Question about special forces units (SS, Guards, Marines, etc.)


  • Customizer

    Hello All,
    I have been tinkering with the idea of adding special force units to my games. I am just not sure how far in terms of unit types I need to go (just land forces, land + air, land + air + navy). So I have a few questions for anyone out there that has a little more history knowledge than I do.
    1 > German SS –- I know the SS had infantry and armor/mech units, not sure about artillery.
    Did the SS have any units in the Luftwaffe?
    I don’t think they had a presence in the Kriegsmarine (a warship with a total SS crew). Might they have if Germany were more successful?
    Or were the SS units strictly ground units?
    2 > Soviet Guards — I think the Guards divisions were somewhat similar to the SS for Germany.
    Were there Guards units in the Red Air Force?
    The Red Navy wasn’t much of a factor in WW 2 so I’m going to say no to that.
    3 > US Marines — I know the Marines had both land and air arms. Also, the Marines are sort of a branch of the Navy, but as for actual warships, that was strictly navy, right?
    4 > British Commandos — If I’m not mistaken, the Commandos were somewhat the same as US Marines. While the Royal Air Force would work closely with them for air cover, I don’t think there were air units that belonged to the Commandos, were there? Plus, warships were strictly Royal Navy I’m guessing.
    5 > Japanese SNLF — Kind of the same as Commandos, would be covered by Imperial Air Force and Imperial Navy, but no air or naval units actually belonging to them.

    So, I am guessing most of the “Special Forces” would include only ground units, with air units for the Marines exclusively. Does that sound about right? Or have I missed something in any of these groups?


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Here are some answers, which I’ve numbered in the same order as your questions.

    1. I don’t know about the Luftwaffe part, but as far as the Kriegsmarine goes I’ve never heard of the SS serving in the KM nor have I ever even heard of the KM having its own marines.  The Royal Navy and the US Navy both have a long tradition of detachments of Marines serving aboard their ships, for such functions as providing security services (roving patrols; guarding the Captain, etc.) and manning some of the ship’s weapons (typically certain designated gun mounts), as well as being able to be sent ashore in an infantry role if the situation required it.  On US carriers today, you can also find Marine aviation units typically intended to provide close air support to Marine operations ashore.  By contrast, Germany, which is historically a land power, has less naval tradition than the RN and the USN, and as far as I know it never developed a Marine corps.  As for the idea of German warships operating with an all-SS crew, I’d find that unbelievable.  The Waffen-SS was basically the Nazi Party’s private army, and I can’t imagine Hitler “wasting” this private elite resource on a military service – the Navy – of which Hitler had little understanding and whose very usefulness he questioned.  The regular Army had no love for the Waffen-SS, even though it was in the same ground-combat business as the were, so this would have been doubly the case for the KM, which was a completely different type of service.

    2. I don’t know much about the Red Army’s Guard units, so my only comment would be about the following point.  The Waffen-SS were certainly an elite military unit, but an important thing to keep in mind is that they were also a unit with strong political/ideological overtones.  Organizationally, the Waffen-SS was a formal branch of the Nazi Party; they were military in their function, but strictly speaking they weren’t a part of the regular armed forces.  I don’t know if the Red Guards had any specific political (i.e. Communist) political dimensions, nor if they were structurally part of the Communist Party rather than the Red Army.  Assuming they were just elite Red Army units, then the correct equivalent on the German side would be the elite units of the regular German Army (the Heer) – for example its Jager units (which included the mountain troops) and its parachutist forces (paratroops being generally considered elite forces in many armies).

    3. See my answer to question 1, which partly answers this.  The USMC is technically part of the Navy Department, but for most practical purposes it’s a distinct service from the US Navy, with its own officers, its own training facilities, its own specialized equipment (in some cases), and its own doctrine.  The Commandant of the USMC is one of the four Joint Chiefs of Staff, right up there with his Army, Navy and Air Force counterparts.

    4. The British counterparts of the USMC are the Royal Marines (again, see my answer to question 1).  The Commandos were a distinct body of elite troops operating under Mountbatten’s command, a “service” called Combined Operations.  They were mainly formed and trained to carry out raids in Occupied Europe.  In this they were similar to the British Army’s SAS (which originated in WWII) and the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service.

