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"We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again."
In movies and TV shows, some supposed enemy appears: an alien from another planet, some unidentified earth-based target, or something else that it appears the only way to defend against it (whether or not it has hostile intentions) is the Army, Navy, and/or Marines. So the military comes out, and they start shooting, and they discover the enemy has shields, or that for some reason (or lack of reason) the military's best ordnance attacks do not have even the slightest effect. Or, worse, their opponent has ray guns or other equipment that can shoot down and/or incinerate attacking equipment and/or aircraft.
So, you would think that, since the material they are using is being destroyed, the military commander would stop wasting ammo or equipment (not to mention the personnel being vaporized, killed, or seriously injured). No, they keep right on shooting, wasting ammo and getting their ass kicked, as if the purpose of the military is to continue to throw away its ordnance on invulnerable targets after it's been shown that there is no effect.
Of course it can be argued that in truly hopeless situations in which it seems that the aliens intention is to utterly wipe out humanity, running away does not make all that much sense either, and dying in battle might even be seen as preferable fate. At best it might even buy time for the rest of humanity to discover the alien weakness.
It's a play on the 19th Century surrender poem ("I Will Fight No More Forever") of the Chief of the Nez Perce Indians, when he realized that they could not win against the U.S. cavalry. In this trope, the cavalry can't come to the realization that it's not going to win, but it will keep on fighting, wasting ordnance and quite possibly people.
See also Attack! Attack! Attack!. For the villainous equivalent, see Shooting Superman. Along with We Have Reserves, this represents the bulk of General Ripper's tactical and strategic repertoire (raising the question as to how he could actually make it to general...). Also compare Five Rounds Rapid, in which an armed force only uses small-arms fire to try to take down a monster, and never thinks to use some of the bigger weapons in its arsenal.
- Used in Dragonball Z, when the King's army tries to defeat Cell. Unfortunately for them, it turns out to be the 'Entire Army Vaporized' variant, because Cell is just that sadistic.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the military being deployed against an Angel is pretty much either a token gesture as they usually know it won't work, or is used as a diversion while the EVAs do their thing.
- Lampshaded by Fuyutsuki on episode 3: "They're just wasting taxpayers' money."
- In the English dub of Uchuu Senkan Yamato / Star Blazers, Captain Gideon's parting words to the Star Force regarding the Comet Empire are to aim for the bottom half, as the upper half is impenetrably shielded. Advice he fails to act on, even though he still has a couple of minutes left after he gives it.
- The marines in One Piece have a horrible knack of continually shooting a guy who's Immune to Bullets while he runs around throwing trees and crushing buildings.
- The Eleventh Division in Bleach is pretty much the poster child for this. They manage to be completely devastated multiple times, and in fact the motto they live by is "Die in battle, and fight forever." Not exact wording but close enough.
- Just about every human soldier, guard, or police officer in Elfen Lied; granted, they don't really know her full capabilities. The first seven minutes or so are a pretty good example of this trope: Lucy escapes and begins walking toward the guards. They fire. She deflects the bullets with her invisible vectors. She continues to walk towards them. They die. Horribly. Variations on this happen multiple times in the first seven minutes, and throughout the series. In general, only the protagonists can survive an encounter with Lucy, even if they're not in one piece afterward, but common grunts seem quite willing to stand their ground and continue firing, even when bullets visibly have no effect, despite the fact that people around them are being literally ripped to pieces by invisible hands.
- War of the Worlds, the 1953 version. Despite the Martians having impenetrable shields and using disruptor rays, the U.S. Marines keep on shooting at them and allowing their troops to be vaporized, resulting in losses to the tune of nearly 60% men and 90% materiel.
- In the original novel they were more effective; the narrator witnesses one tripod being destroyed by an artillery barrage, before the Martians start deploying chemical weapons. A single ironclad took out two tripods in a kamikaze attack, which doesn't seem like much until you realize there are at most thirty on the planet.
- The movie shows many of the troops and vehicles retreating (or trying to). Also, Major General Mann ordered the Marine commander to "Hold them as long as you can".
- In the 1953 movie, the waves of soldiers are depicted as being used as a "heroic sacrifice" which while at best a distraction, is giving the scientists time to figure out how to stop the Martians. The military's top scientists do approach the problem rationally, as after a nuclear weapon doesn't even make a dent in Martian energy shields, they don't give up, but plan to turn to biological weapons. The problem, unfortunately, is that by this point the general population - i.e. rednecked hillbillies - is panicking, and a mob steals the bio-warfare lab trucks and smashes all of the equipment - in one scientist's immortal words, "they've cut their own throats!" The film ends with everyone praying in a church and just as a Martian is about to kill them, it dies from some earth disease, ending the movie with a monologue about how the Martians were defeated by bacteria, the "smallest creatures that God in his infinite wisdom put on this Earth" - keep in mind this movie was from the 1950's and thus had to say that God Loves America and God Triumphed Where Technology Failed... the Irony being that using a bio-weapon was the concept the scientists had come up with and which just might have worked!
