10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

Military history proves that it takes all kinds of things to fight in battle…it’s filled with a lot of unusual incidents and weird armies. War isn’t just for people; there were times when animals and even puppets got involved. In fact, sometimes, a battle was won by having nobody fighting! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

We at AZtag love weird history — the weirder the better! So we’re sharing some of the strangest battalions ever assembled.

1.The Potsdam Giants

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

King Frederick William, I of Prussia tried to collect the tallest soldiers in Europe with a regiment that was called, “The Potsdam Giants.”

Some of the men were as tall as 7 feet and one Swedish soldier might have been over 8 feet tall. Many of these men were also pressured to marry tall women in order to have sons that would follow in their enormous footsteps.

Although a fortune was spent on hiring, buying, and conscripting the soldiers, they never actually saw combat. After the king died, his son disbanded the group to save on royal funds.

2. The Viking Berserkers

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

The Viking warriors had a class known as the berserkers who rejected typical armor in favor of bear and wolf pelts or would even fight bare-chested.

Some ancient texts claimed they could actually transform into beasts, but that’s probably due to artistic license.

Many theories revolve around how they even managed to scare the Vikings — they might have been a secret cult which made them come off as strange to their peers, or they could’ve just been influenced by very strong drugs or were incredibly drunk during battle.

3. The Immortals

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

The Immortals were a 10,000-strong fighting force who served King Xerxes.

Their name obviously wasn’t literal but referred to the fact that soldiers would always be 10,000 in number.

If one died or was simply unable to fight, they were immediately replaced.

They were also a sight to see…they wore gold jewelry to showcase their status.

4. The Ghost Army

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

In what sounds like the ending to Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the US Army was able to use special effect experts and artists to build a fake army using inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, using sound effects to seem real.

The trick helped Nazi spies to think that the American army was larger than it was. The story was kept secret for years and only became known to the public in 1996.

Many artists and designers were involved in the puppet army including Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly, and Arthur B. Singer.

5. The Mormon Battalion

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

As you may have guessed by the name, the unit was made entirely up of Latter-day Saints, the only in American history.

The group came about from negotiations between the U.S. military and church leaders, the latter of whom hoped the battalion would finance their move to the American west.

The men never saw combat but did end up becoming one of the most traveled units in the States, having marched from Iowa to Southern California.

6. The Monuments Men

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

The Monuments Men, more formally known as the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section, were a special unit who aimed to save Europe’s cultural artifacts during World War II.

The unit even contained historians, museum curators, and scholars who could pinpoint historically and culturally important buildings, later growing to protect significant artifacts.

Works of art from the likes of Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Vermeer, and Botticelli would end up being saved from the war thanks to their efforts.

7. The British Paradogs

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

Parachuting dogs were employed during the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces in 1944, having been trained by England’s War Dogs Training School.

Many were pets whose owners volunteered them for the war effort. Most were trained to smell explosives and other similar devices, but there were a few who were trained to parachute.

The dogs proved useful, being able to sniff out explosives and enemy soldiers, with some even earning military awards for their service.

8. The Highlanders

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

During the Civil War, one lucky group of soldiers from New York managed to make a name for themselves for their fashion choices.

The 79th New York Volunteer Infantry would dress up in Scottish kilts and headwear during battle, eventually earning the nickname, the “Highlanders.”

9. The Butterfly Boys

Those New Yorkers weren’t the only dapper soldiers from the North.

The Third New Jersey Cavalry earned the nickname the “Butterfly Boys” from their hooded cloaks.

They charged into battle using only a saber…it seems they really liked putting style over substance.

10. Russia’s Reindeer Brigade

10 Unexpected Military Units That Really Existed

In 2016, the Russian Northern Fleet Motorized Rifle Brigade were having problems using vehicles in the Arctic, so they tried the next best thing: reindeer sleds.

As reindeer were able to move in the snow and even survive swimming in icy water, the deer actually have a history working with the Russian Army, having been used against the Nazis in World War II.

Other northern countries have also used similar arctic animals to do what vehicles cannot. In China, border patrol agents have been known to ride yaks and Greenlandic soldiers have been known to use dog sleds.

What other strange military stories have you heard of? Please share them with us in the comments!

Preview photo credit Universal History Archive / Getty Images