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  #1  
Old 07-04-2010, 09:13 AM
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Default Unusual idea - Penal units for Twilight 2000

Reading a book on the infamous SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger I was wondering if the idea to make some kind of penal military unit could be interesting.

My idea: an isolated Soviet or USA or German unit controlled by an unstable officer decide to recruit convicted persons from military or civilian prisons in the country where is stationed to be used as cannon fodder to conduct a suicidal assault or looting missions for supplies.

The idea of a ragtag and undisciplined band of convicted soldier sounds new to me.

Here's a Wikipedia link on this theme: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_military_unit

What do you think?
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Old 07-04-2010, 09:49 AM
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It's a neat idea. You're likely to get PCs of a somewhat sociopathic and anti-authoritarian nature, though, so be prepared to deal with rape, pillage, and murder. That's really not my style but some players (and GMs) might enjoy that kind of thing.

I currently play a Latvian PC who joined the U.S. 8th ID as a scout-translator after "defecting" (i.e. deserting) from a Soviet penal battalion. He's actually not a bad guy, though- he's kind of a thug with a heart of gold.

I got the idea after reading about Soviet penal battalions in WWII and, as you mentioned, the Germans had similar units called, IIRC, punishment battalions. They were often assigned missions like clearing minefields ahead of the assault units. This was done by marching across the minefield under fire- a suicide mission if there ever was one.
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Old 07-04-2010, 09:49 AM
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Abit like the Dirty Dozen.

Send them on a impossible mission and promise them freedom if they pull it off.

If it was a Soviet unit I could easierly see a hard-line KGB watcher being attached to make sure they stay 'loyal'.
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Old 07-04-2010, 10:51 AM
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A bit of history...

In the Germany Army of WW2 the Heer penal units were called Straftbattalionen and designed with numbers like 999. They were mainly used for near-impossible missions on the Eastern Front for suicidal sabotage acts, clearing minefields and to defend or assaults frontline (almost lost) positions.

I saw a german movie called "Stalingrad" dealing with such things. It was the story of some men from an engineer battalion transfered from the Italian Front to Stalingrad and sent to a penal unit because their officer tried to obtain preferential medical treatment for his men pointing a gun to a medic. After repelled a Soviet assault they earn the right to return to their unit.

Life in those penal units was very bad. They were treated like beasts and if injured they were simply left to die. Anyway if a soldier survived his sentence he would be released obtaining all the rights of a "standard" german soldier.

If I'm not making a mistake in the Waffen-SS there were no Straftbattalionen. Exceptions were made for foreign units like the 29th Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (the infamous SS-Sturmbrigade RONA led by Bronislav Kaminski) and, of course, the 36th Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS "Dirlewanger".

The cadre of the Dirlewanger's unit was formed from military prisoners, POWs and criminals including rapists, child molesters, murderers and even those that had been commited to asylums for the criminally insane. The officer in command himsel, Dr. Oskar Dirlewanger, was a psychopath and a child molester but he obtained a PhD in Political Sciences and got really powerful friends like Gottlob Berger. Fortunately Dirlewanger was captured in the last days of the war and sent to a jail in occupied Germany where he was recognized by polish guards and beaten to death.

Here's a list of the Heer penal units (if you can read german)...

http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/...iederung-R.htm
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Old 07-04-2010, 10:52 AM
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The main problem I see is that such a unit, in the T2K world, is likely to shoot it's officers and become marauders. I think a key factor is that such units will have to be deployed unarmed.
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Old 07-04-2010, 12:10 PM
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NOT COMPLETELY!

Remember the Soviet system is a Traingle arraingement,

The conscript or unreliable units are the ones on the front for cannon foder. And the politiicaly reliable unit is in their rear as a reserve, but also with their guns trained on the unstable or unreliable units. The unstable/conscript units retreat the reliable unit opens fire.

This sort of thing was also done in WWII with NKVD type units who roamed the sectors and took care of "stragglers" and others.

So, why don't we have Zampliots and NKVD or similiar types of forces roaming around the battle field? We have the ZOMO and ORMO and such but no Russian versions.

And why don't we have loyal East German forces with a version of the Stassi running around too.

I mean with such fanatical and indoctrinated groups running around with all the good equipment would be an interesting group for the characters to encounter.

