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.