What was the Spanish Road?

Introduction The Spanish Road was a military road and trade route in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, linking the Duchy of Milan, the Franche-Comté and the Spanish Netherlands, all of which were at the time territories of the Spanish Empire. The Spanish Road was a vital artery for the Spanish war effort during… Read More


What is a Penal Military Unit?

Introduction Penal military units, including penal battalions, penal companies, etc., are military formations consisting of convicts mobilised for military service. Such formations may contain soldiers convicted of offenses under military law, persons enrolled in the unit after being convicted in civilian courts or some combination of the two. Service in such units is typically considered… Read More

What were Barrier Troops?

Introduction Barrier troops, blocking units, or anti-retreat forces were military units that were located in the rear or on the front line (behind the main forces) to maintain military discipline, prevent the flight of servicemen from the battlefield, capture spies, saboteurs and deserters, and return troops who fled from the battlefield or lagged behind their… Read More

What was the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS?

Introduction The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (German: 36. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS) – also known as the Dirlewanger Brigade, the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger (1944), or Black Hunters – was a unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II. The unit, named after its commander Oskar Dirlewanger, consisted of convicted criminals who were not expected… Read More

What was the 500th SS Parachute Battalion?

Introduction The 500th SS-Parachute Battalion (German: SS-Fallschirmjägerbataillon 500) was the parachute unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II. The idea to form a paratrooper unit within the Waffen-SS allegedly came directly from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Refer to Strafbataillon and 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. Creation Adolf Hitler supposedly got the idea in… Read More

What was the 999th Light Afrika Division (Wehrmacht)?

Introduction The 999th Africa Brigade was a German Army unit created in October 1942 as a penal military unit. It was later expanded into the 999th Light Africa Division (999. leichte Afrika-Division) and began deploying to Tunisia in early 1943. However, this was interrupted by the surrender of Axis forces in that theatre. Those elements… Read More

What was a Strafbataillon?

Introduction Strafbataillon (English: “penal battalion”) is the generic term for penal units that were created from prisoners during the Second World War in all branches of the Wehrmacht. Soldiers, criminals and civilians sentenced to those units were generally poorly armed and required to undertake dangerous high-casualty missions. The Strafbataillon were operated and administered by the… Read More