Or, a small group of shaky Pact troops with a hardcore NCO and oblivious junior officer who still beleives in his cause bless those dilusional Lts with minds like children And a section of the politicla/field police who keep it all together with a mix of useless indoctrination and political speaches and the real fear of a bullet to the head.
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Old 07-04-2010, 12:11 PM
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You could deploy them armed with fruit, even though they demand pointy sticks. And then drop a huge weight on them as a defense.

OK, try to figure out that reference!
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Old 07-04-2010, 01:36 PM
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Quote:
And why don't we have loyal East German forces with a version of the Stassi running around too.
The Felix Dzezhinsky Guard Regiment was a division-sized Stasi military formation that was the DDR garrison of East Berlin (with a regime support/coup suppression mission as well as staring back at the NATO West Berlin garrisons). Wikipedia has a write up on them that mentions they were unpopular to the point that personnel were not allowed to go out in uniform after duty hours after some personnel were attacked by civilians. Apparently they were basically what you might call a light mechanized unit, with a lot of BTRs and some artillery but no tanks to speak of, and some SOF capability.

Anyway, I could see those guys throwing in with the Soviet troops in the area and withdrawing east as the Warsaw Pact was pushed out of Germany. They could probably end up as a Soviet backed "free German" force like their WW2 analogs, reformed into something like a standard Pact Motorized Rifle Division later in the war before things go nuclear. This would be a place for loyal Communist Ostis to rally to, and perhaps with additional Penal Battalions where any German POWs who prefer to switch sides rather than face a Siberian prisoner of war camp could end up.
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Old 07-04-2010, 01:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jester View Post
And why don't we have loyal East German forces with a version of the Stassi running around too.

I mean with such fanatical and indoctrinated groups running around with all the good equipment would be an interesting group for the characters to encounter.
The subject of loyal East German forces has come up before; I think it might have been on the old boards.

Personally I always favoured the idea of adding an additional Division to the Warpac orbat of 1997 called the "Karl Marx Division" and consisting of various East German loyalists.
I agree that an encounter with elements of what's left of that Division would be a cool encounter in 2000.

Edit: Having just seen HorseSoldier's post above, the "Felix Dzezhinsky Division" sounds equally possible...
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Old 07-04-2010, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by copeab View Post
The main problem I see is that such a unit, in the T2K world, is likely to shoot it's officers and become marauders. I think a key factor is that such units will have to be deployed unarmed.
True. This could account for the more numerous marauder groups of Soviet origin. A GM could also use the premise to justify a particularly deranged group of marauders.

On the other hand, a cohesive penal unit is not impossible, even in 2000. One could always go with the whole "offer of redemption in exchange for completion of a dangerous mission" trope.

@Rainbow and HorseSoldier: I too favor the addition of a couple of Soviet-allied East German units in the WTO ORBAT. You'd think that quite a few E. Germans would have reason to pick the Soviet side of the fence (or Wall, as it were)- i.e. true believers, party members, informants, police, some military personnel, etc.
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Old 07-04-2010, 04:32 PM
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I can believe such a unit existing as late as 1998, but not by 2000. It would become an instant marauder unit, if someone tried to form and arm one.

Going back to the WW2 examples, both Soviets and Germans used penal units for construction work, too. If anything, I could see this in 2000-- semi-slave labor, like the rabotniks in Krakow or the LCs in New America.


The pre-war French-African army had some as well, IIRC. They had a reputation for really long forced marches, even more so than the Foreign Legion.

There's also a rumor that the Soviets would use military prisoners as tailgunners on the IL-2 Shturmoviks. Ten missions would get one's sentence lifted! Or so they were told. Did I mention the pilot of the IL-2 had armor plate, but not the tailgunner?
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Old 07-04-2010, 07:18 PM
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Here's my "amateurish" orbat and operational history for a fictional "regiment-like-unit" composed by former East Germany and military convicted troops:

Kampfgruppe Lindemann, Czechoslovakia, Early Summer 2000

Kampfgruppe Headquarter (2x UAZ 469)

2x Motorized Rifle Battalions,
1th Battalion (about 400 men) with 1x BMP-3, 8x BMP-1, several civilian vehicles
2th Battalion (about 400 men) with 5x BMP-1, several civilian vehicles

1x Artillery Battery (1x 120mm SO-120, 3x 122mm towed howitzers, several civilian vehicles)

1x Reconnaissance Company (2x BRDM-2, 1x UAZ 469)

---

Commander of the Kampfgruppe is Christoph Lindemann, Oberstleutnant of the NVA, veteran of the Sino-Soviet War and son of a famous german member of the Communist Party. On October 7th, 1996, while the Bundeswehr crossed the border to fight against the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, he gave his men the possibility to join the others in the war against their former allied or to follow him to the nearest Soviet military unit to receive orders. He was able to collect a force of about 800 men.

