Aug 3

This Day in History – August 3rd, 2018

Friday, August 3, 2018 12:01 AM

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On this day in 1943, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton slapped a soldier hospitalized for psychoneurosis, accusing him of cowardice. The event almost ended Patton’s career.

General Patton slaps soldier. Credit: Argunners

General Patton slaps soldier in the film Patton. (Argunners)

 

General Patton, at the time was commander of the Seventh U.S. Army. He visited a military hospital in Sicily where he visited with wounded soldiers, asking them about their injuries. Patton then encountered a soldier who lacked visible signs of injury, he then inquired about the soldier’s health.

The soldier was Private Charles Kuhl and only 18 years old. Patton questioned Kuhl why he was in the hospital and Kuhl replied, “Its my nerves. I can hear the shells come over but can’t hear them burst.” Patton abruptly called Kuhl a coward and slapped him on the face and walked away. Kuhl responded with tears and sadness, Patton returned to his bedside and slapped him again then told him to leave the hospital.

Another hospital visit from Patton the next week, resulted in the same confrontation. Private Paul G. Bennett hospitalized for his nerves was also slapped by Patton. When General Eisenhower learned of Patton’s actions, he wrote a letter ordering him to apologize to the soldiers. Eisenhower wrote, “I am well aware of the necessity for hardness and toughness on the battlefield… But this does not excuse brutality, abuse of the sick, nor exhibition of uncontrollable temper in front of subordinates.”

General Eisenhower. Credit: Argunners

General Eisenhower. (U.S. Army)

As the year went on, the media and Congress learned about the incidents and demanded Eisenhower make Patton pay for his actions. With all the attention now on Patton, Eisenhower remove him from command of the Seventh Army to command the Third Army.

Psychoneurosis was eventually renamed Combat Stress Reaction (CSR), or “battle fatigue.” As more and more service members were diagnosis through the war, CSR was finally given the recognition it needed. Even though Gen. Patton, did not believe “battle fatigue” was real, almost half of World War II military discharges were a result of the mental illness. CSR was ultimately treated using “PIE” (Proximity, Immediacy, Expectancy) principles. Treatment focused on the benefits of military unit support, preventing stress and promoting recovery in military personnel.

Soldier with Battle Fatigue. Credit: Youtube

Soldier with Battle Fatigue (YouTube)

Today, the VA operates more than 200 specialized programs for the treatment of CSR and PTSD. Since 2013, more than a half million veterans diagnosed with the illnesses, received both care and treatment at numerous VA centers and clinics.