Why Soldiers Fight? The Motivation of the US Soldiers

free essayEach global conflict on the planet has its roots in political and cultural background and leads to certain consequences that can have a prolonged impact on further historical events. The roots of World War II (WWII) were in the political changes, that occurred after the Napoleon’s wars and in the cultural possessions of the German Nation, with its desire to become a huge empire with colonies. Moreover, the events of World War I led to the dangerous consequences, related with the Golden Age of Ideologies. Therefore, each side of the conflict had its own ambitions and motivation that were controlled and empowered by their political leaders (Magagna). For the US soldiers, WWII was the result of the previous political decisions that had stemmed from the events of the 18th century. After the USA was finally united after the Civil War, the first geopolitical possessions appeared, which manifested in the war with Spain for its colonies. The significant success of this victory and further development of national consciousness led to the development of the USA as not only a significant political power but also a strong leader in the American region. Moreover, while Europe fought in WWI, the USA became an economic leader that traded with all sides of the conflict (Fromkin 66). As a result, the United States became not only a global force but also a third side of this war, which developed the views of the US leaders on their role in this Geopolitical Game, forming an image of a country-supervisor.

First Motivation: Homeland Protection

In order to understand the motivation of the US soldiers in WWII, one must realize unveil the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that had affected their individuality. At the beginning of the Second World War, the United States declared a neutral policy in accordance with the Neutrality Act of 1935. On November 4, 1939, this policy was amended and weapons could be delivered only to the countries-buyers after an immediate payment and shipped only by their vessels. American vessels were forbidden to enter the seas in Europe. However, after December 7, 1941, a large squadron of Japanese ships, which included six aircraft carriers, attacked Pearl Harbor, where the main forces of the United States Pacific Fleet were based (Lyons 71-76). At the same time, Japanese ships and aircraft struck other American and British bases – in the Philippines and in the English colony of Malaya. Therefore, the impact of intrinsic motivation of the US soldiers can be divided into the desire to protect their homeland and the personality of the majority of the US soldiers that had been formed by the Great Depression. Thus, summarizing all previously mentioned, the motivation of the protection of the homeland was based on the act of aggression, committed by the Japan Empire, and that was used by ideological propaganda for the creation of a strong ideological basis for aggression against another human being.

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Second Motivation: War as a Job (Self-Interest)

The personality, forged by the Great Depression, had a significant impact on the image of war for the US soldiers. During the Great Depression, the President of the United States was Herbert Hoover, who in March 1930 said that the worst was already behind, the economy was in recovery, but it was only the beginning of the Great Depression that lasted until the beginning of WWII (Lyons 68). Moreover, most Americans, whose personality was forged in the years of the Great Depression, were focused on survival, which meant having a job. Thus, during the Great Depression and WWII, the most stable profession was a soldier since the US government had to keep order in the states as soldiers were involved in counter actions against the riots of the starving lumpen. Therefore, the US soldiers perceived a war as a job that should be done (Rogler 1013). Moreover, the involvement into military conflict was viewed by such people as another dangerous work, which the majority of them had experienced enough, but which was paid for much better.

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Third Motivation: Propaganda

The impact of the extrinsic motivation could not be neglected as it had the strongest impact on the soldiers’ decision to fight. Thus, such factors included the ideological manipulations and propaganda that was aimed at various social groups and that ought to increase their desire to fight against an enemy. According to Belmonte, the ideological propaganda was widespread in cinema, posters, newspapers, and leaflets, and its purpose was the formation of the social image of war (44). Moreover, the huge amount of different mass media materials of 1943-1945 provided the basis for the assumption that the US propaganda mainly targeted the internal audience as opposed to Goebbels’ ideological war. The impact of propaganda on the soldier’s motivation was made through social pressure and the mechanisms of social interactions. Thus, ideology was one of the most significant motivations for the US soldiers to fight in WWII.

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Fourth Motivation: Ending the War

One of the strongest motivations, which could be addressed to the intrinsic one, was the motivation to end the war. According to Spahr, the majority of the US veterans of WWII gave such an answer to the question of why they had kept fighting – they were willing to end the war faster and to return to their families (38). This motivation could be assumed as the result of the impact of three major reasons of why they had become soldiers – either to earn money, because it was their duty, or as the result of ideological impact. In all those cases, the warfare, which was held on the enemy territory, had affected their perception of the war itself and their role in it.

Fifth Motivation: Policy of the Balance of Power

The cultural heritage of the USA since WWI, which had been manifested in role of the overseer over civilization and which had been related to the Treaty of Versailles, shaped the role of the US soldiers as that of peacemaker and negotiators. Moreover, this standpoint forced the USA not to intervene in WWII until Europe was on the brink of the total collapse, and even in this situation, the US involvement into the was narrowed to trading (Sparrow 56-63). Therefore, the next extrinsic motivation of the US soldiers was based on the impact of the cultural background, which led them to the participation in the conflict with the purpose of the establishment of peace. This motivation was supported by the government that had other motives, related to the bargain of the 19th-20th centuries that was tied to maintaining the balance of powers (Magagna). Thus, for the government, the image of the keepers of the world peace, which was given to the US soldiers, was needed for the formation of the motivation to fight for goodness.

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Sixth Motivation: Loyalty (Domestic Commitment)

The motivation of domestic commitment is based on the fear of losing the benefits that are given by society. Therefore, this motivation was very similar to patriotic tensions among the common folk, which had forced them to become the volunteering soldiers. Additionally, this motivation was strongly related to social identity, which meant that soldiers’ commitment to their state and community was manifested in their desire to fight together against an enemy.  Moreover, the commitment was supported by the actions of the US government that had declared the domestic front as a mean of control of the population (Goodwin 166). However, in contrast to affective commitment, which was a motivation of the limited group of people who had gone to the war because of their views, domestic commitment was linked with an expectation of benefits from the country. Additionally, such expectations were supported by the social guaranties that were provided by the state. Therefore, the US soldiers were motivated to perform their duty by monetary and social support. However, such a motivation always changed after the first real participation in the warfare, which was a weakness of this motivation since the expectations of future sometimes could not become a reality.

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Conclusion

The motivation of the US soldiers changed from war to war, keeping some common parts and changing according to the circumstances of the new time. Thus, World War II was a unique example of a simultaneous impact on the personality of soldiers on different levels, thus forming their desire to be involved in this war. On the one hand, an extrinsic motivation impact was represented by ideological propaganda, socio-cultural role, and political views. Such a motivation was linked to the strong impact of the US government and the policy that manifested in a constant ideological intervention in the different spheres of social life as well as the social support and insurances, provided to the soldiers. On the other hand, the intrinsic motivation, manifested in desire to protect the homeland, in the specific views on war, and in domestic commitment could characterize the personality of the US soldiers of that time. Thus, one could state that all levels of motivation were different for different soldiers because of their personality, cultural, and social context. Moreover, the motivation of the US soldiers further developed during WWII, forming a new motivation for the future generations of soldiers.