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Old December 2nd, 2008, 04:43 AM   #1
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The military draft and mentally ill


During WW2, conscripts were trained to jump from an airplane unto enemy territory. What about those who were afraid of heights? What measures were taken to handle mentally ill (schizophrenics and people with anxiety disorders) when the US had a military draft from WW2 until it was abolished in the 1970's? Was there alternative jobs, or did those who suffered from anxiety disorders just avoid the draft and let themselves be imprisoned?
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 05:05 AM   #2
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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


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During WW2, conscripts were trained to jump from an airplane unto enemy territory. What about those who were afraid of heights? What measures were taken to handle mentally ill (schizophrenics and people with anxiety disorders) when the US had a military draft from WW2 until it was abolished in the 1970's? Was there alternative jobs, or did those who suffered from anxiety disorders just avoid the draft and let themselves be imprisoned?
While you are correct that Airborne units were mostly composed of draftees, the draftees actually had to volunteer for Airborne.

I would say that raging lunatics were generally declared unfit, although obviously the quiet, normal seeming psychopaths could slip through, as I'm sure some do today.

I don't know much about the subject, but my guess is that the vast majority of people who today receive some kind of mental health treatment would just have been told to shut up and soldier on even just 30-40 years ago.
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 07:23 AM   #3
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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


Mad people were one of the groups that didn't have to serve (along with the blind, disabled, clergymen, farmers and miners)
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 03:50 AM   #4

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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


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Mad people were one of the groups that didn't have to serve (along with the blind, disabled, clergymen, farmers and miners)
Except in the SS where everyone was a raging lunatic
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 04:22 AM   #5
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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


I might be wrong, but I don't think the OP was talking about raging lunatics-obviously they wouldn't be drafted. I got the impression he was talking about otherwise functioning people who have mental health issues that we might think of today as precluding them from combat duty.

What I tried to point out is that the outlook on MH is different today than even the early 1970s. Let's face it-a kid who today is diagnosed with ADHD and put on meds would probably have been spanked and told to quit misbehaving in 1940. I would say the same goes for depression, anxiety, and possibly OCD for adults. Well, maybe not spanked...

I think the majority of people today who suffer from relatively mild MH issues (and I understand it might not be mild to them) would not even have been aware that they had a medical problem in 1940, and so wouldn't have been exempted from the draft.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 09:15 AM   #6
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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


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I think the majority of people today who suffer from relatively mild MH issues (and I understand it might not be mild to them) would not even have been aware that they had a medical problem in 1940, and so wouldn't have been exempted from the draft.
Yes, I assume they weren't exempted from the draft. But what I am interested in knowing is what measures that were taken towards those who, during training, refused to jump from high places due to being afraid of heights, or those suffering from social anxiety disorder panicking when they were assembled together in the barracks. The only thing I know is that in the Soviet Union and the Axis-countries, anyone who showed any sign of anxiety during training, just like in WW1 where everyone (americans, british, germans, russians, french etc.) tried to prevent shell-shock by shooting those who showed signs of shell shock, because the military officers thought that might scare anxious people so much that they couldn't have a shell shock, because they thought that a bit anxiety could lead to shell shock, but lots of anxiety was healthy and causing awareness. Later, during or after the war, mental health research proved that the opposite was the case. I know how the axis-forces cured anxiety in the military (extermination of the mentally ill, even before they were drafted), but I know litle about how the americans treated the mentally ill who were diagnosed with mental health problems during the war. I know for certain that during the Vietnam war, the american psychiatrist knew about schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and OCD, but I am curious wether or not a mental health disorder diagnosis like anxiety, depression and OCD was enough for exemption in the military, or if they were placed in non-combat duty.

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Old December 3rd, 2008, 10:00 AM   #7

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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


Airborne was volunteer and you HAD to pass the course. If not you were back to Infantry. There were MANY people drafted that were actually turned away from combat service for any number of Medical reasons - including flat feet. When I enlisted in 75, you could not have flat feet or you were out the door.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 11:46 PM   #8
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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


In Singapore, even those with bgr problems (like a friend of mine) were given non-combat duty.
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Old December 4th, 2008, 07:01 AM   #9
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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


In the sixties, the problem people were sorted out in basic training. People would be pull out of training when problem surfaced and they would be tested and checked, if not able to function they were released from the service. Some of the problems mention above only showed up during training. The basic training camps had special holding units. These units were usualy near the hospital complex. When I was in basic a kid began to have "fits", which turned out to be anxity attacks. he was medical discharged.
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Old January 16th, 2009, 01:00 AM   #10

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Re: The military draft and mentally ill


Yeah, as far as I know, anyone who had a medical condition was not allowed to serve. I do remember one story a man who tried to fake an eye condition by not sleeping for 3 weeks straight before reporting to the army barracks. He said he had some eye problem, I guess maybe the effects of insomnia? So then the army forced him to spend one night in a dark room and if he didn't sleep he would be exempt from serve. He slept, and went to Vietnam.
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