Child Soldiers

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"We fight this battle not for ourselves, but for our children, and our children's children, which is why I'm forming a children's brigade." --Zapp Brannigan
"Children, you call them? They can pull a trigger just as well as veterans, and they have the spirit of a bull narthax. Call them children if you wish. I call them troops. Good troops."
Colonel Marus Cullen, Warhammer 40,000

They depend on us to defend them, but we're forcing them to defend us. Sometimes they have an actual talent to help them get through the war, which unfortunately may be the reason they were drafted to begin with, but often it's just tough luck. While the notion of innocent childhood is a relatively modern adoption (thank the Victorians and their contemporaries), even the ancients still felt fairly queasy about the idea - and with good reason: warfare screws with kids heads, and they're rarely good for much else afterwards. Since the use of child soldiers forces the enemy to gun down children in self defense, it's a very strong contender for the most morally reprehensible war crime in existence. On a somewhat lighter side, there are also many stories, in fiction and real life, about boys (and girls) who lied about their ages in order to serve their countries.

This trope is great for an angsty backstory while at the same time excusing Improbable Age with prior experience. A staple of the shows which focus on violence but broadcast to kids, notably the more serious Mecha Shows. It's a good way to subvert Children Are Innocent, particularly if a kid creepily sees it as a game, but sometimes the loss of innocence is played for as much drama as can be.

In fiction, this also has the convenience of explaining why Persons Of Mass Destruction are obeying their weaker bosses and not actually running things, or at least not demanding wages and better job conditions. It doesn't occur to them; and even if they do rebel, they don't know how to do it properly.

This trope blends imperceptibly with New Meat. Since even legal adults can be teenagers, old soldiers in particular may regard them as no more than children. This trope is Truth in Television; many armies in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa have underaged troops. Furthermore, even Western countries such as Germany, Russia, and the United States have overlooked recruitment ages in major conflicts such as World War II. This was likely to happen before the late 20th century, because births were not as well documented and the recruiters took them at their word if they looked about the right age. Though it's frowned on by Western culture, there is a certain brutal logic to conscripting youth - everyone is under threat, so everyone fights. Sometimes the children are better off on the front lines than enduring what would happen to them if the enemy takes their village. As a more pragmatic and ethical solution, many countries that feature soldiers in the 16-19 age range often utilize them in noncombat or support roles, and/or continue to train them until they're older, resulting in far better psychological health, effectiveness of personnel, and morale overall.

Some Super Soldiers probably started out early enough to be counted as this. The Tyke Bomb (of all varieties) is what happens when this trope backfires.

Compare Little Miss Badass, Creepy Child, Cute Bruiser, Enfante Terrible, Kid Samurai, New Meat, Young Gun, Recruit Teenagers with Attitude. Plucky Middie. The Shell Shocked Senior may actually be a high-school senior.

Contrast Falling Into the Cockpit, which usually implies no former military experience. See Plucky Middie for the naval version. See also Raised by Orcs for cultures that use their enemies children this way.

If only children get to be soldiers, then you have a Competence Zone on your hands. If it's because they're the only ones left, then you have a Teenage Wasteland on your hands.

Very much a Truth in Television.


Examples of Child Soldiers include:

Precociously Talented Type

Anime & Manga

  • Sousuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic!!. By the start of the series, Sousuke's 16 years old and has been fighting for pretty much his whole life, having been raised as a mujaheddin in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion.
    • This is apparently Truth in Television, which is why many child soldiers are from the Middle East in anime. Gundam 00 also uses this and Black Lagoon made a reference to it.
      • Sagara had actually been a soldier before that. He was actually sent to kill a guerilla leader at age 8 after being trained as an assassin by the KGB, but failed and joined the arabic leader's troops. He was brought to Russia by Kallinin, who legally adopted him when he and toddler-Sagara were the only survivors of a plane crash, and introduced him to military life. Kallinin later deserting the KGB also to join sides with Sousuke, further training him in the art of war at still tender ages.
    • In the novels, it's mentioned that Gauron himself was one of these: he was fighting for the Khmer Rouge by at least age 12, and probably earlier.
    • Sousuke's former comrade, Zaied is also an example, and unlike Sousuke, is played horribly straight, having grown up into an Empty Shell Sociopathic Soldier, who seems to lack pretty much all social contact, drive and ambition. It makes him a dangerous antagonist and Evil Counterpart to Sousuke.
  • Except for Pluto, all of the Sol senshi in Sailor Moon are in junior high when they show up—all of the Inner team are fourteen when they begin, and Venus begins even earlier as Sailor V. Even Uranus and Neptune, shown to be a bit older than the Inner team, are still no more than a year older and thus only fifteen or so. Even worse, Sailor Chibi Moon is no more then twelve (in the anime) when she becomes a senshi, and Sailor Saturn is probably around that age after she re-ages in Stars. She has the power to blow up the planet, and she's not even old enough to get a learner's permit. About the only justification for this is that the senshi are reincarnated and could have been a lot older in the past and thus might have the unconscious memories of their pasts to help them cope. However, the few glimpses we get of them in the past show them as looking just as young or, as in case of the SuperS manga, even younger. When Princess Serenity is born, the Inner Team look like they're maybe ten.
  • Divergence Eve has Kotoko-01, though since she's an android it may or may not count.
  • Gundam, even discounting judicious use of Falling Into the Cockpit, has a lot of this, starting with 16-year-old Amuro Ray.
    • The pilots in Gundam Wing were all 15 at the start of the series, but the most extreme case is Trowa, who (according to Episode Zero) was picked up by mercenaries after spending the first few years of his life completely alone, and thus has been a soldier since literally before he was able to talk. The show's protagonist Heero has many similarities to Sousuke Sagara (mentioned above) such that many consider Sousuke to be an Expy.
    • Setsuna F. Seiei (pictured fourth from left) in Gundam 00 was brainwashed by and fought for religious extremists in the Middle East some years younger than ten. Being sixteen in the series proper, he's still older than most Gundam teen leads: Usso Eving in Victory Gundam is the youngest Gundam pilot at 13.
    • And for Usso, it speaks of how children are forced to fight. While all teenagers in real life would want to pilot a giant robot and crush all the adults. Imagine if it was a tank, and you don't even got your driving license... real scary thought.
      • Indeed, a Zanscare pilot that Usso downs shoots himself when he sees how old Usso is, because he can't bear to live in a world where children so young are made into soldiers.
    • In Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny the same thing applies with most of the main cast, heroic and antagonistic being in their teens. Although in this case, most of the child soldiers actually volunteered to fight for their countries; many of them soon realized that they bit off far more than they could chew, though.
    • Most blatant example: Gundam ZZ's Elpeo Puru. A ten year old Newtype girl trained for combat in a prototype war machine, mentally conditioned to focus on the pilot of the Gundam (this backfired: she focused on him all right, but her obsession became affection and she only wanted to be his little sister). Then it's revealed that they cloned her at least a dozen times and treated the resultant girls as equipment rather than people, nothing more than pilots who were to obey their commander and fight whomever he ordered.
    • Decil Galette of Gundam AGE is one of the most revoltingly evil examples of this ever created, beinga seven year old boy who joined the army because it gave him the chance to kill people. By the Second Generation he's more or less grown up into an Expy of Ali Al-Saachez and Yazan Gable, the franchise's two defining Psychos For Hire.
  • The Big Bad of Speed Grapher, Suitengu.
  • This is arguably the entire concept of Naruto, where the main characters, at the start, are twelve years old and already sent into occasionally life-threatening missions. The fact that they are ninja and they're accompanied by more experienced one helps, a little, but tough cookies if you watch your family die before you one night, or have to leave your teammate to die. The trope is played with rather interestingly, as the series of messiah-like characters see this trope as a major part of the problem with the whole ninja system in general, which they seek to fundamentally change or end.
    • This story without a doubt fits this trope, as Naruto, as of the gradually building climax-arc of the series, is the saviour and prophet everyone is relying on to save the day. Naruto himself grew into the role of The Messiah not by destiny or conscious choice, but because of the various events and realities of his live, and the choices he made eventually culminating in a person and reputation that effectively becomes messianic. In a sense, the Upbringing Makes the Hero combines with several wise mentors passing on their full or partially messianic philosophies onto Naruto, who sees the reality of the world around him and puts two and two together.
    • Mangaka Masashi Kishimoto is queasy about actually killing off members of his young protagonist set outright (aside from feints, flashbacks, and characters over 25), but has no such qualms about having enemy shinobi bite the dust. Fair enough... up until you realize that all of Orochimaru's non-filler Quirky Miniboss Squads, minus Kabuto, are no older than the junior-high-aged protagonists when they die horribly.
    • Some characters start even younger, as Kakashi graduated at the age of 5, became a Chunin at 6, and by 13, was a Jonin who would have died on several occasions if not for his teammate Rin's medical ninjutsu.
  • The armed forces of the Space-Time Administration Bureau from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha doesn't seem to have a minimum age requirement. Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate become active members at the age of nine and proceed to sky-rocket through its ranks. Unlike most examples, the child soldiers of the series all join out of their own volition. (However, there's unfortunate implications that this is a Boxed Crook arrangement, as these tend to be the opponents of previous seasons; and anyone not working for the TSAB is still in prison or at least confined to a frontier world.) In crossover fanfic it's not unusual for others to find this disconcerting.
    • Played more darkly in Runessa Magnus' backstory in StrikerS Sound Stage X. She fought in wars on her homeworld of Orussia, but was rescued by an NGO after being severely wounded at the age of 9.
    • The TSAB looks more like a police/firefighter force. The characters' job is to arrest bad guys, avoiding lethal force as much as possible, and to rescue people from disasters. Definitely a dangerous job, but far less scarring than a "job" where you have to kill or be killed. But even that is darker in SSX, where we're reminded that working in Disaster Relief means that when you fail, you see people die.
  • Duel Academy students in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX—what do you expect when your weapon is a children's collectible card game? This doesn't stop their principal from feeling terrible about putting the fate of the world in the hands of teenagers.
  • Major Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist earned his commission in Amestris' State Military at the tender age of twelve.
  • Mana Tatsumiya in Mahou Sensei Negima is (arguably) 14/15 years old, but has been fighting in various trouble spots around the world since her childhood. Her old Pactio card actually shows her, around 10 years old, with Desert Eagles Akimbo.
    • There's also Nagi, Negi's legendary hero of a father. The big war in the Magic World started when he was only around 13, and in the Magic World, if you're strong enough, you could fight in wars even if you're just 12 or 13. Nagi being...well, invincible, he pretty much ended the war on his own. At age 15.
    • And leave us not forget the cadets of the esteemed Ariadne Battle Maiden Knight Squad, which Yue Ayase managed to become a part of.
    • In fact, the entire class (including the teacher!) that wasn't left behind counts, save the ghost Sayo. Setsuna has been a bodyguard or training in Shinmeiryuu techniques since childhood.
    • Fate's haremettes also can be seen as this.
  • In Strike Witches, all but two of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing's Witches are children, the youngest being only 12 (the two oldest are, appropriately enough, the commander and her second in command). Justified somewhat in that most magic users are teenage girls anyway, and the fact their magic gets weaker the older they get. So by 20 they are pretty much decommissioned from service.
  • The main cast of Sky Girls are in their teens, the youngest only 15 years old. This is justified by 90% of the male population between 20 and 30 being dead in due to a war against an alien enemy.
  • Mostly averted (both ways) in Gundam SEED Astray's Kazahana Aja. Although she is an official member of the Serpent Tail mercenary group at the tender age of six, she's only the team's civilian liason, and thus is generally a non-combatant (Plus, her mother is part of the group, too). Her report at the end of X Astray is a bit of a Tear Jerker, however.
  • Played straight and subverted by Zettai Karen Children, where the psychic children are used more or less as soldiers, but the organization doing so still treats them like children and tries very hard to provide for a healthy upbringing for them.
  • Gunbuster has a bunch of high-school kids charged with piloting the Humongous Mecha which will defend the Earth. In fact, the early parts play out more like a sports movie as competitors vie to get "on the team".
  • The Shinigami in Bleach have a few children in their ranks. Ise Nanao and Ichimaru Gin joined as children. Hitsugaya Toshiro is a child in the current timeline, and he's the 10th squad captain.
  • In One Piece, during Donquixote Doflamingo's speech about justice during the Marineford Arc, when he gets to his "Children who never knew peace" part, we see a couple of these.
  • Yu Ominae from the anime/manga series Spriggan, was "recruited" (read: kidnapped) into a secret U.S. government black ops unit called COSMOS sometime after his archaeologist parents were killed in Iran. Considering he's no older than 16-17 by present day in the series (he's a high school student), this means he was likely taken around the age of 10. COSMOS (Children of Soldier Machine Organic System) was filled out with children kidnapped by the CIA from the around world. They are brainwashed, have their names replaced by a number, and given extensive special forces training. To give some perspective as to the results of this training, Yuu, after freeing himself from COSMOS' brainwashing, is considered to be one of the deadliest special agents alive in the world of Spriggan.
  • In the manga Jormungand, the character Jonah is a child soldier and is a prolific fighter, who has been hired by a arms dealer. Even though he's on par with the other highly trained fighters, he's also mentally fragile and hates weapons and his reliance on them. Needless to say, his personality disturbs the other adult mercenaries.
  • At the beginning of 9 Banme no Masashi the titular character is 16 and one of the top elite soldier in her secret paramilitary organization.
  • Most of the main cast in Kagerou Nostalgia, with Kazuma Shudo, a 14-year old, PTSD-ing mercenary being the straightest example.
  • Some, if not all of the Spider Riders are ages twelve to thirteen. For pete's sake, Princess Sparkle is only eight!
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mami Tomoe reassures two prospective recruits that, though being a magical girl is often dangerous, it is ultimately very rewarding. She is very, very wrong.
  • The oldest member of the 1121st Helvetian Tank Platoon is 18 years old. The youngest is 14.
  • Science Ninja Team Gatchaman has the titular team fighting against a terrorist organization, despite the fact that most of them are teenagers and Jinpei is only about 10 or 11.


