Survivalists. Militia And Perception, Then And Now


When I was in my teens, I remember seeing the above video which aired on Brit TV in 1982. With a few exceptions, the basic premise of the video implied that “Survivalists are nuts”. Even as a kid, I never fell for that premise, quite the opposite in fact. I believed that it made good sense to be prepared for hard times, and I thought the “Nuts” were the ones who just wanted to “Eat drink and be merry”, without any thought to planning ahead.

In order of appearance in the video, it showed Bruce Clayton (Life After Doomsday) the majority of the documentary was on the (CSA) Zarephath-Horeb Community Church (James Ellison and the Covenant the Sword and the Arm of the Lord), There was a former SF guy who was an Asst Prof at a Cali Univ., The Survival Store was depicted, they interviewed Kurt Saxon (Poor Man’s James Bond series, The Survivor series), an interview with an L.A. army surplus warehouse owner, you met Fred Kurpsy (mountain top guy), and they topped it off with General Mitch WerBell III (Sionics and Brigade Quartermasters) and his instructors from Sionics.

Bruce Clayton, along with Mel Tappan, Ragnar Benson, Duncan Long, and Kurt Saxon, was one of the more well known Survivalist writers, especially in the ’80’s, and his book, “Life After Doomsday” was one of the best books written on nuclear war survival skills and retreat type living. Although Cresson Kearny’s book “Nuclear War Survival Skills” is right there alongside Clayton’s book on good nuclear war preparedness skills, I would not call Kearny a “Survivalist writer”. Clayton is one of the only ones interviewed in that documentary that gave any semblance of being “right in the head”.

James Ellison of the Z-HC Church (polygamists) is obviously nuttier than a ten year old fruitcake. He’s one of the typical “God told me to do this” leaders (Ammon Bundy anyone?), and at the time of the interview in the winter (Jan/Feb) of ’81, believed “It’s gonna happen” soon (he said, “In the late ’60’s, God began to deal with us about the economic judgement, collapse and upheaval that was comin’ upon all the world, especially on this country.”). One of his guys even made this statement, “I don’t like to set dates, but it’s feelin’ kinda spooky, and it might be tomorrow, and or sometime in ’82, but it could last another ten years, but I don’t think so.”

I believe their (CSA) downfall came from two areas. First, they allowed the interview in the British documentary, which gave them a huge “footprint” with the Feds. Two, they got involved with Christian Identity, and then, “The Order” (whether they were physically involved with the crimes they are tied to and convicted of, I don’t know, but involvement with these groups put them in the crosshairs none the less). These two things made them a huge target for the Feds, and on April 19th, 1985 (imagine that), they got raided by FBI, ATF, and local LE.

That being said, if they had kept out of the spotlight and not become part of groups who were being watched and under scrutiny, they had a pretty good thing going (except for the polygamy thing, that’s nuts LOL). I’ve always said if I had my choice, my survival group and retreat area would be something along the lines of the movie “The Village”, except it would be both well armed and trained.

Not a whole lot to say about the former SF Asst Prof. (Global earthquake guy) other than he seamed more concerned about showing off his toys to his students and the interviewer, than using the time to present a good message. Of course that could and probably was because of how it was edited (remember, the edit is everything to how you are perceived to the public).

Kurt Saxon is a character and a half, and was known for a number of books that had detailed info on anything from poisons and homesteading info, to explosives, and hardening your vehicle. He definitely had an interesting and harsh opinion about his fellow man, but who knows, maybe he had a reason. Regardless of his opinion of society, he put out info that would have been difficult to find anywhere else. He apparently resides in a nursing home now after having a stroke about five years ago.

Ah, “Fred the mountaintop guy”. Although I could see where Fred was coming from, I’m glad he did not have to put his “Mountaintop retreat” theory to the test in the last 36 years. His logistical issues could have been deadly in a real world SHTF scenario.

Gen. Mitch WerBell III, (OSS, Merc….) Video 1, 2, 3. Although a lot of people would look at the General with a jaded eye leaning towards a label of “Nut”. I’d say Mitch III had a better take on the real world than most of the people out there. From what I remember about what I read was covered in the curriculum of the course mention in this documentary, it was pretty well rounded in survivalist skills and more importantly, their practical application. Unfortunately, he died in ’83, but his Sons, Mitch IV and Geoff WerBell  are the guys who ran Brigade Quartermasters (one of the most popular Surplus/Mil Gear outlet’s in the 80’s and 90’s) for 35 years, and Mitch IV is still involved as a Director after it’s sale to Ira Green Inc. in 2010.

So what was gleened from watching this video? My take initially when I was a kid was, “Hey, I’m not alone in thinking it’s smart to do the Survivalist thing.” Now I look at it and think, “This is why prepping should be done in moderation, you should use as many durable, long lasting goods as possible, and have a ‘Rotation of supplies’ plan.”. Think about this. That video was from 36 years ago. Think of all the preps that can go bad within ten years. That five year supply of freeze dried food (EXPENSIVE) is great if you plan on using it within 20 years (I actually ate some of my Backpacker Pantry FD food from 1993 in 2013, and it was OK, but not what it was in the first 5 years), but what is more practical, making the majority of your food stockpile canned goods that you eat every day and will rotate through, or putting back freeze dried food you’ll never eat unless there’s an apocalypse?