- The Incredible Hulk, the military keeps attacking despite the fact all they're doing is making him mad as he throws their tanks back into each other, turning them into slag.
- This is a carryover from the comics, where the military was so obsessed with stopping the Hulk that they couldn't seem to figure out that every time they tried, it cost millions of dollars (and no lives). General Ross in particular was fond of throwing wave after wave of his own men into battle, despite the fact that the Hulk would just get angrier and stronger with each successive attack.
- Godzilla. So much so that the absence of this trope is one of the (many) reasons the American Remake is considered Canon Dis Continuity.
- Subverted in Independence Day, after dropping a nuke on the invader ship which has taken over the city of Houston (and basically nuking anything of the city that is left), the Secretary of Defense thinks that using another nuke on another American city might still work even though the first one failed utterly. The President overrules him, e.g. it was worth trying once, but obviously if it didn't do anything the first time, subsequent attempts would be pointless.
- In the film Evolution, The army tries this against alien life forms that evolve at an alarming rate. Their General, shortly after being told fire makes them evolve faster, tells the main characters to shut up and makes things go to Hell.
- Tell someone that a weapon will make the threat of the week stronger and that's the first thing they'll try to kill it with.
- The general never finds out about the fire thing before detonating the napalm. They try to call him, but he refuses to pick up the phone.
- In Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, it seems that the super secret human/Autobot task force has one tactic: send the humans in, let them get slaughtered, then hope that delays the Decepticons long enough for the Autobots to kill them.
- The sequel shows NEST developing pretty effective tactics that allow humans to take out Decepticons with assault rifles (presumably, with armor-piercing ammo) without Autobot assistance. Sniper rifles also prove surprisingly effective at taking out their eyes.
- World War Z has the narrator interviewing a Chinese submarine commander who defected. Apparently his reasons weren't political, but rather the truly horrific mindsets of the top Chinese government officials who refused to believe that using massive numbers of poorly equipped soldiers was a bad idea. This despite the fact that every soldier killed by the zeds meant another zombie enemy.
- Lampshaded by Miles Vorkosigan in Brothers in Arms:
Galen: The revolt must not die.
- The Doctor Who episode "Dalek", there's a scene with groups of soldiers attacking the eponymous Dalek from three different directions. It's got a force field and bullets do not penetrate. It shoots, and one Red Shirt gets Death Rayed. It turns, and shoots another. Then again, another. One by one, in no particular hurry. The bullets are still not having any effect whatsoever. However, instead of saving their bullets (and lives) and leaving to come up with a better plan, they keep going until all are slaughtered.
- Invasion Earth (1998) had the military destroying a massive alien...thing that appeared, only for another one to appear in its place. It was theorised that an infinite number of these aliens were stacked up in alternate realities, waiting to replace each one that's destroyed. Nevertheless the general in charge gives a defiant speech about how they're going to nuke each one that appears, no matter how many, because the fate of the human race is at stake. The series ends without us finding out whether these "all or nothing" tactics are effective.
- Basically the aliens want to turn all life on Earth and everywhere else into Organic Technology slaves. Most races are pacifists and kill themselves rather than be used. Humans being awesome bastards decide to do as much damage to the aliens as possible and exterminate all life on Earth in the process out of spite.
- The British General Ripper Expy gives this Crowning Moment of Awesome speech, "They are going to learn that we won't roll over and die like the Echo's. We are going to fight. And even if we lose we'll make damn sure that they don't win." I was never so proud to be a human.
- The WWI Blackadder described the Allies' secret plan as "climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy" with the drawback being that "everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds." The depressing thing is that these were the Allied tactics in Real Life.
- The reality is a awful lot more complicated than that. While there were some terrible blunders early in the war, and when the Americans first arrived, both sides were constantly innovating and trying new things to break the stalemate, such as climbing out of the trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy, behind one of your tanks.
- The Earth-Minbari War, the final battle of which is the Last Stand variant, and was fought to ensure the escape and survival of the human race. Heart-wrenchingly narrated by Londo.
- "Barroom Hero" by the Dropkick Murphys. Basically it's about a big tough guy who loves to get drunk and fight, but he's a much better drinker than a fighter, apparently.
