Asuume there’s a really important objective that needs to be completed. (rescuing 100s of children from a plane wreck, destroying an enemy leadership cell, getting a Big Mac and Coke, it doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters it’s important to the person in this hypothetical.)
Alex can possibly complete the mission, if s/he doesn’t actually attempt it then there is no actual risk to him/her but the children will die/the enemy will probably win/the Big Mac will remain ungot. If s/he does do it, there is a significant risk of death. How high would it have to be before you would charactarise it as a “suicide mission”?
I’d put it at 75%. Below that is merely “high-danger”, but not a suicide mission yet.
(I say this totally blithely as someone who has never been a cop, soldier, firefighter, NEST commando, Chernobyl technician etc)
I voted for “at least 95%” only because you don’t have a “100%” option.
I’m a believer in linguistic literalism: that words mean precisely what they says on the box. Thus, a “suicide mission” is a mission that involves suicide. Not ‘high risk’ or ‘possible death’, actual intention to die. Anything less than certain death is not a suicide mission, it is a deadly / high-risk mission.
Maybe that would explain the plot hole in the Deer Hunter where Christopher Walken apparently gets a PTSD-induced obsession with playing Russian Roulette in gambling dens, yet seems to survive long enough to be making a lot of money at it.
Point of clarification: Is this the kind of mission where you have a reasonable chance of successfully completing the mission but dying anyway (as in a kamikaze mission), or is it the kind where you have very little chance of success?
I can see that POV. In reality ‘suicide missions’ are mainly military ones. Non-military ones might have existed in exceptional cases but mainly hypothetical and/or in movies.
Among military missions, the Japanese sent people on planned missions where there was literally no way to survive if they succeeded. Notably under 100% of suicide a/c crews died, but only by failing to find targets in which case it was accepted they could return to try again, and some never got another opportunity. And in at least one freak case the a/c glanced off and slightly damaged the targets but the pilot wasn’t killed. But basically mission success=death.
This sets a bar for literal ‘suicide’ mission that almost no Western military mission has ever met. There was virtually always either a practically possible way to survive, or individuals took it upon themselves to die in the heat of the moment, not sent with the express intention they so do. That’s even true of German air-air ramming missions late in WWII, sometimes taken in isolation and compared to Japanese special attack. But the Soviets also often rammed German a/c and the pilots were often able to bail out. It was extremely dangerous, but not the same as Japanese air-air ramming v B-29’s: no intention of trying to strike a glancing blow to disable the enemy a/c but still be able to bail out.
So applying the term to Western military missions does tend to result in two parallel definitions. ‘Suicide’ (but not exactly) missions in the West, v. suicide missions (really) by the Japanese in WWII (and a few other cases, eg. ROK soldiers early in the Korean War are documented to have used ‘human bullet’ tactics of carrying suicide explosives v tanks, like the Japanese had, many leaders in the SK army in the Korean War had been trained in the Japanese Army during WWII).
In the *seven shot *Nagant revolver, I have heard that with only one cartridge it will stop under the hammer, thus as you pull the hammer and the cylinder moves, it is never the shot fired. Unless the revolver doesnt work right.
Although, American military personnel have taken off on air-to-air ramming missions as recently as 2001, and didn’t complete them only because people inside the target already succeeded on the same mission (and also lost their lives in the process). Yes, they hoped to be able to eject and survive, but I think that still counts as a suicide mission.
With something like that, saying it was going to happen, or might, and doing it are not really the same thing. But anyway not to get sidetracked on that. I’d still say, winding it back to WWII there confusion when Soviet or German ramming of enemy a/c (typically aiming for a control surface or something), with the pilots intending to survive and often succeeding, is called a ‘suicide mission’. Then what was it when Japanese fighter pilots aimed dead center for B-29’s (which is how a lot of them were lost to enemy fighter action)? A really truly suicide mission, I guess maybe.
Similarly now comparing any extremely dangerous mission a formal or informal force carries out, compared to people with suicide vests where mission accomplished=dead, 100%.
I think I’d tend to distinguish between the two scenarios as “suicide mission” vs “suicide attack”. Perhaps it’s not a rigorous distinction, but in general the former implies an extremely dangerous mission where death is probable but not an intrinsic objective; whereas the latter implies martyrdom, and is a more apt term for kamikaze or suicide vest attacks.