No One Gets Left Behind

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Ohana. Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

Stitch, Lilo and Stitch

There are three things to remember about being a starship captain: keep your shirt tucked in, go down with the ship, and never abandon a member of your crew.

Captain Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager

Two characters are escaping from something. One of them falls down, breaks a leg and says "Leave me, I Will Only Slow You Down". The other one says, "Never!" and takes his wounded friend with him. Possibly even requiring, as soon as they reach some degree of safety, that the wounded character gets evacuated first.

In more hard-pressed situations, the character must stand over the fallen friend and fight off enemies, all the way up to the grim Last Stand. In case of close comrades, such as Blood Brothers, or beloved commanders, this may be done even if the fallen friend is dead and not just wounded, and the heat of battle may make it impossible to tell whether the fallen character had just been wounded or had died. And if the dead character has Royal Blood or Blue Blood, this may have a grim necessity: they need to be able to prove that the character died to ensure that the succession goes smoothly in time of crisis.

This trope is often used to generate drama in a situation that calls for a Heroic Sacrifice. See Shoot the Dog.

Can lead to Fire-Forged Friends, when the characters had been hostile to each other before this.

Genre Savvy villains will exploit this rule to great effect by wounding their enemies, thereby pinning or slowing down their comrades.

If it really is impossible, the wounded soldier may plead for death rather than just being left.

On the other hand, if the wounded soldier can prevent the enemies from chasing his comrades, You Shall Not Pass may justify leaving him. The soldier will probably insist on volunteering despite his comrades' protests.

When they must Bring News Back, the characters who stay behind often do it to buy the others time to get away. Those who must go on may find it hard to flee while others fight, but generally their sense of duty is up to it.

In many ways this is Truth in Television, although without the dramatic clichés. Many armed forces units, especially the U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S. Army Rangers, pride themselves on never abandoning a wounded or dead soldier. Others, like the SAS, make a rule to leave wounded men for The Medics.

See also Honor Before Reason, which this is usually a subtrope of.

Has nothing to do with No Child Left Behind.

Examples of No One Gets Left Behind include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, people do extreme things to take their comrades off the field with them. Ling carries his wounded servant Ran Fan out of a battle, and has a fight while carrying her - allowing a pretty heinous villain to mock him relentlessly. Roy cauterizes (his own as well as) Havoc's wounds to help Havoc get safely out of the battle and to enable himself to go and rescue Al and Hawkeye.
    • This is lampshaded later on, when Roy tells two of his men to leave him behind if he gets hurt. They instantly agree. Surprised by their response, tells them that the correct answer is for them to reply "Never! I'd follow you to the depths of hell!" One of the men responds, "Screw that. I've got a family!" While the other says it's stupid to "commit double suicide like that." Roy answers with a knowing smile.
  • Averted like hell in every staircase sequence in Saint Seiya—if two or more of Athena's Saints arrive at the battleground with a new opponent, one of them will insist on staying behind to fight, just so the other can press onwards to save the goddess. And then, if the first Saint's Cosmo fades, the other(s) will stop, look back and think about how their friend has just possibly died, and then continue their climb instead of going back to help. Then again, the Saints' utmost priority is to protect Athena, even at the cost of their own lives, so they earnestly believe that continuing the mission is far more important—even if they have to leave everybody behind.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, so much - Kurogane cuts off his own arm to keep Fai from being left behind in the closing world of Celes.
  • This gets averted in the first Ranma ½ movie, Big Trouble in Nekonron, when Ranma's party fragments a little bit more in every miniboss encounter, as members will stay behind to hold off their own tailor-made opponents.
  • In the Pokémon Special manga, Blue and Sabrina are handcuffed together and fighting Lorelei. Blue is knocked out and Sabrina is hanging on the edge of a cliff. Lorelei suggests that Sabrina save herself by cutting off Blue's cuffed hand and letting her drop. Sabrina responds that, even though she and Blue were once enemies, they are allies now and that she never abandons an ally.
  • In Naruto this is exemplified by the father of Hatake Kakashi, Hatake Sakumo. While on a critical mission for Konoha during the Third Ninja War, Sakumo given the choice of rescuing his teammates or completing the mission, Sakumo chose to save his team. Unfortunately the failure of the mission was not well recieved. While Sakumo prior was respected on the same level or even above the Sannin, the mission's failure caused such catastrophic losses, that he became reviled afterwards. The stress was so extreme that he committed suicide in front of Kakashi. Kakashi from this experience became an ultra strict rule follower and general jerkass who would also put the mission first. Later Uchiha Obito would naturally adopt this attitude and pass it on to Kakashi. After Obito's death Kakashi would adopt this to the extreme adopting the directive that he wouldn't let anyone on his team die.
    • Naruto of course has taken this to the extreme doing everything in his power in the second part of the story to bring back Sasuke and save him from himself and his revenge.
  • Parodied in Excel Saga. In two episodes, Menchi escapes and makes new friends. Every single friend she meets eventually tells her to go on without them and makes a heroic sacrifice to save Menchi. The final time this happens, the villain says, "What an out-of-character way to die." (Although it turns out that this one character is Not Quite Dead.)
  • Lampshaded and Played with in Vandread. Dita tries pulling one of these when Gascogne gets stuck. Gasconge is more Genre Savvy.

Gasconge: "This isn't a third rate soap opera! You go and you come back with help and get me!"

Comic Books

  • During the Marvel Comics run of G.I. Joe there was a particularly tragic example where Dusty flashes back to meeting a fellow Joe's family and promising to keep an eye on him. He ends up carrying his friend's dead body for miles through a desert because "he promised."


