Redshirt Army

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"I won't lie to you, men; none of you but me will be coming back from this mission alive."

"Now you men will only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor."

Hedley Lamaar, Blazing Saddles

The Cavalry has arrived! Unfortunately, they're all wearing red shirts... and they all graduated from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.

Happens all the time in action shows. The hero, who may or may not have any special training or powers, is to be escorted into a "hot zone" by a team of Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Space Marines, a SWAT Team, or some other heavily-armed and one would assume well-trained unit. Invariably, mere minutes into the mission, they've all been ambushed and killed off by the platoon-load, leaving only the hero alive to finish the job.

Makes one wonder, how did these guys ever pass muster (heck, even survive long enough) for assignment to an elite military or security force if they drop like mayflies in any tactical situation?

This often massive loss of life will rarely be noted by anyone or have any direct effect on the plot, unless the heroes need to emote over how senseless the situation is. These guys are spear carriers in the finest Joseph Campbell tradition.

Provides a convenient demonstration of just how scary the villain is and also explains why the villain gets away all the time.

This is sometimes justified by the idea that the doomed Red Shirts really are experts, but they've never had any training in how to fight beings that can kill them just by looking at them funny.

As the singular Red Shirt is the "good" counterpart to Evil Minions, the Redshirt Army is the "good" counterpart to the endless hordes of Mooks. The Badass Army is the logical opposite to this; take note how often (as in the example above) Redshirt Army is, in fact, a subversion of Badass Army via The Worf Effect. Another opposite of the Redshirt Army are the Men of Sherwood, who aren't quite badass enough to qualify as a Badass Army, but who are at least competent enough at their jobs not to be wiped out in seconds.

Often precedes Lowered Monster Difficulty.

See Also: A-Team Firing, Cannon Fodder, Conservation of Ninjitsu, Curb Stomp Battle, Lemming Cops.

Note for Tropers: This trope specifically deals with easily-killed good guys. If you're looking for easily-killed bad guys, go to Mooks.

Examples of Redshirt Army include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Marines of One Piece, despite antagonizing the protagonists, who are pirates, are full of people who legitimately want to make the world a safer place, Knight Templar Well-Intentioned Extremist members aside. However, they are mostly victims of the Worf Effect, and by the time of the Paramount War arc, anyone who isn't a member of the admiralty can get swept aside with ease.
  • The Federation forces in the original Mobile Suit Gundam had the GMs, mass-produced mecha whose sole purpose was to die in droves against the latest Zeon special forces mechas of the week. They even had red chestplates.
  • The whole of the Earth Sphere Federation forces in Gundam 00 a Wakening of The Trailblazer. In their defense, they were outnumbered 10,000-to-1. Nobody's going to do particularly well with those odds.
  • The regular UN forces in Macross 7 and later Macross Frontier (who were, in both cases, mostly flying outdated Humongous Mecha, and had limited, if any, combat experience; this is even a plot point in Frontier and is used to explain the existence of the Private Military Contractors).
  • In Berserk any army that doesn't have a main or plot important character in it is dead meat.
    • And let's not forget what happened to a lot of the Hawk's Raiders whenever the Hawks went up against an Apostle. Or what happened to nearly everyone in the entire Band when the Eclipse went down.
  • Any friendly force in a Humongous Mecha series that isn't equipped with Humongous Mecha. (The AD Police in the Bubblegum Crisis OVAs count here, despite the fact that they had mecha—the mecha they had were the mass-produced tin-can-death-trap variety.)
    • If all the main characters have unique mecha, then any friendly force that does have mecha but only has one or two different models is also a Redshirt Army. For example, the allied armies in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann are simply cannon fodder.
  • Ditto Paradigm City's Military Police forces in The Big O. The lone ones that don't give up by the finale and actually try to join the fight on Roger's side get vaporized in fairly short order.
    • This actually becomes a plot point in season two. The commissioner is shown many times to be struggling with the fact that he and his men are almost completely useless against the giant robot-threats that keep popping up everywhere. Its also indicated that this inferiority complex was the reason he was so hostile toward Big O in season one.
  • And the Japanese Strategic Self-Defense Forces in Neon Genesis Evangelion (which are also prone to Five Rounds Rapid); in fact, all portrayals of the JSDF in anime. On the other hand, they do learn after a while and only use remote control missile barrages, and those are usually just distractions.
    • ...or in kaiju movies (e.g. Godzilla) either, for that matter, where any reference to the necessary reality that there are people inside all the tanks and jets being uselessly thrown at the monsters (and by extension, the sanity of continuing to order such futile engagements) is the exception rather than the rule.
    • Subverted beautifully in early episodes of Kotetsushin Jeeg, however. The JSDF display competent tactics in their battle against Himika's Claw Phantoms, and although Jeeg spearheads their attacks, he can't do it alone.
    • And in Bokurano the JSDF are essential in many of the fights between the Humongous Mecha.
    • Gasaraki also subverts this with the JSDF having a unit of mechs with the protagonist piloting the same suit as his squadmates. Even though he is a little more skilled at it none of them are pushovers.
  • All of the soldiers stationed in the castle at the beginning of Murder Princess are easily wiped out by a bunch of trolls and a Tyke Bomb mechanical doll.
  • Both the unpowered human soldiers of the Hellsing organisation and their Wild Geese mercenary replacements fall into this, being near-useless against the enemy vampires in close range.
    • The Wild Geese said they were "weak in a close close fight" with vampires.
    • The ghouls falls into this category as well since they are little more than vampire-controlled zombies
  • The Japanese military and UN forces fill this role in an episode of Magical Project S, where they can't stand up to The Power of Love fueled housewives.
  • They may not wear red, but the generic Combat Mages of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha have a tendency to get mowed down whenever they encounter the current villain's main forces. They're pretty good at keeping Mecha-Mooks at bay though, and they were able to contain the Wolkenritter until their Mysterious Protector appeared.
    • In their defense, the main villains of the series are way out of their league. They're essentially cops, and you expect them to be able to take on an insane and insanely powerful mage (albeit with a bit of an Informed Ability), One-Man Army magic knights from an Artifact of Doom and a Mad Scientist and his super-powered cyborg minions and countless attack drones.
  • The Magical Teachers and Students in Mahou Sensei Negima during the Mahora Fair arc were woefully unprepared for the fight... so Negi cons the entire student body into making a second Redshirt Army for this fight.
  • The Tower of Druaga has the Army of Uruk and some miscellaneous Climber parties perform a bit better than the rest of the examples of this page, but they're still not as good as the heroes. Season 2 introduces the Golden Knights, who are completely worthless against anyone with a modicum of fighting experience.
  • The rebel group Katharon of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 looks like the AEUG to the A-Laws Titans, except that the AEUG had great mechas and pilots while the Katharon go into battle with mechas that where useless in the previous season that takes place four years ago. Their only purpose is to momentarily distract the A-Laws while Celestial Beings does all the actual fighting. You have to wonder why they even bother if all they do is die.
    • Briefly subverted when A-Laws brings out anti-beam smoke. Even the mighty 00 is hampered by its reliance on beam weapons and it falls to Katharon and their obsolete solid guns to pull CB out of a tight spot. Fortunately for them A-Laws relied heavily on beam weapons too.
  • In the first season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, anyone who ever pilots an AEU-MS are automatically members of the Redshirt Army. During the battle in Moralia, there were more than 200 Hellions and several brand-new Enacts. The survivors ran away when the Gundam Meisters had slain about 200 soldiers in minutes.
  • In Bleach the shinigami are completely useless against ANY threat which comes to them and have to be bailed out by the main heroes. Only the Lieutenants and Captains manage to be useful and avoid this, even though they are subject to The Worf Effect at the same time.
    • Lampshaded and acknowledged when the captains acknowledge there's maybe ten people in Soul Society who are up to fighting with Aizen, they know it, and they make up the bulk of the Gotei 13's fighting power. Also, Ichigo is apparently twice as strong as they are, which is why they suck compared to him.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, in both the anime and real life. Think about it. All monsters in the game have the highly specific role of acting as a meat shield between you and your opponent's monsters. They can die incredibly easily if you have the right deck. On the other hand, they can be upgraded into a Badass Army with Equip Spell Cards.
  • Dragonball Z sees multiple cases of Redshirt armies ripped apart by horrifically powerful aliens and androids. By the time the Buu saga rolls around you'd think they'd have learned that when someone is spotted who flies and uses Ki Attacks its best to just sit back and wait for those other flying folks to take care of the job before sending waves upon waves of men to die.
  • Lampshaded in the cover of chapter 144 of Blade of the Immortal manga which features a dartboard with bullseye being taken up by a picture of the leader (100 points for hitting it) while the outermost ring is a picture of a faceless goon (10 points for hitting it). See it here.
  • Gantz. Any and all non-Gantz hunters will be utterly useless when it comes to fighting the aliens, as seen from the Osaka arc onwards. Many Gantz hunters and whole teams die in their fights, with the ship infiltration in the End of the World arc being an exemplary instance.
  • In Naruto, despite the ANBU Black Ops supposedly being the strongest ninjas, they are usually killed off pretty quickly.
  • Super Atragon provides a rare, naval example: The massive US-led, UN fleet gets swept from the ocean in one shot.
  • Hibiki from Vandread runs into a Space Navy version in episode 11. They share their backstory with him just long enough to be wiped out by the bad guys and cause him to suffer some Survivors Guilt.
  • The AD Police of the Bubblegum Crisis universes. Lampshaded in the non-canon Bubblegum Crisis Gran-Mal comic where an AD Police grunt points to a wall memorial of fallen officers and provides scathing commentary against a "positive sounding" AD Police recruitment video.

