"Never leave a soldier behind" in practice

The thread about “Saving Private Ryan” in CS got me thinking about an idea I’ve often heard. This is the notion of “never leave a soldier behind”: if a soldier is alive or dead, that his fellow soldiers should never leave his body behind but instead try to recover it. Is this something really taught to soldiers? At what point are soldiers not supposed to incur losses by trying to retrieve fallen soldiers?

I believe this is more of an IMHO topic but is is something that is drilled into Marine Corps Infantrymen.

The Chosin Campaign is often the highly cited battle of Marines not leaving anyone behind.

Do Marines get left behind? If the mission dictates…sadly yes.
Will a singular Marine do stupid stuff to save another Marine. Gloriously yes.

However I would assume that this is a common belief amongst most military forces.

I served in the Army and I don’t recall at any specific “leave nobody behind” doctrine. The mission always comes first.

If there are sufficient resources and the lost person is of high enough value (prime example being an aircraft pilot), then a dedicated rescue mission would be organized. Of course individual soldiers or squads may take on small-scale acts of heroism, but you won’t generally see a competent commander will let their unit shift strategy in mid-action from assault to rescue, because this could risk even heavier losses in an endless spiral of loss and rescue. That being said, there’s an enormous focus on security and support tactics to minimize the risk of capture in the first place.

This is why leadership is so hard. Compare the decision of “do I risk my life to save my buddy” with “do I put 100 soldiers at risk to save 10 of them when this action may expose 1000 to even greater risk down the line.”

Wow…that is very surprising to me HMS Irruncible, what was your MOS if I may ask? Also at what level does a soldier become of high enough value to warrant a rescue?

I agree that an assault will not be stalled without good reason and Marines know that the mission comes first.

I will be following this thread for input from military servicepeople Dope-wide.

Bear in mind that it’s not about the soldier being rescued. It’s about the rest of the army - knowing that you’re fellow soldiers will do whatever they can to bring you back is what gives troops the courage to go to battle in the first place. Not rescuing a soldier can, under certain circumstances, be the right tactical or even strategic decision. But if you make that decision often enough, then you risk dealing your army’s morale a mortal blow that will take years to recover from.

A soldier who thinks his commanders don’t care about him, or even worse, that his fellow troops don’t care about him, isn’t a soldier at all.

Mission, Men, Myself

That is doctrine, but we are also taught not to leave someone behind and to recover remains, if possible.

Fellow soldiers may or may not care about one. Officers, by and large, care mainly about their careers. The best a trooper can hope for is that he gets a commander who, while regarding his troops as a resource, doesn’t squander them.

Here’s what the US Army has to say on the matter nowadays:

Notice this is a set of goals to aspire to, not a rigid tactical doctrine to always execute.

I showed your post to my father, a retired officer. He had a few unprintable things to say. Suffice to say, he does not agree.

Speak for yourself; I’ve had officers I believe would have died for their men.

I’m an officer, and I definitely care more about the soldiers that work under me than my career. I don’t know what officers you’ve worked with, clearly not very good ones. If anything, I am more apt to neglect my own needs over the people I am charged with - mission, men, myself.

That’s the way I did it, as did all the other officers I worked with. Some were less skillful than others, but everybody had the right goal set.

To get back on topic where is the line that determines whether a rescue is viable?

I know there is no real line but I would like to hear Officers opinions.

In a training exercise last week my unit killed enough Americans that they eventually left their dead in the street. Keep in mind that these were actual living breathing Soldiers that were left to sit in the street all night in a simulation. That could not have been good for morale.

Obviously, we immediately booby trapped them.