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Suicide and the social context

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Military suicideEdit

In the desperate final days of World War II, many Japanese pilots volunteered for kamikaze missions in an attempt to forestall defeat for the Empire. In Nazi Germany; Luftwaffe squadrons were formed to smash into American B-17s during daylight bombing missions, in order to delay the highly-probable Allied victory, although in this case, inspiration was primarily the Soviet and Polish taran ramming attacks, and death of the pilot was not a desired outcome. The degree to which such a pilot was engaging in a heroic, selfless action or whether they faced immense social pressure is a matter of historical debate. The Japanese also built one-man "human torpedo" suicide submarines.

However, suicide has been fairly common in warfare throughout history. Soldiers and civilians committed suicide to avoid capture and slavery (including the wave of German and Japanese suicides in the last days of World War II). Commanders committed suicide rather than accept defeat. Behaviour that could be seen as suicidal occurred often in battle. For instance, soldiers under cannon fire at the Battle of Waterloo took fatal hits rather than duck and place their comrades in harm's way[verification needed]. The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War, Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg in the American Civil War , and the charge of the French cavalry at the Battle of Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War were assaults that continued even after it was obvious to participants that the attacks were unlikely to succeed and would probably be fatal to most of the attackers. Japanese infantrymen usually fought to the last man, launched "banzai" suicide charges, and committed suicide during the Pacific island battles in World War II. In Saipan, Okinawa, civilians joined in the suicides. Suicidal attacks by pilots were common in the 20th century: the attack by U.S. torpedo planes at the Battle of Midway was very similar to a kamikaze attack. Also, it could be argued that it is an action of military suicide to fall on a grenade, the action of throwing oneself onto a grenade, hoping to shield one's platoon from the shrapnel and/or explosion but most certainly losing one's own life in the process.

This particular reference to suicide is also what leads to the everyday usage of the term when indicating a hopeless situation, often in business, such as "it would be suicide for us to go to market without a viable product."

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