"Honorable suicide tactics"



This is a topic that has interested me for some time. Specifically, by “Honorable Suicide”, I am referring to deaths in where you sacrifice yourself while assaulting or defending against the enemy; this will be a broad definition intentionally as we will see below. Further, this does not have to be exclusive of battles or wars. I will elaborate with examples and some questions;

First off I expect some of the super-lefties to argue that honor doesn’t exist in war so for the sake of argument let us all assume that it does. This is not a debate on if honor exists at all in war.

With that in mind, let’s go down the list. Which of the following would you consider honorable, which would you not, and why?

The most famous last stand of all time, the Battle of Thermopylae, is something I would consider to be indisputably an example of honorable suicide tactics. In it, King Leonidas and an estimated 7,000 soldiers held off around 300,000 Persian soldiers and inflicted significantly higher casualties than they received. The impact of this event on the eventual Persian defeat is arguable in many ways, however it is again undeniable that it lead to a large morale boost among the defending Greek city-states and the battle has entered popular discourse as an example of the highest bravery and valor.

The Battle of the Alamo was a battle during the Texas Revolution in which ~200 defenders halted the 1800-strong Mexican army for two weeks inflicting high casualties. Following the eventual Texian defeat, General Santa Anna killed most of the survivors, which, along with his similar cruelty in the Battle of Goliad, inspired many previously ambivalent settlers to flock to the Texian cause and eventually win independence at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Kamikaze Pilots were military aviators in the Japanese Navy and Army who loaded their planes with explosives and fuel and attempted to ram themselves into US warships. After the Battle of the Phillipine Sea, in which Japanese carrier capabilities were crippled, Kamikaze pilots were justified on the basis of the increasingly desperate war situation and the U.S. naval superiority. They were more accurate and deadly than conventional weapons and were first utilized at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in which the Japanese Navy ceased to be an effective fighting force.

Both the Japanese and Chinese utilized anti-tank Suicide Squads which would load up with grenades and explosives and attempt to be ran over by a tank or simply self detonate next to one. They were justified on the basis of desperate war situation and lack of anti-tank equipment.

The Leonidas Squadron was a German aircraft unit during the second world war which was intended to fly manned V1 bombs in suicide missions. This project was discontinued despite vehement protests from Hanna Reitsch and Otto Skorzeny (Nazi leadership considered such attacks “non-germanic”), and instead they flew similar machines which were supposed to release a warhead at close range and then return. Nevertheless, in 1945, they flew suicidal missions in which there was no hope of return. Namely, they attempted to destroy bridges and delay the advancing Soviet Army, to great effect.

The “Suicide Boys” were part of several Hitler Youth units formed as the Allied invasion of France loomed closer. Specifically, they were Hitler Youth-trained ideological warriors aged 14-18 and were expert snipers. During the Allied Invasion, individuals would hold a well-disguised and defend-able position to the death. A single Suicide Boy could hold up entire companies as they struggled to eliminate the sniper threat. Many instances were recorded of these individuals refusing to retreat or surrender; once their ammunition ran out or their positions were overrun the boys would continue to fight until killed with whatever they could.

During 911, several US Airforce pilots were dispatched to eliminate the final hijacked plane in which the passengers overran the terrorists and forced it to land in a field as opposed to a different target. These U.S. pilots were not loaded with ammunition, with the understanding that they would be forced to collide with the hijacked passenger plane in order to save civilian lives. EDIT- For clarity, the reason they were not loaded with ammunition was that it would have taken too much time to load them up to effectively combat the threat. They were not ready, and pre-911 home bases were not in general.

Last, modern Islamic suicide bombers. I will intentionally exclude terrorist bombings against civilian targets and instead focus on Islamic suicide attacks against military installations/ soldiers.


In my own opinion, I consider every example I listed to be honorable in their own right.

Even if I hate Islamic suicide bombings against US military targets, I respect the conviction the bombers hold in committing to such attacks and consider it honorable for them. This is of course a difficult opinion to hold, but I came to this conclusion after I thought of all the other “suicide tactics” which I consider to be honorable.


I consider only “suicide” under the terms of defense being honorable.

I.e just the first two. The others seem like terrible wastes of lives.


At the time, both the conquests of the Greek City-states and Texas seemed inevitable. Both actions were absolutely hopeless at the times they were conducted, and I would therefore argue that the latter actions are equatable.

Further, anti-tank squads definitely helped the Chinese survive against the Japanese Army. They had almost no modern anti-tank equipment and so it was essentially the only reliable way to destroy Japanese tanks.


That doesn’t really change anything I said. I draw a clear difference between offensive and defensive actions, and I draw a difference between singular people doing things and a unit doing things. If one or two people were at the Alamo, it would have been stupid.

As for the Chinese, mind telling me why they were unable to lob a group of grenades instead of just blowing themselves up with the grenades? That’s without a doubt a stupid waste of life in my opinion, and is honestly the worst out of what you listed in my eyes.

On the issue of suicide bombers, I don’t find terror actions against civilians to be honorable.


While groups like the Russians and Germans were known to tie together a large number of hand grenades for use as an anti-tank device, it is less effective than a suicide attack for a number of reasons.

One, running up beside the tank is much more accurate than throwing a 20-lb device. Additionally, you can’t throw the grenades very far as a result of the weight.