Comic Books

  • Really this is what Captain America (comics)'s sidekick Bucky was.
    • I'd call a sidekick to a Super Soldier fighting in actual warzones a child soldier even before we add the Cloak and Dagger elements to his character.
  • Arguably, all of Batman's Robins. An eight-year-old Dick Grayson and ten-year-old Damian Wayne fit the description better than the others, however.
  • Xavin the Super Skrull in training from Runaways thinks of herself like this, but based on the flashbacks to his training on her homeworld it seems like he has never really seen combat and only undergone Super Skrull basic training.
    • In the Runaways/Young Avengers Civil War arc, Xavin tells a Mad Scientist that when he/she was five, he/she was forced to first watch his father slaughter a "screaming family" and then was made to spend three days with the bodies as a punishment for crying during it.
    • Arguably the rest of the Pride's kids and anyone else in their group counts. Granted they're soldiers by choice (if the adult heroes and social services had their way, they'd all be safely in foster care), but still...
  • Hell, any Kid Sidekick is arguably this.
  • Hit Girl from Kick-Ass is a strange case, because not only is she aware of her status as this, but she's far more capable than the 16 year old title character. After her father gets killed, Kick-Ass helps her track down her mother, and she goes back to a normal life like nothing bad ever happened.
      • The first issue of Kickass 2 shows Hit-Girl continuing to train Kick-Ass, keeping a small army's worth of firepower hidden in her bedroom, and being thoroughly bored with civilian life. So her normal life is probably going to just be a temporary blip.
    • In the movie, her mother is really dead, so she returns to a normal life - probably devoid of bullies, but that's a detail - with just Dave as a guardian.
  • X-23 from the X-Men was artificially created to be a perfect killing machine, this meant learning to kill from birth on and being send on messy assassinations by the age of 12.
    • Metaphorically Marrow was also a child soldier. Being forced to kill fellow Morlocks in order to survive and being indoctrinated to hate normal humans for no apparent reason.


Fanfiction

  • A particularly ridiculous version is the Star Trek fanfiction series about Marissa Picard, in which a twelve-year-old is given command of the Enterprise saucer section, and does so well with it that she is permanently promoted to Ensign (not acting, like Wesley Crusher at 16). She starts up a "Kids' Crew" organization that is basically a shadow government for starships, in which children, none of whom seem to be over 12, can take over the running of a ship if its senior crew are incapacitated. Their ranks are acting, but so long as they're still 'activated' they can tell any properly commissioned officer what to do. Few of the adults over whose heads they jump seem to mind, and those that do quite reasonably resent it are depicted as idiots.
    • By way of comparison, in TNG, there was a "cadet crew" made up of some of the teens and older pre-teens, but their activities were realistically limited. The only time they actually did anything "for real" was during an exceptionally severe shipwide emergency where everyone available was needed. Even then, they were limited to doing what they'd actually learned.
  • In Exoria, Hylian Joint Intelligence is revealed to have hijacked the Spencer Welfare Program, an initiative designed to raise and educate orphaned children so they can serve the government when then grow up. Joint Intelligence keeps tabs on the program to search for candidates for the intelligence agency, and provide them underage military training covertly. Agent Link became an exceedingly young agent of Joint Intelligence this way. On one hand, Link doesn't seem to be too badly off with this upbringing, but Princess Zelda clearly disapproves, and, given the story's narrative slant, it's too early to tell how this will come back to bite Link in the ass.
  • In The Mad Scientist Wars, Commander Primary Xerox, head of The Men in Black-style organization M is somewhere between the two types. Up until the age of ten he was trained along with other children to be an assassin, and sent to kill Mad Scientists. On one hand, he has amazing reflexes and a great deal of weapon training, but on the other hand The guilt of his only mostly repressed memories has haunted his adult life, and he's never really recovered from the emotional stress. And he has the body of a Jaded Vet to go along with his mentality.
  • Fauna considers the Titans to be this, and hasn't much respect for the JLA (or Doom Patrol) as a result. She also finds it very disquieting to see the Titans' children so eager to follow in their parents' footsteps. She keeps her opinion mostly to herself to avoid offending her teammates, only confessing it to Troia, who tried to justify it. It still makes her seriously question the ethics of choosing a caped hero's life.
  • Tabitha, as portrayed in the Zero no Tsukaima fics Points of Familiarity and The Hill of Swords, is one by dint of her Evil Uncle sending her on impossible missions in the hope of getting her killed. She persists in disappointing him.
  • Brutally Deconstructed during the Tamers Forever Series

"What am I supposed to do now?" Henry whispered. His body let go of itself and Henry fell right next to the immense rookie Digimon.
"I know what they want me to do…they want me to just jump to the front line and take my friends to battle, as if we were soldiers willing to die for our country. Besides, they think it's so easy…that in the end, Daemon will be defeated, just like D-Reaper and the Nightmare."
The sound of Henry's fist crashing against the floor covered Jeri's gasp.
"Of course! If the kids do it, it's because it's easy, right?"

