Skip to Content

A Marine Remembers: Learning to Kill, Learning Not to Kill


One of my grandsons recently asked me, “What is wisdom?”   After some discussion, we together concluded that wisdom comes only with experience. 

When it comes to war, though, living in a country that has not experienced a war on its own soil since 1865, Americans, other than those veterans who have actually fought abroad, have no such experience to draw on.

Perhaps this is why so many Americans easily accept, and even cheer the nation’s militarism, and why most of us accept our government’s reflexive resort to military action to settle international disputes.
Einstein, who had his share of wisdom, advised forgetting everything one has learned.  This was his way of getting his thinking out of a box. 

Rather than add more to this somewhat evasive notion, let me reflect here on my own experience of war, and on how the concept of war has permeated my life, in hopes of finding  a bit of wisdom to counter the temptation to turn to cynicism. 
        “The war to end all wars” ended four years before I was born.  The patriotic fervor that had induced men to fight  and kill in WW I was still alive at that time, although my father’s courage as a medic in France, for which he received a silver star, had left a psychic scar. He had seen more than his share of death, including that of his best friend, who had gone to war despite opposing it, asking to become a machine-gunner to counter accusations that his anti-war sentiment was a reflection of cowardice. 
        It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I was drafted into the Marines. (Actually, I chose the Marines out of the Navy pool.)  This time, in  WW II, there was a sense of duty, but no fervor.    

        Boot camp was my first experience at someone trying to indoctrinate me with the code: ‘’To hate the enemy is a requirement."   

 While I didn't become a slave to this principle myself, most of the men in the platoon bought it. We were told over and over that a soldier’s mission is to kill, and that message sank in for most of the recruits. To help drive the message home, with our bayonets attached, we were ordered to assault dummies while shouting "Kill!"
Author David Lindorff, ex-Marine, engineer and Jungian analystAuthor David Lindorff, ex-Marine, engineer and Jungian analyst

After boot camp, just before my platoon shipped out for the assault on Iwo Jima, I was transferred to a technical assignment working on the development of air-borne radar, but while that transfer probably saved my life, it left me with a sense of guilt that I was abandoning my platoon to face the slaughter without me. Later I met another survivor from the platoon who said he had shot himself in the foot to miss the invasion. That was his source of guilt. Only one man in the platoon had survived the initial landing, I learned later.   
How did this indoctrination process apply to the atomic bomb, and the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians?  The  face-to-face killing in this case was missing, but the scale of killing was multiplied thousands-fold.  


Find more artists like Dave Lindorff at Myspace Music

This is the video tape of Davis in Lahore police custody



Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

Live Stream of the Occupation of Wall Street! The Revolution will be filmed after all! (Courtesy of Globalrevolution)

Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

Donate $50 to and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.


Have a comment to make?

You can write us at
We may not answer you, but we'll probably read it.

about seo | story