05 April 2016

The Barracks: Stormtroopers and Shocktroopers

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"?
During the hellish Great War, German Major Calsow developed a new type of soldier for a new type of war in 1915: the assault trooper. The basic concept was enhanced by Willy Rohr. Throughout this time in World War One, the French, the Canadians, and the Russians were all experimenting with assault tactics and units, especially after the pamphlet on assault/infiltration tactics by French Captain Andre Laffargue. Given the conditions of the war, it was generally thought by military planners for a unit of highly trained soldiers to assault the line at the critical locations and storm them, breaking the enemy and allowing for the regular infantry to move up and take the trench. It was Major Rohr that decided that more armor and shields were not the answer, but speed and new tactics for his Sturmtruppen (storm men) units.
From 1915-1916, the new Stormtrooper units were using easier to handle weapons, melee weapons, and hand grenades to assault allied trenches with speed and violence. General Oskar Von Hutier added some of his own ideas with artillery covering fire in conjunction with mortars and poison gas to allow the Sturmtruppen units to attack key points and objectives. With successes, the entire German Army, by 1917, were developing their own assault units. During the Kaiser's 1918 Spring Offensive (Operation Michael) saw the German Stormtroopers being used in a violent effective manner to allow the regular German soldiers to break the British and French lines. This fueled the allies to consider the ideas of the German Sturmtruppen forces as a new page in infantry tactics. By this time as well, the German assault units were armed with the MP-18 SMG and newly developed gear. These elite soldiers became celebrated and fear, making them stars of the German Army during World War One. The allies of the Germans, Austria-Hungary developed their own assault unit, the Jagdkommandos. These ideas lead to the 3rd Reich foundation battle tactic of Blitzkrieg.
By the time of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, the term "stormtrooper" becomes twisted from one of an elite assault unit to a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party and its brutality. Those Stormtroopers were the Sturmabteilung or "Storm Department". Members of the Brown-shirted organization were mainly a propaganda and protection unit for Nazi rallies and meetings during the 1920's and 1930's. Much of what the SA was did not survive the "Night of Long Knives" of 1934, when Hitler, the Nazi Party, the SS, and the SA all came into conflict over power and control. For the SS to gain power, the larger SA had to be dissolved and its leadership decapitated. Hitler also feared the power of the SA and its leader Rohm. If relations within the Nazi Party broke down, Rohm had the manpower and pull to oust Hitler. In 1934, Hitler called for a meeting of the SA in an hotel, once assembled, Hitler and the SS arrested the key members of the SA. Rohm was later killed by two SS operatives. After the purge, the Sturmabteilung continued to exist in much smaller numbers, under tighter control, and with less power. They attacked the undesirables of modern 3rd Reich Society, namely Jews and homosexuals. By the time of World War II, much of the SA manpower was bleed into the regular army. It is that "storm trooper" organization that colors the term today and while few military organizations and sci-fi creators will touch the term due to its connection to Nazi Germany.  During the Cold War, a common term that existed in American society was to call Soviet Red Army soldiers "stormtroopers", this was might as an insult as well as a describer for the Soviet tactics of the day.     

