Dying for one's country - is that something that's 'formally' covered in military training?

How is the topic of dying for one’s country ‘covered’ in military training? As someone with absolutely no personal, family, or social connection to anyone who’s served (since WWII), I honestly don’t know. For all I know, it may not even be broached.

Still, I assume it must be addressed; if for no other reason than it would seem better to have your soldiers totally committed to the cause/battle/mission.

And further, I suppose, by preparing them to die, you may actually increase their chance of survival (perhaps by lessening their panic in desperate situations or by avoiding futile actions/gestures).

Is this something that’s ‘taught’ in the military? To be prepared, in your heart of hearts, to die?

Taught? No. The only things that are taught are how to avoid it and how to prevent it.

Training is more oriented towards building camaraderie with your peers, so you might be willing to die for them.

“No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.” - attributed to GEN George S Patton

I will add to Bear_Nenno’s list training on how to handle others dying.

Per my father who is sitting across from me right now, and who was a general officer, it’s not brought up in training. Though it’s implicit and they do provide counseling to troops in battle.

Let me add a more specific question: Are people told that they must be prepared to die for their country, or more critically that there is an expectation that they may have to?

Or is it just sort of [del]hoped[/del] assumed that they will?

Along the same lines, is it considered sound military practice to motivate one’s soldiers to the point that they are willing to die?

If you’re an officer, or even an NCO, and you’re in Germany, March 1945, and the War is clearly going to be won but some soldiers must die first, would there have been a ‘proper’ or ‘best’ way to address this with your troops?

ETA: Interesting to me to hear about ‘dying for your buddies’. Likewise, your dad’s comment, AK84.

Actually from the George C. Scott film.


Nos anciens ont su mourir
Pour la gloire de la Légion.
Nous saurons bien tous périr
Suivant la tradition.

I don’t recollect it being covered in Basic. I was 19K, and the emphasis was first learning how not to die by your own tank, and then how to make others dead with a tank.

“Giving your all” was kind of implicit in the job, and most everyone understood that going in. Only a (very) small handful of idiots had “oh shit” reactions to the notion of their own mortality while in uniform.

Here’s how it was covered for me.

Yes, the core training is about various techniques to maximize the chance the other bastards die for their country. Shooting accurately, using cover and covering fire, how to use various unfair weapons like grenades and rocket launchers and set traps and ambushes with claymores, etc. In the US Army, a good fight is one tilted as heavily in your favor as is practical.

But, at other points, the cadre talked about their experienced during deployments to Iraq. They talked about losing buddies and about how ultimately the reason they were still alive and not dead to an IED was primarily luck. You can try to spot IEDs but if the enemy does a competent job hiding them, fusing them, and builds them well, and sets them off at the right moment, you’re going to be unavoidably killed. Well, at this era, I understand MRAPs helped a tremendous amount.

In general every mission you would be sent on in the most powerful military on earth is one where you would be more likely than not to survive. Even in ww2, for the U.S. military the majority of soldiers in most dangerous missions generally did make it out alive. Heavy losses might be 10% of the troops killed or wounded, not 60%. There are some exceptions to this, heavy bomber pilots and submarine crewmembers had particularly poor survival rates. But historically it wasn’t anything like the losses the Soviets faced, where if you were drafted and born in I think 1928 you had better than 90% chance of dying to the Germans.

There’s a pithy acronym from the days of the Strategic Air Command that currently escapes me, but the gist was that, should the unthinkable happen, and the US was launching nuclear Armageddon towards the Soviet Union, tanker crews were expected to give all of their fuel to bombers, leaving very little for themselves. Enough to get the aircraft into an attitude where they could bail out, basically. This would be over either the Arctic Ocean or somewhere in Nunavut (though it’d still be the NW Territories).

IOW, they weren’t living for very long after they launched. FWIW, neither were probably the guys in the Minuteman LCCs or probably the guys being refueled in the B-52s, FB-111s et al. Yet it wasn’t a “suicide” mission.

