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Chivalry in the Military

Chapter

Abstract

Chivalry is a word that is often been used in the context of the military. Yet, the meaning attached to chivalry differs. Here are some examples:
  • In his Memorial Address of 20 July 1966 in memory of the military resistance against Adolf Hitler the Bundeswehr’s former Lieutenant General Hans Speidel quotes a section of a speech Colonel General Ludwig Beck once gave on The Lesson of Total War saying: “Chivalrous warfare, a sense of law and justice, decency and honesty in his relations towards the enemy are an intrinsic desire of the soldier of honor (...).” (Speidel 1966)

  • In the mid-1990s Major General Jürgen Reichardt was rather enthusiastic about the performance of German parachuters in the Second World War and hereby attributed a lot of importance to chivalry: “The German parachuters were neither better equipped than their counterparts nor did they have excessive command of strength, weapons and food. What made the difference was the spirit. The warrior spirit, the esprit de corps, the spirit of chivalry.” (Reichardt 1996)

  • In a mid-1990s commentary in the German weekly paper Die ZEIT Hans Arnold deplored the absence of chivalry and wrote: “The marginalization of ethical and moral reflection is especially pronounced in those parts of the army which are usually referred to as elite troops, special forces, command troops or rangers. The soldiers of these units are characterized by a particularly strong and uncritical concentration on an ethically neutral mechanism of command and obedience.” (Arnold 1995: 46)

  • In a 2004 interview in the supposedly far right-wing weekly paper Junge Freiheit, former Brigadier General Reinhard Günzel of the German Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialkräfte, KSK), raised the question, whether “there is an officer or a soldierly ethos at all in the Bundeswehr” and gave the answer by himself by charging the “1968 cultural revolution”: “No, there is no such ethos (...) any more. How should there be given the fact that the military is seen as a job only.” Nevertheless, he ends hopefully because there “obviously still is some soldierly essence in the country” (Schwarz 2004: 4f.). •

  • One last facet of chivalry is represented by the well-known 1982 movie An Officer and Gentleman, written by Douglas Day Stewart, directed by Taylor Hackford and starring Debra Winger, Richard Gere and Louis Gosset, Jr., which is about decent behavior, courage, politeness, courteousness and love. One of the last sequences of the movie in which the newly graduated officer candidate Zack Mayo alias Richard Gere wearing a shining white uniform rides (!) into the factory where Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger) works in order to take her with him is a proper and graphic illustration for this.

Keywords

Sexist Attitude Benevolent Sexism Ambivalent Sexism Hague Convention Moral Reflection 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften | GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bundeswehr Institute of Social SciencesStrausbergGermany

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