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You Shall Not Pass / Real Life

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Medal given to veterans of the Battle of Verdun, with the motto On Ne Passe Pas ("They shall not pass")
Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Republican democrats, the soldiers and services loyal to the Republic have inflicted the first defeats on the insurgents, who drag through the quagmire of Treason the military honor they have boasted about so much. The whole country roils with fury at those savages who want to plunge democratic and the people's Spain into a hell of terror and death. But they shall not pass.
Dolores Ibárruri, Madrid, July 19, 1936

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    World War I 

Entente defending

  • At the Battle of Verdun in 1916, "They shall not pass/On ne passe pas" was uttered by General Nivelle. And after 303 straight days of shelling, trench warfare, and one of the highest body counts in the entire Great War... the Germans indeed, had not passed. Verdun ended up being the site of one of the bloodiest and most horrible battles in all of human history, with over seven hundred thousand casualties altogether. Fittingly Tolkien, who provided the Trope Namernote , served in the British Army during that war.
  • It was used one year later by general Eremia Grigorescu of the Romanian army at the Battle of Marasesti (well, technically was something like: "One doesn't pass through here"). The Germans (and Austrians), again, did not pass. They also lost almost 47,000 men, while the Romanians lost about 27,000. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a massive Shoot the Shaggy Dog. The year after, the forces of the Central Powers did pass and conquered the other half of the country without a shot being fired. The Russian Revolution and the horrendous implosion of the Russian army meant that the defensive system the Romanians depended on collapsed because the Central Powers now surrounded them, and they had no choice but to surrender.
  • During World War I, the 3rd US Infantry Division earned the nickname "Rock of the Marne" when they faced the brunt of a German attempt to cross the Marne River in July of 1918, stalling the Germans for most of a day until reinforcements arrived. Ultimately the Second Battle of the Marne would prove to be the last German offensive of the war.
  • World War One had Serbians pull this. Surrounded but unwilling to give up, the supreme command ordered a full retreat along with a lot of civilians and the king himself. Having no other choice, a large detainment of troops were forced to counter-attack Austro-Hungarian and German forces under a barrage of artillery to allow army, refugees and the king to retreat. A badass quote by Major Dragutin Gavrilović: "Exactly at three o'clock, the enemy is due to be crushed by your fierce charge, destroyed by your grenades and bayonets. The honor of Belgrade, our capital, must not be stained. Soldiers! Heroes! The supreme command has erased our regiment from its records. Our regiment has been sacrificed for the honor of Belgrade and the Fatherland. Therefore, you no longer need worry about your lives: they no longer exist. So, forward to glory! Long live Belgrade!"
  • The Second Battle of Ypres in World War I. When the Germans unleashed the first poison gas attack in history, the French colonial troops facing them broke and ran. Despite the gas, First Canadian Division, only supposed to defend a few hundred metres of trenches, rushed everything they had to plug a 7 kilometre gap in the line with a few scattered French detachments that hadn't broken. For 48 hours, suffering over 33% casualties in facing a horror no soldiers until then ever had, they prevented the Germans from exploiting the attack.
  • Pulled by the Italian Army during World War I after the defeat at Caporetto: first the defenses on the Monte Grappa (a mountain that Italian supreme commander Cadorna had transformed into a giant fortress, with an absurd amount of guns and a road to supply it) halted the part of the Austrian offensive directed at the main Italian weapon factories, and then, immediately after, the retreating Italian army redeployed on the Piave river and stopped three more Austrian offensives.

Central Powers defending

  • The Battle of Tannenberg toward the beginning World War I saw the defending German army crush a much larger Russian invasion force; the Russian Second Army saw a whopping 60% casualty rate (killed, wounded or captured). The battle ended Russia's hopes of successfully invading the rest of Germany after their invasion of East Prussia and pushed the Russians on the defensive in the Eastern Front for the remainder of the war (against Germany at least, they had more luck against Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans). The decisive German victory was the beginning of the lionization of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff among the German population.
  • One of the most famous cases of this is the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I, where Entente forces (including the famed Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC) attempted to seize control of the Gallipoli Peninsula to open the Dardanelle Straits and break the Ottoman blockade of Russia. The outnumbered and under-equipped Ottoman defenders held off the Entente assault for more than ten months in one of the bloodiest campaigns of the entire war — the Ottomans lost 250,000 men, while the Entente forces lost more than 300,000. The commanding officer behind the defense was none other than Mustafa Kemal, who would go on to found the modern Republic of Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire when it ultimately lost the war. The victory at Gallipoli, the Ottoman Empire's only real military success of the war, is often considered the seminal moment in the founding of the modern Turkish state.

    World War II 
  • On January 26, 1945, Audie Murphy (a real-life example of a One-Man Army if there ever was one) held off a German unit singlehandedly. He used his personal weapon until he ran out of ammunition, then climbed onto a burning M10 tank destroyer (which, in addition to being on fire, was also loaded with gasoline and live high-explosive ammunition) to use its .50 caliber machine gun, and then used a field telephone to direct close artillery fire on the oncoming Germans. At one point, when the artillery director on the other end of the line asked how close the Germans were, Murphy replied, "Hold the phone for a second, and I'll let you talk to one of the bastards!" should be noted that while he was doing this, he not only was wounded by enemy fire, he was still bandaged from an earlier wound received in combat against the Germans, and was also suffering from malaria at the time. Not to mention that he weighed barely over a hundred pounds. (He was also fighting in two feet of snow in temperatures that hovered around 14 degrees Fahrenheit.) He kept this one-man battle up for almost an hour before reinforcements arrived at his position. When the reinforcements finally did arrive, he organized them into a counter-attack, which he led, driving the Germans from the field. For being such a balls-out badass on this and many other occasions, Murphy was awarded every US medal on the books, including the Medal of Honor, as well as French and Belgian medals. (This was just his most famous battle: he had already distinguished himself in action in North Africa, Sicily, mainland Italy, and France.) Wrote his autobiography, which was a bestseller. Then they made a movie of it, where only he was considered badass enough to play himself. He considered his actions too unbelievable, so he had them tone it down. Still made the highest grossing movie for about 20 years until Jaws. He did pay the price in bad dreams though, suffering from PTSD and using his considerable pull with Congress to get them to approve better mental health care for Vietnam vets. There's a reason why his grave is the second most visited one in Arlington (after JFK).