  • Again, this is a major premise of Naruto, so it naturally comes up in the Naruto/Justice League Crossover Connecting the Dots. The principled Justice League is horrified to discover there is a whole dimension of child assassins, even though Flash points out that the League employs plenty of teenagers.
  • The Cutie Mark Crusaders officially become ones in chapter 16 of Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. To their credit, they actually want to fight the griffins and they helped in defending Ponyville ealier.
  • Darklanders that serve as Ungoliant's soldiers are inclined to be teenagers and young adults. Individuals older than twenty-six are relatively uncommon.
  • Expressed and discussed in The Secret Return of Alex Mack. Jack O'Neill can't help but see Alex and the other super-powered teens in his command as Child Soldiers, and feels guilty about it. It comes to a head when eight-year-old Shar (who has unmatched elemental fire powers) manages to get herself onto the battlefield against Gojira; it doesn't matter that she's the one who actually took down the foe, Jack goes ballistic about a prepubescent combatant and she gets banned from even getting near to any future SRI operations.


Film

  • It was the plot of Toys. What else was Leland going to do with the kids?
  • Implied a bit in Transformers. Between mannerisms and personality, Bumblebee seems to be in the Cybertronian analogue of his mid-teens, and the Twins give the distinct impression of being the equivalent of twelve. They are, of course, probably older than most human civilizations, but they're young for their species.
  • The Clone Troopers of Star Wars are considered combat ready at age ten. Their accelerated aging means they appear twenty, and they've been trained since birth.
  • The movie Blood Diamond depicts child soldiers in a real-life conflict.
  • The leader of the drug dealers from Tropic Thunder is twelve years old.
    • Actually, in his case, he's not just a Child Soldier, but a Child Boss.
  • The film adaptation of Voyage Of The Dawn Treader starts out with a teenage Edmund lying about his age to try and enlist to fight in World War II. Unfortunately, the recruiting officer can tell he's underage and turns him down. Apparently, Edmund's tried multiple times and is becoming increasingly frustrated.


Live Action TV

Niles: Have you forgotten that when Hitler invaded Greece, she joined the partisans so she could strangle Nazis?
Frasier: I have never believed that. She would have been five at the time.
Niles: That's why the legend says they were strangled with jump ropes.

  • In a flashback the Pilot of Magnum PI, there is a scene in Vietnam, where two ARVN soldiers are shown that had supposedly been fighting since they were ten.


Literature

  • The eponymous kid from the Ender's Game series.
    • And, to an only slightly lesser extent, the majority of characters in that series (or at least the first book).
  • King Matt and friends from Janush Korczak's "King Matt the First" where the pre-teen king also institutes a children's parliament. It ends in a complete, brutally realistic ruin for his country.
  • The titular witches in the short story "Witches War" by Matheson. Young girls with magical powers being used as weapons in a WW setting. And it's very disturbing.
  • Narnia: Peter and Edmund in the first two books (and Susan in the films); Jill and Eustace in The Last Battle.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. With most of the world population killed off by alien plagues, anyone old enough to fight the alien invaders is conscripted into the military.
  • In Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds, one of the two major human factions in the setting, the Polity, used genetically engineered, nanotechnology enhanced child-soldiers against the other major faction, the United States of Near Earth, in a war some time before the beginning of the novel. They later show up in the course of the novel, as part of a rogue Polity group which is attempting to destroy the book's MacGuffin. They are described as being particularly hard to fight because of human instincts and their own extreme skill and small size.
  • Massively subverted in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series - While normally only Earth's elderly are recruited into the Colonial Defence Forces (their bodies get replaced), Special Forces soldiers are created from the DNA of recruits who die before they can be transferred to a new body. As a result they are fully mature adults who are emotionally and socially retarded, which helps them perform their jobs. In The Ghost Brigades one SF soldier notes that a dead child they encounter on a wildcat colony is twice as old as two of them put together, leading him to conclude that "it's a fucked up universe".
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Eager Young Space Cadet the Commander of the Academy talks briefly of taking these young men and changing them forever. Even those who eventually drop out will find civilian life foreign to them. Robert A. Heinlein graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis at the age of 22. He may know what he's talking about.
  • In the Seafort Saga the radiation associated with FTL travel means you must join the Navy as a child so your body acclimatises to it as you grow up otherwise you risk cancer. The protagonist finds himself commanding a ship starting at the age of 17 for several year. Later he is Commander of the Naval Academy and must send the academy cadets on suicide missions to defend Earth.
  • In the short story by Harry Harrison, War With The Robots, the command staff are all teenagers as anyone older lacks the reflexes and flexibility of mind needed to fight the war. They retire after four or five years.
  • In the Posleen War Series novel Yellow Eyes Panama is forced to recruit children as soldiers to defend itself from the Posleen. It avoids becoming a Moral Event Horizon because it is clearly portrayed as a desperation move against the Posleen, who would have killed and eaten the children anyway if they weren't stopped. Also, the children are rarely used as front-line soldiers, instead they are used primarily for supply and logistics work in order to free up adults to fight in the front lines.
  • Most of Redwall's main heroes are the rodentine equivalent of about twelve to fifteen years old.
  • The Honor Harrington novels have an inversion of sorts, where due to the effects of Prolong (a lifespan-increasing treatment), freshly graduated soldiers will often still look like preteens young teenagers - but are actually in their thirties or forties. This produces some dissonance when they meet societies that haven't had access to the treatment.
  • The Tomorrow Series is about a group of teens (exact age not specified, though they're still in school) who inadvertently become guerilla soldiers when their country (Australia) is invaded while they're out camping.
  • The whole Harry Potter series is about kids getting caught up in their elders' war and recruited/forced to fight in it in various capacities. This is an instance of "Precociously Talented Type" and "Just Plain Tragic Type" combined.
  • Ditto for the Percy Jackson series. Neither side thinks twice about recruiting and training to fight demigods as young as ten years old. Percy himself fights his first battles at age twelve, Annabeth is only seven.
  • Bitter Seeds has a team of Nazi child psychic soldiers.
  • The entire main cast of Animorphs.
  • David Westheimer's alternate history novel about a 1945 invasion of Japan features a Japanese schoolteacher leading his his malnourished class against American tanks. Tragically, it's impled that the teacher is so fanatical that he ignores his charges' youthful status; at one point the night before the attack, he hears children sobbing and debates whether or not to order his 'troops' to look for them. When they do rush the American tanks with inadequate satchel charges, the US tankers are briefly surprised, thinking they are being attacked by midgets, then open fire and kill them all.
  • Rana Sanga's son Rajiv in Belisarius Series was being groomed to be a quite formidable Warrior Prince while still a teenager. However his father certainly intended that he be allowed to grow up before seeing actual combat and he only participates in war in the series because of an attempt to murder his family while his father is away on campaign.
  • In Who Fears Death this is part of Mwita's background.


Tabletop Games

  • The citizens of the planet Cadia in Warhammer 40,000 are trained from birth for combat, mainly due to the fact that their planet is parked riameght outside a Negative Space Wedgie that leads straight to hell, and frequently spews forth the Legions of Hell. The birth rate and recruitment rate is the same thing. Their soldiers enter combat as part of the youth army, the "Whiteshields," at age 13. They only get promoted to the full army by earning a medal. And they are badass. A common saying is that any Cadian who can't field-strip his own lasgun by the age of ten was born on the wrong planet.
    • Space Marines, due to the requirements of their implants, are inducted into the chapter at around the onset of puberty, and the entry requirements make sure they must be well-versed in the act of war before they're even considered. Their transformation into full-fledged Space Marines isn't complete by the time they're seeing battle as part of the chapter's Scout Company.
      • As in so many other things, Space Wolves are the exception. They take in valorous young men on the brink of death, usually in their twenties (leading the population of their planet Fenris to see their order as a Warrior Heaven in itself, but that is neither here nor there). Although we're never given figures on the success rate, the wisdom of this is uncertain; when Leman Russ was found by the Emperor, his associates all volunteered to become Space Marines, and over half died from implant rejection. On the other hand, few of them were young in any way, and several were downright elderly.
  • The premise of Bliss Stage is that the only people left who can fight the Alien Invasion are teenagers.
  • A number of races in Warhammer Fantasy do this as well. Dark Elves begin training the moment they are strong enough to pick up a sword or spear. All Bretonian knights start off as a Knight Errant. Once the young knights have proven their worth in the field of battle, they are knighted and receive a small plot of land to rule.