  • Most of the plot of Cloverfield, with Rob and companions trying to save Beth as the monster flattens Manhattan. Later lampooned when Hud, probably the least intelligent of a rather dim group, goes back to retrieve the camera from the helicopter wreckage, only to get bitten in half by the monster.
  • Averted in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Part of the pirate's code is "Whoever falls behind is left behind." Many of the characters, both good and bad, follow this.
  • The main character of Con Air follows this as a former Ranger. He does so as a combination of Rambo and Jesus.
  • Parodied in Little Miss Sunshine: Frank says this line after Olive is left at a gas station.
  • In Forrest Gump, Gump earns the Medal of Honor for rescuing his fellow soldiers in Vietnam. At times, Lieutenant Dan wishes that he had lost his life instead of his lower legs.
    • Ironically, the one soldier that Forrest failed to save the life of was the one he originally went back to help. He kept stumbling on other wounded comrades and brought every one of them back because he felt he "couldn't just leave them there, frightened and hurt."
  • Used and Lampshaded in the aforementioned Saving Private Ryan. When Captain Miller and his squad are ordered to venture deep into German-occupied France to recover a lost soldier who may already be dead, he and his squad are naturally not too thrilled about this. The rest of the movie then shows their struggle between deciding whether to find Ryan or just leave him behind.
    • The villain version of this trope is used as well. A German sniper purposely shoots and incapacitates an American soldier, hoping that it will draw out other soldiers into the open in an attempt to help the downed man.
      • A Truth in Television, this is a real sniper tactic.
      • The Unit has a variation where the sniper kills a Unit operator and then ties a wire to the operator's hand to simulate movement, thus making the survivor and rescuers think that he's alive; it's only when the rescuers take out the sniper that they find that all the tension and emphasis on rescuing the "wounded" operator were for nothing.
  • Subversion: In Canadian Bacon, the Omega Force sent to locate the protagonist is running along the Canadian wilderness when one of them falls down and clutches his foot. Another one approaches, and the guy on the ground says "It's just my toe." Boom.
  • This is basically the plot of Black Hawk Down, based on the Battle of Mogadishu.
    • Heavily, heavily lampshaded in the book as Honor Before Reason, where in the After Action Report, the general in charge of the mission admitted that taking the time to make sure all the soldiers or their bodies were out of the battlefield exponentially increased the number of casualties (because they had to stay in combat longer). He even outright admits that it wasn't for some sort of honorable reason or heroic mandate, but because he didn't want to have a PR disaster from American bodies being dragged through the streets, as had happened before (though, that was also because he didn't want to dishonor any soldiers whose bodies would be dragged like that, so...).
  • Subverted and lampshade hung in Muppets from Space.

Kermit: We will never leave one of our own behind!
Fozzy: Hey, we left Bunsen and Beaker back at the gas station!
Kermit: * pause* From this point on, we will not leave anyone behind!

  • Averted with dastardly repercussions in the Backstory of The Rock. General Hummell's request to send in troops to extract at least 15 marines on a Black Operation from the combat zone are denied by his superiors, forcing him to leave them to die.

Marine: They're not coming for us, are they, sir?

    • The last straw is when the government refuses to pay the families of the dead soldiers due to plausible deniability, which drives Hummell to go rogue.
  • In Full Metal Jacket the VC sniper uses their knowledge of this to sucker the U.S. troops to try to rescue their wounded comrades.
  • Pretty much every war movie of all time.
  • Subverted in Courage Under Fire, where a character is first shown yelling at a trainee never to leave his wounded comrades behind. It later turns out that he'd done just that to his wounded commanding officer after she'd threatened to court martial him.
  • Supervolcano (2005). The protagonist is trapped in an abandoned Air Force base. The only airman there says they have to walk out, as no-one is coming to save them. He asks what happened to "Leave no man behind", and is informed that's the Army's slogan.
  • Averted in Resident Evil. When Kaplan is trapped by zombies he tells the rest of the party to leave him behind. Alice refuses, but Kaplan insists, and they do so.
  • The Guns of Navarone. Both played straight and Subverted with Major Franklin: first Captain Mallory refuses to leave him behind, then does leave him behind with the Germans after feeding him false information about the nature of their mission in the hope the Germans will use Truth Serums to get it out of him.
  • Notably averted in When Trumpets Fade: the film opens with Private David Manning trying to carry his badly wounded friend Bobby through the woods to safety, but he has to stop to rest. Bobby tells him that he can't even stand to be carried any further, and begs Manning to stay with him so that he doesn't have to die alone. Not only does Manning refuse to stay, he shoots Bobby. In a later scene, now-Sergeant Manning specifically orders one of the soldiers under his command to drop the body of a fallen comrade saying simply "Leave him! He's dead!" The film ends with Manning himself badly wounded and being carried to safety by Sanderson.
  • In The Smurfs, after Papa Smurf gets captured, the rest of the party goes back to rescue him, against his orders.
  • Happens in The Matrix. After nearly being caught by Agents, Morpheus attempts both a Heroic Sacrifice and You Shall Not Pass in order to allow Neo and the others time to escape. Afterwards, the surviving crew members contemplate pulling the connection from Morpheus, which would kill him but also prevent the Agents from learning access codes to Zion, the last human city. Neo invokes this trope and instead attempts to rescue Morpheus.
  • The firefighters in Backdraft have this as part of their code of honor. "You go, we go."
  • In Aliens, after the Colonial Marines learn that some of the ones left behind in the escape are still alive, Vasquez says "Then we go back in there and get them. We don't leave our people behind." They end up not trying to do so after Corporal Hicks points out "You can't help them! You can't. Right now they're being cocooned just like the others."