  • The 101st Airborne Division got theirs during the Battle of the Bulge when they held the town of Bastogne for seven days against an entire Panzer corps. When the Germans demanded his surrender, General Anthony McAuliffe sent a one-word reply: "NUTS!"note 
  • The Battle off Samar, aka The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. On 25 October 1944, Admiral Halsey's Task Force 34 went chasing after a Japanese decoy fleet, leaving the landing force in Leyte Gulf guarded by Task Unit 77.4.3 (a.k.a. "Taffy 3"), a diminutive escort force consisting of few destroyers and destroyer escorts note  with the 6 escort carriers note  providing the landing force's air support. When the principal Japanese fleet (led by the battleship Yamato, who by itself outweighed every ship in Taffy 3 combined) appeared, the Americans initially believed they were seeing the broken remnants of the Japanese fleet making a run for it, until they opened fire. On their own initiative, the destroyer USS Johnston charged the Japanese ships, and the commander of the group soon after gave the order "Small boys attack". Owing to the gargantuan testes displayed by the tin can sailors and some tactical blunders by the Japanese admiral note , the tin cans won. The Japanese fleet finally retreated after two heavy cruisers were sunk and several other ships sustained heavy damage, fearing that the rest of the (absent) US fleet would be coming down on them at any moment.
    • The Samuel B. Roberts gained fame as "the destroyer escort that fought like a battleship". Her captain, Robert Copeland, led his little ship with extraordinary bravery and aggression. On her run toward the Japanese, the Roberts went a good quarter over her designed top speed. She then got in so close the Japanese cruisers and battleships couldn't depress their guns low enough to fire on her, and dealt severe damage, including a crippling torpedo hit on the heavy cruiser Chikuma. She was finally sunk by a broadside from the battleship Kongo, but even as her crew abandoned ship they saw one of ''Kongo'''s officers saluting them from the bridge. The Japanese believed that she was a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser twelve times her actual size.
    • The escort carriers were loaded with munitions for providing air support to ground forces and some anti-submarine weapons. They had no armor-piercing bombs or torpedoes if the kind necessary to deal fatal damage against armored warships. Undeterred, the six cargo ship hulls with flight decks welded on, manned by less-than-elite pilots flying outdated aircraft, swarmed the Japanese ships with HE bombs, light rockets, depth charges, and strafing runs.note  The total absence of any Japanese aircraft allowed them to press an unrelenting rain of explosives. After the destroyers were wiped out and the Japanese ships began catching up to them, the carriers opened fire with their single 5" dual-purpose guns, scoring multiple hits and some noticeable damage. Some sources credit a shell from White Plains with detonating a loaded torpedo launcher on the Heavy Cruiser Chokai which dealt critical damage.
    • Some quotes from the battle:
    This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.
    — Lieutenant Commander Ernest E. Evans, USS Johnstonnote 
    We're making a torpedo run. The outcome is doubtful, but we will do our duty.note 
    — Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland, USNR, USS Samuel B. Roberts
    Just hold on a little longer boys; we're sucking them into 40-mm range.
    — a battery officer
    Goddamnit, they're getting away!
    — a signal officer as the Japanese withdrew
  • That same day, a tin can from the other side of the war, Japanese destroyer Hatsuzuki covered the escape of 4 other Japanese ships that were laden with around 2,360 rescued survivors from the Battle off Cape Engano from a US Navy force of 4 cruisers and 9 destroyers. Hatsuzuki managed to hold them off for over 2 hours and was also frequently misidentified as a heavy cruiser, allowing the ships plenty of time to escape before being sunk.
  • From World War II, the Russian Order 227: Not A Step Back. And then taken to its absolute logical extreme with the story of Pavlov's House. Long story short, a squad of 25 soldiers held a fortified apartment building for two months against the full brunt of Nazi invasion force, outnumbered 100,000 to one. It's been said in many sites that if such scenario were to be made into a film, the audience would call it ridiculous.
  • The motto of the Soviet 62nd Army at Stalingrad was "There's no land for us beyond the Volga". Their commander, Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov, upon being ordered to defend the city, summed up his task as "We will defend the city or die in the attempt". They nearly died, but in the end, the Germans didn't pass (as an army: the survivors passed as prisoners) and the 62nd Army was granted Guards status (basically the Soviet way to declare you a Badass Army) as the 8th Guards Army. Two bits of graffiti etched into a ruined wall told the story:
    Here Rodimtsev's Guardsmen stood to the death.
    Here they stood, and defeated death.
  • Battles of Imphal and Kohima in early 1944. The British and Indian troops held their positions against vastly outnumbering Japanese troops. In the end, the Japanese were routed, and the British Burma Offensive ensued soon, sweeping the Japanese out of Southeast Asia. Those battles are often referred to as "Stalingrad of the East". Had the defenders fallen, Bengal might have been raided or even occupied by the IJA - a virtual death sentence for millions of Bengali.