Video Games

  • Latooni, Seolla, Arado, and Princess Shine from Super Robot Wars. The first three are Tykebombs, while the fourth is a princess who isn't technically enlisted, and is simply allowed to fight alongside the other heroes to protect her Kingdom.
    • Also, Mihiro Ardygun in Super Robot Wars W, who co-pilots the Valhawk with her older brother (himself 16) at the age of 10. During the Time Skip, while her brother was missing, she took over piloting duties full-time. Though not a soldier officially, she does fight on behalf of a government organization that does include several soldiers, including the aforementioned child soldiers from Gundam Wing and Full Metal Panic!.
  • Master Chief and his fellow Spartans started their grueling military training at age six, and have been kicking Covenant rear since they were fourteen. Their skills and reputation are such that the Covenant calls them "demons."
    • Ghosts of Onyx goes even further, with the SPARTAN III program, which turned children into suicide super soldiers who went off to fight and die at the age of twelve.
  • 14-year-old Leo Stenbuck fell into the cockpit of Jehuty in Zone of the Enders, but continued to fight of his own free will as a part of the military afterwards, and is only 16 in the sequel.
  • What's a young girl in a pretty white dress doing as one of the top three generals in Chrono Cross? At least you can say the other kids making up the party weren't inducted into the army, what with growing up in the streets as a thief, swinging an oar, fishing, or being abandoned in the woods at 3 with only an axe and the highest strength score in the game to survive.
  • Some of the backstory for the Crusader games indicates the Silencer Corps (of whom the main character was a member) prospects are identified through mandatory testing on adolescents. It's also hinted that it's no so much physical prowess they're looking for as it is psychological suitability...
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, Gallia has a policy of Universal Conscription, so military training is a part of general education and citizens as young as fifteen may be called up to serve. Moreover, the militia is known to have soldiers as young as twelve, although the girl in question enlisted voluntarily and required special permission to do so.
    • Even worse, the little girl is a shocktrooper, the most durable and most damaging troop type in the game.
  • Fallout 3, while not exactly soldiers the children who live in little lamplight are all well armed little nutjobs. You can even sell them guns, ammo, and drugs. And thermonuclear devices.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, no one in the game seems to consider the idea of a fourteen year old Cloud Strife joining the Shinra Army unusual (Zack Fair also joined in a similarly young age). And then there's people like Sephiroth, Shelke, and Cissne who started their fighting careers as mere children, although not through any choice of their own.
  • The SeeD in Final Fantasy VIII functions as a highly regarded military academy type institution and many students enter voluntarily. Students typically aren't taught in combat until their teens, and don't see actual combat outside of the training room until their graduation. Upon graduation, the SEED sometimes also work side jobs in policing duties and receive a regular salary.
    • Also the underlying function of the SeeD is to be prepared to defend the world against an imprisoned evil sorcerer
    • However see the below category to see the flip side of this.
  • Fire Emblem has a few child characters, mostly thieves, Mages in training (and a few full fledged mages) and exiled royalty, but Rolf and Mist are put on the battlefield as an archer and a healer, respectively, despite being very young.
  • Ikari Warriors member Whip from The King of Fighters is only 16.
    • She was also a Tyke Bomb, seperated from her brother K. Heidern really enjoys recruiting young girls for some reason.
  • Grunt from Mass Effect 2 is a tank born krogan who is and acts like a child...by krogan standards. His major issue is that he is not only clanless but his father was hated by many krogan.
    • Quarians in the Mass Effect universe are frequently involved in combat before and during their Pilgrimage (their rite of passage into adulthood).
  • Ayame from Tenchu counts, as she's only 14 during the events of Tenchu 2
  • Spirits are raised from birth to be soldiers in Eien no Aselia. Birth doesn't appear to start at infancy for them, however.
  • The Metal Gear franchise has Frank Jaeger a.k.a. Null a.k.a. Gray Fox a.k.a. the Cyborg Ninja. Although his exact age is unknown, he fought in the Mozambican War of Independence around the age of 7 or so. Armed only with a knife, he got his name by his method of killing: he deceived the enemy with "the frankness of a young boy" and moved in for the close kill. He was known as the 'Frank Hunter,' which became 'Frank Jaeger' because he could speak a little German. During the events of Portable Ops, his chronologically first appearance, Frank was still only a teenager when subjected to sensory deprivation treatment in order to make him the emotionless 'Perfect Soldier,' Null.
    • And we have Raiden who became a child soldier in the Liberian Civil War thanks to Solidus, recieving the nicknames of "White Devil" and "Jack the Ripper". Having a combat rifle at age six, he became captain of a unit of child soldiers ("the Small Boy Unit") at age ten. Similarly, Solidus himself was also heavily implied to be in his teens when he participated in the war.
    • Metal Gear Solid, the novelization, the Official Missions Handbook, and Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker also heavily imply that Solid and Liquid Snake were raised within the military from a very young age, at least since two years of age, in fact.
  • In the original Freedom Force, both Liberty Lad and Sea Urchin are Child Soldiers themselves. There's a scene in which Man O' War feels uneasy about "putting the wee ones on the front line".
  • Zig-Zagged in Tales of the Abyss. We have Tear who was trained by Legretta and was given military-grade training from a young age. It shows, but she has a sensitive side too. (And an urge to act like a young girl like thinking it'd be so fun to be hugged by Anise's giant plush animal.) We also have Sync who is only fourteen years old, is a candidate for That One Boss, and falls into the dramatic side given his backstory. One of Sync's comrades, Arietta, also falls into the Alas, Poor Villain types, since she can't be any older than 16 yet was trusted by the Daathic Government to act as a bodyguard for Sync. Her successor, Anise, is only thirteen, is blackmailed into being The Mole because of her parents being hugely in debt, and clearly had to grow up fast a bit. Oh, and the other god general who's underage by our standards? Asch the Bloody who is 17...and had clearly been in the Daathic Army for years beforehand. Luke also marches into battle when he's only 17 as well, but consider that He's actually much much younger than that!
  • Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World also gives us Alice, one of the main antagonists who's part of a terrorist organization and is clearly underage. Don't forget Marta, too, who is only 15 years old.
  • League of Legends has no real restrictions on membership beyond the ability to kick enormous amounts of ass, so you can have children fighting amongst adult archangels, insane wizard Yordles, and people who've been in the military for years.
    • Annie, who is literally six years old and fights clutching her teddy bear in one hand... and occasionally turning it into an flaming giant to destroy her enemies
    • Nunu, a boy whose strong magical abilities are enhanced physically by riding into battle on the back of a Yeti.
    • Amumu, an amnesiac childMummy.
    • Lux, older than the rest, but still a magically gifted child forcibly conscripted at 13 years old.
    • Kog'Maw, who's still an infant, but because he's an infant Eldritch Abomination who destroys everything in his path, no one minds.
    • While she's grown up now, Riven's backstory indicates that she was a fanatical child soldier for Noxus.


Web Comics

  • The title character in Terinu was raised by Space Pirate Mavra Chan to be an assassin, starting at the tender age of nine. His best friend Matt was sold by his own father to Chan to serve as a cook's mate on the same ship at the age of eleven. It's a sufficiently Crapsack World that in Matt's case this was distinct improvement over his previous situation.
  • Karcharoth of Cry Havoc was conscripted at the age of six, and has been fighting in one army or another for fifteen years. Understandably he has a rather distorted view of life. He was recruited due to his minor, but growing, psychic powers.


Web Original

  • Sirene from the forum RP Open Blue is a highly militarised country that drafts children as young as 12 for a four-year service, with the exception of children qualified for technical schooling instead. Not even royals are exempt.
  • Zero Takaichi of Tasakeru joined with the Militia and became a samurai at age 13, as is the custom for males of his species.
  • The youngest Protectors of the Plot Continuum are about thirteen years old when they start in the field. The youngest agent ever, Ella Darcy, was ten when she joined, but she wasn't a field agent.
  • Done with a complete lack of angst in Magical Girl Hunters. The protagonists stop to comment a few times on how horrible it is for children to be taught to fight at an early age. Usually right before putting a bullet between their eyes.


Western Animation

  • Occasionally implied in the Transformers metaseries with the younger-minded characters. Done outright in Transformers Animated with Sari especially after she turns out to be a Robot Girl and is pushed into the front lines in season 3.
    • The episode "Human Error" (where the main 'bots are shown in analogous human bodies) shows that Bumblebee is the Cybertronian equivalent of roughly her age.
    • Omega Supreme might also count, given that he was specifically created to be a superweapon and purposefully made mentally 'slow' so that he wouldn't question orders. Not a child, but close to a child's mind.
      • The Transformers in Animated have an explicit childhood stage. He was a child soldier with mild mental retardation, and the actions of his creators made it clear that they knew what this would do to him, and how wrong their actions were.
  • Noodle of Gorillaz was secretly trained to be a Super Soldier before joining the band.
  • Jedi Padawans such as Ahsoka Tano of Star Wars: The Clone Wars could very much be considered this. Ahsoka is only fourteen or fifteen and yet leads troops into battle and gets into the thick of the fighting herself. Their talent with the force and training from childhood makes even the Padawans very deadly warriors.
    • When Kamino comes under attack, the clone cadets take up arms to defend their home. Thanks to their accelerated growth, they're about as half as young as they look.
  • I pity the fools who forgot to mention Codename: Kids Next Door.
  • The plot of Avatar: The Last Airbender? A group of teenagers take down the Fire Nation army.
  • Episode 8 of Sym-Bionic Titan had The Academy on Galaluna, a military training facility which starts training future soldiers as children. To be fair, however, it is partially Truth In Television: most of them are teenagers, and military schools do exist for such ages. However, they also showed a row of children who looked even shorter, and, presumably, younger than Lance and Arthur — who were already small and really young-looking to begin with.
  • In the original Thundercats, the thunderkittens are apparently about twelve, or their species' equivalent, but they go into combat just as much as the adults. Lion-O is a borderline case, since he begins the series physically adult, but mentally a child.
  • This gets Lampshaded in Young Justice, where the team is the black ops for the Justice League, where the oldest of them is 16 and the youngest is 13. An exasperated Mr. Twister brings this up after he curb stomps them when Robin protests that they aren't children.

"Objectively, you are. Have you no adult supervision? I find your presence here quite disturbing."

    • Later discussed in the episode "Agendas". With the League discovering that Captain Marvel is only ten, they begin debating whether to boot him out of the Justice League. Batman says he knew all along, and it has no impact.

Wonder Woman: I shouldn't be surprised, since you indoctrinated Robin into crime-fighting at the ripe old age of nine.
Batman: Robin needed to help bring the man who murdered his family to justice.
Wonder Woman: So he could turn out like you?
Batman: So that he wouldn't.

  • Similar to above, the Teen Titans. In the comics most of them eventually grow up quickly enough to avert this for most people, but the main gang in the cartoons doesn't. They almost die on several occasions, have no adult supervision, and the youngest is between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.
  • Caleb in WITCH is the leader of the rebellion at 15 years old.