There are others that come to mind. The planned SAS raid into Argentina to destroy stocks of Exocet SSMs was thought to probably result in the death or capture of the soldiers carrying out the raid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mikado

In “Inside Delta Force,” Eric Haney was candid in writing that he doubted that many of the operators on the abortive US Tehran embassy hostage rescue mission would survive. Also on that mission, Dale Ishimoto, a captain attached to the unit, joked, “The difference between this and the Alamo, is that Davy Crockett didn’t have to fight his way in.” https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/05/the-desert-one-debacle/304803/ (about a quarter of the way through the article)

So you can get people to do what would rationally be thought of as suicide missions in Western militaries, but I don’t read of them personally referring to them as such.

The tanker crews honestly sound like they have excellent survival chances, assuming they can bail over land. They are likely thousands of kilometers from any nuke targets - nobody is going to nuke Northern Canada. But yeah, the B-52 crews are probably toast, and definitely the minutemen crews - the enemy would be expected to have exact locations of each minutemen silo. Only way they’d fail to kill one would be a guidance system fault on the missile they send.

I always liked the typically wry British response to the problem. *Keep flying east young man, and take up with a nice Mongolian woman. *

“The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you are already dead.”
Lt. Speirs, Band of Brothers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5YpUsDsHmk

No, not specifically. But they give you guns, and you have to suspect that the other side gives their troops guns. It’s not a giant leap of logic.

Having spent 20 years in the US Army, I have no idea what “dying for your country” actually means. We’re going to have to use more specificity there. In my mind, when someone says you must “die for your country” they are talking about some noble but idiotic Crimean War bloodbath that poets write about.

I suspect OP actually means, “How are soldiers psychologically prepared for an operation in which casualties are a certainty?” This question actually does have an answer.

Mostly, it is training. That might sound stupid, but it’s true. Top-tier soldiers train their skills over, and over, and over, so that when the time comes they have the confidence that they - and their buddies - are the best at what they do. Some training is specifically designed to de-sensitize the soldiers to the sights and sounds of combat. They use smoke, pyrotechnics, and blanks for this. They also set up large speakers to play battle sounds (usually it is the opening scene from ‘Saving Private Ryan.’)

The other half of it is knowing that you will be taken care of. The life insurance is pretty generous. They place a high priority on rescue and evacuation. Remember that time Obama traded Taliban prisoners for that one asshat who deserted his FOB? The message there is that the USA will do everything it possibly can to recover you, even if you are an asshole, and even if you might not deserve it. Those kinds of things do a lot to send the message that you “belong” to the organization, and even if you are wounded or captured or killed, they will take care of you.

Where was this done?

As part of the intake testing for the South African defence force you sit through a pre-HIV testing counselling session. The medic asked us what we were volunteering for. Many said fighting for our serving the country etc but he said no we were signing up to die for our country.
Now the context of his statement was explaining why HIV positive people couldn’t join the military, you would infect others if you were killed or wounded, but it was clear that he was reminding us what military service would entail before we signed up officially. A last chance to back out.
Once actually in service it isn’t brought up again so directly.

The first time I saw it at basic training in Fort Sill. The idea was to crawl through a sand pit while the Drills set off pyro and shot a 249 at the far end. They had big speakers to add gunfire and explosions and people screaming. Halfway through it, I heard Tom Hanks calling for Bangalore torpedoes and I was like, “Oh, I know what movie this is.”

I’ve seen it done several times since then. Every unit has some professional AV equipment they can sign for,
but nowdays anybody can just pair their iPhone to a car radio and blast it while the Joes run around and do their drills.

I’ve heard of similar things in other services. I read a Mary Roach book in which she describes naval drills. They build a simulated piece of the ship, pump some water in, and add smoke and effects to make it look like they’ve taken damage. Then the sailors run through their damage-control or medical drills while the instructors play sound effects and shout at them.