WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

Virus: "Why did you choose us to do this, sir?"

Schaefer: "Several reasons. You have a history of making it out of impossible situations, no matter how often we try to ki- no matter what assignment we deploy you on."

A close relative of Reassignment Backfire, except this turns out rather well for the superiors. This is when your Ragtag Bunch of Misfits are a bunch of assholes or at least out of favour with high command, and their superiors are clearly deliberate in sending them off to their certain demises. The problem is that, through sheer luck, ruthlessness or actual competence and skill, they keep returning, sometimes even accomplishing the impossible missions.

However, rather than get worried for their jobs, the superiors are actually quite pleased. Now they've got Cannon Fodder who are actually likely to get the job done, but whom no one is going to miss if they don't come back! Often the mark of Dangerously Genre Savvy superiors. See We Do the Impossible for the Super-Trope.


Anime & Manga

  • The Organization in Claymore has a standard practice of sending the warriors they deem unreliable (actually, all who come close to Awakening) on Suicide Missions, yet some like Miria and Clare manage to survive against all odds, resulting in a win-win for the Organization. This did eventually end in the Battle of Pieta, where all current undesirables are rounded up in one place and massacred to hold off an army of Awakened Beings until they could scramble to deploy their real weapon, which they did. Pieta, however, backfired again: seven Claymores survived and deserted, but until that point it had been quite nice for them.
  • Area 88 has many examples of this. The Area 88 mercenaries are meant to fly highly dangerous missions to take pressure off regular Asran forces, as Bowman observes in the OVA. Since many of the mercenaries are veteran soldiers, they're very good at warfare.

Comic Books

  • The main premise of Suicide Squad. The entire group are expendable criminals sent on missions which are... well, suicidal.


  • Odd example in Ciaphas Cain in that the superiors may be completely innocent, but Colonel Mostrue often seems a bit too quick to call in artillery strikes close to where Cain is stationed during Cains time with the artillery unit, and also frequently gets Cain sent off into dangerous situations. Cain suspects that Mostrue is aware of the fact that his first great triumph was really just a desperate attempt to get to safety and abandon the battery to its fate, but whatever Mostrue's intentions, Cain's repeated survival of adverse circumstances only adds to the double-edged sword which is his reputation.
  • Played completely straight in the Gaunt's Ghosts novels, however. Colonel-Commissar Gaunt has made his fair share of enemies in the higher echelons of Imperial command, and many go out of their way to find ways to kill him and his Ghosts off.
  • This is the entire point of the 13th Penal Legion. In the first book, Colonel Schaefer starts with a legion of four-thousand troopers, the scum of the Imperial Guard. Two years later, he's got a 'legion' of 8 soldiers and they can do things even a Space Marine cannot.
    • If you like to know he only takes about 11 of them on each mission all but one (minus Himself) ever live past their first mission (if you do he will give you a full pardon). The ones in the second book are lucky in that two more make it out alive, but Kage doesn't get pardoned because the Colonel only promised one pardon.
  • In the The Shahnameh, Rostam frequently becomes this. Despite outliving generations upon generations of royalty and proving himself the most powerful warrior in the East, he still carries out missions or new kings well into his four hundredth year, right up until the day of his death. Admittedly, he is more frequently tasked with mentoring kings' offspring after a few hundred years, but the fact remains that he dies in combat.
  • Rincewind gains this status in Interesting Times, when Archchancellor Ridcully notes that while he is constantly getting into life-threatening situations, he has quite the knack for surviving them.
  • Klaus Hauptman knowingly invoked this trope in Honor Among Enemies. He convinced the Royal Manticoran Navy to offer Honor Harrington, a major thorn in his side, a return to RMN service as senior captain of a Q-ship squadron in Silesia fighting pirates (who happened to be threatening his shipping). He figured either she'd succeed and protect his interests, or she'd fail and likely be killed while doing it.
  • At the end of Harry Potter, Harry begins to think of himself as this, after learning of Dumbledore's manipulative plans. Whether or not this was the truth is up in the air.

  Of course there had been a bigger plan; Harry had simply been too foolish to see it, he realised that now. He had never questioned his own assumption that Dumbledore wanted him alive. Now he saw that his lifespan had always been determined by how long it took to eliminate all the Horcruxes. Dumbledore had passed of destroying them to him, and obediently he had continued to chp away at the bonds tying not only Voldemort, but himself, to life. How neat, how elegant, not to waste any more lives, but to give the dangerous task to the boy who had alredy been marked for slaughter, and whose death would not be a calamity, but another blow against Voldemort.