He fought until November against West Germany troops together with Czechs and Poles and, when the high ranking officers of the NVA deposed the leaders of the country replacing them with a military junta declaring war against the WarPac forces, his unit was designed as Kampfgruppe Lindemann (a volunteer unit) and sent to fight in Southern Germany until April 1997.

He proposed to his Soviet superiors the idea to increase the ranks of the unit with men coming from military prisons and this proposal was accepted. In July of the same year the Kampfgruppe Lindemann reached the maximum number of troops with Czechs, Hungarians, Bulgarians "penal volunteers" and the original nucleus of East Germany soldiers (mainly officers and NCOs).

During the winter of 1997-98, lacking of fuel, ammunitions and food, the Kampfgruppe began to systematically loot the country committing terrible acts against the civilian population.

In late August 1998, when NATO launched the offensive to penetrate the WarPac rear areas in Czechoslovakia, the Pact forces in Central Germany began a precipitous withdrawl, laying waste to Southern Germany as they retreated. Kampfgruppe Lindemann reached Czechoslovakia on the 1th October after another act of barbary: the execution of about 100 NATO POWs. Almost on the same time the second nuclear exchange between NATO and Pact began and fightings gradually ran down in winter.

In early January 1999, some officers of the Kampfgruppe began to secretly organize a mutiny. The idea was to arrest or kill all Lindemann's supporters and Christoph Lindemann himself, reach the NATO lines and surrender. Oberstleutnant Lindemann was aware of the plan and executed all the mutineers for high treason with the consent of the WarPac military authorities.

Another season of criminal activities and sporadical fightings began and the Kampfgruppe was always in first line receiving a last "shipment" of fresh troops (always military convicts) in March 1999. Because of the change in warfare, with fronts static for months, Kampfgruppe Lindemann remained in Czechoslovakia performing:
1) guerrilla activity mainly against bands of foreign marauders roaming the countryside
2) looting targets like small towns, villages and even units of the Warsaw Pact when supplies did not arrive
3) forced recruitment of civilians and soldiers from disbanded units (in the Kampfgruppe is famous the history of perhaps the only US soldier in a WarPac unit, a deserter who is now one of the members of Kampfgruppe's HQ)
4) illegal executions of civilians and stragglers
5) propaganda in POW camps

Now (2000) the Kampfgruppe is totally an independent unit controlled by Oberstleutnant Lindemann himself who sporadically cooperate with WarPac troops. Rumors says that a new mutiny is on the horizon because the discontent, especially amongst the non-veterans, is high...

Please be gentle with your comments
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Old 07-04-2010, 07:28 PM
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Here is somthing that Canadian Army came up with
Attached Files
File Type: doc Soviet Penal Battalions.doc (45.5 KB, 145 views)
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Old 07-04-2010, 09:45 PM
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Please be gentle with your comments
Works for me -- being holed up in some of the less hospitable terrain along the DDR-Czech border is probably a good place for these guys. Somewhere out of the way where it's too much trouble for a major German force to get detailed out to get rid of them for both practical and political reasons.

I think another area like that is the East German/Polish border near Danzig. I seem to recall that going by the units mentioned in the various GDW OrBats there's just no one there. I always wanted to figure out some scenario in the area involving PCs having to go to Peenemunde for some reason, and dealing with various groups of stragglers who've washed up in the area opting out of the main war but then ending up as a bunch of little feuding cantonments, with latter day Danish or Swedish vikings prowling the Baltic as well.
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Old 07-05-2010, 12:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmulcahy11b View Post
You could deploy them armed with fruit, even though they demand pointy sticks. And then drop a huge weight on them as a defense.

OK, try to figure out that reference!
Monty Python, self defence against fruit.