What is an "Shocktrooper"?
When you hear the term "shocktrooper", your mind conjures up images of heavily armed and armored soldiers with a single-minded goal of reaching their objecting and wrecking your shit in the process. The term can also mean specialized forces and units that charge the field and/or hold the line as unbreakable keystones of their forces. However, this term is far older than the stormtrooper of the First World War. The idea of shocktroopers goes back to the Berserkers of the Norse raiders, who were in a trance state designed to fuel their aggressive and violent feelings and make them single-minded killers, charging the enemy lines. It is believeed that the Berserkers could have been have been drunk or high or receivers of a lost religious ceremony that put them into the trance state.
During the combat of the Medieval and Middle Ages, "shock" infantry units were used to break enemy lines, like the Swiss mercenaries that used special swords to break pike formations. It was also during this period that heavy cavalry units were used as shock units to break lines, push formations into disorder, and drive the enemy from the field of battle, as was seen in 1995's Braveheart and even 2003's Last of the Samurai. The use of explosive saw rise to grenadiers being used in a form of shocktroopers . Grendadiers would toss explosive to breach the walls of an fortress and assault it during the confusion, similar to modern day use of flash-bangs and dynamic entry tactics.
These historical examples, along with the specialized "iron-will" units of the American Civil War, show the hallmark of the shocktrooper, unshakable bravery in the face of the enemy. During the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines, the American Marines and soldiers encounter Berserker like Moro warriors that were rumored to be high on a local drug or religious ceremonies allowing for increased bravery in the face of modern firepower. Their ability to take several hits from .38 revolvers, caused an psychological effect on US forces, and even caused the development of the .45 ACP round for the US military. Firepower started to rule the use of shock units until the First World War, when the concept of the "stormtrooper" became popularized, but during the Second World War, the Germans and Russians would use some elements of "shock" tactics like the Blitzkrieg and the Soviet Shock units that used heavy artillery and volume of fire to break the Nazi positions, allowing for assault units to take the field via mechanized infantry and T-34 tanks. Today, the term "shocktrooper" is a negative one or describing a force rapidly assaulting an objective, often running over the enemy. Some apply this term to their enemy as a term of negativity and disrespect mixed with fear.

The Modern Day Term: Assault Trooper and Air Assault Forces
Given how loaded the terms shock trooper and stormtrooper are in the public imagination, term "assault trooper" or "assault soldier" have been used by modern military organizations to relabel their own modern interpretations of shock troopers. Assault forces of the modern military can be ones trained in rapid assault via helicopters and airborne drop, like the US Army 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, the 10th Mountain, units of the US Marines, and the 1st Air-Cav, 16th Air Assault Brigade of the British Army, French's 4th Airmobile Brigade, and the Dutch 11th Luchtmobiele Brigade. These units are designed around being a force able to rapidly move via aircraft to the battlefield and hold important ground. These can be the first boots on the ground in an operations as in the D-Day Invasion and Operation Desert Shield. Most modern Air Assault units are centered around helicopters, tiltrotors, and airborne drop capability. In science fiction, these specialized assault units are delivered to the battlefield via space drop capsules and modules, like the ODST of HALO.

Are Shocktroopers, Stormtroopers, and Assault Troops Considered Special Forces?
This is a question that plagues certain elements and units of the US Armed Forces. The US Army 75th Ranger Regiment are a special assault force that is often tasked with supporting US Special Forces units while they are in-field. A number of QRF units that have aided Special Forces units are composed of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The training is hardcore and these Rangers are considered some of the best US Military warfighters. Some Rangers go on to become Army Special Forces and DELTA Operators. Some Rangers consider themselves Special Forces, as do some US Marines. But are these assault units the same kind of Special Operations Forces as the SEALs, SAS,  and the Green Berets?

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
Often seen with the Storm/Stock Troopers of science fiction is the method of sci-fi planetary insertion via drop pods, drop modules, and drop capsules. This is due to the long fascination of military sci-fi creators with Airborne troops and their tactics, especially the iconic Airborne units of the Second World War. This connection is cemented with one of the common marks of current elite soldiers being airborne/air assault trained, and that populates into science fiction with "spaceborne" or space-drop troopers, like the Mobile Infantry of the 1959 military sci-fi founding classic SST novel. Also, given the terminology of storm/shock troopers, it seems only fitting that they should drop in from the sky to assault the objective, increasing their "shock-&-awe" effect on the enemy, which was one of the hallmarks of the UNSC ODSTs.

