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In fiction, whenever anyone has a position they need filled, rather than putting out a want ad or interviewing potential candidates, they'll simply grab the first person they see and force them to help.

Though this is usually played for comedy, it was used seriously by Real Life navies; the practice of grabbing men off the streets and forcing them to become sailors was known as impressment. When impressment was abolished, it would later be replaced by the practice of "shanghaiing" on non-military vessels in need of able-bodied men.

See also Got Volunteered.

Examples of Press-Ganged include:

Anime and Manga

  • Pretty much everyone in the SOS Brigade in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya anime show can attest that they were bodily forced- er, recruited using this method.
    • Except pretty much everyone in the SOS Brigade basically danced in front of Haruhi Suzumiya so she would bodily force- er, recruit them using this method - on orders from their individual Omniscient Councils Of Vagueness.
  • In the first Sailor Moon season, this is how Yumemi Yumeno finds her models for her paintings. She grabs Usagi and Mamoru (almost literally) and begs them to be her models.
  • Takatoshi Tsuda, the main character of Seitokai Yakuindomo, is shanghaied onto the student council on the first day of school.


  • In a Wash Tubbs comic, Wash and Easy are shanghaied into working on an old-timey whaling ship. They eventually lead a mutiny against the first mate and his supporters. Interestingly, while most of the other crew members were shanghaied to fill positions on the ship, Wash and Easy were targeted specifically because the first mate knew they had a lot of money on them to steal.


  • Played for Laughs in Secondhand Lions, where the two uncles were drinking with some sailors, passed out, and woke up on a ship out to sea.
  • John Wayne's character in The Long Voyage Home was protected by his friends from being shanghaied, and it actually got done to him at the very end (IIRC).
  • In The Live Ghost, Laurel and Hardy try to earn a few bucks from a sea captain who needs a crew by clubbing bar patrons unconscious and tossing them in the ship's hold...naturally they end up clubbed and tossed in with the rest.


  • The Horatio Hornblower novels mentions press gangs that were sent out to grab people and force them to become sailors in the British Royal Navy.
  • In Empire From the Ashes, Dahak does this to get a new captain.
  • In The Scar, many of the inhabitants of the floating nation Armada were press ganged.
  • In Jingo, Nobby Nobbs mentions his mother's uncle, a sailor who was press-ganged by a bunch of farmers who tied him to a plow.


  • In the Stan Freberg recording "The Old Payola Roll Blues," Clyde Ankle is on his way to high school when he is grabbed off the street by a record company which sees in his "pretty face and a pompadour" the makings of a teenage Idol Singer. Despite that (actually, because) he can't sing, they get him to record the would-be hit single "High School, Oo-Oo" by threatening him with a pointed stick.

Web Comics

  • Bug claimed he isn't afraid of getting shanghaied.
  • The plot of Spacetrawler begins with the alien Nogg abducting six humans to serve in the Eeb liberation movement. However, he specifically chooses six individuals who would be most likely to help, and he does allow them to opt out after explaining the situation to them.

Western Animation

  • Looney Tunes:
    • In "Mutiny on the Bunny", Bugs Bunny is forced into service by sea captain Yosemite Sam (who in this cartoon goes by the appropriate moniker of Shanghai Sam).
    • Porky Pig in the 1936 cartoon "Shanghaied Shipmates".
  • A Captain Ahab type takes Tom in the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry short "Dickey Moe".
  • Mickey Mouse in the aptly-named "Shanghaied". The cartoon begins with Mickey and Minnie already on the ship, but it's not hard to tell how they got there.

Real Life

  • In some American cities, if not enough people show up for jury duty the judge will send out bailiffs to grab people walking by the courthouse to act as jurors.
    • This tradition started all the way back in ancient Greece.
  • When impressment was abolished, boarding masters for non-military ships in the 19th century would sometimes resort to underhanded tactics to get men aboard ships, such as drugging drinks at a waterfront bar and then signing them on as crew without their knowledge or consent. Boarding masters who were known for this were called crimps, and the practice in general soon became known as "shanghaiing."
  • Drafts.
    • Stop Loss
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