Boys' Uniformed Group: Activities--Military Training

Figure 1.--Whermacht soldiers here give a demonstartion of a machine gun with an aerial sight to boys in the Deutche Jugend. The soldiers on an apparently cold day wear overcoats and gloves while the boys are in the winter uniform with short pants. Notice the parents in the background. The Hitler Youth eventually became an important element of Germany's vaunted anti-aircraft defense system.

Many groups like the Scouts were in part formed with the idea of creating a more healthy vigorous youth to support the military if needed. Baden Powell was after all an army general and the British were appaled at the number of men would could not pass the physical in the Boer War crisis. Overt military training, however, was not conducted. The totalitarian youth groups like the Italian Balial, German Hitler Youth, and Soviet Young Pioneers incorporated actual military training, including weapons handling in the program. For the younger boys it was more of a show and tell approach. For older boys there was actual weapons handling and military exercizes.


It is the Hitler Youth that is best known for military training.

Boy Scouts

I'm not positive about the military's links to Scouting. This was a major issue in the early SDcouting movement. Of course this varied from country to country. The founder of Scouting, Lord Baden Powell, was an army general. The competition with the British Boys Scouts helped guide Scouting away from a close association with the military. In America the YMCA had a major role in founding the Scouting movement and helped guide Scouting away from elements that wanted a strong military influence. Scouting flounder Ernest Seaton was especially concerned about militarism in early Scouting. As a U.S. Cub and Scout in the 1950s, I do not recall links with the miitary. Rifelry is, however, a merit badge and many Scout activities are very useful for soldiers. There are some advanced Scouting programs that do appear to have military conotatiions, such as Sea Scouting. The program however deals with seafaring and sailing and there are no weapons components. Also the U.S. Scout Jamboree is held on an army basen (Fort A.P. Hill) and there are military booths which provide information to the Scouts

Boys Brigade

No information available at this time.

Hitler Youth

The Hitler Youth not only provided military training, but the emotional and phusical preparation for war in addition to ideological indoctrination was, after the NAZIs seized power, the primary purpose of the organization. The NAZIs did not tell the boys and their parents that they weere being prepared for War, but in reviewing the program that conclusion was obvious. The Hitler Youth was carefully organized to feed older boys directly into military service. Younger boys were exposed to military personnel and given weapons demonstrations. Older boys were given actual instructions in handling weapons and participated in actual military exercizes.

Nationalist Groups

Nationalist groups like the Fasccist youth groups in Italy conducted refgular military training. There was also militarry traing by the pro-NAZI nationalist groups set up before or during World War II in some of the neigboring or later occupied countries. Since the wnd of the War natonalist groups have declined in popularity and few have pursued military training.

Young Pioneers

Pioneer boys were also given instructions in handling weapons. Boys in school, for example, had refulalarly scheduled Pioneer activities. One important element was military training. The boys, for examole, might practice taking aparrt and assembling weapons while the girls night have cooking and sewing classes. Such programs varied from country to country.


The Wandervogel in many ways was an anti-establishment moverment. While they reveled in Nordic folk culture and many were anti-semetic, they often were opposed to German militarism. I know of no Wanbdervogel cooperation with the military. When World War I came, however, the Wandevigel boys answered their country's call.

Combat Soldiers

Much has been written about the combat soldiers and sailors of World War II. One of the most popular American authors is Stephen Ambrose who has written several insightful accounts of the War. Ambrose in his writings and public appearances often stresses one of his central themes, that the children of democracy, speaking primarily about Americans, in the final analysis outfought the German and Japanese soldiers imbuded with totalitarian leadership principles. Ambrose suggests that Hitler made a bet when he decalred war on America 3 days after Pearl Harbor that the German soldier trained from an early age through the Hitler Youth could outfight the decadent American youth of the Boy Scouts and swing music. Ambrose's contention of course sounds wonderful and is certainly though provoking. HBC has, however, some doubts about his basic contentions.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 11, 2000
Last updated: July 31, 2002