How would being able to resurrect dead soldiers affect warfare?

The setting is the same as last question Line/Square formations with automatic rifles and sentient vehicles?.

The thing is in the setting, the settled factions/countries are able to revive their dead (decomposition doesn't happen in the setting.) People are only going to be revived with medical equipment at field hospitals or hospitals.

Also reviving a dead person is easy/cheap unless they have been torn apart by something such as an explosion.

When they are revived they will be uninjured and ready to return to combat unless the soldier decides not to.

Being revived takes from a few hours to days as well.

Savages as they are called (unsettled factions) don't have access to this technology.

For example how would being able to revive dead soldiers affect a war or even a battle.

To answer a comment, the threshold for not being able to be revived is somewhat unknown but if you are blown apart into chunks then you probably can't be revived.

Also there is a chance for a person to simply vaporize after death and this goes up the more they are damaged while dead. If this happens they will be transported to another universe with a few reappearing in this world.

The soldiers are the same mentally as before they died so they wouldn't be slaves.

Also after a certain point there were laws of war about what to do with the dead that forbade destroying their bodies on purpose while dead so an army could simply gather those bodies and chuck them in the ocean or a big pit.

  • $\begingroup$ In general questions asking what would be the effect of X on society, warfare, etc... are too broad for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ related" worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/205221/… $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ What is a threshold for physical damage after which revival is not possible? Do revived soldiers keep their memories and personality, or they become slaves to the one who resurrected them? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 19:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Heh, the scenario is quite plausible if you replace "resurrection" with "repair" and the soldiers are AI robots. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 22:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do the resurrected soldiers remember the circumstances of their deaths? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 5:11

7 Answers 7


Probably a lot of slave labor

This is only one way this could affect warfare, not going to pretend to try a comprehensive answer.

The defeated armies will be regularly detained, revived, and forced into infinite slavery. When their bodies give out and they die, they're simply revived again. With life being a near-negligible thing, arguments against this form of slavery will probably fall on deaf ears far longer than it took modern, civilized, humans to come to their senses.

This is a terrible result, but likely.

It will also lead to snowball effects in winning wars/battles. Instead of taking over a land at a great cost of human life - one will take over land with less cost to human life (victors revive most of their fallen troops), and also take over new territories with an entire population of slave labor to supply food, materials, etc for the army.

Because of this, as one faction gains an advantage, it will be nearly impossible to reverse it.

However, as Gillgamesh pointed out, weapons will be made far more destructive to help prevent this kind of domination.

On the same note, armor will also probably be prevalent, rather than having died out in the middle ages - concussive forces will almost always be able to be revived from, since there is limited damage to the body.


These will focus on obliteration of the human body, rather than simply disabling or killing quickly.

Some examples are:

  • Explosive rounds
  • Fire
  • Corrosive gas/Chemical weapons
  • WMD (nuclear, orbital bombers, etc)


[more incoming next edit]

After action cleanups

Another good point from @Gillgamesh's comment: "After action cleanups would be quite gruesome, unique ways of clearing casualties from the battlefield would be developed."

Unique methods will be used to clear the battlefield, but I think it will be a judgement call on if it will be gruesome. Tying back to the first point about reviving enemies for salve labor, in those cases methods would be used that can collect bodies effectively with minimal damage. However if it's decided this enemy is too difficult to use as labor for X reason, there will be most likely be farm-like equipment developed that instead of just tilling the ground, takes care of... the losers.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Weapons will generally more destructive, aiming aiming at obliteration as opposed to just disabling or killing an enemy soldier. Explosive rounds, fire, corrosive gas / chemical weapons, WMDs all would be much more prevalent. any form of the Geneva Convention is likely out the door. After action cleanups would be quite gruesome, unique ways of clearing casualties from the battlefield would be developed. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Gillamesh with some more details, I think that'd make a great partial answer. I don't think we can answer comprehensively in one. But if you'd rather, I'll add your comments into mine - they're all good points. More destructive weapons would also change mine slightly, as the victor's slave population wouldn't be as large, and their army would still suffer some casualties. $\endgroup$
    – TCooper
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ be my guest. Look forward to reading it! $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 18:18

Unless there's a cure for PTSD / psychological trauma caused by the pain of dying to go with it, resurrection probably doesn't get you functioning troops more than once or twice. Even the simple knowledge that they died and the next time it might be permanent is enough to give anyone pause to rethink what they are doing.

Military personnel are humans, not robots.