The Sci-Fi Shocktrooper and the Stormtrooper 
When we see and read about science fiction storm/shock troopers, there are some common similarities that exist by just invoking the terminology of these badass space warfighters. The vast majority of shocktroopers in sci-fi are encased in armor that they makes them look barely human and this automatically separates them from the normal humans, giving them an air of inhumanity and allowing the audience and the enemy to allow for a certain level of cruelty and violence, as seen in the Sardaukar from DUNE.
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
During my writing on the Ships of the Line blog serial, I learned the power of certain terms and how the public perception of that term allows for the easy incorporation of that certain term into sci-fi works. For example, terms like "battlecruiser", "dreadnought", "Stealth ship", and "storm/shock trooper" is the same. These terms have existed since the First World War, and have become part of the collective zeitgeist...especially since the Cold War and the release of Star Wars in 1977.
These two terms for badass assault soldiers with special armor and weaponry are not universal used in the same ways as we read above, and sci-fi creators tend to use the term "shocktrooper" instead of the term "stormtrooper" because of it being linked to Star Wars and Nazi Germany. When the shocktrooper are used in sci-fi, they tend to be the iron boot of the military that imposes the will and law of the government, or they are the serious breakers of heavy enemy resistance or positions, like the UNSC ODST or the Space Marines and Terminators from WH40K. Given the loaded nature of the terms Storm/Shock Troopers, sci-fi, in general, as a prickly relationship with these heavily armed and armored space warfighters.
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
In the second HALO game, we get to see one the Special Forces units of the UNSC Marines: The Orbital Dropship Shocktroopers (ODST). These elite soldiers that are recruited from the Navy, Marines, and Army and are under the NAVSPECWAR are trained in assault tactics, space-drop, and ship-boarding. The primary concept of the ODSTs was to be specialized assault force that could be dropped into a battlefield from orbit, and rapid assaulting from their drop point, taking the fight to the enemy, allowing the larger force to have an easier time dealing with the enemy. The official title for their method of attack is called "transorbital support interdiction".
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.
Much like their clone precursors, the modern Stormtroopers donned the white armor and were symbols of their times, namely the reign of the Empire and the intergalactic civil war with the Rebel Alliance. Throughout that conflict, the Stormtroopers normally confronted the rebels due to their unshakable loyalty to the Empire, flexibility, and their training. The bulk of the Stormtroopers we would see on-screen would be part of the 501st Legion AKA "Vader's Fist". The 501st would be the personal army of Lord Vader and used to hunt down and destroy the Rebel Alliance. Imperial Stormtroopers were present at nearly every key battle in the intergalactic civil war, and their loyalty and devotion to the New Order allowed them to be trusted military personnel in the most sensitive of Imperial bases and installations, like the Death Star and the Executor. Even after the Empire falls, the Stormtroopers remain and are part of the First Order.
One of the madding unanswered questions about the Imperial Stormtroopers is how they are integrated into the larger Galactic Imperial Army. Throughout much of the Star Wars canon sources, Stormtroopers are seen as the primary infantry fighting force of the Empire. The precursors of the Stormtroopers was the Republic Clone Troopers of the Clone Wars, who were the primary infantry fighting force of the Republic Army. Some sources say that they are Special Forces, some sources say they are the general infantry of the Empire, and others says that it depends. Honestly, I think the bulk of the Imperial combat ground troops are indeed Stormtroopers, and the Imperial Army soldiers fill in the gaps. Compared to these infantry, the Stormtroopers are a special operations unit. I doubt that Lucas thought much about the role of the Stormtroopers in the Empire. After the fall of the Empire, the First Order that rose from the ashes embraced the Stormtrooper tradition, forming their own Stormtrooper force composed of veterans and children raised to be Stormtroopers, like FN-2199 or Finn. To this day, the Imperial Stormtroopers, the Clone Troopers, and the First Order Stormtroopers are some of the most iconic soldiers of military science fiction.