  • Simo Häyhä, a farmer and awarded hunter, is one of the most famous snipers in the world. His nickname was "the White Death". During the Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1941, Häyhä was credited with 505 confirmed kills of Soviet soldiers. A daily account of the kills at Kollaa was made for the Finnish snipers. Remarkably, all of Häyhä's kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – in other words, approximately five kills per day – at a time of year with very few hours of daylight and without the use of a scopenote . At one point, he had to stop acting as a sniper and ended up using a machine gun, adding an estimated 200-250 unconfirmed kills to his tally. He was so effective that the Soviets began hunting him specifically, with counter-snipers and artillery strikes, until on March 6, 1940 Häyhä was shot in his lower left jaw by a Russian soldier. He was picked up by fellow soldiers who said "half his cheek was missing", but he did not die, regaining consciousness on March 13, the day peace was declared. (He lived for more than 60 years after being wounded, finally passing away in 2002 at age 96.) Although awarded a special Mosin Nagant, he never used one (as is popularly believed); his actual weapon was a Finnish Civil Guard standard issue M/28-30 rifle.
  • During the Winter War, General Hägglund asked Lieutenant Aarne Juutilainen "Kestääkö Kollaa?" (Will Kollaa hold?). Response was simple: "Kollaa kestää" (Kollaa will hold). It did.
  • Another World War II example would be the battle of Henderson Field. Hell, the entire series of battles over Guadalcanal qualifies, with a small force of US Marines, Wildcat fighters, and PT boats holding out against disproportionate odds with little support. At one point, two American cruisers chose to fight two Japanese battleships to prevent another bombardment of Henderson Field. Two American admirals and one of the cruisers were lost, but the Japanese force was turned back. The Marine commander, who was earlier angry at how the Navy had abandoned them, would later say that this "You Shall Not Pass" moment did more to save Henderson Field than anything else — even more than God and his own marines.
    • The above pretty much all apply to the battle for Wake Island as well. Four Wildcat fighters and a detachment of U.S. Marines held off a Japanese invasion force and sunk several ships in the bargain, infuriating the Japanese High Command so much they sent an entire carrier division to take the tiny island.
  • The Battle of Midtskogen fought in Norway the night between April 9 and 10 1940 in Norway. The Norwegian government, parliament, and king had a hasty meeting at Elverum while the German troops pursued them, with strict orders to arrest the lot of them. A swiftly improvised Norwegian army unit held the Germans back, and the Germans withdrew after their commander got killed. The king and government managed to flee Norway and set up a government-in-exile in England.
  • The Battle of Hill 262, during the Normandy campaign in 1944: the Polish 1st Armored Division was assigned to stop an entire German Army from fleeing from the "Falaise Gap". Outnumbered and outgunned, the Polish held their lines against incredible odds that resulted in the death or capture of countless German soldiers - including the bulk of seven Panzer Divisions. At one point, the Polish General told his troops "We are all exhausted, and the ammunition is running out. But there will be no retreat and no surrender. Tonight we die."
  • Also the Battle of Wizna often called "The Polish Thermopylae", not without a reason... Hell, it got a metal song written for it, "40:1" by Sabaton (video)
  • During World War II, the Soviet grand offensive in Finland culminated on June 9th, 1944 during the Battle of Tali-Ihantala when the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Finnish forces (18th division and 5 battalions) were given an order of no retreat, and halted the advance of the Soviet armored battalion and two whole army corps while reinforcements arrived. The battle ended in a decisive victory for the Finnish army and is seen as the reason Stalin forsook the attempts to conquer Finland. The fight of the Finnish Air Force at skies above at the time would also qualify. The Soviet Karelian Air Army consisted of some 3,000 planes and pilots, while the Finnish Air Force had four front line squadrons (some 50 first grade fighters) to line up. To even up the situation, the overall training level of the Soviets was low, while that of the Finns was high. The result was that the Finns shot the hapless Soviets down like clay pigeons. The kill tallies of the aces rose spectacularly - Hans Wind (78 victories) shot down 30 Soviets in 29 days. In mid-August 1944, the Karelian Air Army was destroyed and had less than 800 airworthy planes. The Finns had suffered some 30 planes lost. The losses were covered by the supply of new aircraft from Germany. Despite being outnumbered, the Finns held aerial superiority to the end of the conflict.
  • The Great Patriotic War of the USSR had two really awesome you-shall-not-pass moments: the Brest Fortress and the Battle of Dubosekovo.
  • An anecdote about the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II: a tank destroyer was retreating from the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, and reached paratroopers digging fighting positions on Elsenborn Ridge. One of the paratroopers, PFC Martin, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, told the sergeant in the TD that if they were looking for a safe place, they should pull in behind his foxhole — "because I'm the 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as the bastards are coming."
    • At the same battle, an American reconnaissance platoon of eighteen men, along with four Forward Artillery Observers (none of whom are expected to fight as frontline combat troops), managed to hold off a battalion of 500 German paratroopers (i.e. elite infantry), for almost an entire day near Lanzerath, Belgium, and were only captured when attempting to withdraw after running out of ammunition. Even better, this threw off the schedule for the entire 1st SS Panzer Division, causing them to miss a perfect opportunity to encircle the American 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions.
  • At the Karelian skies 28 June 1944, Capt. Hans Wind and Nils Katajainen flew over the Finnish lines, and spotted a regiment (some fifty planes) of Il-2 Shturmoviks, escorted with another regiment of Soviet fighters, flying towards their lines. It was two against one hundred. What did they do? They attacked! (Both survived. Both received the Mannerheim Cross, the highest Finnish military decoration.)
