Veterans and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Throughout post Civil War American history, there have been four wars that standout as being the most prominent in the American consciousness. These four wars are World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War. During these four wars, soldiers were exposed to traumatic events that have left them with post traumatic stress disorder. The witnessing of the deaths of their fellow soldiers, along with their own wounding, has created the perfect scenario for post traumatic stress disorder to take effect.

Death Statistics

During World War I, approximately 116,000 Unites States troops were killed in action while an estimated 234,000 were wounded. In World War II, approximately 408,000 United States soldiers were killed and during the Vietnam War, 58,226 were killed or reported as missing in action. The Korean War saw the American death toll reach 54,264.


Before the Vietnam War, little was known about post traumatic stress disorder and how it affected veterans because of the minimal amount of research and study that had been conducted. Many people felt that post traumatic stress disorder was just an excuse used by veterans to justify their drug or alcohol abuse. However, doctors had recognized the physical effects of battle as far back as the 1800s when soldiers experienced shock and mental fatigue from the stress involved in combat. The common practice was to rotate soldiers to the back of the battle lines in order to give their minds time to recover. This repeated exposure to high levels of stress and life threatening danger inevitably led to many soldiers returning home with post traumatic stress disorder. During World War II, approximately 60,000 soldiers were diagnosed with what doctors then called chronic fatigue syndrome. The term “shell shock” was commonly used to refer to the mental stress and fatigue that caused post traumatic stress disorder in the early 1900s. In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association published The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This publication listed every mental illness recognized and listed what is now called post traumatic stress disorder as stress response syndrome because the actual term “post traumatic stress” did not develop until the 1980s.