The Imperial Guard Stormtroopers from the WH40K Universe
The Imperial Guard is the general army of the Imperium of Man, and they are a massive fighting force of millions in service to the God Emperor. Culled from thousands of Imperial colonies, the Imperial Guard has their own elite unit: the stormtroopers. Drawn from the ranks of the orphanages of the Empire, these children are the sons and daughters of Imperial Guard officers. They are selected, then brainwashed and trained by the Schola Progenium. This forges these children into the best soldiers of the Imperial Guard, who are absolutely loyal to the Emperor and the mission. Most of the time, the Stormtroopers are about one regiment and are deployed throughout space as the situation warrants it. Often in battle, these stormtroopers are given the toughest fight and an example to the rest of the Imperial Guard soldiers to follow. They come often to the battlefield being airdropped by Valkyrie class tactical transports into the heart of the battle. To accomplish these tasks, they are given the best training, arms, and equipment.

The Imperial Sardaukar Terror Troops from the DUNE Universe
Before there was the Lynch 1984 "vision" of DUNE, or the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, the Sardauker terror troops lived in the pages of the original DUNE novel, and they were an early form of science fiction shocktroopers. Given the mission of the Sardauker to be the Padishah Emperor's loyal fist that gave enemies of the Empire pause, they are shocktroopers with all of the mental, physical, and technological credentials to back them up. At one time, prior to the fall of the Empire, the Sardaukar were the best warriors and swordsmen in the known universe. What makes them included on this list is that the Sardaukar legions were fanatically loyal to the Emperor, making them shocktroopers in one form, but it was also the fear they projected across the known universe. The Emperor could merely threaten to use his terror troops, and the disobedient world or House would step back into line. These black-clad warriors were shocktroopers that could delivery genocide on a planetary level, and that is some shock-and-awe ladies and gentlemen.  

The Kerberos Panzer Corps from the Jin-Roh: Wolf Brigade Universe
One of the most iconic armored warriors in anime/manga is the Kerberos Panzer Corps from creator Mamoru Oshii and illustrator Kamui Fujiwara. In this alternate history Japan, Nazi Germany conquered the island nation, but by the time of the story (the 1950's), their German occupation forces have withdrawn. This period of time is a rough one for Japan, there are riots, terrorism, and a heavy-handed government. There are even power struggles behind the scenes as well. One of these groups is the Kerberos Panzer Corps, the special unit of the Tokyo Metro Police Department. Known for the fanatical sense of the law and justice, the special unit, known as the "Kerberos", were outfitted in then cutting-edge weaponry, armor, and equipment to put down terrorism and crime in the streets of Japan. They were the glowing red-eyed shocktroopers of the streets of Tokyo with MG42s and STG44s. Their abilities and fearsome appearance was designed to provide this shock force with the maximum psychological effect.

Republic Clone Shocktroopers from the Star Wars Universe
This is a rather unique form of science fiction shocktrooper, especially considering they are rooted in the Star Wars universe. After the existence of the Clone Army became known and the Clone War began, this elite branch of the Clone Troopers was charged with protecting the Republic government (the senate mostly) as the replacement to the old Coruscant Guard. They also serve as bodyguards, riot control, and other close protection detail. One of the hallmarks of the Clone Shocktroopers was the bold red markings pared with the familiar white armor. According to some sources, the name "shocktrooper" was applied due to their intense training in CQW tactics and hand-to-hand combat. I have to be honest, the name "shocktrooper" is wasted here and they are not the classical sci-fi shocktrooper.

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
According the Mass Effect wiki site, these armed warriors of Cerberus are the "backbone" of their infantry forces. They are the soldiers that get things done for Cerberus and are highly trained and psychological reinforced to be extremely loyal to the Cerberus mission and objectives. They are used with other Cerberus units to gain the upper hand over their enemies using assault tactics. Cerberus assault troopers are also used on black operations and special missions when the outcome is in doubt, like the raid on the STG base on Sur'Kesh to capture the Krogan female. In combat, Assault Troops push using fear, heavy armor, and SMGs to throw the enemy off-balance. These Mass Effect universe shocktroopers are similar to others in sci-fi: heavily armed and armored with being totally loyal to their government and mission.

