There are some terms that are so commonplace in science fiction that they began to lose their context and true meaning, like: FTL, Blaster, dropship. Two of those terms that exists in both the realms of military science fiction and contemporary military culture is: Stormtrooper and Shocktrooper. In this blogpost, FWS will be clearing up the mystery of these two terms, their historical roots, military meaning, and use in sci-fi. So, get out your white armor and lets explore and explain Stormtroopers and Shocktroopers!
What is an "Stormtrooper"?
What is an "Shocktrooper"?
The Modern Day Term: Assault Trooper and Air Assault Forces
Are Shocktroopers, Stormtroopers, and Assault Troops Considered Special Forces?
The historical Stormtroopers of World War One were precursors to modern day Specialized units with their unique gear, training, and elite mentality. To me, it is contextual to the time period, the military organization, and the standard on which we can evaluate the terms "Special Forces". My answer? After my four-part Special Operation Forces blogposts and the comments, I reevaluated my own definition of Special Force units, and I do believe that specialized assault units designed to bring the shock-and-awe to the enemy, destabilizing their position for the regular units to achieve victory easier and quicker are a mark of elite soldiers with unique skills and abilities.
Why Star Wars Dominates the term "Stormtrooper"
When you Google the term "stormtrooper" 99.9% of the image results are related to the iconic Imperial Stormtroopers of Star Wars. This is also similar to the results to the internet entries as well. This means that the white armor wearing enforcers of the Empire dominates the term "stormtroopers" throughout the internet and beyond. Resistance is futile it seems. We know that Lucas mined 3rd Reich (Nazi) Germany for terms, iconography, and ideas associated with the Galactic Empire in a galaxy far, far away. Given the association of the term "Stormtrooper" to Germany and the Nazi Party, it was largely ignored by science fiction creators for the most part. With Lucas directly using the Nazis for the evil Empire, he could use "stormtrooper" for his fanatic white armor wearing soldiers, fully allowed and supporting the connection to the 3rd Reich. Since Star Wars became the juggernaut that it is in modern sci-fi and general world culture, those Imperial Stormtroopers dominated the term and pretty much owned it since 1977 throughout today.
The Connection between Space Drop Troops and Storm/Shock Troopers
The Sci-Fi Shocktrooper and the Stormtrooper
The vast majority of sci-fi shocktroopers wear gas mask like apparatus and wield fearsome weaponry that are not only used to serve has offensive tool, but a psychological one as well. In addition to their nearly inhuman appearance, storm/shock troopers are often depicted as the most loyal and ideologically strong elite soldiers of their respective governments, making them perfect for the harder assignments, being rallying forces during the pitched battles, and rebel suppression. As per their name, storm/shock troopers charge the field of battle or drop in from outer space, to push the rest of the military forwards to victory.
Sci-Fi and the Stormtrooper/Shocktrooper
In some sources, like Star Wars, the storm/shock trooper is the enforcer of an tyrannical government that crushes resistance to the rule of law. Other times, the storm/shock trooper is the special assault unit called in to break the enemy in a key location, or hold the line in a pitched battle. When it comes to the usage of the terms storm/shock troops, it is overly popular in common culture and it is seen mostly in sci-fi RPGs, video games, and war simulation games rather than in movie, television, and literature...save for the Imperial Stormtroopers. There are times when the terms are used as label or descriptor rather than an official title or name for a specific military unit. When it comes to the overall history of the storm/shock troopers in sci-fi, they were mostly used after the Cold War and during the rise in popularity of military sci-fi in the late 1970's and 1980's, especially in the realm of wargames and RPGs.
The UNSC ODSTs from the HALO Universe
Also, the ODSTs could be dropped into a pitched battle, breaking the enemy at key points or being an QRF to reinforce friendly forces. Even after their drop into the battlefield, ODSTs could be pulled into any planetary operation tasked as special assault units, scouting, or hitting a specific target. To accomplish these various combat duties, ODSTs use a variety of weapons and equipment specific for the ODST like the SOEIV drop capsules, special armor, and weapons like the SPARTAN Laser and the caseless M7S PDW and the M6/C SOCCOM pistol. The ODST units have a history of working with SPARTAN units, and some ODSTs, like Edward Buck and Sarah Palmer, became SPARTAN-IVs after the war. Throughout the HALO games, books, and comic; ODSTs have been a popular subject, and even got their own game in 2009.
The Imperial Stormtroopers from the Star Wars Universe
Prior to the Clone Wars, the Grand Republic really did not possess a military in our understanding. For the most part, the Jedi Order maintain peace and justice...then came the Naboo Crisis, the Clone Wars, and the rise of the Sith-controlled Galactic Empire that wiped out the Jedi. During the galactic war between the Separatists and the Republic, one of the icons of the Clone Wars was the white-armored Clone Trooper, grown and bred for war from Jango Fett's genes. These Clone Troopers were the primary infantry of the Republic Forces, but they were not built to last. After the Republic won the Clone Wars, and the Empire emerged, the clone soldiers were biologically breaking down, leading the Empire to recruit for their legions of white armor wearing soldiers: The Imperial Stormtroopers.
The Imperial Guard Stormtroopers from the WH40K Universe
The Imperial Sardaukar Terror Troops from the DUNE Universe
The Kerberos Panzer Corps from the Jin-Roh: Wolf Brigade Universe
Republic Clone Shocktroopers from the Star Wars Universe
The Various Helghast Shocktroopers from the Killzone Universe
There are several types of Helghast Shocktroopers in the ranks of the Helghast Army that you encounter throughout the games after the original 2005 PS2 release. These Shocktroops are designed closer to the World War One Stormtroopers of the Imperial German Army in both tactics, weaponry, and iconography. During the invasion of the Helghan homeworld, the shocktroopers were the one pushing the ISA off-guard by rushing their lines, and motivating the rest of the Helghan forces to fight harder. Adding this assault-centered mission was their lighter armor and use of SMGs, instead of standard weaponry. Once the battle gets into hand-to-hand range, the Helghan shocktroopers resort to their combat knives. During the second Killzone game, the shocktroopers would run in random patterns while charging towards you. Given their lighter appearance and armament, some have believed that some stormtroopers are actually an fanatical paramilitary organization like the Baathist Iraqi Fedayeen that was designed around protecting the homeland from invaders. This makes the Helghan shocktroopers rather unique in military science fiction over the more common heavily armored and armed assault spacedrop soldiers.
The Cerberus Assault Troopers from the Mass Effect Universe
The Slayers from Krull
The REF "Cyclone" Assault Infantry Mecha System from the ROBOTECH Universe
The Wargames Factory "Greatcoat" Shocktroopers Miniatures
The Adeptus Astartes from Warhammer 40,000 Universe
Eisenkern Stormtroopers from Dream Force Games
The Clans' Elemental Powered Armor Infantry Shocktroopers from Battletech Universe
The Cadian Shock Troops of the Imperial Guard from the WH40K Universe
The Mobile Infantry "Shocktrooper" Style Raid on the Skinnies from Starship Troopers
The Space Marine Terminators from WH40K Universe
Next Time on FWS...