Penal military unit

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Penal battalions, penal companies, etc., are military formations consisting of convicted persons for which military service in such units was either the assigned punishment or an alternative to imprisonment or capital punishment.



Nazi Germany[edit]

  • See Afrika-Brigade 999 (AKA Bewährungseinheiten 999, Strafbataillon 999, Bewährungstruppe 999, Division 999).
  • See Dirlewanger Brigade (AKA SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, later 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS).

Saudi Arabia and Syria[edit]

There have been reports that convicts from Saudi prisons have been set free prematurely on the condition that they will join in the Syrian Civil War against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.[1]

Soviet Union[edit]

United States[edit]

  • See Galvanized Yankees; during the American Civil War, Confederate prisoners of war who swore allegiance to the Union were allowed to join the Union Army and serve on the western frontier.
  • Early Korean War Army units were organized from convict volunteers.[2] The practice of recruiters collaborating with local criminal courts has been banned by all the services branches with the exception of the Navy:
    • Army Regulation 601-210, paragraph 4-8b
    • Air Force Recruiting Regulation, AETCI 36-2002, table 1-1, lines 7 and 8
    • Marine Corps Recruiting Regulation, MCO P1100.72B, Chapter 3, Section 2, Part H, Paragraph 12
    • Coast Guard Recruiting Manual, M1100.2D, Table 2-A


See also[edit]


  • Conquest, Robert, Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camps, Methuen Press, (1978) ISBN 978-0-670-41499-4
  • Hatch, Gardner N., American Ex-prisoners of War: Non Solum Armis, Turner Publishing Company, (1988), ISBN 978-1-56311-624-7
  • Krivosheev, G.F. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the twentieth century, London, Greenhill Books, 1997, ISBN 978-1-85367-280-4, available online (in Russian) [1].
  • Lebed, Alexander (Gen.), My Life and My Country, Regnery Publishing, Inc. (1997) ISBN 978-0-89526-422-0
  • Manazeev, Igor, A 'Penal' Corps on the Kalinin Front, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 15, Issue 3, September 2002 OCLC 201968754
  • Mawdsley, Evan, The Stalin Years: The Soviet Union 1929-1953, Manchester University Press (2003), ISBN 978-0-7190-6377-0
  • Suvorov, Viktor, Inside The Soviet Army, Hamish Hamilton (1982), ISBN 0-241-10889-6
  • Tolstoy, Nikolai, Stalin's Secret War, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1981), ISBN 0-03-047266-0
  • Toppe, Alfred, Night Combat, Diane Publishing (1998), ISBN 978-0-7881-7080-5

External links[edit]