‘Leave no man behind’ is a creed and ethos often repeated and adhered to by various units and soldiers. The phrase is applied to the treatment and extraction of the seriously wounded, the recovery of the body of military members killed in action, and the attempts to rescue or trade for prisoners of war.
Despite being widely known and repeated in the U.S. Military, ‘Leave no man behind’ is not represented in any military doctrine or publication. It is a culture of the armed services, which carries significant risk.
‘Leave no man behind’ is not based on the tactical necessity to recover the wounded or missing. It is a dangerous task to those troops undertaking it, exposing themselves to ambush from an enemy who understands our cultural necessity to recover a comrade.
Once that soldier is wounded or missing, he is no longer an asset to accomplishing a mission. The decision to conduct a rescue mission can change policy and the face of a conflict.
The Battle of Mogadishu is a well-known engagement, in which a Task Force was directed to capture an associate of the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
The shoot down of a task force helicopter and ensuing recovery efforts led to the death of eighteen U.S. soldiers, seventy-three wounded, and the capture of Warrant Officer Michael Durant following the crash landing of his helicopter. The loss of life led to a policy change by the Clinton administration and the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. forces in Somalia.
Only the dead have seen the end of war