Major (Dr.) William E. Mayer, U.S. Army’s chief psychiatrist studied approximately 1,000 American prisoners of war who were detained in the North Korean camp during the Korean War. He discovered one of the most devastating psychological weapons of warfare on record.
The American soldiers imprisoned in a North Korean Camp were not tormented by cruel or unusual conventional standards. In fact, they had adequate food, water, and shelter. They were not physically tortured at all. Yet many died in those camps and were not surrounded by guards, or fences and they never attempted to escape!
Their technique was so effective that when survivors were released, they were given an opportunity to phone loved ones. Only a few made the call. When the soldiers returned home, the soldiers maintained no relationship with each other. In fact, Mayer described each man as being in a “solitary confinement cell” without any steel or concrete.
What caused the problem with the men? Hopelessness. The torture inflicted on the men was such an extreme hopelessness that many times a soldier would wander into his hut, sit down, pull a blanket over his head and die within two days. This extreme hopelessness raised the death rate in the North Korean POWs to 38%. This was the highest POW death rate in U.S. military history.
Can you imagine? Death from hopelessness?
What were their tactics: First, the North Koreans would give prisoners rewards for informing on one another which turned the men against each another.
Then the the men were gathered into groups of 10 or 12 and each was required to stand up in front of the group and confess all the bad things he had done or all the good things he could have done but failed to do. This confession destroyed each other’s respect and trust.
The soldier’s allegiance to his superiors was also destroyed. They no longer kept their ranks, their respect for superiors or their position of belonging. Each was out for himself. There was even one case where 40 men took three of their ill soldiers and threw them outside the mud hut and left them to die. Since they no longer had a relationship, they didn’t care about one another.
Lastly, if the soldier received an encouraging letter, their captors would destroy it immediately. The negative letters, however, were delivered right away. For example a wife would write to her husband telling him she had given up. She no longer believed he was alive or returning home. Can you imagine? A husband receiving a letter from his wife saying that she has given up on the idea that he could be alive and she is marrying again? In fact, they even delivered overdue bills to the soldiers!
The constant negativity broke the spirit of each man to the point of death. Hopelessness kills.
The reality is that many people lack hope and don’t see any purpose in their future. The writers of the Bible often wrote about hope as they too knew the impact of hopelessness. St Paul refers to The Word of God as an ultimate weapon of war, describing it as the Sword of the Spirit. He entreats his readers to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take a stand against the devil’s evil schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The world needs an ultimate weapon in the war against Hopelessness; the Word of God promises it is that ultimate weapon.