Weird History

The Most Powerful American Militia Groups Throughout History 

Mike Rothschild
Updated May 6, 2019 28.4k views 14 items

The American militia movement had been mostly dormant during the Bush administration, but the election of Barack Obama gave it new life - and thousands of new members. There are currently hundreds of small local militias in the US, groups of "patriotic citizens" who own a lot of weaponry and spend a lot of time tramping through various wilderness areas training to use them.

These groups train to prepare for what they see as the inevitable consequences of a Democratic president, such as gun confiscation, martial law, imprisonment of dissenters, mass purges, and totalitarian fascism. Most of these groups are also opposed to federal law and feel they're somehow above the rules that the rest of us live by. This means many have been shut down and raided by police or the FBI - with some groups involved in plots to overthrow the presidency and other serious infractions.

Listed here are the more well-known militia groups operating in the US, both now and in the recent past. Read on to learn more about these groups and what drives them.

Pacific Patriots Network
Pacific Patriots Network... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Powerful American Militia Groups Throughout History
Photo:  ROB KERR / AFP/Getty Images

A loose conglomeration of groups based in the northwest, the Pacific Patriots Network wasn't well known until it stuck its collective nose in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff. A few days into the occupation, members of the group appeared at the refuge carrying rifles and wearing body armor. They presented the Bundy family with an "Articles of Resolution" asking them to "stand down" and leave before the FBI could move in.

In an ironic twist, the Bundy family asked the PPN to leave, telling them they didn't need more people at the refuge and that the intense firepower the PPN brought would make the situation worse.

Michigan Militia

While having only a few hundred members, the Michigan Militia is one of the best known militia groups in the US, due to its founder, Norman Olson, testifying before Congress in 1995. Among other lofty statements, Olson told the United States Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism of the Judiciary that, “Martial law shall not be possible in this country as long as the people recognize the bill of rights as inalienable.”

He was later booted out of the group after blaming Japan for the Oklahoma City bombing, and the group has gone through a number of iterations since then.

Ohio Defense ForceĀ 

A small but heavily armed group with 300 members, the Ohio Defense Force was the subject of a Time magazine photo spread. Members were shown training, posing with their guns, looking stern, and practicing to invade and hold a “terrorist command post.”

Montana Freemen
Montana Freemen is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Powerful American Militia Groups Throughout History
Photo:  John Ruthro / AFP/Getty Images

Now defunct, the Montana Freemen achieved worldwide fame due to their standoff with the FBI in 1996. Rejecting any law made by the federal government, the Freemen drew liens against public officials and created realistic fake checks with which to defraud banks. The FBI moved in on their community, “Justus Township,” and the group surrendered after a bloodless, 81-day siege.

Their leadership was convicted and jailed - where they continued their bogus lien schemes, this time bamboozling their fellow prisoners.