  • Older Than Feudalism: A frequent occurrence in The Iliad: while a fallen warrior's friends try to carry his corpse off the battlefield, his enemies try to take his armor as a trophy. This usually leads to more casualties on both sides and sometimes more fights over more corpses.
  • Subverted by Sheriff Bell in the book No Country for Old Men. After the rest of his squad was hit from a mortar shell annihilating the farmhouse they were monitoring radio signals in, he manages to ready up the squad's 30. cal machine gun to attack Germans advancing in his direction. He shoots at them and pins them down, but all the while, he is said to have heard groans from his squad, indicated at least some were alive. He then chooses to abandon the position and flee after the day goes dark, and remains haunted on how he was the only survivor, getting a Bronze Star he didn't want to accept (he assumes the brass wanted to scrap something out of how their position was lost.)
  • A brutal example of this being used against a character occurs in a story from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire world. At one point in the bloody history of Westeros, a rebellion was led against the current king by one of his bastard half-brothers. Legend has it that at the decisive battle The Archer Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers intentionally critically wounded one of the twin sons of the rebellion's leader with an arrow, knowing that the father would not leave his son's side on the battlefield while he was alive. Rivers then proceeded to kill the father with numerous shots, and the second of the twins as well when he picked up his father's sword and tried to lead the army.
  • Featured prominently in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, and realistically gets a lot of characters killed, as observed - and justified - by the characters. "Men are not potatoes."
    • Indeed, one of Rico's instructors at OCS claims that it's "mathematically provable" that they should invade an enemy planet in full force to recover one lost infantryman. According to Heinlein, soldiers cannot fully commit themselves to the service of their society if they don't know that the society is equally committed to them. Said math is not shown, of course, so we have to take his Author Avatar's word for it.
  • Subverted in the StarCraft novel Speed of Darkness, where the main character intentionally shoots a dying (flamethrower-armed) Firebat, forcing the enemy to stay back. Though some of his squadmates give him a hard time for it, the vets acknowledge it as necessary, even effective.
    • In fact, the Lieutenant of the main's group points out that their standard ammunition is designed to cripple, not kill, saying that "if you maim an enemy on the field it takes four of his friends to haul him back from the battle and even more of his friends to patch him up and care for him. Kill an enemy and you decrease the force against you by one. Maim an enemy and you decrease the force against you by ten." Pity the hive-minded Zerg never try to recover the wounded.
      • Or that the super advanced Protoss are hardcore and will fight to the bitter end. (And if they get crippled, they will become Dragoons and Stalkers so that their crippled BODIES can fight to the bitter end.)
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, the Ghosts try to keep to this.
    • When Domor is wounded and blinded in First & Only, although his wounds will prove fatal without adequate medical attention, Gaunt tells him he's coming if he has to carry him himself.
    • In Traitor General, inability to bring Feygor with them because of his illness strikes all the Ghosts very bitterly.
    • In His Last Command, when Maggs is thrown through a Chaos warp gate, Mkoll cites this and jumps after him. Although the scene is both bitterly cold and impossible, and breaks down Maggs, he gets them both to another gate and out—alive, although covered with frost.
      • That's it? That's all you say about Mkoll's insane dive into a pocket warp dimension, full of thousand of gigantic, man-tank stalkers and multiple ARMIES of cultists and armor support, armed only with a plasma pistol and a knife? Hell, Mkoll even admits later that he lost count of how many he killed!
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 novel Space Wolf, when Ragnar and other Marines were sent to bring news of a nest of Chaos Space Marines, one of them is wounded. Ragnar (who had just realized that he does not, and should not, want Revenge on the wounded man) orders the others on while he tends the wounded. When they are attacked again and he gains more injuries, Ragnar finally carries him to safety.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Uriel is reluctant to leave behind even hopelessly tortured victims he could not save; later, Vaanes leaves behind the others of their band in a torture chamber, and Uriel and Pasanius stay to free them. Later still, the mortally wounded Colonel Leonid has a hard time convincing Uriel to leave him behind, and Uriel finds it Dirty Business -- but Leonid succeeds, and through a Heroic Sacrifice buys them more time.
  • The villain reaction is used in Robert Asprin's M.Y.T.H. Inc. In Action. Guido and Nunzio, two Mob bodyguards, join the Army and are not impressed with the training or equipment. During target practice, Guido puts three crossbow bolts into a dummy's shoulder, and the drill sergeant asks, "If you can shoot that well, why not shoot him in the head?!" Guido, forgetting he's not in the Mob anymore, replies, "ANY idiot can kill somebody, but it takes SKILL to leave 'em in a condition where they can still give information, OR pay protection, OR..." Nunzio tries to avert disaster by explaining that what he MEANT was that wounding an opponent takes three men out of the action, since two have to carry the wounded one.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars/Barsoom novels.
    • In Chessmen of Mars, Gahan briefly convinces himself that Tara hates him when he is left prisoner.

but presently both my heart and my judgment told me that Tara of Helium could not have deserted a companion in distress, and though I still am in ignorance of the facts I know that it was beyond your power to aid me.

    • In The Gods of Mars, John Carter is frantic when the Mobile Maze cuts him off from Tars Tarkas. A prisoner asks him when he is trying to get back to where the monster is.

"Because my friend fights there alone."

    • In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, a Master of Illusion convinced Carthoris to go on with an illusion of Thuvia, and Thuvia that Carthoris had asked her to stay behind, but Thuvia rejects the charges that he fled without her because:

"You lie!" she said quietly, "the Heliumite knows less of disloyalty than he knows of fear, and of fear he is as ignorant as the unhatched young."

