Jump to content

Thousand-yard stare

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
War artist Thomas Lea's The Two-Thousand Yard Stare
An exhausted U.S. Marine, Theodore James Miller exhibits the thousand-yard stare after two days of constant fighting at the Battle of Eniwetok, February 1944.

The thousand-yard stare (also referred to as two-thousand-yard stare) is a phrase often used to describe the blank, unfocused gaze of people experiencing dissociation due to acute stress or traumatic events. It was originally used about war combatants and the post-traumatic stress they exhibited but is now also used to refer to an unfocused gaze observed in people under a stressful situation, or in people with certain mental health conditions.[1]

The thousand-yard stare is sometimes described as an effect of shell shock or combat stress reaction, along with other mental health conditions. Still, it is not a formal medical term.[1][2][3]


The phrase was popularized after Life magazine published the painting Marines Call It That 2,000 Yard Stare by World War II artist and correspondent Tom Lea,[4] although the painting was not referred to with that title in the 1945 magazine article. The painting, a 1944 portrait of a nameless Marine at the Battle of Peleliu, is now held by the United States Army Center of Military History in Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.[5] About the real-life Marine who was his subject, Lea said:

He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?[6]

When recounting his arrival in Vietnam in 1965, then-Corporal Joe Houle (director of the Marine Corps Museum of the Carolinas in 2002) said he saw no emotion in the eyes of his new squad: "The look in their eyes was like the life was sucked out of them". He later learned that the term for their condition was "the 1,000-yard stare". "After I lost my first friend, I felt it was best to be detached," he explained.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Peleliu as a paradigm for PTSD: The two thousand yard stare - Hektoen International". hekint.org. Retrieved 2024-01-22.
  2. ^ Mills, M. Anthony; Mills, Mark P. (2014). "The Invention of the War Machine". The New Atlantis (42): 3–23. ISSN 1543-1215. JSTOR 43152788.
  3. ^ Kudler, Harold (2017). "Combat Stress and Related Disorders". Principles and Practice of Hospital Medicine. McGraw-Hill Education.
  4. ^ Life magazine, 6/11/1945, p. 65. link
  5. ^ Jones, James, Tom Lea (illustration), (1975). - "Two-Thousand-Yard Stare" Archived 2006-11-09 at the Wayback Machine. - WW II. - (c/o Military History Network). - Grosset and Dunlap. - pp.113,116. - ISBN 0-448-11896-3
  6. ^ LaRocque, Gene (1991). "War Through the Eyes of Artists". America's Defense Monitor, Program Number 438. Center for Defense Information. Archived from the original (Transcript of televised broadcast) on 2006-10-26. Retrieved 2006-10-27.
  7. ^ Stone, Sgt. Arthur L. (2002-05-02). "Retired Sgt. Maj. Joe Houle recounts Vietnam tour". Marine Corps News. Archived from the original on 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2015-07-07.