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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Top Ten Mercenary Companies

   I had so much fun with the previous top ten lists, that I decided that I wanted to do another. It may become a semi-regular feature on the blog, as I get around to it. This time, I am highlighting my favorite mercenary companies of film, book, game and history!

10. The Flying Tigers

   The Flying Tigers flew one of my favorite WWII-era aircraft, the P-40. Officially known as the American Volunteer Group, these pilots flew against the Japanese for Nationalist China. Famous for their insignia, the shark's mouth painted on the aircraft's intake, and developing skills and tactics which would prove valuable when the Japanese and Americans officially went to war. They also have a great movie.

9. Eridani Light Horse

   The Eridani Light Horse is a combined arms force from the BattleTech Universe. It is one of the largest and oldest mercenary companies in that setting. Plus, I have always liked their logo.

8. The Swiss Guard

   Believe it or not, the Swiss are famous for more than pocket knives, banks, and cuckoo clocks. In the early pike and shot era, say from the mid-1400s through the early 1600s, the Swiss were your prime source for stone cold killers for hire. Their reputation was so good that they were often hired as royal bodyguards, and in 1506 the Pope hired some Swiss to protect the Papal States and his own person. They are still working for him. And while their ceremonial uniforms (see above) may look silly, the guys you don't see are highly trained soldiers armed with modern small arms and a devout sense of duty to protect the Holy Father. Also, those halberds are good, honest steel. Think twice before you mock.

7. The Magnificent Seven

   I see what you did there... This is my favorite Western of all time, bar none. And the casting? Genius! Who would have made a Hungarian an Cajun, a gay German the Mexican heartthrob, and a New York Jew as a Mexican bandit leader? And it still works. Plus, Steve McQueen stealing scenes left and right. "We deal in lead, friend."

6. The Seven Samurai

  Rated higher, even though the Magnificent Seven is my favorite Western movie - another Top Ten in the making, I am sure. But this film is legend.

5. The Dogs of War

   Okay, so in the 1980 movie version of Frederick Forsythe's novel, Christopher Walken and his group of 'cursed mercenaries' ("Vive l'mort, vive l'guerre, vive l'sacre mercenaire.") don't really have a name for themselves. So what? The XM-18 alone is worth the price of admission. Plus, I have it on unreliable rumor that Zangaro was the basis of Bongolesia.

4. The Wild Geese

   Burton, Moore, Harris, and Kruger are... THE WILD GEESE. So much awesome, it is hard to contain. African hellhole nations have a disease, and these guys are the cure! I need to get AK47 Republic just so I can play out these games in Bongolesia.

3. The Black Company

   As much as I enjoy a good mercenary movie, my top three are all from books. The Black Company is a series of novels written by Glen Cook. The first trilogy is, as usual, the best. It's fantasy genre, but for the most part, magic is the province of the bad guys. Of course, the Black Company currently works for the Bad Guys. But there are Worse Guys out there, too.

2. Hammer's Slammers

   This is what made David Drake a science fiction legend (and he has just gone on from there, still writing great stuff). At least two minis games have come from this series of books and short stories. I like the tanks, the combat cars, and the power guns. Energy weapons with ammo - a great concept. Alois Hammer runs one of the nastiest, toughest, most kickass mercenary companies in the galaxy. Do not cross him, and if your enemies hire him, you had better hope you can hire...

1. Falkenberg's Legion

   My all time favorite, from Jerry Pournelle, with some help from S.M. Stirling (another favorite author). Set in the Future History Universe. John Christian Falkenberg is the epitome of the mercenary captain. And all of this while actually trying to preserve as much of humanity as possible, given the oncoming downfall of the CoDominium. These men and women are the best mercenaries ever.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Robert Clive -  better known as "Clive of India." Quite probably the man most responsible for the establishment of the British Raj in India.
  • Landsknechte - If only for their outrageous clothes (hesitate to call it a uniform, since it wasn't uniform) and their famous swords, the Katzbalger and the Zweihander. Even though they were more likely to carry pikes.
  • Frederick Russel Burnham - An American who fought for the British in Africa in the First and Second Matabele Wars, plus the Second Boer War.
  • G4S - The second largest private employer in the world, behind WalMart. Let that sink in. They operate in 120 countries, with over 600,000 employees. Most are not traditional mercenaries, they're security guards. But in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., a security guard is most likely a former special warfare operator - SEAL, Delta, Force Recon, SAS, you name it.


ColKillgore said...

Great Post. I would put Hammers Slammer a little higher but I just dig the grav tanks.


Chuckaroobob said...

Arg! You had me until the David Drake bit. He's a hack. Played the Panzer Leader-esque Hammer's Slammer game once, it was horrible too although I can't blame Drake for that. YMMV, of course. Drake used to show up at all the local sci-fi cons (RDU, NC), but haven't seen him lately.

ColKillgore said...

@ Chuckaroo, Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful? ;)


J Womack, Esq. said...

Wow Chuck, you made the Colonel go all hippy-dippy. That's some powerful stuff.

J Womack, Esq. said...

And Hammer didn't have grav tanks - they were fusion powered hover tanks, of all things. Physics, schmysics!

ColKillgore said...

My bad, you are right about the tanks. I guess I caught too many rays while I was eating that cheese and drinking the wine.


Chuckaroobob said...

Ok, ok, I'll try to be more uplifting and joyous. How'sabout my favorite mercenary band, the French Foreign Legion? They're a bunch of happy-go-lucky types! God only knows how much wine and cheese they go through on a daily basis.

J Womack, Esq. said...

The Legion Etrangere doesn't count, in my book, as a mercenary company. Even though it is composed largely of non-French citizens, it is a legitimate and official branch of the French national armed services. That makes it no more mercenary than the United States Marine Corps, for example.