  • Subverted in Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet where Captain Geary tries to make good on this only to realize that several of his ships are clearly not going to make the escape from the enemy until another ship (commanded by his grandnephew) performs a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • However in the rest of the series they try their damnest to save any escape pods and liberate any POW camps. This attitude leads to them saving an Syndic colony that was left to die. This leads to a Syndic CEO have a Heel Face Turn because her brother was on that colony and she helps the Fleet get home.
    • In Invicible, Geary orders Tulev to sweep the human wreckage from space—all the ships' parts, and above all, all the human bodies. Tulev quotes the trope name, though the motive here is to avoid letting the aliens discover anything about them.
  • In the X Wing Series novel Iron Fist, Phanan is shot down over an Imperial-held planet. Face followed even though he was squadron leader at the time, telling the others to regroup without him. He found Phanan badly wounded and tried to take him to the nearest settlement, but it was pretty obvious that they wouldn't make it. Face was about to call the Imperial forces out looking for them, because even though they'd be imprisoned by their enemies this would mean medical treatment, but Phanan talked him out of it before dying. Then Face went back to his starfighter, destroyed his friend's body, and returned to the Wraiths guilt-ridden. Wraiths and Rogues in general try very hard to avoid their teammates Dying Alone.
  • In Andre Norton and A.C. Crispin's Witch World novel Gryphon's Eyrie, Joisan stands over her fallen husband to keep him from shadow creatures, but when she, being pregnant, realizes that the creatures are after her baby, she is afraid that it will mean she must leave him.
  • In Andre Norton's Science Fiction novels, this trope is occasionally invoked as an ironclad rule of space travel: No One Gets Left Behind on a strange planet, no matter if he's your worst enemy. In Android At Arms, this leads to the protagonist and some of his companions searching for an untrustworthy fellow traveller until they find his body.
  • JRR Tolkien's Unfinished Talesof Numenor and Middleearth includes the story of how Theoden's son had died, just before Gandalf and company's meeting with Theoden in The Lord of the Rings. After he fell fighting orcs, his men fought to keep his body from them; having fought them off, they discovered he was still alive, but he lived only long enough to tell them to bury him there.
  • In Nick Kyme's Warhammer 40,000 novel Salamander, after Tsu'gan's Pride ensured his captain's death, Tsu'gan refuses to let anyone near his body

maintaining a cordon of protection that no one could breach and live.

    • After the fight, a comrade reassures him that his battle-brother will live—having assumed he was protecting the still living Dak'ir.
  • Subverted in one of Mack Reynolds' Section G. spy stories. Section G's top operative, Ronny Bronston, takes a new agent on a training mission to an enemy planet. Ronny is wounded and tells the newbie to kill him so the enemy won't capture him. The rookie instead helps Ronny to their escape vehicle. The subversion comes because Ronny wasn't that badly wounded; it was an impromptu Secret Test, and by not being ruthless enough to kill his comrade, the new guy failed and gets washed out of field agent training. Ronny's boss points out that the rookie was trying to save Ronny's life. Ronny replies flatly that saving his life wasn't the mission.
  • In C.S. Goto's Blood Ravens trilogy, having discovered reason to believe Rhamah was still alive, the Blood Ravens engage in a deeply risky maneuver in warp, as the only way to retrieve him.
  • Subverted in Bravo Two Zero, which is Andy Mc Nab's re-telling of the famed S.A.S. mission. The troop of eight men were given strict orders to leave any man who was seriously wounded as it would hinder the mission or their escape if they were compromised. This is actually standard procedure for many British spec-ops. However, McNab goes out of his way to show the soldiers' reluctance to do just that, and just how much they couldn't bear to leave a mate behind. There were several points in which the opportunity arose that they had to leave a bloke behind, but they couldn't bring themselves to do it, and McNab himself says he often wonders about what would have happened if they left the man behind, but whatever the case "you make a decision and get on with it, whatever it is".
  • Subverted in the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, where Patrick McLanahan decides to go against orders to rescue two of his downed crewmen, and while he succeeds, gets into serious trouble with the high command for it.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga novel Diplomatic Immunity. Admiral Vorpatril has this attitude, which was one of the factors leading to the escalation of the diplomatic incident that Miles has to sort out, after having been left behind himself by Miles' father when Vorpatril was a junior officer during the failed Escobar invasion.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Moving Pictures has the two dogs, Laddie and Gaspode, set fire to the Odium to destroy the film-creature. When Gaspode's leg goes, Laddie picks him up and carries him, despite Gaspode's protestations that there's no time, and he's just going to get them both killed.
  • Subverted in Night. During the march from Birkenau to Auschwitz, anyone who moves too slowly is shot. Rabbi Eliahou can no longer manage to run, and loses his son in the crowd, but is determined to find him. Eliezer declines to tell him that said son abandoned him after seeing him limping, and prays to God for the spiritual strength never to abandon his own father. He doesn't get it, and is ultimately too cowardly to help his dying father.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Devil in Iron", Octavia starts to explain not leaving Conan as this, and then switches to she had nowhere to go.
  • In Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, Thursday went back to get the wounded against orders. If the press hadn't gotten wind of it, she would have been courtmartialed.
  • The Left Behind book series averts this trope with the Rapture of faithful Christians at the beginning of the series. However, those who are left behind to face the Tribulation and become Christians do get supernatural help from God. Also, by the end of the seven-year Tribulation period, the raptured Christians come back with Jesus Christ in time for the Curb Stomp Battle of Him versus Nicolae Carpathia and the Global Community army.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Harry brings Cedric's body back to his father after he's killed by Wormtail.
  • In the Loic Henry's Military Science Fiction book Loar, this his how planet Bihan keeps or buys the loyalty of its spies: If one spy's cover is blown, they'll order as many spies as necessary to blow their own cover and escape with the first spy (they'll still have a few dozen spies left in the place afterwards anyway).

