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This is the first of a series of articles that look at the origins and development of the ISTSS. It includes edited excerpts from Our Hearts and Our Hopes are Turned to Peace: Origins of the ISTSS to be published by Plenum in the new volume, International Handbook of Trauma and Violence, edited by Sandy McFarlane, Arieh Shalev, and Rachel Yehuda.

The ISTSS was born out of the clashing ideologies articulated in the 1960s and 1970s. War crimes, war protests, and war babies; child abuse, incest, and women's liberation; burning monks, burning draft cards, and burning crosses; murdered college kids and show trials of accused radicals; kidnappings, terrorism, and bombings; a citizenry betrayed by its government and mass protests in front of the Capitol -- all play a role in the backgrounds of the people who founded the ISTSS and in the evolution of the organization itself

The origins of the Society can not be placed at the foot of one powerful individual and did not derive from a clearly thought-out, hierarchical, managerial demand. Instead, it has grown organically, from the grassroots and has remained multidisciplinary, multinational, and multiopinioned. One remarkable aspect of the ISTSS history is the extent to which the founding mothers and fathers have had personal experiences with trauma. It may be that it was this close brush with the Angel of Death that has given the growing field such a continuing sense of passion, devotion, and commitment. Whatever the case, there are a multitude of stones begging to be told.

One of those stories is that of Dr. Chaim Shatan. Shatan was familiar with the symptoms of war. His father had fought in three -- the Russo-Japanese War, the Balkan Wars, and the First World War -- before moving from Poland to Canada. His father wrote short stones about his war experiences and the son translated them from Yiddish to English. Shatan had gone to medical school during World War II, when physicians still received training in combat-related disorders and had evaluated men suffering from the traumatic neuroses of war. A New Yorker, Shatan read the New York Times routinely and when he read a story about the tragic death of Vietnam War hero, Sgt. Dwight Johnson, he felt compelled to respond.

Sgt. Dwight "Skip" Johnson, a former altar boy and Eagle Scout, was presented with the Medal of Honor in 1968 for his conduct under fire in Vietnam. After seeing his tank crew burned to death in an attack, he had gone on a rampage and killed a number of enemy soldiers, risking his own life in the process. The face of one of those soldiers haunted him when he came back to the States and despite his celebrity status as a decorated hero, his life gradually unraveled and his mental state deteriorated. Finally on April 30, 1971, Johnson, now married and the father of a little boy, was shot and killed while attempting an armed robbery of a Detroit grocery store. The store owner told the police: "I first hit him with two bullets but he just stood there with the gun in his hand, and said, 'I'm going to kill you,' I kept pulling the trigger until my gun was empty."

In the exchange, Johnson, an experienced combat soldier, never fired a shot. His mother's words echo down to us 27 years later, "Sometimes I wonder if Skip tired of this life and needed someone else to pull the trigger."

Shatan recognized this for the dramatic behavioral reenactment it was and wrote to the New York Times. At the time, Shatan was codirector of the postdoctoral psychoanalytic training clinic at New York University. His editorial was published in May 1972 and titled, "Post-Vietnam Syndrome." In his editorial, Shatan described what came to be called post tramatic stress disorder and told how he had noticed these symptoms in the Vietnam veterans he and his collegues, including Robert Lifton, had been seeing in "group rap" sessions. The response to Shatan's article was overwhelming. He heard from more than 1,250 rap groups from around the country as well as student-health and financial-aid offices on many compuses, and even veterans in prison.

All of the rap groups were functioning outside of the established Veterans Affairs services either because they were past the two-year limit for service-connected disabilities or because they found those employed to administer traditional service geared to World War II veterans, hostile and unwilling to meet their needs. Some of the New York-based veterans asked Shatan and Lifton if there were other professionals who could teach them more about the complex psychological processes attendant upon war experience. Lifton suggested they form more regular rap groups with some professional involvement. With the support of the chairman of the psychoanalytic training program at NYU, Shatan circulated more than three hundred memos asking for professional volunteers to join in efforts to provide clinical consultation to the rap groups. He urged his colleagues to help, telling them: "This is an opportunity to apply our professional expertise and anti-war sentiments to help some of those Americans who have suffered most from the war." The new movement had begun.