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In My Traveller Universe Detail what parts of Traveller you do (or don't) use in your campaign.

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  #11  
Old February 23rd, 2013, 11:10 AM
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The key to politically unreliable troops is to send them far away from home, and from anywhere they can cause large problems. They need a motivator, even then. Russia/Soviet Union had a history of nationalism (in various ways and flavors) that could unite even those who didn't like the current regime. I believe there was an instance in the Byzantine Empire, too - all you slugs come fight for the Empire and save it sort of thing. The Japanese had a major case of nationalism going at one point in their history. Of course, some of you have touched on the other motivator - do well and return to the good graces of the society/regime.

To do this sort of thing, you need to understand the society, first: what are their motivations for conforming to societal expectations? Then you can figure out if one of the several penal battalion possibilities works in that society. (Good point about the Sword Worlds, Hans.)
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  #12  
Old February 23rd, 2013, 11:27 AM
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The US often commuted young criminals sentences to Army or Navy up through the 1970's; basically the end of the draft ended the policy.
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  #13  
Old February 23rd, 2013, 11:35 AM
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From what historical evidence there is, penal battalions whether criminal or political would be pretty much worthless as combat units. Their manpower would be unreliable at best, tratiorous and riotious at worst.

Take one of the better documented cases: SS unit (it varied in size) Dirlewanger. This notorious unit was put together by Dr. Oskar Dirlewanger who was a drinking buddy of Gottl÷b Berger head of SS recruiting and buddy of Himmler himself. The dear doctor was also a pediphile, rapist, and murderer... The German police didn't know what to do with this guy as they really couldn't arrest him as connected as he was.

So Berger and Himmler made him an Obersturnbahnfuhrer (colonel) and allowed him to raise an anti-partisan unit from "suitable" convicts in German prisons along with cashiered military officers and convicted men. Dirlewanger just emptied the prisons of anyone who volunteered....

The unit was sent to the East Front where it distinguished itself by its utter brutality and desertion rate. Higher commanders repeatedly demanded the unit be moved to other parts of the front or they would just shoot the lot out of hand.
On one occasion it was put into actual combat at the front and fell apart in nothing flat.
At the razing of the Warsaw Ghetto the unit's brutality was so obsene that SS commanders on the spot forced the unit's removal from the operation. One author put it "...they brought to Europe things not seen since the Middle Ages..."

Dirlewanger was wounded and died of "complications" in a German military hospital (probably lead poisoning....). His unit was captured by the Soviets at the end of the war and when identified they were machinegunned down to a man on the spot by the Red Army.

So, if you need a model of a penal battalion there you go....

Traveller version: Noble buddy of some Arch Duke and knows the Emperor who is (fill in the blank with heinous crimes and acts of debauchery) who the police can't touch. He's an embarrasment so... Off to some obscure corner of the Empire with a band of criminals and miscreants to wreak havoc on some enemy of the Empire. Only his acts cause more problems... LOTS more problems for the local military and police than they solve....

Kind of writes itself doesn't... You know what they say: "Truth is stranger than BS!"
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  #14  
Old February 23rd, 2013, 11:56 AM
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The Soviets often forced german pow's (as well as anyone else they could just impress) to strip the dead of their uniforms and don them for an attack, the battle for Kolberg was notable for this. In many countries military recruitment was to simply drive a truck down the street and take whoever didn't get away fast enough, without induction process, such as say the US in WW2.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 03:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragoner View Post
The US often commuted young criminals sentences to Army or Navy up through the 1970's; basically the end of the draft ended the policy.
Last one in was in July 1987. 4 year JROTC cadet, had an assault with a deadly weapon charge commuted. Only other PFC in my Basic Training company. Found out due to an article in the base paper. Saw him just over 4 years later - still a PFC. (4 years as a PFC and allowed to reenlist... implies high EERs and disciplinary actions.)

I'll note that France has a full brigade of "politically unreliable" troops working towards citizenship... the Legion Etrangier. Used to be a way to clean up one's identity...
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  #16  
Old February 23rd, 2013, 03:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timerover51 View Post
The Czars were sending political unreliables to Siberia long before Stalin, and the Japanese had your Korean Labor Battalions, along with Chinese Labor Battalions. POWs make nice forced labor battalions too, just look at the Burma-Thailand Railway in World War 2, appropriately called "The Death Railway."
Excellent points.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rancke View Post
As Karz, the main villain in Peter O'Donnell's Sabre-Tooth says, it is possible to employ Unsound personnel if you can establish proper controls.

The main objection to penal units would be social. Which is why I believe they would not be common in the Sword Worlds. Swords Worlders would regard them with the same contempt they have for mercenaries. Criminals, oathbreakers... who can trust such people?

There could be exceptions, as there usually are in the Sword Worlds. I could see the concept of Redemption Battalions play well with Sword Worlders. As long as joining one is voluntary, of course.


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Old February 23rd, 2013, 03:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aramis View Post
Last one in was in July 1987. 4 year JROTC cadet, had an assault with a deadly weapon charge commuted. Only other PFC in my BT company. Found out due to an article in the base paper. Saw him just over 4 years later - still a PFC. (4 years as a PFC and allowed to reenlist... implies high EERs and disciplinary actions.)
Interesting. I didn't know there was one as late as that.

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I'll note that France has a full brigade of "politically unreliable" troops working towards citizenship... the Legion Etrangier. Used to be a way to clean up one's identity...
Ever wonder how many SS truppen escaped into the Etrangier and ended up at Dien Bien Phu?
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  #19  
Old February 23rd, 2013, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pendragonman View Post



Ever wonder how many SS truppen escaped into the Etrangier and ended up at Dien Bien Phu?
Enough so that Bernard Fall's Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu, he writes that towards the end the Viet Mihn forces broadcasted propaganda to the defenders in both German and French.
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  #20  
Old February 23rd, 2013, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aramis View Post
I'll note that France has a full brigade of "politically unreliable" troops working towards citizenship... the Legion Etrangier. Used to be a way to clean up one's identity...
I wouldn't class the Legion (or the Spanish Legion) as penal battalions. They were fairly unique in that they were mostly volunteers and you were offered sanctuary from your past crimes (as you note, petty crimes aside this is no longer the case). As opposed to punishing you for your past crimes.

You could argue that Legion service was pretty punishing though.

Politically the purpose of the Legion is to allow France to undertake foreign adventures without the hassle of French citizens getting upset over losses.

With some fascinating exceptions, the Legion has by & large been effective on deployment and politically reliable as a formation.
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