List Of Noteworthy Historical Military Units
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Basic Information

This page is a list of particularly noteworthy (or weird) military units. And to be fair, military unit is applied pretty loosely. Some of these (especially in the earlier sections of the list) are outlaw raiders, warrior castes, soldier sub-types, and other groups or notions that don't necessarily have the formal organization and state-sponsored authority that military unit might imply. This is just a "greatest hits" of interesting military and para-military groups and categories that would be pretty cool to work into an RPG. Some are elite warriors with incredible training, others are just famous or equipped with cool toys.

Ancient World

Middle Ages

  • Bohemian War Wagon - peasant levies in closed-hull wooden wagons. They would shoot crossbow bolts out of small firing ports of these mobile armored (animal-drawn) vehicles.
  • Kheshig and Khevtuul - Day shift and night shift of the royal guard for Genghis Khan
  • Knights Templar - Catholic military order that protected pilgrims to the holy land, waged crusades, built a thousand fortresses, started banks, were eventually wiped out by the church they served, and are at the heart of 9 out of 10 conspiracy theories.
  • Mamluk - Heavily armored slave cavalry of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire. They were still around at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte and impressed him so much he brought 150 mercenary mamluks to Waterloo.
  • Varangian Guard - An elite unit of Norsemen mercenaries who served as the royal guard for the Byzantine Empire
  • Viking - sea-borne norse raiders who traveled across a surprisingly large part of the world
  • Viking Berserker and Ulfhednar - elite norsemen who frenzied like a bear or wolf.

Napoleonic Era, Colonial Era, American Civil War, etc

World War Two

  • Alamo Scouts - Elite volunteer teams who operated behind Japanese lines.
  • Antonov A-40 - a winged tank! an armored glider built by the Soviet Union
  • Armored Mini-Train of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway was built in anticipation of needing to resist Operation Sealion
  • Blocking Battalions - Soviet troops deployed to the rear with orders to shoot any friendly units attempting to retreat
  • Dutch Bicycle Infantry - not just scouts, 5600 fighting men on bikes
  • the Ghost Army - a small group of artists who used inflatable tanks to convince Hitler that the allied forces waiting across the channel were more massive than they were, and that the real invasion would be somewhere other than Normandy
  • Kamikaze - Japanese pilots who volunteered for suicide missions, crashing their planes (or one-man submarines) into allied ships.
  • Long Range Desert Group and Popski's Private Army - vehicle patrols operating hundreds of miles behind enemy lines in the deserts of North Africa.
  • Middle East Command Camouflage Directorate - Fooled the luftwaffe into bombing the wrong places in the African desert
  • Monuments Men - tasked with protecting cultural and artistic treasures from the Nazis and the general destruction of war
  • Code Talkers - Native American soldiers in the US Marine Corps and other units used codes based on their native languages to coordinate tactical plans in real-time via encrypted-on-the-fly communication.
  • Night Witches - Night-time all-female soviet biplane bombers. Their planes maximum speed was less than the stall speed of the Nazi fighters they battled.
  • Technical Air Intelligence - an allied group tasked with capturing, recovering, and reverse engineering enemy aircraft
  • Unit 731 - innocuously named Japanese atrocity factory.

Vietnam War to today


1. Quora - The long string of people posting their arguments for the most unusual military units in history at Quora was where I mined a huge chunk of the above.

Game and Story Use

The lists above are a good start, but no doubt I've missed a lot of memorable memorable units that would make for great gaming and stories. Feel free to add your favorites to the lists above.

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