"Next you eat the banana, thus disarming him" :-)

And I didn't need to google it
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Old 07-05-2010, 05:57 AM
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And now . . . . . . . .






ITSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
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Old 07-05-2010, 06:38 AM
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Please be gentle with your comments
Nice write up...I particularly like the character of Lindemann himself...
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Old 07-05-2010, 07:01 AM
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The back story of one of my players is that his character was a republican terrorist in jail in the UK who was released to be part of a labour battalion which later became a penal battalion given all the nastiest jobs. They were sent in in front of 5th Mech to soften up the enemy, he got seperated from th rest of the unit and joined up with the rest of the pc's for Escape from Kalisz. They still don't know his full nackground, although I think at this stage its fairly immaterial - they've been through too much together.
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Old 07-05-2010, 09:54 AM
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In another take on the idea, I used to read a British comic called "Warlord", one of the stories was "Kampfengruppe Falken", a penal unit led by the eponymous Major Falken who had refused to commit an atrocity for the SS. His troops were rough and ready and constantly under the cosh but they had more honour and humanity than the baddies, the SS.

It might be an interesting twist to have a small group like this, honourable men who refuse to follow the excesses of the Communist line yet still fighting for the Motherland. In fact, a group of loose cannons like this could be a good start of a PC group.

I've toyed with the idea myself, a senior Soviet Officer busted down to Major for refusing to commit atrocities in somewhere like Chechnya and then made to lead a "suicide unit" on the Sino-Soviet Front. For some reason the unit gets transfered to the Western Front.

Another source of inspiration you might want to look up on penal battalions are the writings of Sven Hassel.

As an aside, the unit of commandos tasked with killing Churchill in "The Eagle has Landed" was technically a penal unit.
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Old 07-05-2010, 10:42 AM
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Sooner or later I'll post other two fictional histories about penal units. Thank you for the comments and the participation!

Also I've got in my mind more "unusual" ideas

Here's a short biography of Christoph Lindemann.

Known to his troops as "Chris Der Rot" (Chris The Red), Christoph Lindemann was born in Dresden in the German Democratic Republic in October 1954. His father was a prominent politician of the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland (Socialist Unity Party of Germany) and his mother was the daughter of a navy officer of the Volksmarine. The young Lindemann showed an early talent for power politics and violence. With determination he adhered to the Communist Party and with the help of his father he went to a military school. After the graduation and commissioning in 1965, he stayed in the NVA in East Germany even if he tried to enter (with no success) in the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guards Regiment (the armed hand of the Stasi). As Major of the NVA he participated to the Sino-Soviet War and was promoted to Oberstleutnant. Rumors says that in China he was suspected of the illegal execution of 30 chinese POWs but this story was never verified because on the 1st September 1996 his unit was sent back to East Germany. He speaks German (100 %), Russian (70 %) and English (20 %). He's a Veteran NPC.

Referee's Notes for Christoph Lindemann: Actually Oberstleutnant Lindemann looks like a colorless figure in his old NVA uniform. The banality of the evil you can say. He tends to regard non WarPac citizens as little better than animals. Now is more like a warlord and he lives only for the day he will be able to reorganize his troops and sending them back in action like in the first months of the Twilight War. He's not afraid to make hard and even inhuman decisions and he enjoys the role of a some kind of barbarian conqueror. He's paranoid and he's always surrounded by his personal bodyguards (composed by a little number of veterans of the Sino-Soviet War). However he likes to share his time with his troops and he has a sense of humor never ruined by the harsh conditions of the present. He never married and, according to unconfirmed voices, his parents were killed during bombing operations. He's a firmly believer of the Communist doctrine.

NPC Motivation: Spade 9: A strong desire for power, and the need to control those around him. Club 8: Insane tendency towards the use of violence, especially where it's not appropriate and against POWs and civilians.

Last edited by Muti; 07-05-2010 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 07-05-2010, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonmark6 View Post
It might be an interesting twist to have a small group like this, honourable men who refuse to follow the excesses of the Communist line yet still fighting for the Motherland. In fact, a group of loose cannons like this could be a good start of a PC group.
This is essentially how Operation Valkyrie came about in World War 2, except that it was officers who were more German than they were Nazis. Kind of makes you wonder how often something like that would happen in T2K, on all sides of the war?
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Old 07-12-2010, 06:15 AM
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Another penal unit for Twilight. This time an Italian one, ruled (only nominally) by a right-wing politician in late stages of the war.