Comic Books

  • Quite often, police officers and security guards are easily thwarted by even the lowest D-list super villain, who usually treats them more as irritating pests than serious threats, although he naturally has a harder time against the hero. Similarly, the Army proves useless when the Earth is invaded by aliens or monsters from another dimension. The exception is when the trope du jour is The Real Heroes.
    • SHIELD from the Marvel Universe is a very good example. Until they got reformatted as HAMMER, which threw a pint and a half of Mooks into the mix, along with a dash of Villain with Good Publicity. They are supposed to be the best agents, operatives, commandos and so on in the world. However, agents would be massacred both individually and en masse by both super villains and normal Mooks. In the Ultimate Marvel universe you just wonder how they recruit. Some 30,000 agents and commandos are killed during the first strike of an Alien Invasion, and later get outmatched by superhumans on multiple occasions, usually while pulling guard duty on super-villains. And one time, their HQ was blown up, they were crippled, and then they got hammered by an army of super powered terrorists led by the Liberators.
    • DC's Atomic Knights are a step up from the usual. While they do have top-notch training, good teamwork and state of the art equipment, they're still essentially Red Shirts.
    • Same thing with the Green Lantern Corps, with an added element of Conservation of Ninjitsu. An individual Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, Kilowog, Arisia etc.) is a powerful hero, but masses of nameless background Green Lanterns die in droves.
  • In Avengers: The Initiative, the covert-ops Shadow Initiative is reimagined as a redshirt army in the aftermath of Secret Invasion due to the Thunderbolts now serving that function. Consisting of choice members of the original team, third-rate villains, and Initiative washouts, the Shadow Initiative is sent into hot engagements to soften up the enemy for the big guns. Of the 14 members who went on their first mission, 8 came back alive.
  • Transformer: Last Stand of the Wreckers is a subversion of this. It shows you what it would be like to be a part of a Red Shirt Army. A large part of the story involves the characters either trying to avoid their presumbly inevitible demises or flat out pretending they aren't at risk of dying.


  • The armed forces in any monster movie.
    • A good example is the National Guard from Alien Vs Predator Requime who don't even last five minutes before being wiped out, although that left the heroes with weapons and equipment, most notable a Stryker APC.
    • Although the army in D-War: Dragon Wars did a good job of killing Buraki's forces, the problem was there were too many of them to deal with.
  • In fact, individually deadly warriors often become hopelessly inept in large numbers. Consider the phenomenon of ninjas in groups, and the army of mutants in X-Men: The Last Stand; in the latter, less than a dozen demonstrated any special ability except rushing forward blindly, to the point that the previously completely ineffective human army kicks their butts. It was mentioned that those mutants were the ones with lame powers.
    • Plus, the army had power-neutralizing weapons. A flesh wound in the shoulder turns Joe Random Rock Thrower into Joe Blow.
    • And for the most part the mutants were all untrained civilians. The most they could do was rush forward blindly and get cut down.
  • Tony Stark's escort/bodyguards in Iron Man
  • The soldiers accompanying the scientists in 1988 remake of The Blob are useless. Though their poorer performance compared to the main characters when fighting The Blob might be attributed to the heavy NBC gear they are wearing.
  • Very plausible example from The Rock. Commander Anderson's SEAL team enters Alcatraz through the shower room, and as they are about to move up, they encounter what appears to be a laser tripwire. In reality, said tripwire is a custom-designed motion detector built to look like a tripwire; disarming it like it is a tripwire results in it signaling an intrusion. As the SEAL team disarms it, Hummel's Marines realize what's happening and surround the SEALs as they enter the showers from an elevated position, boxing them in from good cover. In the subsequent shoot-out, the SEAL team is slaughtered to the last man.
  • In many crime-related action movies or shows (the Lethal Weapon movies, for example), any uniformed police officers and / or detectives who are not the protagonists are usually little more than easily-disposable cannon fodder. Sometimes it is because they face an opponent against whom they genuinely have no chance against (such as The Terminator); other times, particularly when opposed to a small criminal syndicate, it is because they display incompetence which is nothing short of alarming for members of a modern metropolitan police department.
    • An exception to the above is Hot Fuzz, in which the uniformed officer is the Badass action heroes and the detectives are the incompetent boobs. Doubly averted when, in the big climactic fight, the detectives prove that they're just as competent as the next man if you load them up and give them riot gear.
    • Played straight and averted in the John Woo movie Hard Boiled. In the tea house shootout, anyone other than Tequila and his partner is just another red shirt. The undercover cops and the SWAT team in the big hospital shootout later on, however, do hold their own quite satisfactorily despite losing a good portion of their number and get the hostages out while Tequila and Alan kick serious ass.
  • This happened to the army that the dwarves raised to fight Evil Incarnate in Time Bandits.
  • The British Army in The Last of the Mohicans fits this trope perfectly, since they not only wear actual red coats, but are unable to hit a single target in the enemy's Badass Army. For that matter, they also can't land any blows during hand-to-hand combat, thereby forcing them to rely on the main protagonist's Improbable Aiming Skills to see them through.
  • The police SWAT teams in both Die Hard and Die Hard 2.
  • Averted in Rambo; the mercenary team sent along with the titular character is actually quite competent and most of it survives the movie.
  • In the execrable movie Time Chasers (mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000), the main character is rescued by his past self, who sought aid from the Continental Army... who can't subdue a single Corrupt Corporate Executive with a semi-automatic weapon. Their suckage is lampshaded by the hero's past self commenting "I don't think they've ever seen an Uzi before."
  • The direct-to-video release Superman: Doomsday had members of said Redshirt Army lampshading this before they fight Superman's evil clone.

Soldier 1: What are we doing? We can't fight Superman.
Soldier 2: You're right. We can't fight Superman.
Soldier 3: Dead men walkin'.