Unless you’re spending a buttload of money on the high end batteries (lithium, etc), think of all the money wasted by “Mountaintop Man” if he had bought alkalines for SHTF. Just like the canned goods rotation idea mentioned above, rotating batteries (especially the cheaper ones) is a prerequisite for having your supplies actually serve you well in a crisis.

This is one of the reasons I am not a fan of items that are considered “disposable”. Unless it is a “one time use” item designed for an emergency (emergency survival kit for example), planning on using gear that is not durable will be a problem down the road. How many of you plan of using “100MPH” duct, or black electrical tape to secure items to your gear or your weapon? How many have gear that uses elastic bungee cord to secure items like magazines (Taco pouches anyone?)? What does your extra duct tape, electrical tape, or elastic bungee material supplies look like? Tape and elastic items that will wear out, even if only in storage, and velcro wears out pretty fast under hard use when compared to buckles and snaps. Also the adhesive on velcro is notorious for coming off of the surface it’s attached to within months.

At least in this video from 2011, Survivalists are cast in a good light (a long way from the previous one). I have mentioned a number of times that only morons will put their info out there to the media, and expect anything other than being vilified as a “Crazy”, “paranoid” or a “White Supremacist”. I was recently made aware of a “militia” group in upstate PA that had a two part story done by a NYC NBC affiliate. To my surprise, it actually spun them in a good light. They are the “2014 Pennsylvania State Militia”.

Although my advice to groups is don’t play around on social media, what I saw of their FB page was generally just recruiting announcements (not those dumbass rants from legends in their own minds), and the recruiting is for the two North Eastern counties in PA where they are located, not the whole State of PA. Unlike Christopher Hershman of “Kernal of Korn” fame, the guy who runs this group is prior service, doesn’t say he represents the whole State of PA (probably should have picked a different name huh?), and actually gets out and trains with his guys.

A few things I noted that could be problematic for this group. They are using a uniform that is used by our present military, and saying they are a military force (anyone who uses the term “militia” needs to be aware of that perception), but are not part of the military and this could be an issue, according to 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 45, Sections 771 and 772 (look it up) the legality is also questionable and one of the reasons I recommend people use older “no longer issued” patterns. From what he told me, they have never operated outside of PA, except for a presence in DC in 2014 (I think it was the “Barrycade” protest), and not going out of the State is as it should be. His desire to go to the border is understandable, but considering their lack of authority from any government entity, it’s probably not a good idea.

One of the things I said to him was “I dont care what a group calls itself as long as they don’t act like they have some form of gov authority, and they don’t act like they are “operators”. Just train Damn it!”. I have gone on ad nauseam concerning my thoughts on why you should call your groups a “Neighborhood Protection Team”, Survivalist group, or Prepper group, so I will not reiterate it all over again. What I will say is this. You are better to call yourself what you are, than what you might aspire to be wh3n it’s something that in reality is just what you’d like it to be, or is your fantasy. Ultimately, like I said in my comment to him, I don’t care what you call yourself, just be about the substance, not the perception.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by BIRTH

7 thoughts on “Survivalists. Militia And Perception, Then And Now

  1. Good article. I remember seeing this video LONG ago. The ‘former SF guy’ was Ron Hood (he wasn’t former SF though, he worked for the ASA). This was an early video of him; he and his wife became famous for their very well done video series on wilderness survival. He earned several degrees in wilderness skills and taught at Cal State. He died a few years back from pancreatic cancer and was generally regarded as a good guy.

    • The readout on Clayton’s computer said “Ex-Special Forces (1963-1967 Turkey, Vietnam, Japan), Intel Spec.” I thought it was Hood, but wasn’t 100% sure. As I said, I think they edited it to give the impression I mentioned, and I heard the same thing about him being a good guy.

  2. Really good post. The one thing that has struck me about the Survivalists (’80s) and the Preppers (’00s) was/is their lack of prudence and temperance. There is no need for extremes (food, ammo, etc.). Just some common sense. I’m thinking that not more than 100 years ago if somebody was giving dire warnings about the impending economic collapse the average small farmer would respond, pfff, What was that to him? He could feed his, and it’s an easy thing to set up a local co-op.

    The militia types might want to consider that if they are captured wearing the current uniform (doesn’t matter what branch of service) their last memory will be contemplating the bottom of the ditch they are shot in to.


  3. Oh! In Russian these days there is a thing called Babushka Watch. The Babushkas are the old ladies who lived through WWII. They know what’s coming. People are paying attention to what they are doing to prepare for it — and copying them./ S//

  4. Thanks for the vid link. I have an addiction to survival porn. Oh and ‘The Day After’, can’t believe I never saw it.

    I have to agree with First Sergeant’s take. Burn me covered in OD and/or Coyote. Shelter, water, food, and security, maybe in that order. A true survivalist, old school potential militia, family man/woman, can plant, grow, gather and protect, and hopefully lead during tough times. ‘Babushka Watch’, there’s a reason that women live longer.

    Somehow we all need to strike a balance between planning and living. I suck at it probably, but admitting it is half the battle.

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