What is a stormtrooper?

The term "storm trooper" was first used by the Germans in the First World War to describe the Canadian troops that they had to fight against. Canadian troops were most feared by the Germans during the First World War, and the German army always prepared for the worst when an attack was spearheaded by the Canadian army.

The term was then used again by Hitler before the Second World War for his army of soldiers when first forming the National Socialist Party. They were his elite troops, and when his infamous Beer Hall Putsch failed, and some of his storm troopers were killed by police, he forced the German people to honour them and salute every time they walked by a memorial plaque dedicated to them.

The term was used a third time by George Lucas in Star Wars as a name for the white-armour-clad soldiers of the evil Empire. Much like the National Socialist storm troopers, they were trained to show no fear or emotion.

Answer

  • No disrespect to Canada, but Germany had its own storm troopers (Sturmtruppen) in the First World War commanded by General von Hutier.
  • The SA (Brown Shirts) were neither elite soldiers nor under Hitler's command. They are more properly described as thugs, and they were commanded by a thug named Ernst Rohm. The SS commanded by Heinrich Himmler came much closer to being storm troopers because they were used to spearhead military attacks.
  • George Lucas seems to have taken inspiration from history. Palpatine's destruction of the Jedi is most similar to Hitler's destruction of the SA leadership (The Night of the Long Knives, 1934) and King Philip's destruction of the Knights Templar (Friday the Thirteenth, 1307).
  • This contributor personally doubts that the Imperial Storm Troopers in the Star Wars movies were inspired by the Canadian Army or the Nazi SA. I think it more likely that Lucas was inspired either by the Sturmtruppen or the SS.

"THE CANADIANS WERE MARKED OUT AS STORM TROOPS; FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE WAR THEY WERE BROUGHT IN TO HEAD THE ASSAULT IN ONE GREAT BATTLE AFTER ANOTHER. WHENEVER THE GERMANS FOUND THE CANADIAN CORPS COMING INTO THE LINE THEY PREPARED FOR THE WORST."

--BRITISH PRIME MINISTER LLOYD GEORGE, AFTER THE CAPTURE OF VIMY RIDGE

SPEARHEADING VICTORY IN 1918

The Somme had cost Canada 24,029 casualties, but it was here that the Canadians confirmed their reputation as hard-hitting shock troops. "The Canadians," wrote Lloyd George, "played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked out as storm troops; for the remainder of the war they were brought along to head the assault in one great battle after another. Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst."

May 1915 was the same time as the Second Battle of Ypres - the first major impact made by Canada on the war. Still stretches plausibility to say that the Germans were so impressed by the Canadian resistance they referred to the Canadians as stormtroopers and then used the term for their own infiltration units, all within a couple of weeks

The German StoƟtruppen first appeared October 1915 4 months after the second battle of Ypres in a successful assault on a French position in the Vosges Mountains.