  • The President's Secret Service detail in Air Force One is completely wiped out without so much as wounding a single terrorist. Then again, the terrorists did have a traitor on their side, massive surprise, and managed to secure the plane's arsenal of assault weapons and body armor before the Secret Service even realized they were under attack. No unarmored security detail outfitted with only sidearms can realistically stand up against heavily-armed and armored commandos in close-quarters. That said, the Secret Service actually did achieve their primary goal: they managed to hold off the badguys long enough to get the President to his escape capsule.
  • The Gotham Police Department in The Dark Knight fits under this, if only due to their body count, even though they actually prove to be quite competent—especially at the end of the movie, when the SWAT teams storm the building. The only problem is that "competent" just doesn't cut it with someone as Crazy Prepared as the Joker and Badass as Batman.
    • Almost subverted with the faceless police van driver, except it turns out to be Gordon.
    • Their competence becomes clear once Batman made it clear who they are supposed to target. We are given shots of SWATs knocking out and suppressing Joker's henchmen with ease.
  • Averted hardcore in the Transformers Film Series. When the special forces unit calls in the cavalry, the cavalry actually manages to kill or drive off the giant alien robots. They're even more effective in the sequel, managing to support a handful of Autobots in holding off a small army of Decepticons.
    • There are cases when it's played straight. The first scene after the introduction has a US military base completely wiped out by a single Decepticon. The beginning of the sequel also shows many human NEST soldiers being killed off-hand. It's really the extensive training in killing Cybertronians that the soldiers receive from Autobots that allows them to hold their own (despite massive casualties) in the second and third films.
  • Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy uses this a lot. There's Haldir's Elves at Helm's Deep; Faramir's company in both the defeats at Osgiliath; most of Minas Tirith's guard; and most of the Rohirrim when going up against the Mumakil.
    • Indeed, so many of Haldir's elves die that they are never seen nor mentioned again for the rest of the trilogy. Which is convenient for avoiding continuity snarls which might have occurred otherwise as a result of the addition of the elves, who are absent from the original book trilogy on which the films are based.
  • Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (2004). The Flying Legion gets strafed by radio-controlled ornithopters, with exploding hangers and airships galore. On returning to the devastated airbase the only concern of the protagonists however is missing colleague Dex. Mind you, we don't really see anyone die, so perhaps the killer robots were acting under Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy rules too.
  • The Colonial Marines boast extensively of their badass prowess at the start of Aliens, but it only takes a few minutes for most of them to die. Except for the heroes.
  • The Mobile Infantry of Starship Troopers seemingly exist only to get killed in huge numbers.
    • It's only due to gross mismanagement.
  • In [[GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra]], the US Army and generic Joe troopers are like this, easily getting slaughtered by Cobra MARS's elite soldiers and vastly superior technology.
  • Face Off's FBI agents, cops, special forces and security staff are all red shirts whenever they meet the film's main villain, Castor Troy.
  • The HBO film When Trumpets Fade is built around this trope. Explained by Sgt. Manning:

Last time I had a hot meal was five days ago. Since then my entire platoon has been wiped out. That's why you're here. You're just a bunch of guys in line to get shot so they can bring in a bunch of other guys. See how that works?

Marines die. That's what we're here for.

    • The above is somewhat undercut by Hartman's own words earlier in the film: " will become dead marines. And then you will be in a world of shit. Because marines are not allowed to die without permission!"
  • The S.T.A.R.S. operatives in Resident Evil Apocalypse fit the bill. Their rooftop sniper, who had previously been headshotting zombies left right and center, instead chooses to shoot Nemesis in the chest repeatedly and is promptly blown up. The rest of them don't learn his lesson, and fire ineffectively at Nemesis for a short while before they're all mowed down too.
  • Star Wars
    • The opening scene of A New Hope is a Rebel squad getting wiped out by inexplicably competent Imperial stormtroopers. Later, in the Battle of Yavin, virtually all of the Rebel pilots die.
    • Towards the end of Revenge of the Sith, all Jedi are wiped out within the space of 60 seconds or so, with the exception of Yoda who survives but gets his ass handed to him by Darth Sidius and Obi-Wan who dove into the water. Jedi throughout the series had been presented as tough, badass dudes that are hard to kill and deceive, but it took clone troopers to wipe them out no less. The difference with the clone troops is that they took the Jedi by surprise, the clones had been their loyal and trusted men then suddenly they all point their guns at you and shot you - they never saw it coming.
    • The clone troopers from the prequel trilogy generally are this. While competent, they are definitely expendable, and die all the time.
  • An odd variation occurs in Inception. The resident Badass Crew has to deal with constant attacks by heavily armed soldiers/bodyguards while moving through the dreamworlds, but this is because they're "projections" created by the dreamer's subconscious, whose primary purpose is to protect that dreamer. In effect, they're a sort of mental security force. Fortunately, being projections, they aren't actual people, though depending on how well-trained the dreamer is at resisting mental intrusion the projections can be anything from an angry mob of unarmed civilians to highly-trained and heavily-armed soldiers.
  • Occurs in the film Doomsday, when a group of highly-trained, heavily-armed British special forces in armored personnel carriers get killed in a matter of minutes by some punks with ice picks and a crossbow.

Game Books

  • Lone Wolf's mission in Book 4 at first is to discover the fate of a hundred strong unit of cavalry led by Captain D'Val. Lone Wolf sets off with a force of fifty Rangers; the medieval equivalent of Special Forces. True to the trope, regardless of whatever decisions the player makes, the entire force is either forced to return home, ends up missing, or killed in increasingly unlikely ways (e.g. bandit ambushes, falling through floorboards in a mine, eaten by a giant squid, eaten by a giant worm, eaten by giant cats, falling into a pit trap). Averted Trope with the actual cavalry Lone Wolf was sent to find. During the book's climax battle they live up to their reputation as fine soldiers and rout their numerically superior foe. Lone Wolf's involvement in that battle isn't actually that significant (no One-Man Army scenario here).
    • If anyone is wondering why the pit trap death is silly, it was located in the middle of a corridor, activated when Lone Wolf unlocks the door at the end. If its purpose was to keep an intruder from opening the door, it's the most poorly designed trap ever.
      • It was very obviously designed to kill anyone accompanying an intruder opening the door.