Video Games

  • This is the entire premise of Star Wars Battlefront II, where you play as the 501st Legion, which "has a history of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat."
  • Xenosaga plays with this, with Ziggurat-8. Rather than someone else sending him on Suicide Missions, he sends himself on suicide missions, because he wants to die fully (but can't kill himself outright due to programming). The problem (for him), is that he's just too good to die, and ends up being recruited for a very important mission due to his skill.
  • Battlefield: Bad Company. This is the entire premise of the titular B Company. Command keeps sending them on Suicide Missions, they keep succeeding and surviving.
    • So much so, that in Bad Company 2, they are treated as super-elite soldiers, who are sent in BEFORE any other Spec Ops units.
  • The Player Character in Ace Combat Zero starts off as this - his first true famous action in the war is defeating an elite squad of Belkan aces over the "Round Table", where he and his wingman have been sent without any support to distract the Belkans while the main attack commences somewhere else.
  • The player character in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines for most of the game. You have no sire (because he/she broke the law in creating you), no standing in the Camarilla (because the Camarilla executed him/her for it), and the only person who claims responsibility for you is the city's prince (who passed the sentence: Popular opinion spared you from the same fate). Said prince repeatedly sends you off on Uriah Gambit missions because your continued existence is an eyesore to him, and you keep coming back with success stories. After two or three missions of this, said prince wises up and decides to send you on a mission that he expects you to come back from -- if only because it's a planted murder scene and he wants you, the politically naive newbie whose word would be relatively more trusted, to be the Unwitting Pawn who implicates one of his political rivals.
  • The Arbiter in Halo 2. "The tasks you will undertake as the Arbiter are perilous! Suicidal! You will die, as each Arbiter has before you! The Council will have their corpse." Essentially, his death on the battlefield would be a way to execute him for his crimes, but in such a way that he does something useful in the meantime. Problem is, the Arbiter just keeps surviving, so the Prophets order Tartarus to murder him. This still doesn't work.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, General Damon becomes jealous of Militia Squad 7's successes overshadowing the regular military and constantly sends them on insanely dangerous missions in hopes that they get killed off somehow. It doesn't help that he's always considered the Militia as Cannon Fodder. Fortunately, since Squad 7 is essentially a Badass Army with a Cool Tank, they manage to complete their missions successfully.


  • Exterminatus Now usually has the gang sent off to do some incredibly dangerous mission specifically because they're a bunch of frakkers whose backs no one would care to see. As a result, they frequently don't get the job done too well. However, their tenacity at surviving numerous operations where their command staff are explicitly trying to get them killed off means that Schaefer tends to go to them first if there is a genuine need for a group of inquisitors with a record for pulling off suicide missions.

  Rogue: Is there any reason this mission is code-named "Dead Men Walking"?

    • There's also the fact that they have a steadily increasing supply of blackmail images and videos they can use against their boss: they use this to extort an incredibly large base, some very impressive computers, and some very impressive hardware from their boss, but can't use it to keep from being forced to do their jobs. So, if they go out and get killed, Schaefer wins, and if they come back successful, the Inquisition wins. Perfect Win-Win scenario, as long as their failure doesn't doom the planet to dominion by the dark gods.

  Schaefer: You have a history of making it out of impossible situations, no matter how often we try to ki- no matter what assignment we deploy you on.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • The Black Sea Marines, aka The "Black Death". Got Romanians on your doorstep? Army getting pushed back on all other fronts? Give your sailors rifles, tell 'em to fight. Everyday sailors given a rifle and pressed into service as shocktroopers against the Germans, Italians and mostly Romanians. Manages to hold Sevastapol in the face of German invasion for months, even completed more paradrops during the war than the actual Russian paratroopers, some of World War 2's unsung bad asses
    • Soviet/Russian Naval Infantry in general. Military doctrine states that in a war situation, these guys will be sent in first to critical areas bordering the sea (like the Dardanelles Strait) to capture and secure them, without significant ground armor support, with high expected casualties necessitating swift reinforcement by other units. In the Chechen war, the rebels were apparently scared shitless of these so-called "Anchors", and some would rather jump out of windows than face Naval Infantrymen.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.