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A particularly ruthless (and dishonorable) enemy may decide he wants no one to live to tell the tale. He may torpedo the life boats, shoot down an Ejection Seat or two, blast the Escape Pods to ions, etc. Obviously, this is usually a pretty low thing to do, and in Real Life wars, may (rightly) be considered a war crime, especially if the craft in question was a civillian craft.

Subtrope of Leave No Survivors. If the lifeboats are carrying wounded, overlaps with Kick Them While They Are Down.

Examples of Sink the Life Boats include:

Anime & Manga

  • In One Piece, when Robin's island was destroyed by the world government, they sunk the "evacuation boat" as well. The sheer horror of this was what prompted would-be Admiral Aokiji to spare Robin.
    • The ship that sank it was commanded Aokiji's fellow Admiral-to-be, the Knight Templar Akainu/Sakazuki.
  • Area 88: Nguyen's Establishing Character Moment was gleefully shooting a pilot who ejected from a plane that he shot down. He eventually suffers a Karmic Death.
  • In the eighth Dragonball Z movie, Paragas tries to use his Escape Pod to flee from his rampaging son, Broly, and from the comet about to collide with the planet he had previously lured the Z-Fighters to. Unfortunately for him, Broly catches up to him, crushes the pod with his bare hands, and throws the remains into the sun.
  • A slightly less severe version occurs in Gundam Seed, where Yzak sees a civilian escape pod and shoots it down because he assumes it's full of military personnel[1]. When he learns the truth later on, he's horrified that he killed civilians, and on the whole the character is treated sympathetically.

Comic Books

  • In one story by Walter Moers: One evil, opium-addicted captain sabotages the lifeboats (but one) of his own ship, as part of his Evil Plan to move with the women passengers (as his Unwanted Harem) to an unknown island.


  • Elliot Carver has his mooks do this on purpose at the beginning of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies as part of his plan to start a war between the UK and China.
  • In a scene near the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope, two Imperials are shooting any escape pods launched from Princess Leia's ship if they detect life signs aboard. Of course, given the existence of sentient droids and the fact that they're trying to stop information, not a person, from escaping this was a rather foolish approach to take.
    • Parodied nicely in the Family Guy spoof: "Hold your fire"? What, are we paying by the laser?
  • One of several historical errors in U-571. The Nazi captain's Kick the Dog moment has him machine gunning a lifeboat because it's the Fuhrer's order. As noted in the Real Life section it was the Fuhrer's wish, but Doenitz made sure it never got to the order stage.
  • Murphy's War (1971). The title character's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the U-boat is due to the Germans machine-gunning his crewmates; Murphy being the Sole Survivor.


  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, there's a scene where Winston watches a news report showing his country doing this. A prole woman is actually taken away because she had the gall to complain!
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, the Zhirrzh deliberately target and destroy the life pods of the human vessels they defeat. This is actually justified, since radio waves are dangerous to the Zhirrzh, causing them to mistake the automatic distress beacons for weapons.
  • The hero of Run Silent Run Deep does this at the climax of the book to make sure a particularly clever Japanese naval officer won't be around to sink any other U.S. subs. Most of his crew are appalled, and he feels pretty down about it, too. In the movie version, that part was left out.
  • In the Barrett Tillman novel Warriors, a Saudi Tiger Force [an F-20 Tigershark force with foreign instructors] pilot kills an ejecting Israeli with his guns after another Israeli had, actually accidentally, caused a parachute of one of his comrades to collapse, assuming it was fair game. John Bennett is incensed as it sets a bad precedent and demotes the pilot from flight leader.
  • The WW 1 U-boat captain narrator of H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Temple" kicks the dog early on by not only sinking a civilian ship, but then "dutifully" shooting the lifeboats after promising to let the passengers live (he needed them to oblige his taking photos of the sinking ship first, since their bodies would have spoiled the shot). Since he's narrating a Lovecraft story, his status as a Doomed Protagonist soon to face karmic retribution with nothing but an Apocalyptic Log left to tell the tale is all but assured.
  • The X Wing Series of books have the Adumari do this on pilots that eject during duels. If the victorious pilot doesn't, the losing pilot will possibly be beaten to death by angry spectators on landing.
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet, both sides have been known to fire upon escape pods.

Live Action TV

  • Averted in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Changing Face of Evil," in which the female Founder orders Weyoun NOT to destroy a swarm of escape pods. Her reasoning is that the frightened troops will return home and spread their fear, thereby demoralizing the enemies of the Dominion.
    • Another episode had them shoot down the escape pods of the Valiant.
    • But played straight in Star Trek, where Acting Captain George Kirk has to stay aboard the USS Kelvin to shoot down the missiles directed at the escaping shuttlecrafts.
  • During the Grand Finale of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Trakeena (who has gone completely off her rocker after fusing with Deviot) cripples Terra Venture by turning her minions into suicide bombers. She then orders an attack on the fleeing emergency shuttles, which proves one step too far for Noble Demon Villamax.