  • In Eric Flint's Belisarius Series series Rana Sanga comments on the battle described in the Bhagavad Gita, how it is the most famous battle in all of Indian history and how no one remembers even one of the names of the mere mortals who did all the dying.
  • The battle in the next-to-the-last Animorphs book involves a Redshirt Army who survives. The US army launches a military force consisting, essentially, of hundreds of soldiers accompanied by a couple dozen Sixth Rangers. And this military force's goal is a suicide mission worthy of the best of them: to launch an attack, in plain view, against a spaceship that "could blow asteroids out of the sky." Ordinarily a Sixth Ranger ranks much higher on the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality than the Redshirt Army. But in this case, Visser One orders the Sixth Rangers killed first, because he takes them more seriously in both a strategic and a personal sense. And the Animorphs manage to sabotage his ship too late to save the Sixth Rangers, but in time for the ordinary soldiers to survive. When the Redshirt Army are the survivors, and some kids with superpowers are the casualties, it's a clear example of a plot that thwarts the usual laws of the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality.
  • The Martian army in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan are deliberately constructed to be utterly wiped out on the moment of contact, in order that the course of human society can be changed by making them feel guilty for slaughtering the poor bastards.
  • Subverted and used in Old Man's War by John Scalzi. Subverted because the military arms its soldiers with the most advanced weaponry around, gives them telepathic links to each other and their guns and trains them to be incredibly effective soldiers. Used because the universe is just that damn dangerous and 75% of them don't last more than 5 years anyway.
  • Each of the Ciaphas Cain HERO OF THE IMPERIUM novels will inevitably feature a part where Cain is forced to enter the jaws of hell, usually accompanied only by his Sidekick and a Redshirt Army (possibly with a few Mauve Shirts thrown in). The trope is however subverted as often as it's played straight, to the end that you can usually never tell if the book's Redshirt Army will survive or not: Several Mauve Shirts in the series actually came from Cain's (more successful) escort missions.
  • Partially subverted in the novel God's Demon. The character Sargatanas increases the ranks of his military with an army of souls, which are normally either mounted as artwork or turned into bricks by the demons (and only doing this because the soul Hani offered to form it after restoring the memories of his former life. The subversion comes in the form of this never having been done before (meaning the soul army has a partial element of surprise), as well as the souls using one of their common fates to get behind the enemy army and attack the flanks.
  • Played with in Gaunt's Ghosts. Occasionally the Tanith First-and-Only is a Redshirt Army, and occasionally they're hyper-competent badasses. It all seems to depend on how prepared they are, and how many of them there are. Some books also contrast their performance, usually favourably, with other units', such as the local armies on Aexe Cardinal in Straight Silver and AT 137 in The Armour of Contempt.
    • The Tanith First-and-Only specialize as scouts and skirmish troops and are excellent in missions of that nature. When used as frontline troops where stealth and mobility is not that useful, they take casualties similar to other units.
  • The Prophecy of the Stones. Whenever the good guys fight in a battle, expect the vast majority of unnamed characters to die. At the beginning of the final battle, the Army of Light and the Army of Darkness (guess which sides they belong to) are evenly matched in the thousands, but by the end of the battle the Army of Light is reduced to hundreds and hasn't even made a dent in the Army of Darkness. Either the Army of Darkness is scarily competent, or the good guys suck.
  • The Cleavers in Skulduggery Pleasant count as this trope, as every major battle they are in ends with all of them dead. Partly Lampshaded as it is said that their numbers have been devastated.
  • The deghans in the Farsala Trilogy are the ruling and fighting class of Farsala, but when the Hrum launch an invasion they're all dead within two chapters.
  • Odysseus' men in The Odyssey may be history's first redshirt army: low survival rate (0%) and futile in every battle, Odysseus makes better progress once they're all dead.
  • The German soldiers in All Quiet on the Western Front are very, very badly trained, and tend to die in swarms doing things that every experienced soldier knows not to do. The protagonists all survived their first few battles through sheer luck, and by seeing how other people died they've learned how to keep themselves alive—but they despair of explaining this to the New Meat, who continue to get themselves killed. (Given the accuracy of the rest of the novel, this may be Truth in Television, and it would certainly go a long way towards explaining WWI's casualty rates.)

Live-Action TV

  • The Trope Namer is Star Trek: The Original Series, where the Enterprise's security personnel wore red shirts and were, to say the very least, expendable.
    • This was a frontier-mission that was so dangerous, that of 12 starships—each identical, the most powerful class in Earth's fleet—only Kirk's ship and crew even survived. As Kirk put it, "risk, is our business."
    • This is false. Only Constellation, Intrepid, Excalibur, Exeter and Defiant (the latter 3 crew only) were lost. The Excalibur was presumably salvagable, and the Defiant was transported to the Mirror Universe. That's still a high casualty rate but the Enterprise was not the only survivor.
    • Ironically, throughout the original series the security officers tended not to be picked off as quickly as were their more unfortunate shipmates. In the first season and second seasons, especially, it was the men and women wearing the blue uniforms who seemed far more susceptible to...well, death.
  • UNIT on Doctor Who has a tendency to fall into this category, although in some of their more recent appearances they've shown the ability to learn from their past mistakes.
    • One example is in the episode "The Poison Sky". The Sontaran army uses a field that makes the copper jacketed bullets expand inside guns to jam them. A fair number of UNIT troops are thus slaughtered when their guns fail. UNIT, upon being told this, gets steel jacketed bullets and teaches those arrogant bastards that the human race is not to be fucked with. The Sontarans' claims of "sport" aside, clearly they aren't that used to their prey fighting back.
    • As of 2005, if your security is wearing black uniforms and have guns, you've probably hired one.
  • The Initiative soldiers in Season Four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who took a little under an hour to catch up to the Slayer, and took her 17 seconds to disable the lot of them. This was in training, they lasted less time in actual combat.
    • Appears throughout Season 7 with the Potentials. When the army of Potentials storms both the winery and the Hellmouth in the series finale, they take massive losses. Justified by their lack of Buffy-level superpowers and training.
  • Notably used in The Sarah Connor Chronicles; in the last episode of Season 1, Agent James Ellison takes a fully tooled-out FBI Hostage Rescue Team in to storm a terminator's motel room. The HRT is some 20 or so members strong, fully tooled for bear with bulletproof vests, assault rifles, and helmets, and is merrily dispatched in the space of about two minutes to the beautiful crooning of Johnny Cash.
  • In Jericho, the fictional company Ravenwood (a loose allusion to Blackwater), who is supposed to be full of ex SEALs and other Special Ops guys, gets their ass handed to them by guys with no military experience, including a deaf mute girl with a shotgun.
  • In the Babylon 5 Wham! Episode, "Severed Dreams", this trope is tweaked with Security Chief Garibaldi arranging sensible defensive tactical positioning for his troops for expected invaders. However, the Narn troopers under his command insist on charging headlong into the fray and the regular guards have no choice but to follow them.
  • Every major battle on Lost involves one group of redshirts attacking another group of redshirts with the main characters from both sides escaping unscathed:
    • The mercenary attack on the Barracks in the fourth season, where three redshirts (and presumably a fourth who was unaccounted for) are shot by redshirt mercenaries in the jungle. They then proceed to open fire on Sawyer, but their Stormtrooper training prevents them from hitting him.
      • Subverted if one subscribes to the theory that Claire was killed when a redshirt mercenary with a rocket launcher blew up her house.
      • Subverted again when Ben unleashes the smoke monster on the redshirt mercenaries, but only one dies, even after hearing several minutes of terrified screams.
    • At the end of the fourth season, a group of redshirt Others attack the redshirt mercenaries and kill them all...with, you guessed it, the exception of their leader.
      • Which is even more ironic when said leader kills one of his own redshirts accidentally by kicking a grenade over to their position.
    • In the fifth season, the Others use fire arrows to attack the mass of redshirt survivors in 1954. Again, the main characters escape, but most, if not all, of the redshirt survivors are finally killed, ending four seasons of slaughter.
    • The DHARMA Initiative seems to have its own redshirt army. In a subversion of this trope, however, a shootout involving Jack, Kate, and Daniel versus Radzinsky and two DHARMA mooks ends with no casualties, not even the redshirts.
  • CTU field teams on 24 will succeed in their mission only if either Jack Bauer, Curtis Manning, or both are present. If they appear to be completing their mission without a main character, that probably means they're about to be vaporized by a nuclear bomb. This rule also applies to any other armed detail mentioned, including the LAPD, Secret Service, and the freaking Delta Force, all of whom have completely bought the farm at one point or another (for some, repeatedly) while "setting up a perimeter," (a common 24 portent of doom), guarding something or somebody important, or intercepting a fugitive, respectively.
    • The Season Seven finale actually subverts audience expectations with the airport security guards when they attempt to rescue Kim Bauer. While most of them are killed, they actually do manage to kill both of her captors, a pair of extremely well-trained agents.
  • Any team that accompanies SG-1 through the Stargate. At the same time though...
    • The Free Jaffa exist so that the current threat can kill hundreds of thousands of them without actually hurting the real protagonists.
    • Any Russian character appearing on the show had a 99% chance of being killed, unless they were female. Even recurring character Colonel Chekov eventually bites it after gaining command of the first Russian starship. Which is promptly destroyed.
      • Similarly, the first Chinese starship also gets blasted (although it's not entirely destroyed), off-screen this time. However, before anyone starts saying how anything Russian- or Chinese-made is of poor quality, both ships were US-manufactured, then given to the Russians and the Chinese.
  • In just about every Law and Order iteration, cops who take over from the detectives will invariably fail in their duties at the most plot-relevant/dramatic times.