  • A few of the above examples involve Filipinos or the Philippines, but from an international relations standpoint, the Philippines itself did this for other countries during World War II. Japan opened a surprise attack on the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and soon had total control over the sea and air territories of the country. The Japanese planned to completely take the Philippines by March and then proceed to the rest of Southeast Asia. The Filipino forces on land disagreed and fought against superior firepower and forces with limited ammunition, soldiers, and civilian support, while their great ally, America, was still recoiling after Pearl Harbor, was only in the initial stages of building its armies with the primary intention of fighting the Axis Powers in Europe, and was in no position to send sizable reinforcements. Though Japan eventually ground them down, the Philippines was able to successfully slow down the Japanese forces, allowing the other South East Asian nations time to prepare. The day the Philippines finally surrendered, April 6, is a public holiday known as the "Araw ng Kagitingan" ("Day of Valor"), not to celebrate the inevitable loss, but that the country held the line - to the point that the opposing Japanese commander was disgraced and ashamed that their forces could not subdue the Philippines within the planned time frame.
    • Though it is worth noting that at the time, the Philippines were a territory of the US, and the forces on the islands fighting the Japanese throughout the war included a number of American troops as well, holding out despite the official surrender of all US forces in the islands in May of 1942. Still, given the US surrender, these US troops were a small minority.
  • The Battle of Kokoda could be considered this in a way. Virtually all of Southeast Asia had fallen to the Japanese, and all that lay between the as-yet undefeated Japanese forces and Port Moresby (the capture of which would likely have resulted in a total cutting off of Australia from the other allies) was a 60-mile track defended by inexperienced Australian militia. The Australians took massive losses but managed to stop the Japanese advance in its tracks before launching a counteroffensive, handing the Japanese their first defeat of the war.
  • Henri Winkelman's defense of the Netherlands during World War II also qualifies. The Dutch, knowing they were outclassed by the Germans, planned to sacrifice most of the country and create a defensive perimeter within the Netherlands for the British or French to use as a beachhead. Although the Netherlands fell, Winkelman, leading a small and poorly-trained Dutch military, held the Nazis for four days and destroyed 500 German aircraft (the largest losses the Luftwaffe would experience prior to the Battle of Britain) in the process. These aircraft included 280 Ju-52 transports, along with 1500 German paratroopers. Despite the fact that the Netherlands eventually fell, the damage done to the Nazi air force was catastrophic, and would permanently damage the Luftwaffe.
  • During the not-well-known Italian invasion of France, there was a ridiculous battle going on just outside of the town of Menton. The Casemate of Pont Saint-Louis, manned by nine French Alpine troopers, and supported by artillery fire from Ouvrage Cap Martin, kept an entire Italian army of 5000 from crossing a bridge for ten days. Not a single Italian crossed the bridge alive until the French soldiers understood a ceasefire request (namely, that the Italians had to hoist up a white bedsheet indicating a ceasefire). Just watch this...

  • The Roman legend of Horatius at the bridge is one of the earliest examples of this trope, making it Older Than Feudalism. Horatius is sometimes referred to as "Horatio". Note that Horatius wasn't alone: with him there were two senior officers, Titus Herminius Aquilinus and Spurius Lartius (the latter a member of the Etruscan population of Rome), but he's the most famous because, when the bridge was almost demolished, convinced the other two to run and covered them.
    • Unusually for this trope, Horatius actually survived. Once his comrades had made it across and the bridge had been demolished, Horatius managed to get out of his armor and swim across the river to safety.
  • In 1503, Pierre Terrail (a.k.a. seigneur de Bayard), a famous French knight, reportedly single-handedly defended a bridge against 200 Spaniards during the battle of Garigliano and survived. That didn't stop the Spanish forces from winning the battle, though.
    • Pierre Terrail de Bayard was known as chevalier sans peur et sans reproche (Knight Without Fear and Reproach), being the Real Life Trope Codifier for Knight in Shining Armor.
  • French general Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, father of author Alexander Dumas, was known as "The Horatius Cocles of Tyrol" for single-handedly defending a bridge in Klausen, Northern Italy from a squadron of Austrian cavalry. For that, the Austrians called him Schwarzer Teufel, Black Devil, since he was half black.
  • Gullies Macbean held a gap in the wall alone against enemy troops trying to outflank the Jacobite army during the Jacobite uprisings and killed 13-14 men with a sword (they had guns) single-handedly including one Lord Robert Kerr. Some stories state that an officer tried to pull his men back to save him after seeing his bravery but he had already been mortally wounded.
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  • The Battle of Pavan Khind was the Indian version of Thermopylae, with 300 Marathan warriors holding a narrow pass long enough for their king Shivaji to reach a defensible position against a superior force and almost dying to the man.
  • The Alamo, where 182-260 Texan revolutionaries held off 2400 Mexican soldiers for 13 days. During the final assault, it's estimated that the Texans killed about one-third of the attacking Mexican troops before losing all but two of their number.
  • Rorke's Drift. In the aftermath of the Battle of Isandlwana, 139 British soldiers held off some 4,000 Zulu warriors. Before Isandlwana, the Zulus were poorly armed compared to the British; mainly spears complemented by some flintlock muskets and old rifles. Isandlwana was such a disaster for the British that there were in all likelihood far more modern rifles (taken from the fallen British soldiers) in the Zulu force than in the remaining, scattered British forces. However, Zulu marksmanship left much to be desired, and it's been said that the Zulu unfamiliarity with firearms led to their treating the range setting on the sights as a power setting for the round. This would cause bullets to miss wildly high at typical combat ranges. Thus the British still had some advantage during the long-range stage of the battle. During its climax, the fighting was mostly hand-to-hand and only the desperate gallantry of the redcoats saved them.