Just Plain Tragic Type

Anime & Manga

  • Now and Then, Here and There deals with this trope in an almost unwatchably brutal manner.
  • The various groups employing Contractors in Darker than Black don't really care much about issues like "age." As such, kids who manifest powers tend to be grabbed up immediately, Unpersoned, and trained as assassins or other special agents. Additionally, Hei was a Badass Normal one; he fought in Heaven's War to protect his Contractor little sister, and one flashback makes it clear he wasn't more than about 16 when he first got involved.
  • The titular girls from Gunslinger Girl get rescued from death and cybernetically enhanced at a very young age. They then are brainwashed into working for an Italian government organization to fight terrorism—generally by using very big guns. The brainwashing of child soldiers is the whole point of Gunslinger Girl.
    • The girls are recruited from a pool of orphans who would otherwise be crippled at the very least.
    • Then there's Pinocchio who had no brainwashing, and eagerly learned how to become an assassin at a young age.
  • The children of Neon Genesis Evangelion are early on said to have a Competence Zone of 14, but it seems instead to be a similar result from the Applied Phlebotinum. Milked for all the drama it can give.
  • Guts from Berserk was trained as a mercenary by his adoptive father when he was just a little boy and had to participate in his share of horrific violence as a result. One of the most horrible things to happen to him back then was being sold by the adoptive father as a sex slave to a pederast soldier for three silver coins.
  • Bokurano has a group of 12-13-year olds (the first episode states they've just finished grade school) protecting the whole world from being destroyed. Even if they were completely well-adjusted to begin with (and they're not -- this is a Mohiro Kitoh work) the circumstances of the 'game' they've found themselves in makes their tenure as 'defenders of earth' more tragic than most other examples on this page combined.
  • Runessa of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. As mentioned in StrikerS Sound Stage X, unlike the other characters, she was born in a world where war was a part of her everyday life, and for as long as she can remember, she had always carried a gun.
  • Chise from Saikano/She the ultimate weapon. In high school (or was it Junior High?) but being forced to be in the military and even going as far as turning into pretty much a machine with a Berserk Button that is automatically triggered by battle.
  • Kirika and Chloe from Noir, and to a lesser extent Mireille, actually belong to both types. Kirika was an active assassin from the time she was five.
  • Setsuna F. Seiei (mentioned above) also falls into this category. He was forced to watch his fellow child soldiers die and killed his parents at the bidding of his group's Complete Monster leader. Years later, he still dreams about dodging bullets and wishes he could go back in time and save his younger self.
  • Kazuma Shudo of Kagerou Nostalgia is a teenage mercenary who's been in the business ever since demons killed his sister and his dreams of being a Kid Samurai. He's totally broken, burned out and sufferring from severe shellshock. One could argue that Child Ninja Fuwa, demon-hunting initiate Shiranui, and Tyke Bomb Goki are also this.
  • Science Ninja Team Gatchaman has the titular team fighting against a terrorist organization, despite the fact that most of them are teenagers and Jinpei is only about 10 or 11.


Comic Books

  • In The Last Days of the Justice Society, The Flash is shot and killed by a child soldier during the fall of Berlin.
  • Mariane Satrapi's Persepolis featured a portrayal of the real life Iranian unit of children, who were walked into the minefields to detonate them ahead of the troops.
  • The Vertigo reboot of Unknown Soldier is set in Acholiland, the base of operations of the Lord's Resistance Army, one of the most infamous Real Life users of child soldiers. Therefore, they're all over the place.
  • When the X-Men were up against Storm's uncle, a ruthless African dictator, he had a whole unit of child soldiers, trained to be extremely sadistic. Storm had no choice but to kill a squad before they could to the same to her.
    • While not as explicit, Cyclops is an example of a child soldier grown-up. Traumatized as a child (kidnapped father, orphaned with his brother), trained in military tactics from age 14, and sent on paramilitary actions until he was a full adult. Recent X-Men author Kieron Gillen even cited this trope as his central motivation for the character.


Fanfiction

  • As Evangelion fics, Aeon Natum Engel and Aeon Entelechy Evangelion both fall under this. Since they are based in the Cthulhu Tech setting and written by Earth Scorpion, it gets lampshaded a lot and criticized by the proper military of NEG. Played differently with Asuka, who is irritated that many things that she thinks will improve her piloting are restricted from her because of her age (like cybernization).
  • Dumbledore's Army. At least half of the members die horribly, and a good amount are crippled or killed in the sequel. However, the fic tends to glorify the hardened child soldiers in comparison to Harry, who hasn't embraced the military mindset.
  • The Firefly fanfic Forward has a reveal later on that some of the Academy's test subjects are pre-teens. It is implied that one of them managed to kill several security guards when a training exercise went out of control.
  • The Pokémon fanfic Dawn of a New Era features the eponymous Pokémon coordinator as a badass but broken warrior.


Film

  • Blood Diamond shows the kidnapping and indoctrination of the son of one of the main characters. Includes the real-life practice of giving kids amphetamines to kill any feeling of fear or guilt—and killing their relatives so they can't go back. Also features children killing children with AK-47s.
  • Glimpsed in The Two Towers in The Lord of the Rings.
    • Specifically, there is a scene where the soldiers suit up to defend Helm's Deep and we see a number of people being armed are very young boys needed to up their soldier count. Mercifully, we're never shown the kids doing any actually combat besides throwing stones at the besiegers from the wall.
      • Which is not to say that they aren't implied to having fought, we just don't see them die either. Judging by the heavy casualties suffered by the defenders, it is safe to say that most of these children will have been cut down by the Uruk-Hai.
        • At least some of the boys can later be seen in the background of the post-victory banquet scene.
  • Downfall features a girl of about 12 'manning' an 88mm gun at the Battle of Berlin. When everything appears hopeless, her not-much-older comrade shoots her at her own request, then kills himself.
  • Good lord, the fucking Pure Ones in Legend Of The Guardians. First off, they take owlets from their nests and train them to fight the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, who are damn near unstoppable. As if the "Pickers" being moonblinked wasn't bad enough, throughout the climatic fight many of them were most likely killed. To top it off, the whole thing is disturbingly similar to the Hitler Youth. And Nyra's name is Aryan with an "a" missing. Think about that for a moment.
  • Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron features a Russian boy soldier who is captured by the German characters.
    • He was later released by the protagonist, to promptly be shot by a passing Russian soldier. Cue Protagonist BSOD.
  • In the 1959 German movie Die Brücke (The Bridge), a group of Hitler Youth tragically try to defend their hometown from American tanks.
    • Even more tragic, the bridge had no strategic importance, their teacher had them send there in order to keep them away from actual fighting. Additional the bridge was meant to be destroyed anyway.
  • In The Straight Story (David Lynch's most logical film yet), one scene has Alvin Straight recounting his experiences in WWII, in which he had to kill a bunch of Hitler Youth.
  • In USSR there were MANY films about children fighting in the underground resistance during WW 2, many of them ending being either killed or executed by Germans (Young Eagle, Zoja, Fifeenth Spring etc). Sadly this is Truth in Television.
    • Heavily subverted in the film Till the first blood where a war game in summer camp begins to resemble an actual war more and more.
  • Another Russian film series The Uncatchable Avengers features four teenagers (3 boys and 1 girl) fighting in the Russian Civil War(1918-1924).
  • City of God prominently features children fighting in drug wars the projects of Rio de Janiero. Children are shown killing each other, dealing and using drugs, and in one shocking scene, a child is forced to execute one of his friends by the villain.
  • In Doctor Zhivago, during the Russian Civil War, the Red Army unit in which Zhivago is serving as a medical officer comes under fire from a (presumably White) machine-gun nest in the distance. The Reds shoot all their attackers dead, then approach the nest and find that, while they are wearing some sort of uniform, they are only boys, except for one old man. One Red looks closer at a uniform and says, astonished, "St. Michael's Military School?!" To the dead old man: "You rotten bastard!"
  • Lord of War: West African dictator André Baptiste has a military unit composed entirely of child soldiers which he calls the "Kalashnikov Kids" and his "Boy Brigade".
  • In Master and Commander The Far Side of The World (see discussion of the M&C novels in the Literature section, below), a 12-year-old midshipman loses an arm to enemy fire in the opening scene of the film. Captain Aubrey is very solicitous of him thereafter, giving him a book with an engraving of the one-armed, one-eyed Admiral Nelson, and leaving him in command of the HMS Surprise when the other officers board a French vessel; and the boy remains so game an officer that a case could be made for including this under the "Precociously Talented Type." But, still! And this is, of course, Truth in Television. In fact, most officers of the Royal Navy in that period probably started out as midshipmen in their teens or younger.
  • The whole Harry Potter series is about kids getting caught up in their elders' war and recruited/forced to fight in it in various capacities. This is an instance of "Precociously Talented Type" and "Just Plain Tragic Type" combined.
  • In Taps, cadets at a Military School find out that the useless adults are planning to close the school and sell the land to condo developers. With the school's commander in the hospital, they decide that they will not allow this to happen and barricade themselves within its walls with weapons from the well-stocked armory. This leads to the inevitable standoff with the national guard.
  • In The Horse Soldiers John Ford plays this for tears and laughs.