Tabletop Games

  • In Paranoia, player characters take on the role of Trouble Shooters, whose job it is to track down trouble in Alpha Complex and shoot it. Given that the PCs are supposed to get in over their heads and die horribly, this means the player characters are the Redshirt Army. They even start as Red-class citizens, which comes with uniforms in the appropriate color...
  • Planetary Defense Forces in Warhammer 40,000 are almost uniformly treated as speed bumps by any invader, or for Chaos, a ready supply of expendable minions, generally getting wiped out in the first ten minutes or so of any invasion. The Imperial Guard also fulfills this function when the Space Marines are the protagonists.
    • It's been joked that the PDF is the Redshirt Army for the Redshirt Army. Hardly suprising, considering manpower is the only resource the Imperium has in excess.
    • Averted in that some PDFs are as good as their Imperial Guard counterparts, if only because quality of soldiers, commanders and equipment varies wildly from place to place. Also justified, as the PDFs best soldiers and units are usually taken to fill up the ranks of the Imperial Guard. It's basically light infantry vs. the legions of hell. Also the only reason that they are considered one is because everything else is genetically modified, sports ridiculous technology, comes in numbers much larger than theirs or backed by a god of some sort. So the fact that they go up against them anyway makes them a Badass Army if anything.
    • The Imperial Guard have been known to subvert this, though, for one very good reason. Sure, the soldiers usually fit the Red Shirt line. But they also have tanks. Lots and lots of tanks.
      • And more so, lots of lots upon lots of lots of lots of men. They will drown their enemies in their blood, and bury them under their corpses. The only resource the Imperium of Man is never short is manpower. Your soldiers being worth 20 of theirs isn't much good if they can field 50 times the amount of your soldiers.
      • No-where is this made more evident than in the Siege Of Vraks books. The lords and masters need to re-take a world but its an absolute fortress and it would take a vast (even by Imperial standards) deployment of forces to just go take it back today. The alternative ? A 12 year siege that will only kill 9 million guardsmen. And then that doesn't even go to plan anyway.
      • The average Guardsman is tithed from the top 10% of his world's PDF. He is equipped with armour that'll hold well against most modern small-arms, and armed with a beam rifle that hits like a 7.62mm round sans the recoil and casing drop, and can be recharged by virtually any power source. They are often trained on Deathworlds - planets that, while technically habitable, are so inimical to human life that Siberian winters looks downright hospitable in comparison. If lucky, they face things that want to kill them or possibly eat them. If unlucky, they face the prospect of being enslaved or being tortured to death over decades or even centuries. At worst, the long, drawn-out death is only an overture to an eternity in a Hell that makes Dante's Inferno seem like a Hotel & Spa vacation.
      • And still, they hold the line.

