John Huston’s Film About Psychiatric Treatment of Veterans

When I went to the Soldier’s Project conference, one of the speakers said, “If you haven’t seen that film, you’ve been living in the dark.” Produced in 1945 at the request of the US Army, the film was subsequently banned until 1981. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation by the national film registry. Here’s a link to the film, as well as the text from part of the main intro.

The guns are quiet now, the papers of peace have been signed. And the oceans of the earth are filled with ships coming home. In faraway places men dreamed of this moment, but for some men the moment is very different from the dream. Here is human salvage, the final result of all that metal and fire can do to violate mortal flesh. Some wear the badges of their pain, the crutches, the bandages, the splints. Others show no outward signs, yet they too are wounded. This hospital is one of the many for the care and treatment of the psychoneurotic soldier. These are the casualties of the spirit, the troubled in mind, men who are damaged emotionally. Born and bred in peace, educated to hate war, they were plunged overnight into sudden and terrible situations. Every man has his breaking point and these in the fulfillment of their duties as soldiers were forced beyond the limit of human endurance.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

One thought on “John Huston’s Film About Psychiatric Treatment of Veterans”

  1. I used to show this to my film classes, as it is an interesting case history of several important ideas (treatment of mental illness in film, wartime propaganda, censorship). What makes me sad, however, is that it is really an upbeat, bare-minimum, insta-fix look at PTSD in soldiers, but is still be held up as groundbreaking because of our society’s unwillingness to examine wartime trauma in any respect. Essentially it was made to reassure the citizenry that they wouldn’t have any “shell-shocked” vets coming home like WWI, and yet the depiction of *any* perceived weakness in soldiery lead to its censorship, despite its cure-all storyline. The fact that it is still being held up as groundbreaking means that we have a very long way to go in accepting how traumatic the experience of war can be.


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