11 July 2012

Maximum Range and Midrange

On Killing by LtCol Dave Grossman, 2009, Excerpts

For out purposes “maximum range” is defined as a range at which the killer is unable to perceive his individual victims without using some form of mechanical assistance – binoculars, radar, periscope, or remote TV camera. Many a pilot or artilleryman who has destroyed untold numbers of terrified noncombatants has never felt any need for repentance or regret.

We will call midrange that range at which the soldier can see and engage the enemy with rifle fire while still unable to perceive the extent of the wounds inflicted or the sounds of facial expressions of the victim when he is hit.

Dragon Seed by Pearl Buck, 1942, Excerpts
[Description of Aerial Bombing]

For now they heard great thunders of noise and having heard and seen the thing that burst in his neighbor’s field, Ling Tan knew what was happening. He hid his face not only because he felt his own end near but because he knew that with every burst some died. His eardrums swelled and quivered as he listened and his eyeballs swelled and the breath would not come out of his bosom. He looked at his son and the lad crouched with his head between his legs and his knees pressed against his ears and his arms wrapped about himself.

So they endured instant by instant and the evil passed over their heads at last and went on and after what seemed like half the day there was silence again until they heard a new noise and now it was fire.

A few men had buckets and poured out water, but the flames laughed and leaped at them, and so at last in their despair the people only stood and gazed into the flames and the fire went on until it reached a wide new road, and there grumbling and hissing, it died at last to smoke and then to ashes.

These people poured like a flooding river out from the city over the countryside. These now were rich and poor together and they did not know if ever they could go back. Sometimes he felt more sorry for the rich than the poor because the rich were so helpless and delicate and knew little of where to find food. All their lives food had been served to them by others and they did not need to ask where it was found or how it was made, and the poor did better than the rich in these days, used as they were to too little always. And best of all those bold poor did who risked their lives to stay in the city and to go into the emptied houses of the rich and take what they liked from them.

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, 1965, Excerpts

I recalled well the time, in the first days of the war, when a bomb hit a house across the street from my parents’ home. Our windows were blown out. We were assaulted by falling walls, the tremor of the shaken earth, the screams of unknown dying people. As the dust settled, the split house timidly bared its entrails. Limp human bodies lay tossed over the jagged edges of the broken floors and ceilings like rags. They were just beginning to soak in the red dye. Tiny particles of torn paper, plaster, and paint clung to the sticky red rags like hungry flies. Everything around was still in motion; only the bodies seemed at peace.

Then came the groans and screams of people pinned down by the falling beams, impaled on rods and pipes, partially torn and crushed under chunks of walls. Only one old woman came up from the dark pit. She clutched desperately at bricks and when her toothless mouth opened to speak she was suddenly unable to utter a sound. She was half naked and withered breasts hung from her bony chest. When she reached the end of the crater at the pile of rubble between the pit and the road, she stood up straight for a moment on the ridge. Then she toppled over backwards and disappeared behind the debris.

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