Video Games

  • The all-time kings of this trope have to be Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games and their creeps/minions/reinforcements/whathaveyou. Left to their own devices, the Mooks of each side are perfectly matched and will fight themselves to a total stalemate. Their only purpose is to be killed by the tens by opposing Heroes for gold and experience.
  • In Gears of War 2, the purpose of the rest of the (helmeted) Gears seems to be getting shot. Frequently in the head, for extra fun.
  • Mass Effect 2: We get to see the quarian flotilla's marines on four seperate occasions. In the first occasion, we see them get unceremoniously slaughtered by a heavy mech after disobeying their commander and rushing at it. In the second, we see them get overrun by a huge geth force and slaughtered (except Kal Reegar, who's more like a Mauve Shirt). In the third occasion, a group of what's explicitly stated to be their "best marines", get massacred by minor enemies off-screen... This is actually a plot point, because the flotilla's politicians want to go to war with the geth. Kal Reegar says that the only way for them to win, would be to fight from orbit, taking full advantage of quarian tech expertise, because a front-line conflict would be such a slaughter. On the fourth occasion (in an optional side mission), a squad crash lands on an uncharted planet, and all but one of them (who Shepared rescues) get slaughtered by varren (wolves IN SPACE).
    • In the opening scene aboard the SSV Normandy, we see a new NPC called "Ensign". She dies.
  • The Navy SEALs in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty were doing pretty well until a super-speed vampire and a woman packing an energy shield and a BFG came along).
    • To be even more fair, it did turn out that the Patriots sent them in so they would fail.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Snake is held up by an apparent Mook and obediently drops his gun, then turns to face his attacker. He promptly notices that the safety on the mook's gun is still on and points this out, calling him a rookie. The rookie instantly corrects Snake, stating that he's a ten-year vet. A noticeably confused Snake immediately disarms the rookie and throws him to the ground, wondering how he managed to make it ten years. Oddly enough, despite his bumbling nature, the guy is not a Red Shirt, confusing Snake even more (he is actually recurring Joke Character Johnny Sasaki).
      • Even more baffling, this goofball gets Snake's girl, Merryl whom many expected he'd be shipped with. He turns out to be something of a badass during the game's conclusion.
      • Also in 4, gameplay occurs between a PMC and local army. Both sides are guilty of spawning and then running in front of snipers, gun emplacements, and die quickly.
    • In Metal Gear Ghost Babel for the Game Boy Color, Snake is meant to assisted by a platoon of Delta Force commando's. They (You've guessed it) are wiped out before you've got through the first stage.
  • The Resistance members in the Mega Man Zero games were woefully under-trained and outgunned in every engagement they were in. One wonders how the Resistance was able to hang for so long before Zero came in to save their hides from giant mechs and enemy generals.
    • To the their credit from about half-way through the second game the Resistance manages to AVOID this trope, since Zero pledges to keep any more redshirts from getting killed, and he keeps that promise!
    • In the third game, the rebuilt Copy X states that he was holding back because resistance leader Ciel is human, and he is (mostly) bound by the first law of robotics. That said, there's probably no excusing the fact that it wasn't just the Resistance fielding an army of red shirts, but also the Neo Arcadian forces. The typical foot soldier of the army, the Pantheon model, has very little purpose in life other than to explode into tiny pieces.
  • Mega Man ZX has another group of these, the Guardians. They do much better than the resistance, but when Serpent sends his forces to take out the Guardian airship, it's up to Vent/Aile to bail them out...Then again, all they did was destroy an air-ship and fight off the Psycho for Hire. The Guardians did most of the work defending their own ship, it seems.
    • The Hunters in the sequel get special note for averting the trope. In fact, they get a Crowning Moment of Awesome at the beginning of the game for surviving against the resident Psycho for Hire, and stole the Biometal out from under his nose.
  • This is also common in First Person Shooters. Redshirt Armies can be used as part of the Backstory, explaining why It's Up To You. Other times, the Redshirt Army is made up of NPCs who are pathetically weak, die easily, and can barely shoot, especially when compared with the main character. It's usually difficult to keep these allies alive, and the player is rarely offered any incentive or reward for doing so, beyond, perhaps, personal satisfaction—or a hefty penalty if they die.
    • In the original Doom, the protagonist's entire military unit is wiped out before the game starts (the protagonist then blasts his way through a demon-filled complex that bested an entire unit of elite soldiers).
      • You find their corpses all the way through hell though, so it's obvious some of them managed to progress (and they probably reduced the number of enemies you face...). I'd say they were quite badass, just not badass enough.
      • Given DOOM has a love of invisible teleports, sudden ambushes and all other life-ending trickery liberally scattered around every map, it's more likely that these marines were minding their own business and then suddenly found themselves being whisked away and killed off horribly in the space of a few seconds.
    • The final stages of Half-Life are filled with corpses of Black Mesa Expeditionists. If only they knew you were capable of single-handedly wiping out all Mooks and defeating the Big Bad, they could've saved all those lives.
    • System Shock 1 & 2 also show the Redshirt Army as deceased bodies waiting for you to take their loot and diaries to finish the job they couldn't.
      • To be honest, player character in System Shock 2 had the advantage of some illegal neural implants and guidance of insane AI considering him her avatar, though the latter eventually meant additional Big Bad to deal with.
      • Protagonists from both games also have the advantage of the experience of everyone that died before. For example, most people who died in the early hours didn't know about the cyborg conversion chambers, the CPU core controls on the elevators, and so on.
    • Certain games have "plausible" explanations for this, such as Halo, where the protagonist of the game is unique and inherently superior to normal soldiers. Halo also does the "senseless loss of life" nod to the other characters, with another NPC ("Cortana") expressing disappointment and regret if an entire unit of Marines is wiped out.
      • In fact, the marines' AI in Halo is stupid even by "normal soldier" standards. Their Artificial Stupidity makes them Too Dumb to Live.
      • The AI of the marines improved somewhat each game. By the fourth installment, they even started to comprehend blast radii... The Marines were useful allies to have, but they died faster than an ice cream cone in a volcano if the player isn't careful. Unfortunately for you, the enemy's AI (including that of their red shirts, who always had decent AI) got correspondingly smarter as your Marines did. The Covenant eventually even invoked this trope and trained the red shirts as suicide bombers...
      • Some of the Pillar of Autumn crew members actually wear red.
    • Red Faction's AI wasn't the best, but your allies were especially terrible. Fellow miners would often die 20 seconds after you meet them, and couldn't at all keep up with the regular Mooks three-on-one even with the same weapon.
      • In The Red Faction series, the Red Faction soldiers may as well be called the Red Shirt Faction.
      • The AI in "Red Faction: Guerrilla" isn't much better. Guerrillas last longer than they did in the first game, eventually get weapons on par with the EDF, and are smart enough to use cover, but are not nearly as efficient as the enemy, who will swarm you with loads of soldiers and gun your ass down before you can even blink.
  • In the Resistance series, the soldiers are often treated as red shirt, killed in scripted events for the introduction of new Chimera enemies, killed in other scripted events, though it is possible to save a few from a few scripted events where you could still move.
  • In F.E.A.R., the protagonist is supplemented (twice) with Delta Force squads, who are very quickly killed (twice). The first group of three are slain by Alma near the very start of the game, and the second group of two are instantly shot to death by Replica soldiers as the helicopter carrying them to the Armacham building lands.
  • Marathon had the Born on Boards, (Bob, for short) that were the very definition of this trope, existing only to die horribly (by the player or by the Pfhor, it really doesn't matter) while shouting "They're everywhere!" The second game actually gives them pistols; however, they are still more or less useless save for a single prison break operation that amounts to their Crowning Moment of Awesome. Lord knows they deserved it!
  • Real Time games, in which the player temporarily controls a unit and micro-manages them, can have this problem as well. Once the player stops controlling a unit, its AI takes over and IQ plummets dramatically. In Warcraft II, the wizard units have deadly artillery style spells, but, under the AI, attack in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Though Call of Duty squadmates can be capable in their own right, they merely exist to hold off the Mooks until you can blaze a trail through them. An interesting aversion are the plot-critical redshirts, who absolutely refuse to take any damage until just after their usefulness runs out.
  • Somewhat averted in Quake 4. Sure, a lot of Marines do die over the course of the game, but hey, it's war. At least they're able to hold their own very well in individual firefights, and they actually do manage to win the war while the player character merely spearheads the most essential operations. In fact, in most cases when Marines leave the player character it's because they have orders to hang back and secure a checkpoint, rather than because they were killed off by the enemy.
  • Fire Emblem green units, unless they're villagers or other non-fighting units, are suicidal. Come to think of it, most enemy units are suicidal too. Plus, in cut scenes, you frequently get to see the green units getting destroyed by fairly weak enemy units.
    • Somewhat averted in the tenth game of the series. Not only are the Green and Yellow units able to stand up against the enemies, some of them are just plain necessary to get by a battle with minimal casualties, and you can give orders to the yellow units, to say, block a path of enemies to serve as meat shield.
  • Final Fantasy XII averts this trope by having wandering NPCs that can help you out in fighting monsters.
    • Until you reach the Seeq hunters who randomly piss-off Garudas only to flee in terror until their inevitable deaths.
  • Also averted in Medievil, when Sir Dan summons a group of knights to help him battle the Big Bad's minions. The knights Sir Dan summons are actually quite competent fighters, and they need to be-if they die, it's game over.
  • Metroid Prime 3 had an encounter between three Space Pirates and three Galactic Federation Marines. Two of the Marines get gunned down, and then the third activates his PED and owns the Space Pirates on his lonesome. He's not the only PED trooper; in the next room you see one wasting a Pirate who's focused on you, and another shoots down a pipe and kills two of them in one go. The GFM troopers remain fairly competent for the remainder of the game as well.
    • Until the obligatory escort mission where they forget that their mission is to survive. Instead they throw themselves suicidally at enemy forces, despite knowing full well their bodyguard (you) could handle all the combat solo.
  • Done almost to the point of parody in the obscure Capcom arcade game Tiger Road. In the intro, some Mooks kidnap the villagers, then a single mook stays behind and slaughters the entire city guard. I am dead bleeping serious.
  • Mostly averted in the last levels of Star Wars: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. In order to show how much less disciplined the Reborn are compared to real Jedi, real Jedi fight and kill them. They still require Kyle Katarn's/Jaden Korr's help to actually make any progress, though.
    • Not averted in X-Wing, Rogue Squadron and other similar flight titles, where allied pilots are about as useless as a sack of hair.
      • But rather scarily inverted in X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, where the AI pilots, at higher levels, can sometimes leave the player feeling like a fifth wheel. This make sense as the game was designed primarily for multiplayer, so if a single player didn't have smart wingmen and enemies, he would get flattened or be unable to keep up in multiplayer against more skilled human opponents and allies.
    • Played straight in Knights of the Old Republic during the attack on the Star Forge. The Jedi Council sends you an "elite" strike team of Jedi Knights... all of whom get (easily) killed by the various Mooks the place has to offer.
  • SeeD in Final Fantasy VIII. Understandable as, even though they're trained to be elite mercenaries contracted by governments, they're still teenagers with very little real combat experience. Fortunately, they're still able to protect their home base from an invasion by the current military superpower, and hold it off long enough for the protagonists to take down the enemy commanders.
