Which combatant forces brought teenagers to battle in WWII?

Oct 2018
Adelaide south Australia
Russia possibly had teenage and younger boy soldiers or used younger boys irregularly.

I can't back this up with hard evidence,. I'm going by an excellent Russian war movie, called "Ivan's Childhood" in which the protagonist was used as a scout, behind enemy lines, and fights on the front line. I have no idea if this story is accurate about the Soviet use of children or is just a plot device. I mention it because I don't think the soviets would have had any qualms about using children,. although perhaps not officially..

Ivan's Childhood tells the story of orphaned boy Ivan, whose parents were killed by the invading German forces, and his experiences during World War II. Ivan's Childhood was one of several Soviet films of its period, such as The Cranes Are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier, that looked at the human cost of war and did not glorify the war experience as did films produced before the Khrushchev Thaw.[3] In a 1962 interview, Tarkovsky stated that in making the film he wanted to "convey all [his] hatred of war", and that he chose childhood "because it is what contrasts most with war."[4]

After a brief dream sequence, Ivan Bondarev, a 12-year-old Russian boy, wakes up and crosses a war-torn landscape to a swamp, then swims across a river. On the other side, he is seized by Russian soldiers and brought to the young Lieutenant Galtsev, who interrogates him. The boy insists that he call "Number 51 at Headquarters" and report his presence. Galtsev is reluctant, but when he eventually makes the call, he is told by Lieutenant-Colonel Gryaznov to give the boy pencil and paper to make his report, which will be given the highest priority, and to treat him well. Through a series of dream sequences and conversations between different characters, it is revealed that Ivan’s mother and sister (and probably his father, a border guard) have been killed by German soldiers. He got away and joined a group of partisans. When the group was surrounded, they put him on a plane. After the escape, he was sent to a boarding school, but he ran away and joined an army unit under the command of Gryaznov.

Ivan's Childhood - Wikipedia


Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
Slovenia, EU
In which western European countries do you think it was easy for someone under 18 to get a fake ID c. 1939/1940?

A fake ID would be completely useless for this purpose, in a country with obligatory military service, whether in peacetime or wartime, which most European countries had. An ID wouldn't get you on the conscription list, which was derived from the population register. Here in Belgium, that happened on your 17th birthday. You got a letter telling notifying you of that fact, and that this meant that in a year's time you could be called up for military service. (Even under German occupation , this administrative system kept on functioning, even though nobody was ever called up. The militia lists, as they're officially called, were always kept up to date.) After having done your required service, you would remain on the list for an additional number of years as a reservist, who could be called up again in wartime. In a general mobilisation everyone over the age of 18 on that list was called up. Both the letter notifying someone of their inclusion on the list, and the actual call-up letter a year later, were hand-delivered by the local neighbourhood policeman, who knew everybody in their little neck of the woods, to the recipient in person. I know equivalent systems operated in neighbouring countries.

Nobody could go to an army office, say "I'm 18, and I want to become a soldier". You needed to be on the list of people called up, and bring your call-up letter, which told you where you needed to report to. It would be in fact completely impossible to enlist someone under a fake identity, because of the population registers. When somebody joins the military, that change of status must be reflected in the population register of the municipality they're from. A fake identity would therefore immediately be spotted when the municipal clerk found that no such person existed. Even if some very clever teenager under 18 had managed to steal someone else's identity card, and that person hadn''t noticed that and reported it to the police, and he had managed to somehow intercept his call-up letter as well, and had successfully managed to get through the medical checks without anybody getting suspicuous about his age, that would mean there would now be a person of military age walking around who wasn't called up, unlike all his peers. During a general mobilisation, that isn't something that passes unnoticed. The moment anyone got curious about why that person hadn't been called up, it would immediately emerge that someone was already serving under that identity.
My grandfather was 16 when he joined AH army in WWI (1914). He lied about his age, I don't know what id he provided.


Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
Finland allowed possibility for boys under 18 years older to volunteer as soldiers - since there was mandatory conscription every one over 18 was trained (or supposed to be trained). Some did so in the Winter War (1939-40). Even more so in the Continuation War (1941-44), usually not used for front line tasks though. Perhaps the best example is the so called 'squirrel battery' (artillery unit) which consisted of boys under 18 years. It took part to the fighting but was not really fighting at the front line foxholes. In fact AFAIK Finnish HQ prohibited using any one under 18 years in front line tasks. Even younger boys were informally used in rear areas as 'soldiers' but they typically were more akin to messengers. So they were used but mainly in rear areas or in tasks such as artillery or AA. But it was voluntary and it required parent's acceptance.


Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Definitions of teenager:

A teenager, or teen, is a person who falls within the ages of thirteen to nineteen years old. The word "teenager" is another word for an adolescent. When a teenager turns 20, they are no longer a teenager because they are no longer in that developmental stage.
Teenager - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A person aged between 13 and 19 years.
teenager | Definition of teenager in English by Oxford Dictionaries

a person who is 13 through 19 years old
TEENAGER | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary

In most armies the minimum age for military enlistment in the 1940s would have been eighteen. Therefore most military forces during the 1940s would conscript or recruit persons in an age range that included 18 and 19-year-olds, and many of those military forces would also send persons aged 18 and 19 into battle, especially if they were short of manpower and desperately needed as many men as they could get.

As a routine example, my father, born in 1926, apparently volunteered for the US army while in high school under a program which enabled him to finish school and perhaps reach the age of 18 before entering the army. I believe he suffered frostbite in the Vosges Mountains, which should have been in the winter of 1944-45, and thus when was 18 or 19.

I believe my father didn't have a birth certificate from 1926 so he had to get a delayed birth certificate with possibly inaccurate information in the 1940s.

Of course the USA was rather unusual in relying on voluntary enlistment to a much greater degree than most European countries. But the US armed forces reached a maximum of over 12,000,000 persons, which was a significant percentage of the total world enlistment during WWII.

But I think that the majority of WWII belligerents sent teenagers age 18 and 19 into battle, and probably the majority of those countries also had cases of officially enlisted military personnel aged 17 and younger, some of whom went into battle. And many cases where the fighting occurred within a country resulted in the use of civilian partisans, resistance fighters, and guerrillas, including boys and girls younger than 18 and in some cases younger than 13.

One of the last photos of Hitler show him touching the cheek of a young 13 something youth who was defending the Nazi leader..
I have seen a number of photos of that occasion in March 1945 when Hitler greeted several boys who were decorated for bravery. I believe that the smallest boy in those photos, and wearing a black uniform, was named Alfred Czech, who was 12 years old. I think the slightly bigger boy beside him in a lighter colored uniform was Wilhelm Hubener (1929-2010) who looked young for his age.

Wilhelm 'Willi' Hübner - one of the youngest recipients of the Iron Cross, 1945
Last edited:
Aug 2014
New York, USA
Russia possibly had teenage and younger boy soldiers or used younger boys irregularly.

I can't back this up with hard evidence,. I'm going by an excellent Russian war movie, called "Ivan's Childhood" in which the protagonist was used as a scout, behind enemy lines, and fights on the front line. I have no idea if this story is accurate about the Soviet use of children or is just a plot device. I mention it because I don't think the soviets would have had any qualms about using children,. although perhaps not officially..
Most of the Soviet manpower deficiencies were filled up by recruiting women. Boy recruits on the Soviet western front (our Eastern front) were actually pretty uncommon and were only admitted if they volunteered. Most of the teenagers below 18-19 years of age actually went to serve in Siberia and the Far East freeing up manpower for transfer to the western front. There were also boys who fought out of necessity as partisans/scouts, as they were trapped and starving in German encirclements or were persecuted by the German security forces inside the German conquered territories.
Last edited:
Oct 2018
Adelaide south Australia

""At 14 the boys went down the mines in South Wales-- dirty, hard and dangerous work -- war was not that much different.""

Before the The Factory Act in 1833, and the Mines Act in 1842, children much younger worked in the mines, and in factories, where children of 5 worked regularly. Very young children continued to work on farms until the twentieth century. In spite of being banned, Child labour is still a problem in India and Pakistan.

Do you remember seeing those nice "Princess Bokhara Style" rugs? I have two. I found out many years later, that my lovely rugs had almost certainly been produced by child labour in India or Pakistan. I have been unable to look at those rugs with the same simple pleasure since then.

Anyway, I think the topic was about a formalised use of Child soldiers.

Common in medieval times and before. The often romantic view of childhood we have today was invented in the mid nineteenth century, at least in part by Queen Victoria. Plus at that time, due to England's vast mercantile empire, a large middle class arose. These people had the luxury of allowing their children to have a childhood.

With all those kids came a demand for schools, instead of private tutors. That lead to what is confusingly called" The English Public School System" Founded for children of the poor, they became the high class, expensive private schools of today; Eaton, Harrow, Rugby and dozens more.

Before the nineteenth century children were seen as miniature adults, and treated such. In England, children as young as 12 were transported or hanged .

The famous image of Hitler pinching the cheek of a young boy in uniform is due to a last desperate attempt to delay the inevitable; Men well past military age, as well as boys from the Hitler Youth (no girls) were dragooned into defending Berlin . I've read accounts of how fanatical some were, and how reluctant some American troops were to shoot them. The Russians apparently had no qualms ,as they raped their way across Germany and through Berlin---payback for the way the Germans acted in Russia.and Eastern Europe..

Similar History Discussions