Today we delve into perhaps the grimmest of Astra Militarum Regiments – the Death Korps of Krieg.
The Death Korps of Krieg are Imperial Guard Regiments raised from the world of Krieg. Notoriously grim and fatalistic warriors, they seek to atone for their planet’s past rebellion by dying glorious deaths in service to the Imperium. For this purpose, Death Korps regiments routinely request to fight in the galaxy’s deadliest warzones, grinding their enemy down through long battles of attrition and siege warfare.
Blighted History of Krieg
Krieg was previously a prosperous Hive World of billions located in Segmentum Tempestus, specializing in manufacture and trade and led by a council of Autocrats. However, as time passed, the debauched and decadent Autocrats increasingly became paranoid that an outside threat would take their power away from them, and thus began to fortify their world from outside threats. Eventually, the Autocrats also began to resent the influence of the Administratum on a planet which they considered to be their own. Finally, in 433.M40, the High Autocrat declared himself independent from the Imperium and renounced the Emperor as his divine master. Civil war broke out on Krieg and much of the planet quickly fell to the rebels, except for Hive Ferrograd, which was under the command of the now-infamous Colonel Jurten of the Krieg 83rd Imperial Guard regiment. Under strict orders to not let Krieg fall, but with the knowledge that no fleet on the scale needed to relieve them was available, Jurten decided that Krieg would either belong to the Emperor or to no one.
On the day of the Feast of the Emperor’s Ascension, Jurten unleashed a counter-attack of atomic cleansing in what became known as “the Purging.” For days Krieg was engulfed in a sea of nuclear fire, resulting in a total collapse of its ecosystem and subsequent nuclear winter, but the civil war dragged on. The survivors from the Purging would fight on, forced to exist in underground bunkers or deep in the radioactive chem-wastes, as their descendants do to this day. From the self-annihilation of their homeworld, loyalist troops slowly retook their world inch by inch over the course of 500 years until finally returning to Imperial rule in 949.M40. It would be from this cataclysmic event that the Death Korps was born.
Death Korps Recruitment & Training
By order of the High Lords of Terra, Krieg’s sole purpose is to produce new regiments, and its tithes are the maximum possible for the planet’s population, supplying over fifty million men per year. This includes the use of unusual methods such as “Vitae Womb” birthing techniques, a practice seen as dangerous and abhorrent by the Adeptus Mechanicus‘ Magos Biologis but tolerated by the Departmento Munitorium. The use of a eugenics program to weed out mutants is simply a continuation of policies from the civil war years.
Recruitment starts almost from birth, and the ability to withstand the hardships of living on an atomic-blasted world is enhanced further with brutal training designed to quickly weed out the weak and unworthy. Mental conditioning is a key part of a Krieg recruit’s training, their minds purposefully are broken and remade stronger. Absolute faith in the Emperor is installed at an early age, amplifying preexisting cultural norms regarding honor and self-sacrifice to create what the Ecclesiarchy calls a “cult of sacrifice.” This mental conditioning also emphasizes their role as an element in the greater picture, a pebble in the avalanche which will crush the enemies of the Emperor; as individuals, they do not matter, which is why medals and other awards are unheard-of in Krieg regiments, especially since bravery and heroism are to be expected. Rates of injury and fatality during training are high, and as a final test, all recruits are forced to endure the surface of Krieg itself, performing maneuvers and fighting mock battles amidst the nuclear-blasted battlefields that cover their world. Only those who survive this final phase of training become members of the Death Korps.
The resulting Guardsman is a highly disciplined and self-sufficient soldier, proficient in all basic Imperial Guard weaponry types, with exemplary hand-to-hand skills and expertise in the construction of trench works. Accuracy is desirable but ultimately secondary to the importance of the fire discipline and the ability to maintain continuous fire en masse as part of a larger formation. Unsurprisingly, the Krieg Guardsman is well-versed in hazardous environment survival and exhibits high levels of endurance both mentally and physically. He is also given a numerical designation, such as 769355-637566-Keled or 566-648-87991-72-Draeta, so that his death can be more easily tallied. His near-fanatical devotion to becoming a martyr for the Emperor does lead to a few issues off the battlefield, with a tendency towards insularity and a high degree of fatalism which expresses itself in ways non-Krieg persons can find unsettling, such as refusing to take off his rebreather even when not in combat.