Live Action TV

  • This is practically the motto of the SGC personnel from Stargate SG-1, where Jack O'Neill always insists that "we never leave our people behind".
    • Most notable was the 2-parter episode "Heroes" which featured a Deconstruction of this trope when they show the cost of the rescue attempt of a single Red Shirt: numerous wounded, a small fortune of monetary expenses and most severely Dr. Fraiser is Killed Off for Real. She does get a good sendoff though, with a Dead Guy, Junior (well, dead girl junior) and the second episode ending with a eulogy listing the names of people she's saved during the series.
    • The above quote is from the episode "The Other Guys" where two scientists witness SG-1 getting captured. With this motto in heart, they attempt a more or less successful rescue Only to be told by O'Neil that the capture was part of a Batman Gambit, so SG-1 could meet up with The Mole in the enemy's ranks.
    • Averted in the finale of season one, when Daniel was left behind on Apophis' soon-to-be-destroyed ship. The implication, however, was that he wasn't going to survive anyway (being severely injured), and the other characters probably wouldn't, either, if they didn't avert this trope. The irony was that if Daniel hadn't been left behind, he probably would have died anyway: he used the sarcophagus and the Gate to heal himself and get home (respectively). It's implied that they wouldn't have been able to save him on Earth.
  • Life On Mars. Gene goes back for Sam after he is knocked down by the man they are chasing torturing him in the future. No, really.
  • Firefly had at least two episodes explicitly dealing with this: "War Stories" (where Zoe and the crew rescue Wash and Mal from Niska) and "The Message" (where Mal and Zoe are shown in flashbacks saving Tracey's life).
    • In the Big Damn Movie, this is brought up in a What the Hell, Hero? moment after Mal kicks a local off the mule when he tries to hitch a ride with them and escape the Reavers. Zoe mentions that in the war they'd never leave a man behind, and Mal replies, "Maybe that's why we lost."
      • Parodied later on:

Mal: Zoe, the ship is yours. If I'm not back in one hour, you take this ship and you come and you rescue me!

    • Also, in the episode "Safe", when Simon asks Mal why he went back for him and River,

Mal: "You're on my crew."
Simon: "Yeah, but you don't even like me."
Mal: "You're on my crew. Why are we still talking about this?"

Frank: I've sprained my ankle! You'll have to go on without me!
Col: OK! (makes to leave)
Frank: No, hang on! That's not how it goes! You're supposed to say "No, I cannot possibly, for you are my friend."
Col: OK, let's try again.
Frank: You'll have to go on without me!
Col: No, I cannot possibly, for you are my friend.
Frank: I insist!
Col: Alrighty.

  • In season 3 of Lost, Kate insists on going back to the Barracks for Jack after escaping the Others with his help. In something of a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, her efforts seemingly destroy Jack's opportunity to leave the island.
    • Then in season 5, Robert says this to Jin when going into the smoke monster's lair after Montand. This does not turn out well, either.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H, following this trope, at least in regards to dead soldiers, is portrayed as bloody-minded stubbornness that increases overall causalities under the Incompetent General of the Week.
  • Adam Savage has joked about MythBusters having a "No Crash Test Dummy Left Behind" code at least twice. Of course, since the original Buster was theoretically a loaner ....
  • Parodied in the Seinfeld episode "The Puerto Rican Day", where a parade is obstructing the traffic, and Elaine tries to go through underneath a viewing stand, leading a group of people. An elderly priest can't keep up:

Elaine: Come on, father, you can make it.
Priest: No, I can't. I've got a bad hip. Go on without me.
Elaine: No! I won't!
Priest: Leave me! You must.
Elaine: All right. Take it easy.
(catches up with the others)
Elaine: All right, we can move faster without Father O'Gimpy.
Priest: I heard that!

  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Galileo Seven". During an attack by aliens Spock is pinned by a boulder. He orders the other Enterprise crewmen to go back to the shuttlecraft and lift off. They refuse and manage to free him, getting everyone to the shuttle safely. While the delay means they have to use the shuttlecraft's boosters to escape, apparently dooming it to be destroyed in re-entry, Spock is the one who comes up with the lifesaving bright idea that enables them to be rescued.
  • In their first few appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg would collect pieces of their fallen comrades who had been killed, like picking up a black box, and allow the rest of the body to self-destruct.
  • The Doctor to Amy in "The Time of Angels". Admittedly, he knows that there's not really anything slowing her down, but he's prepared to risk his life trying to convince her of that.

Tabletop Games

  • Thoroughly averted, and possibly subverted, in Warhammer 40,000. The Tau and Eldar are about the only ones who ever try, and the Eldar consider recovering the waystones of the dead good enough consolation for being unable to save the bodies of the living (the fact that Eldar wear them to prevent their souls from being devoured by evil Chaos God of lust may also have something to it).
    • Similarly, although the Marines consider it the highest honour to die in battle, they'll fight hard to recover the two progenoid glands from the still-cooling bodies of their battle brothers, as they are necessary to convert new Space Marines. (The way the Chaos forces can use them lends a certain amount of urgency to this.)
      • The Grey Knights, however, will fight as hard as possible to recover their comrades' bodies, not just the glands, so they can lay them to rest on Titan.
    • Also, given the Cargo Cult/Ancestral Weapon nature of technology in the Imperium, the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Space Marines will often insist, and go to sometimes-absurd lengths to ensure that No Tech Gets Left Behind.
      • On the Land Raider page in the codex, it is mentioned that an entire chapter once started a giant war to recover one weapon blown off one of their tanks.
    • There is a scenario in the Black Templars section of the GW website dealing with the recovery of the remains of their Emperor's Champion.
    • Certain Imperial Guard regiments will also make it a point to try and recover their wounded, though they usually don't take unnecessary steps to rescue them if it will cost too many lives. Being the Redshirt Army, the Guardsmen are generally both aware of this fact and expect it.
      • In the 5th Edition Imperial Guard Codex, one of the special characters, Sergeant Lukas Bastonne of the Cadian Shock Troops, earned the highest award a soldier in the Imperium can earn in their lifetime by refusing to leave one of his soldiers behind on a zombie-riddled planet. Of course he had to execute the man because he showed symptoms of the same plague that caused the zombies in the first place, so whether this is a backhanded subversion or not is debatable.
    • The Tyranids do this too, in a sense. When they gather up the biological material from a planet they've conquered, they make sure to get all of it, which includes every single 'Nid that got killed in the attack.
      • Actually they also collect the biomass from most of the survivors too. The greater part of their assault troops are creatures that have no digestive system: they are MEANT to die, should they survive the invasion, and they'll be reprocessed into biomass for later use.
  • Thoroughly justified in Dungeons & Dragons by resurrection magic.