    5. James Dunnigan’s book Victory at Sea has a section which compares the SNLF with the USMC in detail.  Basically, Dunnigan argues that the SNLF and the USMC were fundamentally different.  He says that the SNLF essentially consisted of sailors who were trained to fight on shore if needed, who were given Army equipment to do so, whose officers were Navy personnel, and who were not considered to be as capable as the Imperial Japanese Army.  He contrasts this with the USMC, which specializes in the Marine role (including such sub-specialties as amphibious landings), whose officers are strictly Marines, which sometimes has its own specialized equipment, and who are regarded as elite troops who were often given very tough objectives which they were fully expected to take successfully (which they usually did).


  • Customizer

    Thanks for the info. It looks like I pretty much got it right for the most part, perhaps with the exception of the SNLF. It sounds like they were actually somewhat LESS capable than regular units rather than some elite fighting force. Still, for the purposes of the game, we could stretch the truth a bit and make like they were a sort of Marine equivalent.
    As for units, it looks like any special units for any nation should be confined to ground forces, with the US Marines having some air capabilities.

    Yeah, I know about the lack of love loss between the Wehrmacht and the SS. Also that the SS was a political branch within the Nazi party. They also had some fierce fighting units that really distinguished themselves, especially on the eastern front. Perhaps instead of simply calling them “SS”, a more correct term would be “Waffen SS” since those were the actual combat troops.

    Anyway, I just finished spray painting my OOB German pieces a dark grey color because like many have said, German pieces should be represented in grey, not black. However, I want to keep a few black pieces to represent Waffen SS units. Obviously there is no need to keep any warships black to use as SS units, probably no planes either. Just infantry, artillery, halftracks and tanks should do it.

    Thanks again.


  • Customizer

    Investing in some units from HBG is well worth the money and it will give you color and unit variation without the fuss and mess of painting just for new nations or units. I do paint pieces for the fun of it, but I’m not planning on painting all of the thousands of sculpts I have.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @knp7765:

    Thanks for the info. It looks like I pretty much got it right for the most part, perhaps with the exception of the SNLF. It sounds like they were actually somewhat LESS capable than regular units rather than some elite fighting force. Still, for the purposes of the game, we could stretch the truth a bit and make like they were a sort of Marine equivalent.
    As for units, it looks like any special units for any nation should be confined to ground forces, with the US Marines having some air capabilities. Yeah, I know about the lack of love loss between the Wehrmacht and the SS. Also that the SS was a political branch within the Nazi party. They also had some fierce fighting units that really distinguished themselves, especially on the eastern front. Perhaps instead of simply calling them “SS”, a more correct term would be “Waffen SS” since those were the actual combat troops.

    Thanks for the info. It looks like I pretty much got it right for the most part, perhaps with the exception of the SNLF. It sounds like they were actually somewhat LESS capable than regular units rather than some elite fighting force. Still, for the purposes of the game, we could stretch the truth a bit and make like they were a sort of Marine equivalent. <<

    Yes, and I must admit that when I heard the phrase “Imperial Japanese Marines” used in a WWII-era documentary (I think it was Attack in the Pacific) it did have a nice ring to it, even if the reality wasn’t quite up to what the term suggested.

    As for units, it looks like any special units for any nation should be confined to ground forces, with the US Marines having some air capabilities. <<

    Agreed.  One technique you could use to justify elite air and sea units would be to have them represent brilliant individuals (or units commanded by brilliant individuals).  In the air, these would be aces like Adolf Galland, and his squadrons if he commanded any.  At sea, I’m thinking of Germany’s U-boat aces like Otto Kretschmer and Joachim Schepke, and dashing destroyer captains like Britain’s Philip Vian (who conducted the last major boarding action even taken by the Royal Navy).

    Another group you may want to toss into the mix, by the way, are the US Army’s Rangers, an elite unit which distinguished itself on D-Day at Omaha Beach and Pointe-du-Hoc if I remember correctly.

    Perhaps instead of simply calling them “SS”, a more correct term would be “Waffen SS” since those were the actual combat troops. <<

    That would indeed be correct.  “Waffen SS” was the actual name of the Waffen SS, to distinguish it from the overall parent SS organization.  The black-uniformed non-combat SS personnel that are seen in countless WWII documentaries and fiction films were, I think, sometimes called the “Allgemeine SS” or “general SS”.


