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A group of child soldiers, circa 1980s.

Child soldiers, sometimes referred to as little soldiers, are children who are either raised as soldiers or forced to fight in the battlefield. They are usually younger than 16.


Throughout history and in many cultures, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns even when such practices were supposedly against cultural morals. Since the 1970s a number of international conventions have come into effect that try to eliminate the participation of children in armed conflicts, though the practice still remains widespread in some parts of the world, with at least 300,000 child soldiers being deployed by 2009.[1] The growth of the "war economy" in the early 2010s led to an increase in the use of child soldiers on the battlefield, with the soldiers recruited by private military companies also becoming younger as a result.

Warning: The following information is from outside Hideo Kojima's core "Metal Gear Saga." Its canonicity within the continuity is disputed, therefore reader discretion is advised.[?]

During the late 2010s, the means of child soldiers gained a far more insidious twist, where trafficked children had their brains surgically removed and placed in cyborg head units, and then placed under VR training for the purpose of making them ruthless killing machines. Raiden and Maverick discovered this when investigating a Desperado-owned research lab, and attempted to put an end to it, at the very least ensuring that those kids he couldn't save from having their brains removed, he'd at least spare them from experiencing the same kind of childhood that he had as Jack the Ripper.

Non-"Metal Gear Saga" information ends here.

Former child soldiers

Warning: The following information is from outside Hideo Kojima's core "Metal Gear Saga." Its canonicity within the continuity is disputed, therefore reader discretion is advised.[?]
He participated in the Mozambican War of Independence, and later underwent CIA training to become the Perfect Soldier "Null."
Non-"Metal Gear Saga" information ends here.

Other military uses of children

In 1999, the military fortress of Zanzibar Land was inhabited by many children who had been "saved" from various wars by Big Boss. Although they were not deployed as child soldiers during that time, Big Boss intended to train and equip these children to fight in future wars.

Behind the scenes

Adolescent experience with warfare is a recurring theme in the Metal Gear series. Child soldiers are employed by many factions, some serving as proxies of the Patriots and the Philosophers.

The Zanzibar Land children were omitted in the entry for Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in the Previous Operations section of Metal Gear Solid and its remake, The Twin Snakes.

There are several occasions in the series where it is implied that some characters had experience of warfare at a young age, although their participation as child soldiers, if any, is not specified. Examples include:

According to Hideo Kojima's notes in the Piggyback Collector's Edition Guide's art gallery, the child soldiers were an integral part of the free infiltration sandbox and thus the player had to meet them in the game. He also elaborates on why Big Boss takes in child soldiers: Since Big Boss himself is infertile, and this is no longer able to have children, he is very protective of any children that he encounters, even Eli, and that the children are a blessing even to someone like Big Boss who was defined by his lust for revenge. In the game, Venom Snake intended to recycle rescued child soldiers within the ranks of Diamond Dogs, although he is stopped by Kazuhira Miller.

Prior to the release of The Phantom Pain, the Metal Gear Solid: Official Missions Handbook had claimed Liquid Snake had formerly acted as an underage mercenary at the age of 13.

Meryl was initially considered to be 13 years old during the events of Metal Gear Solid, largely because her design was intended to be based on the female protagonist in The Professional/Leone, and thus technically a child soldier. However she was significantly aged up due to the development staff finding it improbable for her to be wielding a Desert Eagle at that age after reading the script.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (2001).
    Rosemary: Drafting small children, sending them to war -- it's not allowed under international conventions. // Raiden: ICC rules don't mean a lot in war. Someone told me that there are over three hundred thousand children in combat right now. I was just one of them...
  2. ^ Metal Gear Solid by Raymond Benson, Del Rey Books (2008).
    "Even when as a child, he had acknowledged the fact that he was different from others his age. He was already sufficiently distinguished from his con-temporaries in that he did not know his parents and had grown up with and been educated by a variety of foster “teachers.” And he'd been training to be a soldier since early childhood."
  3. ^ Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Kojima Productions (2006).
    Elisa: Her name is Ursula. She's the one who's a member of FOX. I'm just a medic. // Naked Snake (Big Boss): You're pretty young. // Elisa: Well, you were out on the battlefield when you were my age, weren't you, Snake? Or should I say... Big Boss?
  4. ^ Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Kojima Productions (2006)
    Naked Snake (Big Boss): This is Elisa. She helped us escape. // Roy Campbell: You got one of Gene's soldiers to join our side? // Campbell: (whispering) Just out of curiosity, how did you manage to get a girl like this? Don't you think she's a little young? I mean, another five years and she'll be a real knockout of a woman, but...
  5. ^ Big Boss was established to be 39 years old at the time of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which took place in November 1974 and the Korean War lasted from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, meaning he would have been roughly between 15 and 18 years old at the time of the war.

See also