Two, you are more able to get underneath the tank or in areas where the damage might actually matter. Many throwing devices may bounce off a tank, your timing may be incorrect and the tank gets a distance away from it, or you may even just hit a heavily armored part of the tank and do little damage. You could also just blow off the tracks, leaving the tank able to continue firing.

Third, as a bundle of grenades it both unwieldy and heavy, the distance you could throw it may end up killing or wounding yourself anyway. Or you would be forced to move into the open to throw it, which may result in your death anyway by exposing oneself to enemy fire.

Forth, you can carry a lot more weight than you can throw, meaning you are much more likely to destroy the tank.

In short, there’s many reasons why human grenades are significantly more effective than handheld anti-tank grenades in a WW2-technology context. Unless you have a Hafthohlladung, but even that would require you literally placing it on the tank carefully which exposed you to enemy fire, not to mention that such technology was unavailable to the Japanese and Chinese. Handheld anti-tank grenade = ineffective at best, human anti-tank grenade = likely success. It was a logical decision.


I even bolded it mate :confused:


Hey you’re right actually, I didn’t really consider that throwing grenades at the side of a tank probably wouldn’t be as effective as I was initially thinking.

Anyway, for Islamic suicide bombings, I don’t think the same can apply, don’t these guys have more readily access to anti-tank weaponry? I think the suicides have more to do with their wonky religious views of self-sacrifice.


So, for myself, I consider there to be a distinction between fighting to the death and suicide attacks.

I am not a fan of things which (in order to be completed) involve people dying in order for something to be accomplished (kamikaze as a conventional warfare tactic and not a last effort, suicide bombing etc.), but I do consider “last stands” like Thermopylae and the Alamo to be honourable, as it was them fighting to hold off the invaders through being alive, not through them dying.


Why is that not honorable?


Yes, they certainly do have more access to them. However, modern armor technology in some cases has outpaced anti-tank weaponry. That being said there’s plenty of old soviet tanks used by the Syrians and Iraqis which can be destroyed and even the M1 Abrams given to the Iraqis are inferior versions so as to maintain a U.S. technological advantage. So, in some cases, even an M1 Abrams can be destroyed if it is not modernized and the AT weaponry is very advanced.

Also, I didn’t mean to infer that the suicide bombings in question were ones solely dealing with destroying tanks. Military base bombings, etc, also count.


Even if you don’t agree with the cause that suicide tactics are used for (under the assumption we’re talking about tactics against legitimate military targets and not women or children) you can’t deny it takes a great deal of courage and loyalty to carry out an attack you know you won’t survive from.

Though the kamikaze attacks relied on manipulating the patriotism and filial piety that the pilots felt for their country and families, it was done mostly for prestige rather than actually viable tactics (throwing your skilled pilots’ lives away in an increasingly futile situation is not a good military strategy). They even shot one kamikaze who came back from his ninth sortie without having drove his plane into a warship.


Many of the latter ones I don’t think are honorable, they are just dogmatic. For example, suicides for Japan/US/Germany.

However, honourable tactics include that of the Battle of Alamo, the Battle of Thermopylae, and to those I would add Tirad Pass and Wizna.

Tirad Pass was a battle in the Philippines where the President’s personal guard of 60 held off advancing Americans, numbering some 300-500, and allowed the President to escape just in time and survive. The 60 included one of the top Generals, who gave his life for the President. Some 52 of the 60 died during the few-hour battle that they knew they could not retreat from. They failed to make any material ‘wounds’ on the advancing Americans, as only six kills were recorded, but still nevertheless they did not give up and had one goal in mind.

Wizna was a battle in the middle of the Invasion of Poland by the Nazis, where just 720 troops held of 42 000 Germans. Knowing their bunkers would be picked off one by one, they only had one goal in mind: giving a large Corps the chance to fight without German reinforcements (which they ultimately failed to do). Equipped with just 6 field guns and some 40 machine guns, they killed 800 - 1550 Germans and took out a few tanks. Ultimately, all but a handful have died, including the Captain commanding the bunker and rallying the men, who after three days laid himself on a grenade.

These aren’t necessarily what most would call a suicide, but it effectively is, as it is an acceptance of certain death, either at the hands of the enemy or your own to avoid capture.

However, that is not to say all deliberate suicides are inherently not honourable. For example, last year Alexander Prokhorenko, a Spetsnaz operative in Syria, was on a recon mission to take out key targets as well as give coordinates for air and missile strikes. When his position was compromised, his building was surrounded by (up to) a hundred ISIS fighters. Refusing to give himself in, he ordered another, last, airstrike. On his own location.

A lot of myths surround what he did beyond that, but he apparently sang the Russian anthem over the comms. The ISIS troops that were killed en masse were also reinforcements to the city of Palmyra, and further reinforcements were diverted here to find out what happened, ultimately delaying the whole defense of Palmyra against the Syrian Army which captured it in March.

That, in my opinion, is an example of suicide with honour. As well as iron balls.


It may still be honourable, I just find it to be brutal (also, cause matters in relation to honour).


Making a distinction in war between ordering soldiers into situations that have statistical casualty rates that approach 100%- sacrificing X forces to achieve Y objective- and utilizing people in direct suicide missions seems rather petty to me. If the situation is desperate enough, and the price of defeat is high enough, then no tactic however seemingly cruel or unusual should be put off the table if it has a chance of improving the odds of victory.