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    $\begingroup$ "Military personnel are humans, not robots." What if they actually are robots? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 22:49

It depends on the morality

In a relatively ideal world, this technology would mean that:

  1. The advanced army would deploy its living soldiers so that it could be relatively certain of retrieving their bodies if they were slain. They would avoid sending out small recon patrols / sniper pairs where the bodies might not be recoverable, instead they would use drones. Given their overwhelming technological superiority, this should not be much of a limitation. (There is also a negligible chance of anyone being "blown to pieces" given the range of pre-20th century artillery compared to 21st century weapons.)
  2. Enemy slain would be revived where possible and treated well, allowed to experience the comforts and benefits of the high tech society and then sent back to their own side at a convenient time. These soldiers would be more inclined to think well of their one-time enemies and justifiably fearful of the much more advanced artillery that could kill them sufficiently thoroughly that they couldn't be revived if they fought the advanced nation again.

That's the near-utopian view, where eventually everyone comes over to the advanced side and the world is all unicorns and rainbows. However, a less merciful "advanced" nation with this technology might:

  1. Use its soldiers ruthlessly, expending their lives where tactically useful but using the resurrection tech as a cost-cutting measure to save its own soldiers only when economically beneficial. Soldiers are punished for "dying" post-resurrection as an additional incentive not to be as efficient as possible.
  2. Enemy combatants and civilians are resurrected for use as slave labour, as suggested in other answers.
  3. Enemies who are believed to have valuable information are tortured very energetically - dying is not an escape, they just get to keep getting tortured until a repeated resurrection fails. (Niska, from the Firefly episode "War Stories" had a weak version of this tech - think about how he would use it if it weren't sanitised for TV.)

Also there is a chance for a person to simply vaporize after death and this goes up the more they are damaged while dead. If this happens they will be transported to another universe with a few reappearing in this world.

The little information that is provided on this possibility suggests that it would be irrelevant to military operations in the vast majority of cases.


Firstly, most factions would use explosives, you would have to have anti-tank, missile, and aircraft guns. Second, the Savages would be wiped out. Lastly, most wars would last years and enemies would sabotage others' medical equipment.


Broken Angels in the Altered Carbon series had just this scenario. One effect it had was that resurrection was used as an incentive to obey superiors.

They also ended up with a sort of 'Geneva Convention' effect; killing bodies was no big deal, but inflicting real death was considered morally wrong.

Some castes of soldiers were trained to handle dying. Normal people ended up with severe PTSD.


Not that much.

War is won not by the side who kills more people, but the side who destroys the war capability of the other. In Vietnam, the vietnamese lost much more people than the US, but they got the US tired of fighting. In WWII Russia lost much more people than Germany, but they managed to break through their defenses, capture and retain key positions and cut off his resources while the german econmy collapsed.

War wouldn't change that much. You'd still aim to wreck your enemy's combat capability. This can be made through multiple ways:

  • You destroy their resurrection facilities first, then carry normal warfare while they are truly losing soldiers.
  • You try to destroy their heavy industry: plane and heavy vehicles manufacturing, ammo production, oil fields, power stations. Once they don't have tanks, or fuel to start them on, you don't care if they still have all of their soldiers alive. They cannot do much when you have vehicles and they don't: you can move faster, concentrate troops wherever you like, dominate the skies, bombing the hell out of them, etc.
  • You aim to break their economy through any other means: naval blockade, cyber-attacks, piracy, whatever. Whenever they run out of money, their army can't fight. When your civilian population is starving, you cannot fight.

And so on. In tactics I don't envision major changes. There would be a tactical change towards riskier "suicidal" attacks, where you expect to lose many people but still taking the objective, so you can resurrect your people, and a common tactic would be retrieving all the corpses from the battlefield, yours and those of the enemy. The enemy bodies could be kept as hostages, for an exchange of prisoners, or destroyed beyond recovery.


I find it a hard pill to swallow given the other conditions that laws would forbid the destruction of dead after a battle. It would certainly guarantee the side with the greater numbers would win, and the the side with the fewer numbers if they did win would give up any advantage they might have gained in any upcoming battle.
However without any knowledge of the culture other then meat grinding warmongers: I could see them employing some sort of ritualized warfare, not exactly like but similar in vein to 17th century European battlefield tactics (Line Tactics).

(I am not saying fighters in this world would engage in line tactics)

IN 17th century line tactics evolved with the gun having controlled voiles of fire from soldiers moving in tightly controlled formations, in a treeless terrain with direct lines of fire. (yes yes much more complicated that this but it is the gist) Over time this became more of how gentlemen engaged in and rationalized war, and used line tactics in every engagement whether the environment benefited this type of warfare or not.
What the exact form of the ritualized warfare takes is up to the OP. Perhaps a question on that topic.


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