Tabletop Games

  • BattleTech gives the player a chance to take down an ejecting pilot, or simply to tread on a downed 'mech pilot's cockpit, pilot still inside. Although it's commonly done by dumb chance, some players try for it.
    • Some of the Battletech fiction shows bad guys doing this to show how ruthless they are. It's really stupid as they do this while other active enemies are shooting at them.
    • BattleMechs are actually fairly safe to fight in (relative to conventional vehicles, anyway, to say nothing of service in the infantry); you can't actually count on taking out a MechWarrior by simply shooting up his or her machine, so depending on the circumstances taking that cheap shot may in fact be the single best chance you have to eliminate him or her more permanently as a threat. Something that won't be lost on the Combat Pragmatists of the setting, obviously...

Video Games

  • The game Operation: Inner Space has a law against this kind of behaviour.
  • In the first level of Halo, the Covenant shoot down the Pillar of Autumn's escape pods.
    • Next, they send dropships with troops to kill anyone who survived the landing on Halo. But keeping any humans from reaching Halo was their primary mission to begin with.
      • Not to mention the entire point of the war, for the Covenant, was to wipe out humanity.
  • This is almost always the result when the player ejects in Starlancer.
  • One of the Kilrathi aces in Wing Commander has a reputation for shooting ejection pods. This doesn't seem to come up if you eject when flying against him, though.
  • Occurs fairly frequently in Eve Online and is commonly known as "Podding".
    • Note that this does not kill anyone permanently - The victim may lose skill points if he doesn't have a clone body. If he did. he'll need to buy a new clone to avoid the SP loss the next time he dies. Podding also destroys any implants the victim were currently using.
      • CONCORD does consider this a much more serious offense than simply destroying a ship. But CONCORD's jurisdiction is limited.
  • Many videogames allow the player to conduct this particular war crime, offering serious Video Game Cruelty Potential. The Total War series is a notable example, with the ability to massacre populations, execute prisoners in Medieval 2: Total War, or grapeshot surrendered enemy warships in Empire: Total War. Even at the most basic level, running down shattered enemy units with cavalry qualifies, as the enemy aren't a threat when they're running away to save their sorry hides.
    • Elite inadvertently encourages players to blow up ships' escape pods. You can't use your jump drive when the pod is within detection range, which means a long and tedious wait while you leave the area using thrusters. You can pick up the pod and sell the occupant as a slave, but that will leave you with a criminal record. So the convenient and consequence-free options are to shoot the pod or "accidentally" crash into it.
      • The Fan Remake Oolite is a little better about this, since escape pods are treated as cargo on the scanners and the game has an in-built bounty / insurance reward system for delivering captured / rescued pilots. It's still an option, though.
  • Allegiance has a game mechanic that discourages players from Sinking The Life Boats in most situations. When an enemy player's spaceship is destroyed, they are ejected in an Escape Pod, and must slowly fly back to a friendly base or ship to be rescued, get a new ship, and re-join the battle. This gives the enemy an advantage, since the team of the "podded" pilot now has one less member doing something useful until the pod reaches home. However, if the pod is shot down by the enemy, the pilot is immediately re-spawned back at base, and can immediately rejoin the fight. It is more advantageous to let them float.
    • However, players also earn a bonus to the damage their weapons do depending on how many enemies they've shot down — and this bonus is re-set if they are defeated and their pod is destroyed, but not if their pod makes it home safely. Thus, it makes sense to destroy the escape pods of those players who have earned a particularly large bonus.
  • Skies of Arcadia has Vyse, Aika, and Fina choosing to bail from the Little Jack when Drachma gets a little too obsessed with hunting down Rhaknam - and for good reason, given that Ramirez's fleet has just caught up with them. The fleet fires on the Little Jack at the time the trio take the escape pods; Ramirez, wanting to be sure that the Blue Rogues pose no further threat, opens fire on them as well.
  • Il-2 Sturmovik: Shooting parachutes. You can shoot the pilot, leaving his lifeless body dangling on the chute. Or you can shoot the chute, sending the poor devil plummeting to his death.
  • In Star Trek Bridge Commander there is a mission where you have to escort a hospital ship as it picks up escape pods after a battle. The Cardassians then show up and start attacking the hospital ship and, presumably once that is done, will finish off any survivors in the pods.
  • This is done automatically in Nexus the Jupiter Incident both by your ships and your enemies', as flak lasers cannot be controlled (you can shut them off, though).
  • In Tachyon the Fringe, one mission can be played for either of the two sides. After this, your campaign path is set. In "Withdraw from Independence", the player has to protect Bora civilian shuttles as they're leaving the Independence station from GalSpan forces. In "Taking Independence", the player has to shoot them down for GalSpan. This is considering GalSpan forced Bora to hand over the station only to try to shoot the evacuees.
  • Suikoden IV has Colton suggest this to Troy after their first encounter with Lazlo and his party leads to them fleeing on their tiny boat. He fears that They Know Too Much about their plans; Troy vetoes the idea, pointing out how unlikely the chances of them surviving are anyway.


