Self-inflicted wound

A self-inflicted wound (SIW), is the act of harming oneself where there are no underlying psychological problems related to the self-injury, but where the injurer wanted to take advantage of being injured.

Reasons to self-wound

Most self-inflicted wounds occur during wartime, for various possible reasons.

During WW2 at the Battle of the Bulge, many soldiers on both sides of the battle field would die from the harsh weather. Many soldiers would die by enemy gunfire, but quite a few soldiers would die by the cold. In order for soldiers to get out of this “suicidal” battle where they die either way, soldiers would go off into a part of the woods and say they were urinating. Then they would shoot themselves in hands, feet, legs, etc. when alone and say an enemy bullet has struck them and to fire back. Medics would then take care of the injured soldier and most likely bring them back home.

Potential draftees may self-injure in order to avoid being drafted for health reasons. This was practiced as Abstinence (conscription) by some Jewish conscripts in the Russian Empire.

The most common reason enlisted soldiers self-wound is to render themselves unable to continue serving in combat, thus resulting in their removal from the combat line to a hospital. Thus, self-injury can be used to avoid a more serious combat injury or a combat death.

In prisons and forced labour camps people sometimes self-injure so that they will not be forced to work and could spend some time in the more comfortable conditions of the infirmary barracks.

Types of wounds

Among the most common type of wounds are a rifle shot to the hand, arm, leg, or foot.

Wounds can also occur by deliberate neglect of health, e.g. by failing to treat a minor wound that will become infected, or "forgetting" foot care in damp conditions that lead to fungal infections.


In most militaries, deliberately self-inflicted wounds are considered to be a serious military offense. Most self-inflicted wounds go unnoticed, though consequences are often severe if caught.

In the British army during World War I, the maximum penalty for a self-inflicted wound ("Wilfully maiming himself with intent to render himself unfit for service" as it was described) under Section 18 of the Army Act 1881 was imprisonment, rather than capital punishment. In the British Army, some 3,894 men were found guilty, and were sent to prison for lengthy periods.[1][2]

In Nazi concentration camps, self-injury was dangerous as the incapacitated were often just executed, but in some lower-stringency camps it has indeed been documented.


There have been many reports of SIW during World War I, placing certain soldiers under suspicion for some injuries which could have been genuine accidents.[2]

During World War II, almost all armies (most often mentioned are the Soviet Army and the Wehrmacht) had cases of self-inflicted injury.


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