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Nov 17, 2011



Expand on your fourth thought?

I've considered the impact of the others, but this one could use some more explanation and I am interested in your thoughts.


-Your former student


There was a period of European warfare when uniforms expressed the sentiments of national leaders and had little (or negative) combat value. A bright red coat was impressive psychologically I suppose and expressed something that was perhaps rare and more valued in the 18th century: National cohesion. It also expressed a romantic vision of war. The last example of this sort of thing, that I know of, were the French Zouaves in WWI, who actually went into machine gun warfare wearing red pants. Men actually rode around on horses at the start of that war, and German helmets had a completely functionless point on top (the 'Pickelhaube'). In the trenches, war lost its romance and the pursuit of safety led to universal camouflage. Hunker down and blend in. The Pickelhaube gave way to the Stahlhelm, a design that covers the ears and neck and whose basic outline can be seen both in today's US kevlar helmets and Darth Vader's impressive headpiece. There were some holdouts from utter war functionality, such as the tinpot Tommy helmet and the dark blue of French infantry uniforms, both of which persisted into World War II.

Fast forward to Vietnam. Everything is green and black, shadowy, and shaggy. The soldier is now something of a hairy gorilla, lurking among the vines, watchful. No helmets - what's the use against a single bullet directed to the heart? When Vietnam vets march today, they wear their floppy dark hats.

Since 1980, American war has been in the dusty places of the world, the places where British khaki was most at home. Our military interests are embedded in dry desert towns. Not only are the uniforms no longer ceremonial in any way, they actually hide some of their functionality in the form of kevlar underwear.

The fighter's identity is hidden as well; he begins to look like a robot, his helmet outfitted with sensors and wires. This frightening thing might even be a woman. No massive brass breastplates protect this Valkyrie, her form is suppressed in folds of protective weave, dozens of pockets, ammo, and gadgets. The gun is all. She comes upon you with her comrades in the night, vision goggle over one eye, laser target beaming at your forehead, silently moving over the hard-packed brown earth. The gun, held close to the shoulder, eye to the scope; where she looks, death looms. Then an explosion of light and sound, and you are no more.


I had always figured the red uniforms where to conceal blood.

But now I think about it, I wonder why on earth you'd do that. If I was bleeding out, I'd want my fellow soldiers to see that, and fast.


I remember how hooked I was when the first Call of Duty came out. Sadly, I don't have much time for video games thesedays.

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