How do armies collect their dead soldiers?


I’m just watching “The Pacific” and during the battle scenes, I got to wondering how various armies collected their dead.

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Often, they didn’t in places like iwo jima. Those to-the-last-man island fights were brutal and there was rarely a chance to collect the dead.

Many Japanese remain where they fell, or were collected up by the US forces and buried in mass graves.

Most US soldiers were recovered hours to weeks after a battle, and usually repatriated to the US.

Historically, armies would sometimes allow groups from either side to move around openly in front of the guns to collect the dead and wounded, but not often since the 1800s.

And places like the Somme, the dead remain in the ground where they died.

My grandfather was a supply sergeant in WWII. He told us that when the troops pushed forward they would move into the area. They would triage any wounded that had been left and get them back behind the lines. They would gather the dead and put them in rows (both their side and the enemy). They would then strip the bodies of any military issued equipment (guns, knives, tools, helmets, canteens, etc.) (They would strip the enemies of all valuables, don’t want the enemy to have anything they can use against you) And then medical trucks would come up and the bodies would be placed on them and moved for shipment back home). The enemy bodies were left on the field unless the foreign country had an equivalent of the red cross that were allowed to cross the lines.

My uncles from Vietnam had very different stories of carrying their dead friends through the bush sometimes for days till they could get back to a base or get a chopper in for the wounded and dead.

And my own experience is that modern warfare in the middle east is very similar. Just a different kind of jungle with different gorilla fighters. Or you are going out to pick up pieces.

One of the things that Boston Dynamics is working on is a robot called a mule. It will accompany soldiers into the field carrying all their equipment. And then if a soldier goes down they can be loaded onto it’s back and using GPS it can the autonomously take the soldier back and then return. You see when a soldier goes down it can effect as many as 4 others tasked to carry them out.

In some instances, the remains of dead soldiers are one of the bargaining elements in peace negotiations. For example, North Korea supposedly still has remains from the Korean War that they occasionally offer to return in exchange for economic concessions.