  • The Irish legend of Cú Chulainn had the legendary hero single-handedly preventing the entire army of Connaught from entering Ulster. While tied to a post and using one arm. That is what badass is. The reason he was tied to a post (a stone slab in some tellings) was his legs were severely damaged, and he was only using one arm was also severe damage.
  • ¡No Pasarán! ("They shall not pass") was a famous Republican (anti-fascist) slogan during the Spanish Civil War. Francisco Franco sent an army composed of highly trained Moorish mercenaries and legionaries hardened in Spain's various colonial wars to capture the Spanish capital of Madrid. They planned to attack the city through the enormous city park Casa de Campo. The outnumbered, underequipped and poorly trained Republican forces fought them to a standstill when they had barely penetrated the city. Madrid would become the first major city to face aerial bombardment, but would stand unconquered until the very end of the war when all else of Spain had succumbed and the phrase "They shall not pass!" was answered by Francisco Franco's retort, ¡Hemos pasado!, "We have passed."
    • Immortalized in a Badass Boast sung by the defenders of Madrid;
    Los Moros que trajo Franco -(the Moors that Franco brought over)
    en Madrid quieren entrar -(want to enter in Madrid)
    mientras quede un miliciano -(but as long as one militiaman remains)
    ¡los Moros no pasaran! -(the Moors will not pass!)
    • Aarne Juutilainen was the elder brother of Ace Pilot Ilmari Juutilainen. His nickname was Marokon kauhu (Terror of Morocco); he had served in the Spanish Foreign Legion.
  • "They Shall Not Pass" was the warcry of the anti-fascists at the Battle of Cable Street. The "They" was a British Union of Fascists parade led by Oswald Ernald Mosley, attempting to march through the mostly Jewish and Irish East End of London. Incidentally, they did not. In addition, the event spurred the creation of legislation requiring police consent for political marches and banning uniforms for political parties (the BUF were known as "Black Shirts" for a reason) which led to the decline of the BUF in the later 30s.
  • There's also Dian Wei, of Three Kingdoms China. When Cao Cao was doublecrossed and ambushed by Zhang Xiu, Dian Wei and his unit managed to get him out of the castle and cover his retreat. In the violent battle that ensued, Dian Wei's men were all killed, but he went on to fight with terrifying violence even though he was drunk and his weapons were stolen, first by bludgeoning an enemy barehanded and stealing his sword, then using that sword until it broke, then grabbing a couple enemies and using them as weapons. Allegedly, he was still cursing at the enemies as he died, and his body remained standing. His enemies were so terrified by the ferocity with which he fought, they didn't dare approach his body until they were sure he was dead, and that bought Cao Cao ample time to flee.
  • Oda Nobunaga's page, Mori Ranmaru, made one such stand at Honnouji's main gate when Akechi Mitsuhide betrayed Nobunaga. He failed to hold Honnouji's gate, but not for lack of trying, as Mitsuhide had to set the entire area on fire and thrown nearly a third of his army at him and his brothers to finally bring them down.
  • Speaking of feudal Japanese fighters, Saito no Musashibo Benkei. He was a Warrior Monk who stood guard on a bridge and confiscated swords from passing samurai. He was able to defeat 999 of them before losing to warlord Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Benkei then decided to serve Yoshitsune as his retainer. When Yoshitsune lost the war against his elder brother and committed Seppuku inside a besieged castle, Benkei once again guarded the bridge leading to the castle's main gate so no enemy could interrupt his master's ritual suicide. No one who got near him was left alive, so the enemy decided to riddle him with arrows instead. He still stood tall blocking the way, buying enough time for his master to die an honorable death. When the enemy gathered enough courage to examine him a while later they found that he had Died Standing Up.
  • Filipino general Gregorio del Pilar deserves a mention: when the regiment of President Emilio Aguinaldo was regrouping in Northern Luzon, pursued by the Americans, he was assigned protector of Tirad Pass. Despite being only with about 60 men and facing battalions, they stood their ground to the last man. Some historical documents, testimonies, and interpretation, nonetheless, suggest that del Pilar was the first to be killed in the battle.
  • Tank Man, a Chinese civilian who stopped before some tanks that were used against protesters. The fact that these tanks were on their way home does not make his actions less impressive.
  • The "Backs Against the Wall Order" issued by Haig in 1918 at the moment when it looked pretty certain that the Germans were going to win.
  • The British military has a history of this.
    • Rorke's Drift 1879, as mentioned above.
    • The sieges of Mafeking and Ladysmith in the Boer War, 1900.
    • The battle of Mons, 1914, where 2 British battalions held up four times their number of Germans. They passed, but only at great loss and after being greatly delayed - and in fact, it was the retreat of the French division on the British right that forced the British to withdraw or face being flanked and overwhelmed. Though only armed with bolt-action rifles, their rate of fire made the German forces believe that they were facing a large concentration of machine-guns.
    • The Battle of Britain.
      Winston Churchill: "Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war."
    The Island held, alone, for a whole year.
    • The sentiment is summed up best - of course - by Churchill himself, in these famous lines:
      "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
    The speech was issued at a time when Britain's prospects were looking particularly bleak, just after Britain had suffered some resounding defeats in campaigns, and the prospect of a German invasion was verging on the inevitable.
    • Operation Market Garden, 1944. The 1st Airborne hung on - against German tank divisions, no less, without any vehicles of their own - for ten days in Arnhem, when they were supposed to be relieved by the XXX Corps in four, and none of the supply drops had reached them.