Literature

  • The midshipmen in Master and Commander books, tragically a case of Truth in Television.
    • Aubrey-Maturin is not the only example—middies in Napoleonic naval fiction are commonly in action. Richard Bolitho destroys a pirate ship at sixteen, while Horatio Hornblower captured a French privateer at seventeen. Lord Ramage took to sea at thirteen. The minimum age in the Royal Navy was twelve for midshipmen, and eighteen for lieutenants. These restrictions were commonly relaxed, especially for members of prominent families.
      • Mitigating this, as the aforementioned series does mention, midshipmen were frequently carried on the ship's books a few years before they were actually carried on the ship.
        • If a boy's father had been in the navy, some sources say that the minimum age was NINE.
          • Of course as well as the Midshipmen, there were also the ships boys, many of who were born on board ships (possible origin for the term "son of a gun", being born between the guns) and would be used in action as soon as they were able to start running powder and shot from the magazine to the guns. "Topmen" too would usually be closer to boys.
  • Cotillion and Shadowthrone's army of orphans in Malazan Book of the Fallen.
    • And Apsalar especially. All of her problems in life can be traced back to Cotillion forcing her to join the Malazan army.
  • Les Misérables features minor character Gavroche, a street-child who participates in the student uprising, collecting ammunition from the bodies of fallen enemy soldiers and survives being shot once to throw his bag of bullets over to his friends before falling to another shot.
  • The later Harry Potter books see several underage wizards/witches seeing real combat due to various circumstances, namely the rising stakes. The most tragic example is Colin Creevey, who is killed in the book 7 finale (he would have been sixteen or possibly even seventeen at this point, but his small stature would have certainly made him seem younger).
  • In Temeraire, which is as historically accurate as any series featuring dragons can be, shows young midshipmen and other military personnel among Britain's armed forces. Laurence himself ran away from home to join the Navy at twelve, and when he becomes an aviator, several of his crew are around ten, eleven, or twelve. While aviators don't actually go up at ages earlier than that and aren't part of the crew meant to fight until years later, cadets start training at seven so they're acclimated to the dragons by the time they're ready for duty. This is more presented as childhood being shorter in those days, as well as the British being pressed hard by Napoleon, than anything else. The author also does not shy away from some of these Child Soldiers being killed, either in battle or through accidents that will occur on military vessels.
  • Teenage witch Sylvia of Arc from Nick Perumov's "Swords' Guardian" series. Was "considered a veteran at the age of ten." She fills both variants (i.e. is both Precociously Talented AND Tragic) of this trope, though, as she is IMMENSELY talented and could take most adult opponents with ease... until she started to run into demigods, that is.
  • Even Alisa Selezneva, "Girl to whom nothing will happen" from books of Kir Bulychev, was drafted as a soldier once at age 12.
    • She (actually the author, of course) also gives an explanation WHY this is common: "If a grown up soldier revolts, he can be hard to deal with. He may very well turn the weapons you give him at you. Kids usually can be controlled by means as simple as threatening to deny them sweets."
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Legion, Chayne's Backstory: his planet, fighting the Emperor, had recruited children. Chayne had found himself in charge of his company when their leader died. After their defeat, the Lord Commander picked him out, gave him a guardian, and turned him into an elite Imperial soldier.
  • Karin Lowachee milks this trope for all the tragedy its worth. The main character from Warchild is a child solider, borderline spy and assassin, even. He's not a very happy or well-adjusted young man. But then he's contrasted with his friend Evan, who in addition to being captured and raised by pirates, is alluded to being a child whore in addition to solider. And even the "good guys," if you can call them that use teenagers as cannon fodder.
  • The second book in The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones, Drowned Ammet, introduces Mitt, a boy whose family is forced off its farm and into the city slums because they can't pay the earl's rising taxes. Then Mitt's father joins a society of revolutionaries and dies, which prompts Mitt to join the society himself, and then he gets the brilliant idea to blow up the earl.....
  • In Animorphs, a group of barely teenagers get drafted into fighting a secret alien invasion by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cue the loss of any personal life, killing and nearly getting killed a dozen times a week, being forced to sacrifice loved ones for the greater good and recurring nightmares that last for the rest of their lives.
  • Chris Armani's Song For Night takes place in West Africa (presumably Nigeria, given the writer's home country) during a senseless war that forcibly recruits children. Amongst the tragedies, these kids are usually orphans, they get their vocal cords slit to keep them from making noise, they're coerced to rape innocent people by their sadistic leader, and witness their comrades get blown up by proximity mines, which they're trained to defuse. Unsurprisingly, many of them don't last past their teens. The worst part? The aforementioned statements are Truth in Television, since the story's based off the author's real life experiences.
  • In Suicide Kings from the Wild Cards series Dr. Nshombo uses child Aces as soldiers. Since they have superpowers this would normally put them in the precocious category, except for how he gets them. He takes normal children in large numbers and exposes them to the wild card virus. This kills most of the people exposed to it. About nine percent suffer extreme but survivable mutations. And about one percent gain superpowers without being mutated, known as Aces. Aces or those with useful mutations are conscripted. The rest, including those who turn out to be "deuces" are shot.
  • The Gone (novel) series. In book 1, the Big Bad has recruited superpowered kids from Coates Academy to fight for him, and The Dragon has an army Child Soldiers armed with guns. In book 2 and 3, The Hero has an unoficial army of teenagers with superpowers, and The Lancer is the comander of an army of Child Soldiers with guns. The Dragon beating a 9-year-old to death while laughing is enough to disgust even the Big Bad. Justified because they live in a Teenage Wasteland.
  • Robert Muchamore's unpublished book, "Home" (available online here ), which features children in a guerilla army; however, they are there purely by accident, and the leader is a pretty decent guy, though no bones are made about his kills and the psychological effects on them.
  • The Posleen War Series tends to have a lot of these. Given the Posleen kill counts though, the kids are probably better off than otherwise.
  • There's a short story which details the journey of a group of children on the Children's Crusade. As history tells, it does not end well, which makes their optimism that God will favor their cause once they reach Jerusalem to be rather a Tear Jerker. Fortunately, the narrator had been a werewolf since birth (he joined the Crusade in the hopes of God freeing him from his curse) and the night they're delivered to Egypt as slaves happens to be just the same night as the full moon...
  • Willie, husband of the narrator of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, joined the Confederate army in the American Civil War at the age of 13. It messed him up - just how horribly is revealed gradually over the course of the book.
  • Hans and Gretchen Richter in 1632 were kidnapped from their peaceful family in the Thirty Years' War, Hans to be a soldier and Gretchen to be a Sex Slave. They are forced to do their captors bidding lest their younger siblings be killed as useless mouths. The amazing thing is that they were able to remain human at all and had any capability of recivilizing themselves when they were freed.
  • A young Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess is held hostage by the Ottoman Empire and forced into the Janissaries.
  • In Warrior Cats, one of the laws in the warrior code is that kits must be six moons old (the feline equivalent of about age 10) to begin training, and even then they don't see battle until they're more experienced. This rule stemmed from too many kits being trained at too young an age; it took their mothers refusing to fight in a battle to make the Clan leaders see sense. This law has been broken once during the books: Brokenstar trained ShadowClan kits to fight when they were barely weaned from their mothers, and as a result many of the Clan's kits died in battle.
  • In Chanda's Wars by Allan Stratton, Chanda's siblings are taken by a warlord in an unnamed Sub-Saharan African country to be soldiers.
  • Someone Else's War is about a fictitious Muslim boy who joins the (real) Lord's Resistance Army to find and save his little brother from this fate.
  • In The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss is only 16/17 and yet, is the face of the rebellion
    • the other characters count as this

Live Action TV

  • The series finale of JAG had one of the officers dealing with a marine who is actually only 16 years who lied about his age signing up. To resolve the situation, the lawyer talks the Marine Corps into making the kid an honorary Marine before he is sent home to his mother with a promise that they would be delighted to recruit him legally when the time is right.
  • Dealt with in several later-season episodes of M* A* S* H.
    • Famously, in Sometimes You Hear the Bullet:

Wendell: I'm never gonna forgive you for this! Not for the rest of my life!
Hawkeye: Let's hope it's a long and healthy hate.

  • 24: Redemption sees Jack Bauer rescuing the pupils of school from becoming Child Soldiers and also features them.
  • If the School for Scheming's plan had worked, River Tam would have become one of these.
  • Band of Brothers touches on this a couple times:
    • In episode 4, intelligence for Operation Market Garden stated that the German soldiers in the Netherlands were mostly "children and old men". This turned out to be inaccurate and contributed to the failure of the operation.
    • Pvt. Jackson, who died by his own grenade in episode 8, was noted to have lied about his age when he joined the army at 16.
    • In episode 5, Winters is haunted by the memory of shooting a German soldier who looked no older than 18.
  • A looser example, but during The Wire season 4, Michael (who was only 13 or 14 at time) was forced to become this for Marlo's drug crew. It was the only way for him to escape his worsening circumstances at home. While Michael could handle taking his finances from his junkie mother, the return of his step-father made him feel threatened (and for good reason, if he was really molested by him). By requesting the help of the local gangsters, it gave Michael their protection and even housing to get him and his step-brother away from home. The Wire implies that many young inner-city kids (including Bodie and Wallace) got their start in the drug game through similar circumstances. Even Calvin lampshades this in season 4 when he stated that by 18, kids are too deep into the drug game to be reformed, let alone act civilized to authorities.
  • Kira Nerys of Deep Space Nine joined the Bajoran resistance at the age of twelve or thirteen. While she was willing (indeed, eager) to join the fight against the Cardassians who were occupying her planet and her side was generally the "good guys", this show fully exploited War Is Hell and The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized, meaning that much of what she saw and did allows her to qualify as this.
  • Buffy leads the potential slayers into what is essentially a hopeless war in season seven, with many or most of them being under 18. For that matter, though it was more of a lone warrior gig prior to season seven any slayer would probably qualify, since 15-16 seems to be the usual age to be called, and 16 to 17 the usual age to be killed.
  • In Firefly, River Tam is sent to an Alliance-controlled Academy, aged fourteen, for what she thinks is a more challenging curriculum than normal high schools. Instead, she gets the Training from Hell, and it's clearly implied that she isn't the only one to get it- just one of the only ones to actually live through the process. By the time she's rescued from the facility by her brother Simon, she's only seventeen years old.
  • Doctor Who: Sontarans, sort of; as a cloned race of Proud Warrior Race Guys, they skip past anything we would recognize as childhood, both physically and mentally. The episode "A Good Man Goes to War" alludes to this:

Strax: It's all right. I've had a good life. I'm nearly twelve.


