“The 2000 Yard Stare”, by Thomas Lea, 1944, WWII.

The thousand-yard stare or two-thousand-yard stare is a phrase coined to describe the limp, blank, unfocused gaze of a battle-weary soldier, but the symptom it describes may also be found among victims of other types of trauma. A characteristic of shell shock, the despondent stare reflects dissociation from trauma.


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 although the painting was not referred to with that title in the 1945 magazine article. The painting, a 1944 portrait of a 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.  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?

When recounting his arrival in Vietnam in 1965, then-Corporal Joe Houle 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.” Later learning that the term for their condition wasthe 1,000-yard stare, Houle said, “After I lost my first friend, I felt it was best to be detached.

Below is a gallery of Soldiers dating back to WWI  There are documented cases of this condition throughout history including  Ancient Egyptians,

Hover/click images to enlarge


Images found in Google Search, 1,000 Yard Stare

2 thoughts on “It’s Written on Their Faces

  1. Thank you for sharing that with me. I’ve got so many questions about; I’ll never truly understand this or PTSD, I do try to stay informed though.

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  2. I know that look – I still find myself lapsing into it, sometimes for long periods, when I don’t even realize it’s happening. Peace . . .

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