    • The battle of the Imjin River, 1950. 4,000 men of the 29th Infantry Brigade inflicted 10,000 casualties on the advancing Chinese army and held them up two days before finally being overwhelmed. And even then, only because they'd fired every bullet they had.
  • British Royal Navy actions:
    • HMS Jervis Bay, converted cruise liner and sole escort of the 37-ship convoy HX-84 in November 1940. Before being sunk, she held off the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer for 22 minutes to buy time for the escaping convoy.
      • Jervis Bay is only half the story of Convoy HX-84, however: The other hero of the battle was the Canadian merchant ship SS Beaverford. Once the Jervis Bay had been sunk, the slow, lightly armored cargo ships were no match for the Admiral Scheer, and the next moments of the battle were more like a slaughter as the German cruiser picked off the fleeing merchants one by one. Finally, Captain Hugh Pettigrew of the Beaverford could take no more: he ordered his ship to engage the Admiral Scheer, bringing the cargo ship's two light naval cannons to bear on the 14-gun cruiser and sent one last message across the airwaves: “It is our turn now. So long. The captain and crew of SS Beaverford.” The Admiral Scheer, not expecting a cargo ship of all things to fight back after their escort had fallen, focused all her attention on the Beaverford but amazingly, the cargo ship played a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the cruiser for 4 hours before finally succumbing to torpedoes and gunfire and sinking with all hands. However, she had occupied the Scheer for long enough that by the time the plucky ship had sunk, all the other ships had dispersed and were too far gone to pursue. Her stand, and the Jervis Bay's saved countless lives that day from the cold bottom of the Atlantic. Bear in mind that not only was SS Beaverford crewed by civilians (whereas Jervis Bay was crewed by the Royal Navy) she was also the fastest ship in the convoy and thus had the best chance of escape. While she was barely more than half the speed of Admiral Scheer, because the German ship would've needed to slow down to sink each of the slower cargo ships.
    • HMS Rawalpindi, a converted passenger ship, encountered the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau as they attempted to break out into the North Atlantic in WWII. The ensuing battle was short, only 40 minutes before the Rawalpindi was sunk, but her radio report alerted the British Royal Navy and the battlecruisers were forced to turn back.
    • The British destroyer HMS Glowworm (1,450 tons) faced down the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper (18,000 tons) alone in the North Sea on 8 April 1940, and, when her torpedoes missed, rammed the larger ship in a last-ditch attempt to take it with her. The impact caused serious damage to the cruiser, and the Glowworm even managed to keep firing at point blank range when she was wrapped around the bows of the larger ship, before breaking off and sinking. The Captain, Lt Cdr Gerard Broadmead-Roope, received the Victoria Cross on the recommendation of the Hipper's commanding officer.
  • Another British example is the last stand at Saragarhi during the Indian frontier wars in 1897. 21 Sikh soldiers decided to sacrifice their lives to slow a force of 10,000-14,000 rampaging Pashtuns in order to buy enough time for the nearby forts to get reinforcements. That's deciding to stand against odds of ~500-1 compared to the Stand at Thermopylae of around 30-1 (the figure varies wildly, based on modern estimates). Includes a moment when the commander of the Sikhs gives his men time to fall back by facing the enemy alone. They died to a man but slowed the advance for long enough to allow for the later fort attacks to be foiled and inflicted (at least) 180 kills plus many more injuries. All 21 were given the then-equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
  • Dr. Liviu Librescu, Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, scientist and academic professor. On April 16, 2007, Librescu was teaching a class at Virginia Tech when gunman Seung-Hui Cho entered Norris Hall and began shooting into classrooms. Librescu personally kept the door shut to prevent Cho from entering the classroom so his students could escape, saving the lives of all but one of them. It took five shots to take him down. Of course, he had a history, since surviving the Holocaust takes a Determinator in itself...
  • During the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, the 240 Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines had to hold a hill overlooking Toktong Pass open so the other 8,000 Marines of the 7th and 5th Marines could consolidate behind them. They withstood continual attacks by a full regiment of 1,400 Chinese infantry for five days in subzero temperatures without any relief. Two-thirds of the company was wiped out, but not until they'd killed over 1,000 Chinese, and the rest of the Marines behind them survived to make the breakout.
  • Ironically, given the ultimate name of the engagement, Cornwallis's Retreat contained a fairly awesome one of these. Admiral Cornwallis (brother of the more famous Cornwallis who commanded at Yorktown and ultimately had to surrender it in face of French siege artillery and an unfavorable supply situation) ran into a French squadron of twenty-three warships (twelve ships-of-the-line and eleven frigates) when he had only seven (five ships-of-the-line, two frigates). Not surprisingly, he decided to leg it. However, poorly loaded holds on two of his battleships prevented him from legging it very quickly. After trying everything from jettisoning all non-essentials (including anchors), cutting holes in his stern planks so he could bear more cannons (he hacked so many holes in his own ship that the entire quarterdeck almost collapsed), two of his ships, Mars and Triumph, were in danger of falling to the French. This made Admiral Cornwallis very angry. So he turned his own ship, the 100-gun HMS Royal Sovereign around and engaging the entire French fleet on his own. Not a single British ship or sailor was lost.
  • Camarón, Veracruz, Mexico, 30 April 1863. An understrength French Foreign Legion company (less than 50 men) surrounded by over 2000 Mexicans. The captain of the company chose to keep fighting to distract the Mexicans from attacking an important French convoy. With no food, little water, and little ammunition, the Legionnaires held out for ten hours — and then the last six men able to fight, having run out of bullets, fixed bayonets and charged. Then they did it all over again at Dien Bien Phu. At least in the late 1930s, the anniversary of Camarón was the Legion's sole real holiday. All year (though there was extra wine at Christmas). To this day, Camarón is the reason why all Mexican soldiers are required to salute members of the French Foreign Legion, regardless of their respective ranks.
