United States Military Code of Conduct

Article 2

U.S. Army soldiers salute
United States Military Code of Conduct. John Moore / Getty Images

Article II

I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

Explanation: Members of the Armed Forces may never surrender voluntarily. Even when isolated and no longer able to inflict casualties on the enemy or otherwise defend themselves, it is their duty to evade capture and rejoin the nearest friendly force.

Surrender is the willful act of members of the Armed Forces turning themselves over to enemy forces when not required by utmost necessity or extremity. Surrender is always dishonorable and never allowed. When there is no chance for meaningful resistance, evasion is impossible, and further fighting would lead to their death with no significant loss to the enemy, members of Armed Forces should view themselves as "captured" against their will versus a circumstance that is seen as voluntarily "surrendering." They must remember that the capture was dictated by the futility of the situation and overwhelming enemy strengths. In this case, capture is not dishonorable.

The responsibility and authority of a commander never extends to the surrender of command, even if isolated, cut off, or surrounded, while the unit has a reasonable power to resist, break out, or evade to rejoin friendly forces.

What Military Personnel Need to Know: Specifically, Service members should:

  • Understand that when they are cut off, shot down, or otherwise isolated in enemy-controlled territory, they must make every effort to avoid capture. The courses of action available include concealment until recovered by friendly rescue forces, evasive travel to a friendly or neutral territory, and evasive travel to other prebriefed areas.
  • Understand that capture does not constitute a dishonorable act if the service member has exhausted all reasonable means of avoiding it and the only alternative is death or serious bodily injury.
  • Understand and be confident in their ability to stay alive using survival skills while evading, the procedures and techniques of rescue by search and recovery forces, and the procedures for properly using specified evasion destinations.

Special Provisions for Medical Personnel & Chaplains. No additional flexibility. However, medical personnel and chaplains are subject to lawful capture. They may only resort to arms in self-defense or in defense of the wounded and sick in their charge when attacked in violation of the Geneva Convention. They must refrain from all aggressive action and may not use force to prevent their capture or that of their unit by the enemy. It is, on the other hand, perfectly legitimate for a medical unit to withdraw in the face of the enemy.

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