- The Jak and Daxter series's titular One-Man Army, Jak, is constantly laying the smackdown on hordes of Krimzon Guards, Metal Heads, and pretty much anything that moves in a vaguely threatening way. And no matter what, they just keep coming.
- Averted slightly in Universe At War. While humanity is never shown as being capable of bringing down a Hierarchy walker by themselves, human tanks, fighters, and trained infantry are shown to be perfectly capable of killing Hierarchy ground troops, albeit with heavy casualties. When Earth finally manages to launch a nuke against a Hierachy ship, it's implied that it does decent damage, and a high-ranking Hierarchy commander considers it a humbling lesson.
- Given that Alex Mercer doesn't have much difficulty with destroying helicopters or hijacking them for a joyride (and then probably using them to blow up some more military property), it's a wonder that the military keeps sending them after him. Same thing for the Supreme Hunter the first time at least, they're kinda useless the second and Elizabeth Greene in a way: Mercer does a better job at avoiding her attacks and actually damaging her in one, but if the military didn't keep sending tanks and helicopters in, the player couldn't yoink them and shoot rockets at the boss with some degree of protection.
- In the early game, at least, when you've got barely enough health to trash a few tanks, the military is a mild annoyance. Maybe they're hoping to be a critical annoyance at exactly the right time? Those strike teams do a good job of it, at least...
- Helicopters, tanks, rocket launchers, and grenade launchers are at least vaguely dangerous, in the sense that they could hypothetically kill Alex. A better example would be the guys shooting regular bullets.
- Subverted occasionally in Assassin's Creed, particularly from Assassins' Creed II onward. Enemy Mooks have a hidden "morale" meter that gets depleted as they watch their fellows die. If you take out enough Elite Mooks or disarm them, there's a good chance that the lesser Mooks will turn tail and run, begging for mercy.
- In later games, you can kill a number of enemies with precisely-timed actions. Essentially, when Ezio is killing a guy, you can give the strike command with a direction, and he will almost instantly rush towards another guy and stab him, and so on. Needless to say, seeing a dozen well-armed soldiers slaughtered by one guy in under 10 seconds can drop the "morale" meter faster than a rock.
- Lampshaded in the Powerpuff Girls, when a typical giant monster appears to wreak havoc in the city...
Fighter Pilot: "Roger, Bravo Delta, this is Sitting Duck. I have Bogie Queen in my sights, and I'm, uh, going to shoot bullets at it now."
- This is Zapp Brannigan's modus operandi in Futurama to simply throw men into a hopeless battle until something happens. It actually works against the kill bots because they have a kill meter and once they reach maximum kill counts they shut off.
- "As if the purpose of the military is to continue to throw away its ordnance on invulnerable targets after it's been shown that there is no effect" is a pretty good description of the entire First World War, most notably the Battle of The Somme, although in WWI it was "ordnance and men."
- The Somme was really an attempt to force the Germans to refocus away from Verdun, another really lossy battle.
- US Navy torpedo squadrons at the Battle of Midway were equipped with obsolete TBD torpedo bombers, which were very easy prey for the A6M "Zero" fighters that protected the Japanese fleet. The torpedo planes pressed home their attack anyway, and were mostly wiped out, with Torpedo Eight from the USS Hornet famously only having one survivor. However, destroying the torpedo planes drew the fighters down near the water, leaving the carriers wide open when the non-obsolete dive bombers arrived at high altitude right as the Japanese were rearming their attack planes. The torpedo bomber pilots' Heroic Sacrifice allowed the dive bombers to inflict massive damage on three of the Japanese carriers, putting them out of action, and greatly contributed to the eventual U.S. victory.
- Several additional waves of attackers from Midway itself were also just about wiped out by the Japanese. Something like seven separate attacks suffered atrocious losses. The only result being to disorganize the Japanese forces to the extent that the final attacks were outstandingly effective. One of the best books about the battle was named Incredible Victory for a reason.
- Those attacks also prevented the Japanese from launching the second wave of attack planes they had held in reserve. Ensuring they were caught in the middle of re-arming and re-fueling the first attack wave.
- The reason for the sequential attacks by the Americans was a lack of training and experience (each group set out as soon as it took off). Notably only the Yorktown's (the only battle-experienced carrier) squadrons arrived together, at almost the same time the Enterprise's bombers arrived from the opposite direction (which was pure luck - the timing was unintentional).
- On the other side, the Japanese were the ones playing this trope straight after the tables turned. A few units and isolated officers held out for years after the surrender before they were convinced that the war was over. The last soldier to surrender, Lt. Hiroo Onoda, did so in 1974 twenty-nine years after the war ended.