|Social scientists often focus on Islamic radicals or Kamikaze pilots as examples of dying for the group, or “extreme self-sacrifice.” Perhaps it would be valuable to examine another case study—the monumental sacrifices made by soldiers who fought in the First World War.
During the period July 28, 1914-November 11, 1918, soldiers of nearly every nation in the world died in massive numbers. For four years, soldiers of Great Britain, France and Germany were asked to get out of a trenches—and to run toward an opposing trench—where they were cut down by machine gun fire and artillery shells.
The bottom line was 8.5 million dead, 21 million wounded, and 7.7 million missing in action—a total of 37 million casualties (see Table directly below). During the course of the war, an average of 6,000 men died every day.
In Great Britain after the outbreak of war in August 1914—in just eight weeks—over three-quarters of a million men in Britain had volunteered. Between the period of August 1914 and December 1915—2,466,719 men had joined the British army voluntarily. How can the study of the First World War illuminate the phenomena of “fusion with the group” and “extreme self-sacrifice?”