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‘Seeking the bubble reputation’: continuities in combat motivation in western warfare during the twentieth century with particular emphasis on the Falklands War of 1982

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posted on 2023-06-08, 15:29 authored by David Charles Eyles
The subject of combat motivation continues to challenge historians, sociologists, psychiatrists and the military establishment. Despite a considerable body of research, the subject remains multifaceted and complex. Combat motivation is a cyclical process within which motivations to fight before combat, during combat and after combat, are subject to significant changes. The impelling forces for the cycle have been the myths of popular culture. These have shaped how potential combatants understood war and provided the intrinsic motivation to enlist. These attitudes were extrinsically reshaped by training but not removed, and soldiers carried into combat ideas from popular culture that suggested appropriate behaviour; actual participation in combat rapidly reshaped these attitudes. Post-combat, a personal composure was sought to make sense of fighting experiences, and some memoirists extended this into the public sphere. A bifurcation of memoirs reveals not only the perpetuation of traditional myths, but also revelatory attempts to dispel them and thus reshape the popular culture of warfare; specifically, past commemoration and future imagining. Three substantive sections of this thesis will analyse each part of this motivational cycle. By drawing upon evidence from earlier wars it will be possible to demonstrate a continuity of combat motivation throughout the twentieth century. This will also reveal how media representations of the American experience of war have been subsumed into the British cultural template. Research has tended to conflate motivation with morale, but they are different concepts. Motivation provided the reasons why combatants were prepared to fight; however, morale represented the spirit in which it was undertaken. This thesis will separately analyse the elements of morale as a hierarchy of personal needs. A central theme of this thesis is that motivations were dependent upon a complex of interests that combined: the public and the state, military culture, and the core personal orientations of the individual combatant. As a campaign that sits on the transitional boundary of post-modern warfare, the Falklands War provides an opportunity to assess continuity and change within this complex as it has adapted to the impact of war.


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