Compared to other worlds with an aristocratic military tradition, Krieg officers are drawn from the rank and file, achieving promotion through skill, seniority, and in many cases simple survival. If selected during basic training, potential officers must complete an additional training course, with most of those being selected having already been chosen for Death Rider duty. In the field new officers are promoted from the ranks, typically having served as Watchmasters or within Death Rider squadrons. Officers right up to the regimental level typically fight on the front lines and equip themselves as such, an expression of the Krieg mentality that all Guardsmen must fight and die for the Emperor. Also in keeping with this mentality, these officers regard their men in the same way other commanders regard ammunition, a mentality that has caused problems in cases where non-Krieg units are placed under the command of Krieg officers.
Death Korps Battle Doctrine
In the Krieg way of warfare, any battle in which their capacity to wage war and willingness to die exceeds that of the enemy’s is considered a battle already won – everything else is a matter of time and attrition. This is best exemplified by their famous Siege Regiments, dedicated trench warfare formations operating on the fundamental principle of advancing forward at any cost until the enemy is eradicated. Sustained artillery barrages precede massive infantry attacks, human waves of Guardsmen led by squads of grenadiers, advancing in dispersed formation before closing ranks to unleash disciplined volleys of las-fire and storm the enemy’s defensive emplacements. Heavy Weapons Squads are concentrated in separate detachments so that their deployment will not stagger the advance of infantry units, and are used to support and protect their flanks as well as shore up defenses around important strategic locations. Specialized combat engineer units also assist in undermining the enemy’s defenses and conducting subterranean warfare.
Vehicles used by Krieg siege regiments are either purpose-built or heavily modified for use on difficult terrain and prolonged exposure to environmental damage, with relatively light vehicles such as the Chimera replaced in favor of more robust transport. Special cadres of Rough Rider formations known as the Death Riders of Krieg provide the siege regiment with a reconnaissance capability in place of Sentinels and act as quick-response units, useful for exploiting breakthroughs in the enemy’s lines and counter-attacking their assaults.
Field artillery and heavy artillery companies feature heavily in siege regiments, the former providing direct support to the infantry while the latter concentrate on tasks such as box barrages, counter-battery, harassing, and destructive firing. When operating as part of a larger siege army the regiment’s artillery can be further supported by the bombardment Korps, large concentrations of artillery to back up the attacking regiment during major offensives. Tanks in siege regiments are not fielded en masse but partitioned out to support the infantry assault, with individual companies and squadrons attached to infantry platoons to provide physical cover and supporting fire as they cross no man’s land. While others regard this as backward and unsophisticated use of armor, Krieg commanders regard the high loss rate of these vehicles with the same callousness they show toward human casualties.
Besides these formations, Krieg produces many different types of regiments, including infantry, mechanized infantry and tank regiments, though all types exhibit the Krieg traits of discipline, expertise in trench warfare, and tolerance of both hazardous environments and high attrition rates. These traits can manifest themselves in unhelpful fashions, though: for example, unless explicitly ordered to do so, a Krieg unit will continue to fight against an overwhelming foe until destroyed, even when retreat would be more tactically sound. The typical Krieg ‘zeal’ for engaging and destroying the enemy at any cost can sometimes earn short-term victories at the expense of long-term strategic goals, and their unique outlook on life has been known to cause friction between themselves and other non-Krieg units. For this reason Commissars, the only non-Krieg members of a Death Korps regiment, are present less to enforce the law and improve morale than to reign in the excesses of their unit and act as a tactical adviser to its officers, reminding them of the larger strategic picture, as well as providing liaison duties between regimental commands when needed.