Brigata Penale "La Disperata", Italy, December 1999

Regimental Headquarters (3x M557, several civilian vehicles)

1x Penal Tank Battalion (16x Leopard I, 3x M113)

1x Penal Motorized Infantry Battalion (12x VCC-2, 1x M106, 2x M113, 3x Milan, 1x AR-59 w/106mm RR)

1x Penal Anti-Tank Company (3x VTC I-TOW, several civilian vehicles)

---

The Brigata Penale "La Disperata" (Penal Brigate "The Desperate") is an Italian military penal unit commanded by Filippo De Vico, former right-wing politician of the MSI ("Movimento Sociale Italiano", Italian Social Movement). The MSI was formed in 1946 by supporters of former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. In 1994 it was amongst the most voted parties especially for his nationalistic and conservative positions. Filippo De Vico wasn't a military but with the coming of World War 3, he was in the wrong place in the wrong time...

On October 1996 when the war begun in Europe, he was amongst the "interventionist" faction of his party soliciting an armed response to Communist menace. Anyway when the new German government formally requested intervention by NATO and the US Army crossed the frontier while European leaders debated the prudence of intervention, Italy withdrew from NATO in protest after demanding (with no avail) that US Army withdraw from Germany.

On February 18th, 1997, the governments of Italy and Greece signed a mutual defense pact, so Italy declared war to Turkey that at the time was fighting for the conquest of Cyprus and it was defending the Thrace. Italian popular movements activated themselves and beginned a peaceful campaign against war and, with the objective to avoid a severe protest from civilian population, the military leaders decided to propose to the Italian Presidente della Repubblica (President of the Republic) to sent as first-line troops, personnel from prisons as a way to rehabilitate those people. Because Italy was theorically in a state of war, the proposal was accepted without a formal law proposal.

Recruitment of people coming from civilian and military prisons began on December 1997 collecting almost 10.000 men until February 1997 but only 6.000 were judged in a positive way and the others were rejected and sent back in prisons. Military training began on February 10th.

On July 1st, Greece declared war against NATO and Italy, in compliance with her treaty obligations, followed suit on the 2nd. In early July, alpine and airmobile troops crossed the Austrian borders, amongst them the first 1.000 trained troops of the penal units organized in special companies attached to frontline units. The baptism of fire was against an Austrian mechanized column attacked in the Alpine pass of Stalle (Staller Sattel in German) and on that occasion the penal units fought well. Penal companies were also amongst the advanced elements who were in combat against German territorial troops in the suburbs of Munich on 18th July.

Anyway the turning point of the Italian success happened in the end of the summer when the amount of munitions and equipment began to decrease.

Always organized in companies, penal troops fought in the Czech and Italian offensive in Southern Germany on September 1997 but after the first launchings of nuclear missiles, for "reason of internal order" they were sent back in Italy in a military camp in Verona and organized in a single penal brigade controlled by military police units.

A second nuclear exchange initiated in autumn of 1998 hitting especially the remaining industrial centers of Italy. On December 1998, Filippo De Vico, was appointed as member of the Ministry of Defence and sent in Verona to visit the penal brigade.

On the same occasion some NCOs of the penal brigade organized a mutiny and when De Vico arrived in the camp with his staff he stayed in the middle of a firefight between penal brigade members and military police troops. Military police surrendered and the NCOs of the penal brigade, recognizing the right-wing politician Filippo De Vico, started to proclaim him as "commander". Terrorized, De Vico refused initially but members of his staff suggested to accept because they received the announcement of the collapse of the central government. Hesitating De Vico accepted entering in the character of a "military leader".

The brigade was called "La Disperata" as homage to a fascist flight squadron who fought in the Spanish Civil War. De Vico is officially leader of the brigade but the real power is in the hand of his officers and NCOs.

The brigade spent the 1999 in Northern Italy seizing control of cities and towns fighting against "autonomous" movements and collaborating with the remaining italian troops to obtain some kind of centrality after the government collapse.

Last edited by Muti; 07-12-2010 at 10:45 AM.
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