Litwack
by David Litwack