Video Games

  • Given how the Nonary Game is played out, It's only natural for it to occur in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • Ace offers to stay behind to let the group continue. The group flat-out refused, but to secure him to stay behind, he took a relaxent to ensure he was unable to continue.
    • Lotus offered to stay behind in the Chapel. They refuse, specifically Seven.
    • Seven and Snake both do this (with the same reactions as the above) in the Chapel. Seven is forced to stay behind, but has a trump card anyway.
  • Betrayal at Krondor's narrative-like style of storytelling lends itself well to this trope. All party members are important to the plot; if one suffers a Non-Lethal KO in battle, the game will not allow you flee and leave them to the bad guys.
  • Double H's motto in Beyond Good and Evil: "D.B.U.T.T.: Don't Break Up The Team!" and "W.W.T.A.O.: We Work Together As One!" On the surface, it doesn't seem to mean much, but it leads to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, as he shouts it while dramatically saving Jade from plummeting to her doom, showing his dedication to her.
  • In Call of Duty 4, Lt. Vasquez's squad (to which the player character Sgt. Jackson belongs) takes a detour to save a grounded Super Cobra pilot from a hostile city for this reason. It Got Worse, since they do not make it out of the city in time before a Russian warhead goes off, killing them (almost) instantly. The pilot can be found dead outside the helicopter wreck after the detonation, which just rubbed salt in the wound with the futility of it all. In fairness, considering the blast radius as shown in both the immediate detonation and the subsequent loading screen, it's questionable whether any of the Marines ever had a chance even had they not taken the detour.
    • An earlier mission for the SAS side has you on a rescue mission for a captured informant. "We take care of our friends." Fortunately, when the group is forced to continue on foot, the informant has the same Gameplay Ally Immortality as the other important NPCs and is both armed and competent, making him not a liability but a one-time asset (pun intended).
      • And in Modern Warfare 2, when you are stranded in Brazil when the U.S. is attacked, guess who shows up to save your team from the militia? It's the same when Price and MacTavish assault Shepherd's base. Shows that it is a good idea to take care of your friends.
    • Later, in the mission "One Shot, One Kill," then-Lieutenant Price has to carry Captain MacMillian out of Pripyat, Ukraine after a helicopter falls on him. Fortunately, Lt. Price can put Capt. MacMillian down whenever he needs to fight, and while MacMillian cannot move independently, he's no slouch as a stationary shooter. Once he's put behind the Ferris wheel and assuming that both survive the resultant shootout (in effect "hold the line" until a helicopter arrives), he only has to be picked up again for the final dash to the evacuation helicopter by which time the danger should be past.
    • The next mission 'Heat', Gaz will yell that you're going to be left behind if you Take Your Time to reach the farm. He's just trying to motivate you, however. It's played straight for Mac, however, who is shot and dies off-screen two minutes into the mission (though there were some Dummied Out dialogue files suggesting the player would have had the option of rescuing him).
  • Subverted hard in the sequel, Modern Warfare 2, particularly in the mission entitled "Of Their Own Accord". Radio chatter repeatedly makes it clear that there are not enough transports to evacuate everyone, and that people are being left behind. At one point - right after the player boards the evac chopper - a fellow soldier will shoot down an attacking enemy helicopter and saves the player's life. But the evac chopper immediately departs afterwards, leaving the lone soldier behind to face the onrushing Russian troops.
  • Subverted on Virmire in Mass Effect 1. Kaidan and Ashley are stranded at opposite ends of a research facility where a nuke is about to go off. At first, it looks like the question is whom to evacuate first... but then geth attack en masse, and you realize with a sinking feeling that you can only save ONE of them now, because the precious time you had for saving the other will now be wasted on fighting the enemy.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Meryl foreshadows what will happen when she blithely comment that Snake can simply shoot her if she became The Millstone, with Snake sharply telling her he 'doesn't waste ammo'. Meryl gets shot by Sniper Wolf, she begged for Snake to ditch her, but he flat out refuses to and ends up eventually getting captured for his troubles, uncertain if she was still alive at this point.
    • The same happens in Snake Eater with EVA: she gets skewered on a tree branch after a motorcycle crash and begs Snake to go on and give her a gun, but Snake ignores all of this, because "[he] can't fly the Wi G by [himself]."
  • Averted in Tales of Symphonia: upon entering the Tower of Salvation, Lloyd swears that no-one will be left behind, however, due to the rule of More Expendable Than You, every single member of the group ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice to let him go on. They all get better.

Lloyd: You don't want to sacrifice anyone, huh? What do you call this?! Dammit! Guys...I'm sorry...