  • In the U.S. Civil War, The 20th Maine was positioned on Little Round Top at the extreme left flank and ordered to "hold to the last". As they ran out of ammunition, Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain gave the order for bayonets and led a downhill charge that drove off the Confederates long enough for reinforcements to secure the flank.
  • On October 9, 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, Col. Avigdor "Yanosh" Ben-Gal, commanding the Israeli 7th armored brigade, which by that time was down to 17 Centurion tanks, was defending the Kuneitra salient against the Syrian 7th division, which consisted of over a thousand T-62 tanks and a comparable number of infantry-bearing APCs and artillery pieces. Ben-Gal refused to retreat and told his men "They will not pass through. The fate of Israel rests on your shoulders. They will not pass." Even though the 7th brigade lost another ten tanks by nightfall, they managed to hold on, and Ben-Gal was made a general after the war.
  • There are seven battles of Thermopylae, most of which invoked this trope. (Apart from the original, most famous one: the Phocians in 353 BCE against Macedonnote ; the Greeks in 279 BCE against the Gallic Celts under Brennus; the Seleucid Greeks against the Romans in 191 BCE; the Eastern Romans (in effect, Greeks) in 267 CE against the Heruli; the Greeks against the Ottomans in 1821; and then the ANZAC forces against the Germans in 1941). It was a pretty popular place to fight a holding battle, mostly because the terrain in that location was pretty much perfect for a defensive stand. Over the last couple of millennia however, the area has changed so that it no longer presents a good choke point that a small force can effectively control.
  • During the Battle of Waterloo, both Napoleon and Wellington seemed obsessed with defending a small farmhouse on the flank of the battlefield (Hougoumont). It has been theorized that both thought the battle would turn on this farmhouse, but whatever the reason, they poured men into it. Wellington had it for the entire battle, but early on it looked like Napoleon would take it. One British sergeant held the gates to the Hougoumont closed on his own for several minutes while nearly a quarter of the French army was at the doors.
  • Done twice by the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea during the Korean War:
    • First was during the Battle of Yultong Bridge, where the 10th Battalion Combat Team was sent to hold the bridge in question. This battalion was composed of around 900 troops, and they were facing several thousand Chinese soldiers of two army groups. The Filipino soldiers held the bridge, with total casualties (killed and wounded) numbering 50, with Chinese suffering 500 killed, 2 captured, and an unknown number wounded.
    • The second time was during the Battle of Hill Eerie, fought by a UN force composed of American and Filipino soldiers. After the Hill was taken by a Filipino platoon led by future Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos, the Filipinos found themselves having to hold the hill from Chinese attempts to retake it, which included an artillery battle. On the dawn of June 20, 1952, the Chinese had advanced sufficiently to engage in hand-to-hand fighting but the Filipino troops were able to hold the position. By morning, the artillery battle continued but the allied forces successfully defended Hills Eerie and 191. It was estimated that the Chinese forces suffered 700 casualties while the Filipinos only had 24.
  • When the Japanese invaded Joseon Korea in the late 1500s, Admiral Yi Sun Shin stopped a Japanese armada attempting to secure an overseas supply route for their northward advance at Myeongdong Strait. The Japanese fleet numbered over 300. Yi had 13. Yi won. Decisivelynote . Undersupplied, the Japanese retreated and eventually abandoned the peninsula. In the same war, the Japanese asked the fortress of Tadaepo to surrender, erecting a huge sign that said, "Fight if you want to fight. Or lay down your arms and let us pass." The message the fort's commander sent back was: "Fighting and dying are easy. But letting you pass I cannot do." The fortress did fall, however, despite a desperate defense.
  • In The Korean War, the Battle of Kapyong was this, with Canadian and Australian soldiers defending the Kapyong valley from the invading Chinese. At one point in the battle, the Canadians called down artillery fire on their own positions because they were so overwhelmed. And when an Australian major called a US general for backup, the general thought that all the units were already wiped out. The battle ended with 32 Australians killed, 10 Canadians killed and over a 1000 Chinese killed.
  • A single Viking Berserker in the Battle of Stamford Bridge is said to have held off the Anglo-Saxon forces trying to cross said bridge killing 40 men in the process. He was only killed when a Saxon floated under the bridge and speared from below several hours after beginning to hold off the bridge. It's thought that the warrior, if this is true, probably wielded a Daneaxe, an early and rather large battle axe. If so, he would have probably been able to physically block the bridge by passing the head through a figure-8 motion in front and to the side of his body, smashing spears in half and preventing swordsmen getting close. Voila, one man meat grinder. This is why they had to find a barrel and float a guy downstream!
  • Legend has it that when Philip II sent the message 'If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta,' the Spartans sent a one-word reply: 'If.' Philip left them alone.
  • "The Defense of Fort McHenry" as written by Francis Scott Key (and later adapted into the "Star-Spangled Banner") describes the efforts of the aforementioned fort protecting Baltimore to hold back a British fleet sent to take the city. With the earlier destruction of Washington D.C., had Baltimore fallen, the United States would have had to ask for surrender terms in the War of 1812.
  • The Second Battle of Shipka Pass. The pass was defended by poorly armed Bulgarian volunteers and Russians troops, who managed to hold the pass against well-armed Ottoman forces (who outnumbered them seven times) for five days until reinforcements arrived. When the defenders ran out of ammunition, they switched to throwing rocks. When they ran out of rocks, they used the bodies of their fallen comrades as projectiles. In literature, the battle was explicitly compared to the Thermopylae.
