I've been reading a great book about Ernie Pyle's war correspondence in World War II lately, and have been struck by many of his observations. In this passage below, the book's author quotes Pyle describing the transformation he sees in the soldiers he's "embedded" -- a transformation he doesn't completely share, despite his genuine love for the men. It's a great passage about how even moral horrors can become what amounts to "just another day at the office."
Ernie Pyle "felt bonds of kinship tugging him toward these men...but he perceived a change in them that he had not undergone. Before Kasserine they had been merely civilians thrust into Army green. Now they were soldiers. He heard the transformation in 'the casual and workshop manner in which they now talk about killing. They have made the psychological transition from the normal belief that taking human life is sinful over to a new professional outlook in which killing is a craft. To them now there is nothing morally wrong with killing. In fact it is an admirable thing.' He didn't hear this sort of talk in the rear echelons, only among the rifle companies at the tip of the spear. The front-line soldier 'wants to kill individually or in vast numbers. He wants to see the Germans overrun, mangled, butchered...' It was a profound difference, shocking yet necessary. 'All the rest of us -- you and me and even the thousands of soldiers behind the lines in Africa -- we want terribly yet only academically for the war to get over. The front-line soldier wants it to be got over by the phsyical process of his destroying enough Germans to end it. He is truly at war. The rest of us, no matter how hard we work, are not.'"
Source: Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II, by James Tobin.