  • Played straight with Tales of Destiny, in a pretty memorable scene. After fighting Mary's brainwashed ex-husband, mooks can be heard getting closer; Stahn and co. have to run away, but Mary wants to stay with her semi-dead man. Rutee then tells Mary that that's out of question, because no one gets left behind... including her husband. Rutee then piggybacks him.
  • Subverted in Fire Emblem. During the last part of the prologue, Marth is told by his advisor that he has to sacrifice one of his soldiers as a decoy to allow him to escape. Marth insists that everyone sticks together, but if you decide not to send a unit to the southern fort, you'll soon be overrun by an army of Knights who are capable of killing any and all of your party members with one hit (two or three, in Jeigan's case). Leaving a unit behind is the only way you can proceed to the end of the chapter, as the second gate won't open unless you do.
  • Played straight in Final Fantasy X: while fleeing from Bevelle, the party is beset by Seymour. Kimahri urges them to run on ahead while he holds Seymour back, and they do—right up to the moment when they decide it's not right, and run right back to help him.
  • Depending on the player, Final Fantasy VI. With the Floating Continent crumbling away from beneath their feet, and Shadow holding Kefka back with the Three Statues, the party must make it to the airship and escape before it's too late. Typically, one would jump onto the airship at the first opportunity, but by waiting until the last possible second, Shadow will catch up and join the party.
    • The game helpfully gives a countdown so the rest of the party knows when "the last possible second" is, and the options given when you reach the jump point not-so-subtly implies that you ought to wait for Shadow.
      • Well, the options are explicit only if you refuse to jump the first time. The first time, the options are "Jump!" and "Wait!". The second time, the options are "Jump to the airship!" and "Gotta wait for Shadow...".
    • Strago also tries to get Relm to go on without him during the final escape from Kefka's Tower, but she will have none of it. Good thing too, because, later on, she wouldn't have reached the airship without his help.
  • You could do this at the end of a Left 4 Dead campaign if one of your teammates gets critically injured, but then you might miss your ride.
    • If a survivor is incapacitated outside the safe room at the end of a level, the other survivors will usually say that they can't leave anyone behind. Though on occasion Francis will say he's fine with leaving a teammate behind if everyone else is.
  • This is Brenner's motto in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. It's even the in-game justification for how his CO Power heals his units:

Brenner: Initiate search-and-rescue operations! No one gets left behind!

  • Played straight in Star Wars: Republic Commando in the Prosecutor mission, and then viciously averted with Sev at the end of the game. The gunship arrives, and you aren't going back.
  • Played with in the initial quest in Dragon Age II, where Aveline's husband Ser Wesley is injured and begins to succumb to the darkspawn taint. Aveline promises that she will get her husband out any way possible, but in the end either she or Hawke is forced to kill him.
  • Uncharted has a particularly cool example: escaping an ancient temple into a rainy evening only to find out that Elena's cameraman Jeff has been shot and that they're surrounded, Nathan Drake grabs him and carries him through the streets, covered by Elena and Chloe. Then you get to a building, where you take a moment to sit Jeff down, only for Lazarevich to come in and perform his ultimate Kick the Dog moment - executing Jeff on the spot.
  • In the final playable sequence of Bastion, the Kid can either abandon the wounded Zulf and continue fighting the Ura, or drop his weapons and carry Zulf to safety. If you choose the latter, the Ura will persist in attacking you... but the Kid keeps going, and they respect his determination so much that an Ura soldier who takes another potshot at the Kid ends up skewered by his own commander.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • G.I. Joe did this a lot. In The Movie, Sgt. Slaughter explicitly lines it out: "It's time you learned we're a team, Red Dog. We all go home or nobody goes home."
  • Toy Story: "A good soldier never leaves a man behind!" And whatever the movie he might be in, what is R. Lee Ermey if not a good soldier?
    • Later, when Woody and Buzz are making their escape from Sid's house, the rocket strapped to his back keeps Buzz from being able to fit under the fence. Though Buzz says "Go on, I'll catch up," Woody jumps down off of the van (where Andy is) and runs back to help Buzz.
  • Parodied in South Park, "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000." Cartman and his cellmate have escaped from prison. As they flee the guards, the cellmate is injured, and says to go on without him. Cartman says "okay" and begins to go. The cellmate indignantly points out that Cartman was supposed to say that he couldn't leave his friend behind.
  • Also parodied in The Simpsons

Milhouse: I can't keep up, you guys go on ahead...and carry me with you!

    • Also, Homer quotes this trope when he saves a toy soldier using a toy helicopter from Marge's hair.
  • As the page quote says, the line is "Nobody gets left behind or forgotten" in Disney's Lilo and Stitch, but the titular alien learns the lesson and goes to rather dramatic extremes to make sure that Gantu does not leave Earth with Lilo.
  • In the children's cartoon Rescue Heroes, Billy Blazes, the chief of his rescue team often states that nobody gets left behind in spite of what disaster they may face. This is attributed to when he was a kid when a fire broke out and he was the only one left in the building, one of the firemen saved him and told him how no one would be left behind no matter how dangerous the situation is save them.
  • Ozzy and Drix has this:

Ozzy: Go on without me!
Drix: You mean that?

  • Parodied in British comedy show Monkey Dust in "They All Come Home", a parody of Black Hawk Down.
  • The Thunder Lizards of Eek! The Cat grudgingly remembered this rule when an obnoxious parody of Mr. T got dragged away by a carnivorous plant. Then one said, "But we don't have to hurry," and they smiled and moseyed.
  • Parodied in Futurama:

Zoidberg: Go on without me!
Leela: I'm trying!
[Pan down to show Zoidberg is holding on tight to Leela's legs.]
Zoidberg: Go on without me faster!

  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Jihad". While escaping a lava flow Spock is thrown from the vehicle and Captain Kirk goes back to save him. Spock tells him to leave him behind and Kirk says "Not without you."
  • Notably in one episode of The Smurfs, Lazy and a bunch of other Smurfs get trapped in a volcano and work to rebuild a windmill into a helicopter so they could escape. Lazy feels entirely at fault for letting the Smurfs down and trapping them in the volcano, but Smurfette refuses to let him stay behind to perish.