The Slayers from Krull
One of the most oddball films of the 1980's to come out of the D&D and Star Wars craze is 1983's space-sword-fantasy Krull. If you have never seen this unholy mess, than you need to see it and watch the horror unfold. In the film, the planet Krull is invaded by a black fortress housing an maradering alien force led by the"beast", and his invaders are an rare example of an alien shocktroop force called the Slayers. Under the bio-armor of the Slayers, is a squid-like host to the larger combat bodies used to conquer the stars with their DEW staffs. From the maradering tactics of the space fortress of the beast, the Slayers were not really a military organization in a wider sense, but a force of raiders designed to break the enemy using overwhelming force. Seriously, this movie is bat-shit insane. Spoony needs to talk about this movie...

The REF "Cyclone" Assault Infantry Mecha System from the ROBOTECH Universe
This will not be a choice without some debate and deniability, but I think based on the concept for the REF Cyclone Mecha system for their infantry, we could classify the Cyclone Armored soldiers of the Robotech Expeditionary Force as assault troopers. The military role of mecha is to enhance and increase the lethality of combat units or even replace more conventional military units with mecha to, once again, enhance their combat effectiveness. The Cyclone Mecha seen in the 3rd ROBOTECH Series and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA were designed to counter their fearsome enemy, the Invid, and boost the infantry with more of a fighting chance with increased weapons, speed, range, and flight capability.

The Wargames Factory "Greatcoat" Shocktroopers Miniatures
All you have to do is take one look at these futuristic shocktroopers from Wargames Factory and see the inspiration: World War One German Sturmtruppen. Much like Warhammer 40,000 specialized soldier miniatures, Wargames Factory's Greatcoats are highly detailed and stylized with classical science fiction shocktrooper design elements. These shocktroopers are part of their "Alien Suns" 28mm sci-fi line that has some sort of central story...which I could not find much on. I am not sure if these are still available, since their store is closed and there was some dust-up about fake reviews and conflict with another modelling company over some of the names, including "Alien Suns". As with DreamForge Factory, I reached out via email with some questions about their stormtroopers, but they did not respond by the time of the blogpost being published.

The Adeptus Astartes from Warhammer 40,000 Universe
In a number of ways, the Space Marine Chapters are the fist of the Emperor and the will of the Imperium. While the Imperial Guard are the primary defenders of the Imperium of Man and the conductors of the larger war, the Space Marines are the shocktroopers that are called to break the enemy and send them screaming away. At times, the mere deployment of a group of Space Marines can cause an enemy, especially humans, to surrender or withdraw. Contrary to Games Workshop art, the Space Marine Chapters are too few to be the primary fighting force of the Imperium, causing the Chapters of battle brothers to be more akin to Shocktroopers. They are deployed to reinforce Imperial Guard units, to turn the tide, and to break the strongest part of the enemy, allowing for victory. Much like other sci-fi stormtroopers, the Adeptus Astartes are heavily armed and armored along with being furiously loyal to their government.

Eisenkern Stormtroopers from Dream Force Games
This is the wargame miniature kit company owned by Mark  Mondragon, and he has developed an futuristic army of mecha, vehicles, and armored infantry units since 2002. In this kit catalog of Dream Forge was an line of actual named 28mm stormtroopers. These stormtroopers are part of his "Iron Core" sci-fi universe that was envisioned by Mark Mondragon as his own Warhammer 40,000. According to the DreamForge website, the game is designed to be played like an WWII war-simulation and it seems to have story elements close to WH40K. The actual Eisenkern stormtroopers are very similar to other storm/shock soldiers of military sci-fi with heavy armor and specialized weaponry. The models I've seen seem to be carrying an SMG-like weapon.  I reached out to Dreamforge Games for an interview on their Eisenkern Stormtroopers, but they did not respond by the time this blogpost was published.