  • Whenever a bunch of NPC allies appear in a Super Robot Wars game, they will die before the cut scene is over. The non-OG games usually use GMs or other weak Real Robots, but the Original Generation games give this duty to the Gespensts. Ironic thing is, Badass Normal and one-man-army Kai Kitamura pilots one of those Gespensts, and just will not be shot down easily.
    • Hilariously subverted in Z's Special Disc scenario. In one route, YOU control the Redshirts (later backed up by the Big O). They have grunt mechs and grunt pilots going against a fairly large group of Mooks. Even without the Big O, they can handle them with decent strategy.
  • In Dead Space, while the main character (an engineer) is able to dispatch Necromorphs by the dozen, a military ship (~100 soldiers) is taken over by a single, non-replicating Necromorph. Fail.
    • Also in its sequel game Dead Space 2, when Isaac tries to enter the Government Section on the Sprawl and takes out the power grid in order to access to the Ssction, the entire villain's military force is immediately overrun and crushed by hordes of Necromorphs.
      • Not that that wasn't a realistic loss on their side though. In the minute or so following the power grid failure you can see hundreds of Necromorphs if you point a flashlight out the window. That's more then Isaac ever had to contend with at any one time.
  • Subverted in the first mission of Command & Conquer: Renegade. A GDI convoy is ambushed, but with the help of a commando (the player), all the ambushers are killed.
  • A mission in Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne has Kael defending a Draenei village from Fel Orcs. The Draenei return the favor by allying with Kael.
  • The Hyrulian guards in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Despite being heavily armed they are completely outclassed by the shadow beasts (the same goes for most of the NPCs) and most of them are actually shaking with fear during the encounter. The fact that Zant himself enter minutes later does not help their odds.
  • The BSAA troops in Resident Evil 5 actually do put up a decent fight when onscreen, but offscreen they tend to get surprised and slaughtered by boss monsters - except for those poor bastards in the marshlands, who are killed by the Majini.
    • The U.B.C.S. in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis don't put up much of a fight, unless they were named. Somewhat justified, as Umbrella intended for them to fail so that the Supervisors could collect data on how their monsters fared against trained soldiers. The SWAT team from the start also counts.
      • Hunk aka Mr Death, a gas mask soldier who works for the Umbrella Special Forces unit always lives no matter what he's up against while everyone else on his team dies because "You can't kill Death"
    • Who could forget S.T.A.R.S. from the original game? By the time Alpha Team reached the mansion, one of their own members is already dead (Frost), half of Bravo Team is dead too (Dooley, Dewey, Sullivan, and Speyer), two of the other members were mortally wounded (Aiken and Marini) before they were later killed off as well, and only Chambers (depending on how you play the game) manages to survive with Redfield and Valentine (and Barry Burton if playing as Jill; although Rebecca doesn't appear in that scenario, they all survive according to Word of God).
  • Longbow in City of Heroes are a paramilitary group who actually wear red, and white. Established by a superhero (the granddaughter of the setting's Superman equivalent), their costumes and ethos are styled after four-color superheroes, and they even use similar weapons and powers. They're the most common enemy in City of Villains, to the annoyance of the player base.
  • In the X-COM games, you start out with a team of these. Expect casualties.
    • It gets worse. If you ever lose one of your trained and effective soldiers (and it will happen), you get to replace him or her with...Ricky Redshirt. An expected and encouraged use of your forces is as follows: trained soldiers in the back, tanks (don't improve and are always the same stats) in the middle to take any explosive damage, and Ricky Redshirts in the front, to die repeatedly.
    • Save Scumming also works, although it's made more annoying that you can save but not load in Battlescape.
  • Poorly trained military in Dwarf Fortress.
  • In Paradox Interactive games, you can make your own Red Shirt armies—just focus on sheer weight of numbers while ignoring technological advantages or leadership. You can also be on the other end: an advanced, disciplined army will usually kill dozens to hundreds times more soldiers than it will lose.
  • In Kane and Lynch, your named teammates (Lynch, Thapa, Rific and Shelly) are surprisingly not a Red Shirt Army. You'll rely on them a lot, and they can take a lot of fire before they go down. However, in the civil war level 'Freedom Fighters', Lynch, Thapa, Rific and Shelly each get their OWN squad of four men to command, which all die after one shot.
  • The entire point of Mount & Blade is to raise a Redshirt Army and have them fight the armies of everyone opposed to your kingdom. Or just everyone, if you feel like being a total sociopath.
  • Ace Combat regularly has the PC flying alongside allied squadrons, but while they do get the occasional kill in they still are considerably less capable than you are. Averted in Ace Combat 6, where your allies will actually attack the enemies to great effect if you order them to.
  • Bravo Team in Doom 3 gets wiped out before you even find them. Except for one, who is picked off by a Wraith shortly after you meet him.
  • In 6 Days a Sacrifice, the final game in the Chzo Mythos, Theo has an unending supply of Trilby clones to protect him.
  • Valkyria Chronicles has the entire Gallian army. Whenever something needs to be blown up to prove what dire straits we're in, it's the army, and eventually the whole thing gets blown up at Ghirlandaio. No one cares because the army is a bunch of faceless, unsympathetic mooks even to the heroes, and the core group of Squad 7 is more worried that Alicia is capable of an explosion like that than the deaths of some thousands, possibly tens of thousands of people.
  • Queen Deirdranna of Jagged Alliance 2 uses an actual Redshirt Army, who wear red shirts. On high difficulty levels you get to kill hundreds of them. That is, until the Black Shirt elites show up!
  • The Total War series is bad about this. Rome:TW—a game generally considered accurate enough to have been used in several actual documentaries—is a particularly major offender, drawing complaints from historians about the ludicrous amount of mutual bloodshed in the typical battle, and the fact that nobody really bats an eye if you go out and lose 75% of your army in a "close victory."
  • Metal Wolf Chaos has the Resistance forces, whose sole skill is "thorough knowledge of how to escape" helicopters that have been shot down. Note, please, that the only reason the helicopters are being shot down is because they are being deliberately piloted into missiles.
  • In Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the earth, all the assaulting forces of the Us in Innsmouth get killed, leaving to you the battle
  • "We Die Standing"
  • In Battlefield: Bad Company and Bad Company 2; the player's squad are the members of the titular unit. Bad Company is sent in before the specially-trained assault troops; because those guys are "too expensive to waste". So technically, you are a member of the Redshirt Army in those games. And you get the job done, better than any "special-ops douche-bags with pussy-ass heartbeat monitors on their guns".
    • The regular United States Marines during the mission High Value Target could be counted as a redshirt army, given that no matter what, every single one of them dies during or immediately following the ambush.
  • Happens in several Guild Wars missions. On a story level scale, in the consulate docks mission. The sunspears easily defeat the regular Kournan army, but then are killed in a cutscene by Varesh's demons, leaving the players to continue the story on their own.
  • Lampshaded in StarCraft II with one of the Marines' annoyed lines: "Has anyone else noticed how no one seems to come back IN to the barracks?
    • Also used in the story of 'StarCraft: Arcturus Mengsk sends Sarah Kerrigan and a large group of soldiers to a suicide mission to cover his ass. Jim Raynor spends the rest of the franchise on a vendetta for what Mengsk did to Kerrigan, and none of the redshirts with her are ever mentioned.
  • Completely averted in Blue Dragon. While it at first looks like a classic scene where a Curb Stomp Battle is about to occur between the Jibral Military and the Big Bad Nene, the Jibral Military proves itself extremely competent and actually routs Nene's ship and forces him to retreat without any noted casualties. They are so good, in fact, that you feel safe leaving your village in their hands.
  • Fallout 3 has the Brotherhood of Steel Initiates play the part, justified, not just because they're initiates, (Usually initiates are born into the Brotherhood and are very efficient by adulthood) but because they're recruited from (presumably) radiation weakened Wastelanders, who are untrained, and can hardly hold their own against the mutated creatures of the waste, much less the Pure strain, highly trained, descended from U.S. military Enclave soldiers Might be played straight with the more experienced Knights and Paladins depending on the difficulty level, and what kind of enemies they're fighting.
  • A damn near literal example in Fable III: When you're fighting against Logan's army in the (first) Battle of Bowerstone, the guys on your side that aren't named are an army of guards wearing red shirts. They don't have names. They're just there to shoot the purple-coated guards and get killed.
  • While NPCs have varying degrees of effectiveness in Dragon Age: Origins, the cutscene where the Warden encounters the Archdemon atop Fort Drakon plays this trope straight, as a company of soliders is fighting the dragon just as you appear on the scene. The dragon quickly disposes of them all, leaving you to face it alone (barring any troops you may summon).
    • Much of Origins plot revolves around the player trying to gather forces to replace the Redshirt Army lost at Ostagar after Loghain's betrayal handed victory to the Darkspawn. Whether or not they would have won had Loghain played his part is debatable -While King Cailan was sure they could win, Loghain thought defeat was so certain it was better to cut his losses and escape with his army intact. Duncan was less confident about the battle than Cailan, but seemed to agree with his decision to fight nonetheless.
  • In L.A. Noire, you are frequently aided in shootouts by uniformed LAPD officers. While your plainclothes partners are invulnerable, the unis are not, and will often be gunned down in the first 30 seconds.
  • In Making History II, militia units have just as many soldiers as regular military divisions, but are extremely weak, and will get massacred by the thousands against well-trained and equipped armies.
  • The Mooks of the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games are pathetically weak, and exist only to get killed in massive droves by the Aces of each team. They can very occasionally capture enemy fields or even take down Aces, but generally only if said field/Ace has been severely weakened first.
  • In the first Majesty, this would be the definition of your henchmen. They do their jobs with no concern for self-preservation. Two of the three guard henchmen, city and palace guards, even come dressed in red. The other guard, the veteran guards in blue, can replace city guards. They serve little actual combat purpose other than the occasional kill, being distractions for heroes, and not costing anything to replace if (or when) they die.
  • In Prototype the Elite Mooks Blackwatch set up to have the marines be a Redshirt Army. Expecting them to be killed off by the thousands each week.
    • Though in a Give the Dog A Bone twist, they were given the full credit for saving the people of New York from the outbreak.
  • With a few exceptions, every single soldier and generic officer in Dynasty Warriors is there to get wiped out by the non-generic ones.
  • Beyond Good and Evil has the events of the game leading to a civil uprising only to have it be a trap that kills off everyone.
  • Mostly played straight in the Silent Storm games, whenever you have NPC allies. However, this is usually because the enemy (governed by the same AI) has better weapons and more numbers. Several early missions in the first game involve you coming upon a battle between the Allies and the Axis. If you do nothing, your side loses, but they also take a fair number of the enemy troops with them. Additionally, one of the final missions in Silent Storm Sentinels has you defending you base from heavily-armed THO troops, some of whom are wearing Panzerkleins. Despite the base having trenches with machinegun emplacements and a number of friendly troops in advantageous positions, they will' get slaughtered, leaving it all up to your squad (who also should have Panzerkleins by that point). Especially since small arms do no damage to Panzerkleins, and the friendlies are likely to have few to no heavier arms like bazookas. Oh, and the guy in charge of the assault is wearing a Panzerklein armed with energy guns that slice through other Panzerkleins like butter.
  • In M.U.S.H.A., four out of five on the MUSHA team get shot down in the opening, leaving only the heroine.