Real Life

  • Famous and macabre example: when the Chinese army attacked UN forces in Korea in the brutal winter of 1950, they surrounded the elite and famous US 1st Marine Division. Faced with utter annihilation, the division's officers rallied their men by vowing to get everyone out, including the wounded and the dead. Their convoys coming down out of the mountains, depicted in newsreel footage and several movies, reveal how brutal the fighting was and how determined they were to achieve that symbolic goal: their trucks and jeeps are festooned with frozen corpses wrapped in blankets and body bags.
    • This ended up actually having a very fortunate outcome in terms of the war in general. At least two, probably three, Chinese Army Groups were tied up with the Marine Division and were unable to link up in time with their counterparts who were blazing through the U.S. and Korean armies (at least in comparison to the snail crawl that went on with the 1st).
  • World War 2 example: 442nd Infantry Regiment of the United States Army famously rescued the "Lost Battalion" at Biffontaine in southern France. Over a five-day period, from October 26 to October 30, 1944, the 442nd suffered the loss of nearly half of its roster. Over 800 casualties, including 121 dead. While rescuing 211 members of the 36th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, which had been surrounded by German forces in the Vosges mountains since October 24. What is more extraordinary is that they volunteered for this duty after the other regiments in the area refused. What is more extraordinary is that they were Japanese-Americans, many of whom had families held in internment camps back home in the USA.
    • The 442nd were renowned for a truly absurd amount of bravery. They finished the war with more decorations per capita than any unit in American history. Among the awards was an astounding 21 Medals of Honor, one awarded posthumously in 1946 and 20 awarded over 50 years later in 2000.
      • They were also one of the rare regiments that went well over 100% casualty (more soldiers killed and injured than were on the original roster) over the course of the war.
  • The Israeli military takes this to an extreme by trading important prisoners for its soldiers whether they are dead or alive.
  • After the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, the rescue workers in the area of the building housing the US Marine Corps Recruiting Office happened to be either active duty or Reserve Marines. The bodies of Captain Randolph Guzman and Sergeant Benjamin Davis were recovered by them, and as they removed the bodies from the scene, everyone fell silent, because (in the words of one witness) "The Marines were bringing out their own." And every year, one Marine officer and one Marine NCO in dress blues leave a wreath at the site. Gives me a bit of the watery eye, it does.
  • The Spartans last stand at Thermopylae concluded its last few moments with a handful of soldiers clustered round the body of their dead commander, Leonidus, before an arrow storm finally finished them off.
  • The Battle of Mogadishu (Black Hawk Down) is a famous example. It is also a famous example of when this policy can result in a massive amount of casualties.
    • Massive? More like worth it. It may sound macabre to most, but to a fighting man of the US Army Infantry knowing that not even your corpse will be left behind, but in fact fought for to be returned to your family is a serious morale booster. We do not leave anyone, not even our dead.[2]
      • Heinlein's Starship Troopers emphasises this on more than one occassion - that for one to be truly committed to the society, they must also know that the society is committed to them. And that it's "poor arithmatic, but very human. It runs through all our folklore, all human religions, all our literature", finishing off with "when one human needs rescue, others should not count the price". Understand that this happens in most other professional militaries, for more than one reason.
      • There's also the thing about avoiding letting technology like miniguns, night vision equipment, communications gear and mission data fall into enemy hands at the crash sites... This might not be of primary' concern, but it adds to the need to secure these sites as fast as possible.
  • The 1953 American attempt to summit K2, the second highest mountain and arguably the most difficult in the world, was frustrated by weather and mountain sickness. The eight man team attempted to carry one of their number off the mountain, a nearly impossible feat at that altitude. Then a near disastrous accident left everybody shaken and/or injured. The team decided to camp to recover and consider their options leaving their injured companion, Art Gilkey, secured in his litter to the mountain face but when they came to fetch him he had been swept away, litter and all, by an avalanch he might well have deliberately called down upon himself in a Heroic Sacrifice to save his comrades.
  • Hideaki Akaiwa was at work on March 11, 2011 when the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami hit his city of Ishinomaki, Japan. His wife of twenty years was trapped in their home under the waves, and rescue workers could not get to her. Rather than just give in to fate, Hideaki somehow managed to get a SCUBA kit and dove into the raging waters of the tsunami to rescue her. Navigating through the waters and dodging numerous obstacles including cars, downed power lines and houses getting swept away in the current, he managed to find his home and his wife. She was alive, and thanks to Hideaki was rescued. This alone is impressive, but when his mother was declared missing, he did it again and saved her. And for the duration of the disaster, he went out on his bicycle alone with a folding knife, a few bottles of water, his SCUBA gear and gave help wherever he could. He was named Badass of the Week for that.
  • Medal of Honor recipient Roy P. Benavidez rescued thirteen men from a battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers, including running over to a downed Huey helicopter and physically carrying the crew to another helicopter, and directing airstrikes while his eyes were blinded with the blood pouring into them. Did I mention he was only carrying a knife? He received thirty-seven wounds from bullets, bayonets and grenade blasts in the process, his guts were hanging out, and was placed in a body bag after the battle, and had the strength to spit in the doctor's face when declared a goner. He lived. Here is a condensed summary of the story: video, and here is the Medal of Honor citation.
  • During the Winter War and Continuation War, the Finnish army made a point of this. Turns out it worked really well to scare your opponents. The Finns usually collected their dead during the night. Thus when morning came and the Russians surveyed the battlefield all they found were their own dead soldiers. Not knowing whether you actually killed any of your enemies plays merry hell on ther morale.
    • Of course, the alternative to the Russian not hitting any F Inns is that they simply return to life when it got cold enough... Knife-wielding sniper-zombies? Count me out.
  • Apparently, the British military subverts this. When columnist Jeremy Clarkson accompanied UK forces on a training exercise he had this to say: "I was to stay with my "'buddy'", unless he was hit, in which case I was to leave him behind. Marvellous. None of this soppy American Marine nonsense in the British forces."
  1. They did abandon Dustin, but only because Dustin was a jerk who got captured because of his own stupidity.
  2. That being said, the US military DID leave men behind during this battle, but only out of absolutely necessity