  • Customizer

    @CWO:

    Another group you may want to toss into the mix, by the way, are the US Army’s Rangers, an elite unit which distinguished itself on D-Day at Omaha Beach and Pointe-du-Hoc if I remember correctly.

    Maybe I’m getting my military groups confused, but I thought the US Army Rangers were the Airborne troops.

    I’ve already got plans to include paratroops since HBG has already given us sculpts for USA, Germany and (soon) Japan. They are working on a British set and I imagine we will get some Russian paratroops before too much longer. Although Russia isn’t a priority for me since I don’t imagine they will be using them in our games, but it would be nice to have them anyway.


  • Customizer

    @toblerone77:

    Investing in some units from HBG is well worth the money and it will give you color and unit variation without the fuss and mess of painting just for new nations or units. I do paint pieces for the fun of it, but I’m not planning on painting all of the thousands of sculpts I have.

    Oh yeah, I agree with you and I have gotten a lot of stuff from HBG. Love their pieces. It’s just that I still like some of the OOB pieces too and want them both grey and black. I’ve already sprayed my current OOB pieces to be grey. I would like to get a few to keep black for the Waffen SS units, which won’t be as many as the Wehrmacht units so I shouldn’t need as many.

    Grey Germans 2.JPG


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @knp7765:

    Maybe I’m getting my military groups confused, but I thought the US Army Rangers were the Airborne troops.

    It’s my understanding that the Rangers are (or at least were originally formed as) highly trained ground troops.  They came ashore on D-Day in landing craft, unlike the US Army’s two airborne D-Day divisions – the 82nd and the 101st – which parachuted into Normandy during the night-time hours before the landings.


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    Seebataillon is the traditional name of German marines.

    In WWII this small group was called “Marine-Stoßtrupp-Kompanie”

    Again, it was small, and really only used to occupy the channel islands.

    Comparatively, I would argue that they would be the equivelant of the described SNLF, (Sailors with rifles), as opposed to waffen ss troops, or USMC.

    From a “game” perspective if you wanted to include them, I would just call them Seebatallion, and give them the same stats as SNLF.

    The arguement being, that you are committing your government to make a special force, for marine/naval landings.


  • Customizer

    @Gargantua:

    Seebataillon is the traditional name of German marines.

    In WWII this small group was called “Marine-Stoßtrupp-Kompanie”

    Again, it was small, and really only used to occupy the channel islands.

    Comparatively, I would argue that they would be the equivelant of the described SNLF, (Sailors with rifles), as opposed to waffen ss troops, or USMC.

    What about Norway? That involved amphibious landings. Seebataillon wasn’t used there?


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Thanks for the information rjpeters.  Whenever I see the phrase “airborne cavalry” I always think of the (possibly apocryphal) story that, in the 1930s, military offiers in some countries experimented with the concept of transporting horses by airplane.


  • Customizer

    CWO Marc,

    @CWO:

    Thanks for the information rjpeters.  Whenever I see the phrase “airborne cavalry” I always think of the (possibly apocryphal) story that, in the 1930s, military offiers in some countries experimented with the concept of transporting horses by airplane.

    ––It seems that some MODERN unit descriptions have been included above. “Airborne Cavalry” generally describes the Viet Nam era paratroopers of the 101st Airborne that were transported to the battle via helicopters,…thus “AirCav” was born.

    ----As far as WW2 special forces unit types that would be proper to use in an Axis & Allies game I would suggest:
    –Paratroopers–Infantry with an air delivery capability.
    –Army Rangers and Marine Raiders were both designed as assault forces that fought at the point of amphibious landings that also could be used independently in infiltrations/raids. They were originally trained by the British "Commando"s. If you’re interested,….I’ll post a “link” so you can see some pics of U.S. Army “Airborne” and U.S. Marine “Raiders” A&A units on my thread under the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine threads.

    http://www.axisandallies.org/forums/index.php?topic=29950.0

    “Tall Paul”


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    If we’re going to continue talking about modern special forces, also list Space Marines, and look up Operation Hot Eagle

    Legit.


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