The Clans' Elemental Powered Armor Infantry Shocktroopers from Battletech Universe
In a world where combat mecha is commonplace, and being assigned to the infantry was a death sentence, the Clans' Elemental powered armor wearing super-soldier infantry was something so alien that when the Inner Sphere mecha forces came under attack from swarms of these powered armor soldiers, they thought it was an alien species coming to conquer. In reality, it was the return of General Kerensky's exodus forces, now called the Clans, and their mission was to conquer the Inner Sphere and bring order to chaos. When we examine the Clans' Elemental APS infantry, they operate like an shocktrooper force designed to overwhelm the larger mechs and other forces with group tactics and jump jets. One specialized mission of the Elementals was to seek out and destroy the C3 centers of the Inner Sphere forces. Given the limited armor and armament of the Elementals CLASS-I APS, one good clean laser blast will end the reign of the Toad, but it is in this that we see that the Elemental APS wearers are shocktroopers; due to their single-minded dedication to the mission and martial spirit.

The Cadian Shock Troops of the Imperial Guard from the WH40K Universe
On the Imperial world of Cadia, everyone is trained in the arts of war, and there is a very good reason for that...Cadia sets on the edge of the fucking Eye of Terror! This makes Cadian troops some of the best in the Imperial Guard, and the best of the best of the Cadian soldiers are selected as Cadian shock troopers. The iron-hard discipline of the Cadian training sets these soldiers apart, which helps them be the shocktroopers in the terrible universe of WH40K. The Cadian shocktroopers are issued special gear, weaponry, and special missions. Unlike many other science fiction shocktroopers, the WH40K Cadian Shocktroopers are a Combined Arms fighting force: from tanks to artillery. All of this adds up to make the Cadian Shocktroopers one of the finest and most deadly unit in the entire Imperial Guard. In fact, Cadian Shocktroopers have served alongside Space Marines, who respect their fighting abilities.

The Mobile Infantry "Shocktrooper" Style  Raid on the Skinnies from Starship Troopers
One of the best sections of the founding classic of military science fiction, 1959's Starship Troopers, is the first few pages detailing an assault on another hostile alien race, the Skinnies. The powered armor wearing M.I. make the most of their training, armament, and armor abilities to punish the Skinnies with an shock-&-awe style raid on one of their colonies or their homeworld. As it is depicted in the text of the 1959 novel, the raid by Juan Rico's unit is to destroy property, and to avoid civilian deaths to "convince" the Skinnys their alliance with the Bugs was misguided and that the Terrans were the right side in the new Bug War. This scene in the book may have been an inspiration for the sci-fi concept of space-drop assault powered armor assault troopers.

The Space Marine Terminators from WH40K Universe
The dark universe of Warhammer 40,000 is the kind of universe that you need heavy armor and terrifying weaponry. One of the protectors of mankind is the genetically altered Space Marines that live and die by the God-Emperor's will. Within the Chapters of Space Marines, the best 100 are selected to don the Tactical Dreadnought Exo-Armor. These heavy plassteel suits were designed to take punishment and dish it out. The most familiar environment for these hulking warriors is the space hulk, and given the random and deadly conditions of the hulks that plague Imperium space, the sealed environmental feature, heavy level of protection, and ability to carry larger and heavier weapon systems all come in handy. These Space Marine Terminators serve as "search-and-clear" kill squads that teleport aboard the hulks, and clear them, aggressively, of genestealers and other deadly aliens. This makes the Terminators a form of shocktrooper, due to their mission, equipment, weaponry, and their "hold the line" mentality.

Next Time on FWS...
One of the icons of military science fiction, especially in America, is FASA's BattleTech and Mechwarrior, and while today, this hallowed franchise is more or less confined to books, video games, and wargames; there was a point when expansion was the order of the day. That was the 1990's, and in partnership between Saban Entertainment, FASA, and TYCO Toys, the BattleTech universe was pushed into the small screen with the animated series on FOX and into the toy aisle with TYCO's tie-in toyline of mecha. In the next installment of Military Sci-Fi Toys, FWS will be explaining and exploring the 1994/1995 TYCO BattleTech tie-in toyline.


  1. Another excellent article. I liked it very much.

  2. Very good article but I think the berserker part is wrong. I would sugest video on youtube from lindybeige on berserkers. And sorry for my english.

