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War artist Thomas Lea's The 2000 Yard Stare

A U.S. Marine exhibits the thousand-yard stare after two days of constant fighting in the Battle of Eniwetok

The thousand-yard stare or two-thousand-yard stare is a phrase coined to describe the limp, unfocused gaze of a battle-weary soldier, but the symptom it describes may also be found among victims of other types of trauma. A characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder,[1] the despondent stare reflects dissociation from trauma.

Origin[]

The phrase was popularized after Life magazine published the painting Marines Call It That 2,000 Yard Stare by World War II artist and correspondent Tom Lea,[2] although the painting was not referred to with that title in the 1945 magazine article. The painting, a 1944 portrait of a Marine at the Battle of Peleliu, is now held by United States Army Center of Military History, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.[3] About the real-life Marine who was his subject, Lea said:

He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?[4]

When recounting his arrival in Vietnam in 1965, then-Corporal Joe Houle said he saw no emotion in the eyes of his new squad: "The look in their eyes was like the life was sucked out of them." Later learning that the term for their condition was the 1,000-yard stare, Houle said, "After I lost my first friend, I felt it was best to be detached."[5]

See also[]

References[]

  1. "Marines turn to Greek plays to cope with stress". AP. Aug. 14, 2008. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26203463/. 
  2. Life magazine, 6/11/1945, p. 65. link
  3. Jones, James, and Tom Lea (illustration), (1975). - "Two-Thousand-Yard Stare". - WW II. - (c/o Military History Network). - Grosset and Dunlap. - pp.113,116. - ISBN 0-448-11896-3
  4. "War through the eyes of artists" (Transcript of televised broadcast). America's Defense Monitor, Program Number 438. Center for Defense Information. 1991. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. https://archive.is/2tvU. Retrieved 2006-10-27. 
  5. Stone, Sgt. Arthur L. (2002-05-02). "Retired Sgt. Maj. Joe Houle recounts Vietnam tour". Marine Corps News. http://www.lejeune.marines.mil/PublicAffairs/News/ArticleView/tabid/1108/Article/3075/retired-sgt-maj-joe-houle-recounts-vietnam-tour.aspx. 

External links[]

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