Tabletop Games

  • Turns up several times in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, particularly in the supporting materials. The defence of Hive Hellsreach during the Second Battle for Armageddon is one of the more poignant examples.

Evacuees will be restricted to those below the age of seven (plus one parent/guardian) and those above the age of ninety. Regrettably, there are not enough places for everyone, so each person eligible for evacuation will be assigned a number. [...] If you are not eligible for evacuation you will be immediately assigned to a hive defence unit - details of where to report will follow this announcement.


Theatre

  • The Wole Soyinka play Travel Club and Boy Soldier is about a military coup in an unspecified third-world nation, and the "Commandant" who's leading the whole thing is, well, the titular boy soldier. He's a teenager when the takeover happens, but he's been in the army for years by that point.
  • Les Misérables features Gavroche, who tags along with the student revolutionaries (who are themselves implied in several songs to be at most in their early 20s) and manages to take 2 bullets while collecting ammunition for the students before he is fatally shot in the head.


Video Games

  • Suikoden II is the ur-example of this trope. The story begins two friends who, during military training in a youth brigade, are attacked by their own country's forces dressed up as a neighboring nation's units, just to justify going to war with that nation. Many child soliders such as Pohl are ven killed (in his case, run through by Luca Blight).
  • The protagonist of Planetarian is a former child soldier, and has Flashback Nightmares about the experience throughout the game.
  • In the Metal Gear series, this is the Backstory of aforementioned Frank Jaeger and Raiden. It turned the former into a badass and the latter into a psychological wreck.
    • Give Gray Fox some credit; he's a psychological wreck, too.
    • The Beauty & Beast Corps that Snake fights in Metal Gear Solid 4 are all child soldiers who were horribly traumatized in their childhood. For example, Laughing Octopus was forced to laugh while she killed people, despite the fact that she found it horrifying, and so she cackles like a hyena all through her boss battle. At the end, she confesses, "I'm not really laughing..."
  • Drakengard features a few missions where the enemy soldiers are child conscripts. Naturally, Caim, being the murderous nutcase that he is, viciously slaughters them all, much to the dismay of his more level-headed comrades.
    • Particularly the pedophile, though the child-eating cannibal is pretty ecstatic at the fresh food. One of your comrades is an eternal child forced to do a lot of killing, including his own sister, and who is ultimately forced to make a Heroic Sacrifice that doesn't even kill him, but leaves him stranded alone in a timeless void incapable of even achieving the peace of death. It's safe to say Drakengard revels in this trope, especially when the Abominations show up.
    • Noteworthy in the game is a mission where most of the foes are the normal faceless adults you've been used to fighting throughout the game, except for a small squad of child conscripts. You can ignore them easily enough, but if you want one of the unlockable weapons during this mission, you have to hunt them down. And since getting all the endings in Drakengard requires every single weapon, you're pretty much forced to do this.
  • Emotionless Girl Leona from The King of Fighters started this way, after killing her own parents under Goenitz's More Than Mind Control and being adopted by Colonel Badass Heidern who had lost his daughter and wife.
  • Iji and her brother Dan are pressed into fighting an alien invasion because just about everyone else is dead. Some of the logbooks imply that the Tasen draft soldiers as soon as they're old enough to hold a rifle, somewhat justified as the Komato have hunted them to the brink of extinction.
    • Iji is actually 20 years old, so she doesn't count. The diary writing alien soldier and her girlfriend are definite examples, though.
  • SeeD is made up almost entirely of Child Soldiers; the game's hero, Squall, began his training at approximately the age of five (and it has screwed him up something fierce). Most of the cadets are orphans, and the Phlebotinum they're trained to use has the side effect of eroding their memories.
    • It is arguable that Final Fantasy VIII can be a deconstruction of this trope. The teenagers trained by Garden are quite effective in combat, but they still make very bad decisions due to their youth and inexperience. Squall's screwed up head is just one example of the underlying theme of "training children to fight from a very young age = bad."
  • Suikoden V has Nether Gate; among their many, many atrocities is how they raise children to become career assassins. The player meets several members; some managed to escape its influence and have spent years recovering. Others... haven't.
  • In Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway it is implied that Frankie is under 18. He dies.
    • Some people did (and still do!) lie about their age in order to join the military.
  • Fire Emblem games usually play this for drama. The younger members often have some tragic backstory that forces them into war. A few examples: Amelia, Ross, and Franz from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones all have a Missing Mom. The latter two suffering from varying degrees of Disappeared Dad. Amelia's mom was kidnapped by bandits, whatever that may lead to Though, if you support Amelia with Duessel, we learn that her mom got better. Ross's mom got sick and died, and his father, who had left them to join the army, retired to raise his son. Franz's mother got sick and died as well, his father, a knight, died fighting bandits. We also have Colm and Neimi. Neimi was raised by her grandfather, and when he died, Colm was the only other person she had. Naturally, those two are the fastest support in the game, usually able to get to A level by the 8th chapter.
  • F.E.A.R. has psychic commmando Paxton Fettel, as well as the player character, the Point Man. Though grown by the events of the game, both were trained basically from birth. Fettel in particular killed people when he was only ten, though not in combat, and it wasn't entirely his fault...
    • The psychological and emotional ramifications are explored in third game. Essentially, they're both scared children running from something far more powerful then them and either becoming obsessed with that (or similar) power or lashing out mindlessly in fear.
    • The Point Man was entered into stasis at around 16, and taken out and trained when he was physically in his late 20s. It's hinted (but never made clear) that he might still be a child mentally.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: You can talk to a Retired NCR Ranger with a broken leg in Novac. If you ask him why his leg is broken, he'll say that it was because the Legion sent children as suicide bombers against him and his squad, knowing they'd hesitate to shoot.
  • In Dissidia 012: Duodecim, Vaan, possibly in reference to the orphaned friends he had in his own youth in the slums of Rabanastre, views the fact that the young Onion Knight is also part of the Conflict of the Gods as being a tragedy (despite the fact that the latter is very capable of holding his own, to the point that pretty much everyone else on the team ignores his age and sees him as a worthy peer), and so ends up inadvertently patronising him for his youth.


Web Comics

  • Cloud's mom, Ye Thuza, from Sandra and Woo was recently revealed to have been with Burmese rebels when she was only 16. While it hasn't been explored in much detail yet, it's certainly demonstrated a touch more seriously than the overall tone of the comic, apart from being half of a punchline in which Ye Thuza remarks she's "always been a rebel" while comparing her life as an American housewife to her years in Burma.
  • Ruby's World uses this as the base of the conflict; the villains regularly use third world children as material for their cybernetic super-soldiers, and several of the young heroes have this blood-stained technology in their bodies.
  • In El Goonish Shive, after a monster attacked Susan in Paris, two Immortals empowered her and Nanase, and instructed how to kill it. Even though they presumably could have asked an experienced local magic-user just as well.
    • In the Hammerchlorians storyline, it was revealed that they could have very easily gone to an experienced local magic-user instead. Susan... didn't take it well.


Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang—the only character who knows what it is to live in a time of peace (other than Bumi, who is at this point over a 100 years old)--is the last survivor of a genocide. Then you have Jet, Sokka (who is basically put in charge of the defence of an entire village and an invasion), Zuko (the poster child for emotionally/physically scarred Child Soldiers), Katara (her childhood ended at nine)... Heck, one of the main villains is a fourteen year old girl who ends up having a Villainous Breakdown. It's even lampshaded a few times.

Katara: I haven't done this since I was a kid!
Aang: You are a kid!

Zuko: You're just a child!
Aang: Well, you're just a teenager.