  3. Thanks! I will look up the video. The berserker came from several sources on being an original concept of the Shocktrooper.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. On the Berserker thing, we have to blame the Victorians I think. They gave us the Horned Helmets to, It's Artistic licence more than anything, The objective being to make a enemy a greater more feared threat.
    Like what the Movie the 300 did to the Immortals.
    If you watch the 300 You see these monsters in Silver Kabuki masks bringing shear terror. If you study the Immortals you find that they were far more conventional and even far under weight for face the Greek Hoplites.
    The Image we have of the Berserkers is based I think on the Propaganda and psychological relics of the Brits who faced them as a threat.
    A combination of Embellished stories of the Raids by Vikings, The Actual effects of these raids and the intended effects of them. Psychological warfare is a known part of the actual Viking playbook and today can still be a critical piece of battle.
    Like the old story of your great grandfather's barn being burned on Sherman's March even if your Great Grandfather's Barn was hundreds of miles away. The Psychological effect of an invader marching through and foraging of the civilian populace packs a bigger wallop then the actual physical devastation.
    Take a look again at the list of Scifi "Shocktroops" and You will note that they are often masked to conseal and dehumanize. Often altered physically to make them even more aggressive, like the Indoctrination seen in Mass Effect 3 To the Cerberus Troops. or the Warhammer Space Marines or the Kerbose where the Name used for the Unit Kerbose is a variant of Cerberus the 3 headed guard hell hound of myth.

    1. Well the only reason that they were called the immortals was that new soldiers were constantly promoted to their ranks to maintain their number at 1000, and that they wore identity concealing masks, presumably to make it look like none of them ever died. That's what I remember at least, its been a while since I read any ancient history.

    2. Not sure about a concealing mask. They wore a tiara with a Veil to keep dust and glare down a thin fabric probably akin to modern Persian head dresses. as for concealing their identities add in a persian beard. they had a wicker shield and a spear, with maybe scale armor under a robe. by contrast at Thermopylae they clash with Hoplites with heavy wooden with bronze plating shields and bronze armor and spears.
      they did maintain a fixed number of 10,000 men. They were considered the elites of the Persian empire and sometimes called companions as in Companions to the king.

  5. So the "clasical" view si perfect example of shocktrooper. But why would Victorians want to increase the psychologiacl effect of vikings? Or it was just part of entertainment to make the book or something more interesting ?

    1. Books but especially Musicals or rather Opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wilhelm Richard Wagner. I am using the term Victorian loosely but this was a period of Romanticism. When the old world and the medieval was looked to in a dashing and fashionable light. The Ideals of Nobility were espoused on to the Ancients and the mythos was rewritten often recast and blended.
      The horned helmets and vikings of Wagner were set to inspire yet the troubles of the time meant that it was not long before Wagnerian Vikings clashed with the Arthurian of Britannia. The popular Viking myth is mostly rooted in that clash. The Horns and berserker myth root from that the horns of the Opera with the "Hun" of propaganda from the start of the world wars period.

  6. As usually a great post. I'm not sure if they would count, but the Shotgun Combine from Half Life 2 might fight the bill as shock or storm troops. They are armed with shotguns, and will run straight at you to get into close quarters. If you add that to the dehumanising armour and indoctrination that they share with other shock troops in SF have then they are a pretty good fit for the description.

  7. "Strumtruppen" does not mean "Storm men", as the article claims. It simply means "assault troups". The German word "Sturm" can mean "storm", but also 'assault'.

    Consequently, the correct translation the SA (Sturmabteilung) of the Nazis is "assault division". Pompous name for a bunch of guys in brown shirts, sure. They were Nazis, after all.

  8. One you missed: the Visitor soldiers from the 80s "V" were called shocktroopers, though they only really came close to the function once in "V: The Final Battle" when they raided a Resistance headquarters. Otherwise they were pretty much the standard Visitor soldier. I'm thinking the creator chose "shocktrooper" because "stormtrooper" would invoke Star Wars, and he didn't want that.