Love, Sacrifice, and Honor: Warrior Virtues and the American Soldiers’ Experience of World War II
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The twentieth century has been called the bloodiest century in human history. In two world wars and various other conflicts spanning across decades, man was more combative than ever before. Yet despite this century of conflict, the combative disposition appears to run contrary to the nature of man. Mingled with stories of the horrors of war, we find reports of heroic warrior virtues: among them love, sacrifice, and honor. To better understand the nature of man as warrior, we must explore the manifest and latent social functions of these warrior virtues in the lives of soldiers. This research examines the theories concerning the nature of man at war and the manifestation of warrior virtues on the battlefront. Through a literature review of war theories in relation to man, as well as first-hand accounts of heroic virtue by American soldiers in World War II, this study presents a generalized picture of the essence of man at war and seeks to provide insight for the future training and health management of soldiers on the battlefield. An examination of nine World War II narratives by American soldiers revealed time and again their reliance upon the warrior virtues of love, sacrifice, and honor to communicate their personal experiences of the war. For each of these men, it was their personal commitment to these virtues that shaped their service and their experience of the war. This dependence upon warrior virtues for explaining their experiences conveys the important social function that such virtues played in their time of service and how-when properly enacted-warrior virtues provided social organization to counter the chaos of war, simultaneously uniting the soldiers to the cultural values of the society from which they came. We stand at the outset of another century which, for our nation especially, has already been marked by a new kind of war-a war on terror. For the safety and well-being of our soldiers, it is imperative that we continue to increase our understanding of the personal and social impacts war has on the individuals who fight them. While this study does not answer all of the questions regarding warrior virtues and the nature of man at war, it examines the life of warriors from both a theoretical and experiential perspective and lays the groundwork for future research.
World War II
Experience of War
Williamson, Benjamin K. (2010). Love, Sacrifice, and Honor: Warrior Virtues and the American Soldiers’ Experience of World War II. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from