Real Life

  • A celebrated moment of Mexican history eulogizes the last stand of the cadets who defended the Chapultepec castle against the U.S. Army and a storming part of U.S. Marines during the Mexican-American War. They are called "Los Niños Héroes" (The Child Heroes) making an allusion to their young age. They all existed and their names are real (despite many "revisionist" claims), however, one episode of high controversy is when one of the cadets, Juan Escutia or Juan de la Barrera (different cadets), threw himself to the abyss of the Grasshopper Hill rather than die at the hands of the enemy, while holding the Mexican Flag, which wrapped around his body during the fall. This, however is false. It may come from three episoes: one was when after the Battle of Molino del Rey, a soldier named Margarito Zuazo hid his batallion's flag wrapped around him below his uniform to avoid capture. The second one comes from Escutia's death: he was a sniper at the top of the castle, a bullet hit him and he fell to the abyss. Another one comes from a poem that said that another cadet, Agustín Melgar, "surrounded by enemies you shoot your weapon, and having no hope, rather than you surrendering, you wrap yourself in the flag and show your youthful bosom to the bullets of the invaders". These two made way for the popular myth that's still told in history classes.
    • One of those cadets was 13 and another was 14, but the other four were 18, 19 and 20 years old.
  • A similar instance of this is the Cadet Corps of the Virginia Military Institute, who are still commemorated at the school. Including boys as young as fourteen, the unit fought in (and helped to win) the Battle of New Market in May 1864. Of the 264 boys who participated, ten were killed and 45 wounded.
    • This used to read "eight killed" and to be fair to the original poster, the deaths of Cadets Hartsfield and Haynes weren't reported to VMI until long after the battle. (1904, in Cadet Haynes' case.)
  • Possibly NOT the Children's Crusade, at least so The Other Wiki suggests. The movement isn't well-recorded, the idea seems pretty unbelievable, and it's suspected the term "pueri" was a diminutive that meant "farmers" as in the English "country boys."
  • The 12th Waffen-SS-Division 'Hitlerjugend' consisted mostly of Hitler Youth as young as 16 how were selected in special trials and led by experienced and older NCOs (among them 50 Wehrmacht-NCOs because the SS could not get enough together).
  • The Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany. Children as young as 10 fought in the defense of Berlin against the Red Army, many being awarded Iron Crosses by Adolf Hitler himself (indeed the last recorded pictures of Hitler show him doing this).
    • Earlier in Nazi Germany there were the military-style training schools and the Hitler Youth, from which these child soldiers were drawn.
      • Most of them forced into joining, anyone attempting to escape would be shot or hanged, though not before 1945.
      • On the other side, many children served in the Warsaw Uprising, theoretically as auxiliaries but many did see direct combat.
      • Younger boy scouts were part of so called 'small sabotage' and were tasked with the propaganda, reconnaissance and destruction of German communication devices (which could be as dangerous as direct combat). The boy scouts aged 15–17 were also trained in 'Battle Schools' and assigned to the Land Army units.
  • The Imperial Youth Corps in Imperial Japan during WWII. Conscripted to thwart Operation Downfall, they taught the girls to fight as well. Weapons were very short and ammunition was even shorter, though, so they were training them in the use of spears, knives and molotov cocktails. There wasn't much metal for the knives or petrol for the molotovs, either. They would likely have been over-represented among the 5-10 million Japanese civilians High Command expected to kill or maim in the course of the invasion. It would only have taken a single incident of Japanese children making the suicide attacks they had been trained to carry out for every Allied soldier to regard them with suspicion. And of course, many an Allied soldier would rather be safe than sorry...
  • The "Lord's Resistance Army" in Uganda, controlled by wanted war criminal Joseph Kony are infamous for this. Along with complimentary acts heinous enough to be filed under And I Must Scream. The "Lord's Resistance Army" is one of the best examples of how truly horrific this can be.
    • Around 60% of Uganda's population is below 18 years old, so, heartbreaking and terrible as it may be that a large proportion of the guerilla groups are child soldiers, it is not surprising.
    • Go to the village, kill all the adults, kidnap and rape all the women (a special treat for the boys), brainwash all the kids so you have more troops to go to the next village.
  • Many other African countries are guilty of this as well.
    • Thousands of children served in rebel militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the First (1996) and Second Congo War (1998). Trained to be cold-blooded killers by all sides.
    • Sierra Leone Civil War (1991) in where else but, Sierra Leone. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) recruited/kidnapped thousands of children to serve in their armies by means of brainwashing, threats, and grooming. They were trained to massacre villages with machetes and machine guns, killing people indiscriminately. The government itself also wasn't against using children to fight the rebels.
  • Many 'developed' countries have soldiers who are 16 or 17 years old.
    • In Sweden, career NCOs (i.e. corporals and sergeants) used to enlist straight after leaving primary school (i.e. 9th grade) at age 16 or 17. (That practice has since then been abolished, because those chaps were too uneducated to deal with the modern military environment.)
    • Many of the same countries have laws against deploying said 16 or 17 year old soldiers into combat.
    • Under international law "child soldier" is strictly defined as any soldier under the age of 18. But since not all countries set the age of majority at 18, it is not always the case that a child soldier is considered a child in their own society or by themselves.
      • In 2000 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a protocol which was aimed at restricting the use of children in armed conflict. The Children in Armed Conflict Protocol set minimum ages for compulsory service, and was met with stiff opposition from the beginning. The minimum age was brought up to 18 from 15 and declared that no one under the age of 18 may be put in a combat situation. The United Kingdom (which maintains 16 as the minimum age for enlistment and 17 as the theoretical minimum age for front-line combat duty) is not a signatory to that protocol, though training is a long enough process that its spirit is obeyed in practice.
    • The US has had 57 known cases of underage soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that the minimum age of enlistment is 17, with parental consent, doesn't help. The US also refused to sign the Children in Armed Conflict Protocol. With Military training being as little as thirteen weeks for US Army Infantry, you can see why this happens.
    • There is a known tendency of some would-be recruits to exaggerate their age on recruitment documents. More rigorous ID requirements in recent times restrict this trend.
      • A (possibly apocryphal) tactic was for the boy to write the number 18 on a piece of paper, then put it in his shoe. When asked his age by the recruiting officer, he could honestly respond, "I'm over 18."
    • Recent questions have been raised in the United States on how to deal with captured enemy soldiers who are under eighteen.
  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah is a chilling account written by a boy who was removed from the government army of Sierra Leone by a group from UNICEF.
  • Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in the United States Armed Forces, used altered documents to enlist while underage.
  • A number of Americans enlisted underage in World War 2 which was a fairly popular war. These would usually have been adolescents who were at least physically capable of passing the recruiting office without being spotted and sometimes not doing to badly on campaign either.
  • Underage enlistment was especially common in 19th century conflicts. Not only were there drummer boys, the communications troops of the age, commonly as young as twelve, 'powder monkeys' passed filled cartridges and shot during battle. Many officers were very young too. Midshipmen as young as 12 served in the navies during the Napoleonic era, while, on land equally youthful ensigns and cornets served respectively in the British Army's infantry and cavalry.
    • Drummer Boys were technically non-combatants, but they were still in the middle of a war zone with the soldiers. Several were killed and mutilated by the Zulu at the Battle of Isahlwanda. It's said that that led to the elimination of underage 'soldiers' in the British Army.
    • As many as a million troops in the Union Army alone (which numbered around three million) were seventeen or younger. 100,000 were fifteen or under. The youngest Medal of Honor recipient came from the Civil War. William 'Willie' Johnston was 11 during his actions and 13 when he was decorated. Many, particularly on the Confederate side, fought in combat and several were promoted to sergeant or even officer rank. The war's youngest general, Galusha Pennypacker of Illinois, was seventeen in 1861, and too young to vote at the end of the war. This practice continued, albeit much rarer, all the way into World War II.
    • At least during WWII, there tended to be a blind eye turned if someone was slightly underage. The fact that the US was conscripting heavily combined with still decidedly non-standard record-keeping meant that if someone looked old enough, the recruiting office wasn't likely to look too hard to verify it.
  • Jack Lucas was awarded the Medal of Honor when he was 17. He enlisted three years earlier.
  • Col. David "Hack" Hackworth, one of the pioneers of the modern American special forces, enlisted in the U.S. merchant marine near the end of World War Two at the age of 14, and shortly after the war enlisted in the regular U.S. Army at age 15.
  • The Basij in the Iran-Iraq war were imfamous for this. They actually succeeded in several engagements against Iraq, which at the time was comparable to Israel in military power. In the later stages of the war, they were used to clear minefields by running across them barefoot. To this day, the use of cannon fodder, the estesh-hadiyun ("Martyrdom seekers") is an established part of Iranian military doctrine.
    • Iranian Hossein Fahmideh, only 13, is regarded as the first "suicide bomber" for throwing himself under an Iraqi tank during that war. He would be described as a national hero and inspiration for Iranian children.
  • In World War II the Polish boy and girl scouts formed part of La Résistance on their own volition. They held meetings underground (Those Wacky Nazis wished to convert Poles into a Slave Race so they couldn't be allowed to learn to read or write, remember an intellectual or artistic tradition, or have scouts) . They also did various things like helping refugees escape , And during the Warsaw revolt, when the mailmen were all fighting they took over the delivery. And often as well they carried messages to soldiers, crawling through sewers to deliver them. Like so much about Poland during World War II, the scouts were tragic but awesome.
    • Scouts from other countries often didn't do so bad themselves. Czech scouts helped fleeing refugees, British scouts did various jobs during the blitz, and so on.
    • The Armenian Boy Scouts in the city of Van in 1915, in what was then the Ottoman Empire, did many of the same things while their city was under siege by the Turkish army, and most of the men were either busy fighting or had already been deported and massacred.
  • Lwow Eaglets. Most of them younger than 17, youngest fighter was 9 years old.Notable fighters were Jurek Bitschan - 14 year old who died protecting his post and Antoni Petrykiewicz - 13 year-old who died from fatal wounds after a battle.Post-mortem honoured with highest polish military decoration of courage Order Virtuti Militari (comparable to Medal of Honour)
  • Soviet Union history of 1920-1949 includes several hundred Pioneer-heroes, that is, young boys and girls that have done a heroic service to the state (Young Pioneers is a mass youth organization for ages 10–15, very similar to Scouts). The majority of them participated in the Second World War, and met a tragic fate of one type or another. They were later treated with an almost catholic reverence in the Soviet culture. Complete with portraits and small shrines in schools, and perhaps excessively detailed descriptions of martyrdom. Heroic actions, of course, ranged from truly awesome (Leonid Golikov, aged 16, acting alone, stopped a German car, killed a general-major and his bodyguards, and delivered a stack of classified papers to the partisan headquarters; Zinaida Portnova, aged 15, poisoned the food at the officer's canteen where she was pressed into service, tasted it to prove her innocence, acted as a scout and saboteur for 2 more years, was arrested, wrested a gun from her interrogator's hands and killed three officers) to pointless acts of desperation (Zoya Kosmodem'yanskaya, aged 18, captured and executed after an unsuccessful attempt to set fire to an insignificant storage shed belonging to a collaborator).
  • It is notable the prior to the 21st Century under age or child soldiers were very common.
  • The average Khmer Rouge soldier was younger than 20, some as young as 10 or 12 years old. Under Pol Pot's reign the Khmer Rouge commited genocide that killed 1/4 of Cambodia's population.
  • Ghenghis Khan, and other historic military figures, were child soldiers (by modern standards, child labor laws did not exsist for most part before Steam). Which was fairly normal during his time as killing was a job that some did better than others. Tragic in the sense that he graduated from child soldier to lead the famous Mongol Horde and kill (conservatively) several million people.
  • The Hagannah was reduced to using high-schoolers as auxilieries during the Siege of Jerusalem.