Web Comics

  • In Goblins, they wipe out part of an army by using a shield that triggers random major magic effects whenever it's hit. [1] This tends to subvert the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy in that the redshirts that do hit are probably doomed while those who miss may live, or perhaps the goblin is doing a redshirt-type act, as in the background it hints at the word "redshirt" not "redshirts"—which reminds long timers that the shield is random enough to backfire killing the goblin, upgrading the enemies, summoning weird dangerous stuff, or worse.
  • Averted in The Order of the Stick where the Azure City Army gives a damn good accounting of itself. Yes, they lose but they take a lot of Mooks with them and manage a fighting retreat in good order.
  • The Caldaian Enforcers of Sarab.

Western Animation

  • The CDF troops in Eon Kid are a prime example. When their general tells them to guard his defeated foe (who was a VERY dangerous villain), you just know how this will end....
    • If you thought it was going to end with "Villain wakes up, pounds the troops, then runs." then you would be wrong. It was more: "New guy pounds the troops, takes other villain and runs." To make it more embarrassing, said new guy was just a normal Flying Mook.
  • Futurama. Suicidal redshirt charges are the only page in Zapp Brannigan's playbook.

Zapp Brannigan: Stop exploding, you cowards!

    • Brannigan even brags about how he defeated an army of killbots by sending wave after wave of redshirts at them until the killbots exceeded their kill limit.
    • In Into the Wild Green Yonder

Zapp: We made it through, Kif. How many men did we lose?
Kif: All of them.
Zapp: Well, at least they won't have to mourn each other.

  • Subverted in The Venture Brothers. The OSI's grunts are stunningly effective at slaughtering villainous henchmen. In fact, they seem to enjoy it a little too much.
    • Played completely straight with The Monarch's henchmen.
  • Averted in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. The Japanese Self Defense Force is actually so competent, it shocks the heroes. There's a reason for this....
  • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, when Anakin Skywalker takes off alone to chase an enemy Force-user, Obi-Wan orders a squadron of clone troopers to follow him and save him from getting himself killed. When the clones arrive, they proceed to split up and get wiped out over the course of about three minutes, without ever seeing the enemy. Amusingly enough, clone troopers are the predecessors of storm troopers, perhaps indicating that the trope is inheritable.
    • In Karen Traviss' novelizations, once you get past the Mandalorian fetish, it's shown that most clones are flash-trained, as in given training cue cards and sent off to fight. The Battle of Geonosis shows that they suffered high casualty rates, even the ones given special training.
    • Incorrect. The Kamino's cloning grows them slowly and trains them the same way to train a child-shown in the movie. The novels and expanded universe fiction has a second method of cloning using Spaarti cloning which used the flash-training- copying a mind into and empty brain -this is widely given as the reason later clone batches grown using spaarti clone tanks were less competent. In addition Spaarti cloning can produce a clone faster than Kamino cloning but it has a higher chance of making the clone insane, depending on how long you take -one year being the minimum and even that may make them crazy.
      • In the last novel, Order 66, the clones that would first comprise the Stormtrooper Corps were even worse in quality to their predecessors, not even being able to aim a mounted weapon at a doorway.
      • Of course that's just Karen Traviss' Mandalorian fetish at work, other writers tend to portray Stormtroopers as the Elite Mooks they were.
      • To reconcile both points, the Imperial Army at the time of the time of the Original Trilogy seems to be an even mix of the "original" Clones and "new" Clones, and recruits/conscripts. Which would account for the widely-varying qualities of Storm Troopers throughout the movies.
  • The Enforcers in Swat Kats serve as nothing more than mere cannon fodder against the Villain Of The Week before the titular characters swoop in to save the day.
  • In Exo Squad, the other exosquads are treated like this. Especially Baker Squad.
    • In early episodes, the Jumptroopers were also treated this way, but once the Charlie-Fives show up, this ceases.
  • Actually averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender, where Zuko voices out sending in a team of right out of training cadets into battle to be used as a diversion in the war. However it was this action that prompted his father to scar his face and banish him in the first place.
  • Every single Providence Agent in Generator Rex whose face hasn't been seen.
  • Subverted in Superman: The Animated Series in the episode Apokolips...Now! The well-equipped and well-trained Metropolis Police fend off the storm troops of an extraterrestrial invasion all by themselves with no help from Supes at all.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television examples of profound military ineffectiveness also exist.
    • Finagle's Law, or Murphy's Law has combat-specific variants to them, which a number of soldiers may feel to have a reasonable amount of truth to them, such as "Everything always works in your HQ, everything always fails in the Colonel's HQ.". Many other variants of them tend to apply well also, such "Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently capable fool."
    • In the hands of a competent commander like Scipio, Marius, or Caesar, the Roman army was pretty efficient. Unfortunately great commanders don't grow on trees. The Romans tended to lose every battle but the last. Given that republican Roman armies were recruited among small landowners, in the first battles of a campaigns they tended to fare a bit poorly since they were little more than a bunch of yokels with basic training...they got better and better in months (and years) of campaign due to experience. Ironically, once the social class of small landowners vanished, the Roman empire (republic having ceded the way to imperial rule) started to decay.
  • There actually was an official Redshirt Army. The Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) founded by Ghaffar Khan were known, in the 1920s, as the Surkh Posh, or 'Red Shirts'. They were an entirely pacifist movement, acting upon the principles of civil disobediance. Here is a quote from the founder:
"I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it."
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
  • While not in charge of an official Redshirt Army, General Charles Mangin gave a speech that summarizes this trope to its essence:

"Gentlemen, we attack tomorrow. The first wave will be killed. The second also. And the third. A few men from the fourth will reach their objective. The fifth wave will capture the position. Thank you, gentlemen."