Web Original

  • In AJJE Games, Prinz Eugen (one of the LOTW ships) launched an attack on a pirate base. The captain ordered the destruction of escape pods from a pirate ship, on the grounds that the pirates would only conduct further murders.

Western Animation

  • An episode of Road Rovers had a hero jump out and pop a parachute out, only for a bad guy to cut the strings with a laser.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars General Grievious orders his ship the Malevolence to shoot at fleeing escape pods. On the grounds that he has a reputation to keep.

Real Life

  • German U-boats attacking Allied shipping during World War II were accused of this on occasion. Hitler made a strongly worded suggestion towards this end only to have Doenitz countermand it; the reasoning being that if the U-boat crews offered no mercy, they would be granted none. Given the number of U-boat crewmen who survived the war in Allied POW camps was several thousand, the decision was probably wise. Only one incident of a German submarine attacking lifeboats or people in the water was ever confirmed. This was vastly outnumbered by times when U-boat crews were surprisingly solicitous to people in lifeboats, offering food, navigation implements, and course to nearest land- Winston Churchill in The Second World War even records a case of a U-Boat notifying the British of the coordinates of a sunk merchant ship.
    • One especially notable aversion was the sinking of the Laconia: upon realising that they had accidentally sunk a civilian ship, the captain of the U-boat responsible surfaced, and along with two other U-boats allowed the (Allied) survivors to board in order to be taken to safety, while radioing in English to any Allied ships in the vicinity that they should expect civilians. Unfortunately as the U-boats were warships they were still attacked, which led directly to the order not to assist civilian survivors in future.
  • American submarines and aircraft would occasionally do this in World War Two if they sank a Japanese ship near Japanese-held or contested islands. Early in the war, they tried to rescue survivors from Japanese ships that sank or aircraft that were shot down, but after enough of the survivors refused help or tried to kill their would-be rescuers, preferring to go down fighting rather than be taken prisoner, the Americans lost interest in helping them. A regrettable case of I Did What I Had to Do or a serious case of Moral Dissonance, take your pick. For their part, the Japanese would often execute rescued American fliers who were shot down over Japanese fleets, sometimes immediately after fishing them out of the water, and very few captured Americans actually survived imprisonment in Japan even if they made it that far.
    • Of course one can question how many of those Japanese really "refused to be saved" and instead "had to be killed."
    • "Mush" Morton certainly did this. He was something of a Heroic Sociopath to give him his best judgement.
  • Similar to the above, the Battle of the Bismarck Sea (no, not that Bismarck) A Japanese convoy heading to Papua New Guinea, comprised of 8 transports and 8 escort destroyers, was attacked and completely sunk by Australian Beauforts and American B-17's. Because of how close the convoy was to PNG and the fact that even a few platoons could turn the tide against the Aussies there, the next day the Beauforts returned and strafed every lifeboat they could find. Final body count- over 3,000.
    • Another reason for the attacks on the survivors was because several US crewman who had bailed from their planes had been machinegunned by the Japanese.
      • And that close to shore it was a choice between kill them in the open water or let them get to shore and kill the Allied troops.
      • No. It was normal policy to kill Japanese PO Ws in the Pacific. See for instance ( Australian soldiers often threw Japanese prisoners out of airplanes, and despite the exhortations of their commanders not to do so, killed prisoners for the most part.
    • Even death was not sufficent to spare the Japanese, it was common to take skulls as trophys ( making items out of Japanese bones, FDR was given a letter opener made from the arm of a killed Japanese soldier.
  • The Commando Order in World War II; any commandos captured by the Nazis were to be shot, even if in uniform and/or attempting to surrender. However, some commanders, such as Rommel, refused to relay this order to their troops.
    • Rommel, in fact, made a bit of a habit of this. When ordered to have the 'lazy/cowardly ones' among the Italian troops under his command shot to encourage the rest, he argued ever more elaborate reasons why he couldn't (Culminating in the excuse that shooting all of them would deplete his ammunition, also a dig at his being horribly under-supplied). Truly crowning was that when he received an order similar to the Commando Order that he was to quietly put out the word that any Jewish prisoners of war he captured were to be taken away from the rest and shot, he ignored that and later once word had gotten out, even more quietly put out the word that any of his troops trying to follow that order would be separated from the rest and...
  • There are several anecdotal accounts of Polish and Czech pilots in the Royal Air Force "accidentally" flying too close to the canopies of the parachutes of German aircrew who had bailed out of shot-down aircraft and causing them to collapse. Fortunately for the large number of British servicemen in German POW camps at the time, the RAF apparently succeeded in putting a stop to this before it became widespread enough to provoke retaliation.
  • A variation: Any submarine that sinks an isolated enemy vessel will by necessity end up abandoning the survivors to their fate - a submarine does not have the capability or resources to mount a rescue operation.
  1. This isn't as ludicrous as it sounds, since the pod originated from a military base and Yzak had no way of knowing that a group of refugees had been brought there by the Archangel