The power of persuasion

“The battle had been hard on his platoon, and [Sergeant] Piazza had fought in a rage . . . . There had been a young man named Ronnie Taylor, barely eighteen, an enlistee from Oakland, Mississippi, whom Piazza felt it was his sacred duty to protect because he was so young, and here he was with a gaping wound in his chest, pleading with Piazza, ‘Don’t let me die! Don’t let me die! You’ve got to get me out of here!’ Piazza had assured him they were trying, but he knew that no one was going to make it off the hill during that fight, and so Piazza had fired and fired while cradling Taylor in his arms, listening to his last gasps of life. In his own words, he snapped at that point, grabbed his M-1 and charged down at some advancing North Koreans, screaming out the name of one of the men in his squad who had died with each burst of fire. How men—himself included—reacted to combat like this, how some were overwhelmed by it and some could handle it, fascinated him. One of his men had received what to Piazza’s eye seemed like a rather minor wound, only a flesh wound really, but he had unraveled and kept insisting, ‘I’m going to die’—and he did. Such was the strange psychology of war, Piazza thought. The soldier had talked himself into dying.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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