  • The Siege of Dongnae during the Imjin war. Outnumbered six to one, he was sent a message by the Japanese, "Fight if you want to, or let us pass." His reply, "It is easy for me to die, but difficult to let you pass."
  • Much more recently, there have been cases of citizen militias forming to fight the drug cartels in Mexico. There was a case of one such group numbering under a dozen refusing to let the Los Zetas cartel take over their ranch. The cartel came to take it by force. It cost them two days and over fifty dead gunmen, including some of their more elite muscle, before they took the ranch. The resistors perished almost to a man, but the house was burned down during the fight, leaving the Zetas with little if anything of value.
  • In a nonbattle example, in American football, this is the point of a goal line stand. With one yard and four plays to get into the endzone, the team will usually put in extra 300+ pound lineman to stop the opponent from entering the end zone.
  • Aníbal Augusto Milhais, a simple villager drafted into WWI, would receive several high honors while gaining the nickname "Soldier Millions" by the allied forces. During the "Battle of La Lys", 120,000 Central Powers troops crushed most of the defenders. Milhais ended up holding back two divisions solo. His bravery convinced the Germans that they were up against a fortified unit rather than just a single Portuguese soldier with a Lewis machine gun. Finally, the Germans decided to go around and Milhais found himself alone in the rear of the enemy lines, where he stayed for three days with little food or water. On the third day, Milhais, still carrying his Lewis, rescued a Scottish major from a swamp and the two reached Allied lines. Milhais was warmly welcomed but did not say anything about his experiences. It was through the officer he had helped reporting the story to the British HQ and several other testimonies that his deeds become known. A few months later, Milhais again held back the Germans, standing alone with his Lewis gun and allowing a Belgian unit to retreat safely to a secondary trench without casualties. Both the British observers present in the scene and the Belgian commander included his action in their reports.
  • The battle of Cochin, nicknamed the 'Portuguese Thermopylae' had a small fleet of 140 Portuguese sailors and 5 ships against the Zamorin Raja of Calicut and his 57,000–84,000 men and 260 ships. Despite being outnumbered, outgunned, and virtually left by themselves after their allies were forced to flee, leaving them the sole defenders of the island, not only did they fight, they won virtually without casualties and inflicted over 5,000 casualties. Their success was partly due to intel from spies who warned them of the enemies' battle plans. The Portuguese forces even went so far as to do constant coastal raids against the enemy in order to gain supplies. Duarte Pacheco Pereira, the commander that led them, was always quite eager to go to the front lines. Duarte Pacheco Pereira also brought along a bastard son named Lisuarte, who was just a 20-year old squire who he personally had trained into becoming a knight. He was armed with what was described as a "huge broadsword" instead of a rapier and gun like his compatriots. Lisuarte earned his knighthood by charging into a line of 10,000 enemy troops and engaging them in a melee by himself. Duarte had to charge in with his few men to rescue out of worry. When they charged, the enemy fled to everyone's surprise. It became apparent why though when they finally found Lisuarte. Despite fighting in the lines by himself for several minutes, he didn't have a single scratch. In fact, there were several severed limbs and corpses surrounding the guy, and one enemy soldier had been completely hacked in half from the shoulder to the hip. Duarte was as pleased as one might expect. Lisuarte would continue these insane acts of courage for another 10 years until he finally took an arrow to the head.
  • During the Kargil War of 1999 between India and Pakistan, naval forces from several countries arrived via the Arabian sea to assist Pakistan. Waiting for them were an armada of Russian battleships and submarines who warned them against attacking India. They retreated immediately.
  • The Italian Alpini mountain troops were formed after the Third Italian War of Independence to defend Italy's mountainous north-eastern border in the next war with Austria-Hungary. Said war turned out to be the Italian front of World War I... And they did: the Alpini manned Monte Grappa (see above), and the Austro-Hungarians did not pass. Fittingly, the Alpini's motto is "Di qui non si passa!" ("Nobody passes here")!
    • On the opposite front, the Austro-Hungarians deployed the Tiroler Jäger-Regimenter, AKA the Kaiserjäger, to defend against the Italian offensive in the mountains (because, like in the previous wars, it was the Italians who attacked). While not mountain warfare specialists like the Alpini, the four Kaiserjäger regiments happened to draw most of their recruits from the Alpine region of Tyrol (the same idea the Italians had for the Alpini, as they were recruited from the populations living in the Italian Alps), and stopped the continuous Italian offensives for two years, resorting even to blow up pieces of mountains (to be fair, the Alpini did the same to them), until Caporetto put them on the offensive.
  • While in Association Football "You shall not pass" is a term usually spoken to describe stout defenses and\or unstoppable goalkeepers, The World Cup in 2010 had a sacrificing example fitting the trope. The Uruguay-Ghana are tied on overtime, and a possible Ghanaian last minute goal is stopped by Luis Suarez punching the ball. He's expelled, Ghana earns a penalty... and misses! The subsequent penalty shootout qualifies Uruguay, ultimately making Suarez' impulsive move the catalyst of his team's victory.
  • Soldier termites have oversized heads that are shaped to perfectly plug up burrow openings, the better to wall off intruders from their nests' interior. Predatory ants or other enemies are balked by the resulting barrier of armored exoskeleton and snapping mandibles. Some termite species' soldiers even have depressions on the underside of their heads and bulges on the top, allowing multiple soldiers to interlock their armored heads like LEGOs for a stronger defense.


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