Updated:
Original:
Year
1944
Month Day
October 04

General Eisenhower warns of the risk of “shell shock”

On October 4, 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower distributes to his combat units a report by the U.S. Surgeon General that reveals the hazards of prolonged exposure to combat. “[T]he danger of being killed or maimed imposes a strain so great that it causes men to break down. One look at the shrunken, apathetic faces of psychiatric patients…sobbing, trembling, referring shudderingly to ‘them shells’ and to buddies mutilated or dead, is enough to convince most observers of this fact.”

On the basis of this evaluation, as well as firsthand experience, American commanders judged that the average soldier could last about 200 days in combat before suffering serious psychiatric damage. British commanders used a rotation method, pulling soldiers out of combat every 12 days for a four-day rest period. This enabled British soldiers to put in 400 days of combat before being deleteriously affected. The Surgeon General’s report went on to lament the fact that a “wound or injury is regarded, not as a misfortune, but a blessing.” The war was clearly taking a toll on more than just men’s bodies.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Sputnik launched

The Soviet Union inaugurates the “Space Age” with its launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. The spacecraft, named Sputnik after the Russian word for “satellite,” was launched at 10:29 p.m. Moscow time from the Tyuratam launch base in the Kazakh Republic. ...read more

Pope calls for end to the Vietnam War

Pope Paul VI addresses 150,000 people in St. Peter’s Square in Rome and calls for an end to the war in Vietnam through negotiations. Although the Pope’s address had no impact on the Johnson administration and its policies in Southeast Asia, his comments were indicative of the ...read more

Work begins on Mount Rushmore

On October 4, 1927, sculpting begins on the face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. It would take another 12 years for the impressive granite images of four of America’s most revered and beloved presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, ...read more

Plane crashes into apartment building

A cargo plane crashes into an apartment building near an airport in Amsterdam, Holland, on October 4, 1992. Four people aboard the plane and approximately 100 more in the apartment building lost their lives in the disaster. An El-Al Boeing 747 cargo jet was scheduled to bring 114 ...read more

Both sides battered at Germantown

On October 4, 1777, 11,000 Patriots under General George Washington attempt an early morning attack on British General William Howe’s 9,000 British troops at Germantown, Pennsylvania, five miles north of the British-occupied capital city of Philadelphia. Washington’s Continental ...read more