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"The Military were on the frontline of this whole thing. They were overrun; we've all seen that!"
Rick Grimes noting the state of the military[1]

The U.S. Military, known collectively as the Armed Forces of the United States, are the combined military forces of The United States of America. It is made up of five armed service branches: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Each branch of the military has a unique approach towards protecting America's interests and ensuring global peace. It is informally referred to as the "Military" within the fictional realms of the The Walking Dead universe.

According to many survivors in both the television and the comic series, the Military attempted to contain the outbreak, but were ultimately overrun by the sheer numbers of the undead. As such, many scattered outposts, vehicles, and equipment remain behind as many of its members have either fallen victim to the hordes of walkers or have retreated elsewhere. In Fear The Walking Dead, the California Army National Guard was last reported to be active in Edwards Air Force Base, but the fates of the rest of the military in both the comics and show universe are ultimately unknown.


California National Guardsmen in Fear the Walking Dead, "Cobalt" (S1E05).

"Wildfire" Pandemic


Atlanta, Georgia being firebombed by the Military

During the onset of the outbreak, as local law enforcement was being overwhelmed, an apparent executive order was made to declare a state of emergency. As it most likely became evident that FEMA could no longer handle things on its own, the U.S. military responded and assisted. The Military's initial strategy was to evacuate and protect as many civilians as possible. Ferrying them to designated safe zones or large cities where aid stations and refugee centers were located at[2]. However, this proved less feasible when the cities began to collapse due to the ever increasing number of the undead. As this happened, many people fled in large numbers, effectively jamming any or all roads leading in or out of the cities, and trapping many helpless victims within[3]. This created chaos and the Military were authorized to use deadly force to regain control of the situation. This resulted in major cities and roads being bombed or destroyed by jets and helicopters and soldiers firing on unarmed civilians, whether they were infected or not,[4] or were in the process of looting.[5] Before civilization collapsed, the CDC had come up with the name "Wildfire" to describe the walker pandemic since the infection spread uncontrollably like a wild fire. The military most likely adopted this name soon after.[6]

With military and emergency personnel severely overstretched and suffering from increasing casualty and desertion rates, a decision was taken to no longer try and maintain order throughout urban areas, and instead focus the efforts on protecting designated safe zones in easy to secure parts of the cities. These safe zones were policed under martial law and anyone caught breaking military rules was arrested and sent to detention centres.[7]

Operation Cobalt

With the epidemic spreading and command and control beginning to falter, a decision was taken somewhere up the chain of command to abandon the safe zones and withdraw the military from the cities and back to the safety of their bases. Soldiers were instructed to withdraw from the safe zones in an orderly fashion during the night so as not to spook civilians. The operation also included an order for the "humane termination" of individuals in quarantined areas.

The second stage of the operation was large scale napalm bombing of major cities to wipe out zombies that had infested urban areas. Cities known to have been bombed include:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Diego, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Phoenix, Arizona

Military Bases and Outposts

Military hospital 2

Rick Grimes stumbles across an abandoned military outpost. Here he is seen next to what seems to be a Huey from the United States 7th Cavalry.

Military checkpoints and outposts, such as the one seen in King County, Georgia[8], were established to maintain their overall presence and to manage the civilian population. However, these were eventually abandoned, whether on orders or out of necessity, or were completely overrun by walkers.[9] After the collapse of society, it is unknown if certain branches of the Military are still operational or have been reduced to small pockets of resistance. According to Lieutenant Welles, his small band of military survivors managed to fortify their previously established outpost for an extended period of time before having to leave the encampment when their perimeter was breached by walkers[10]. This would imply that many other areas such as this are still active to some degree. However, this is not known for sure. Even if some military outposts are still functional, their influence on the outside world appears to be minimal, as massive areas remain unpoliced.

Comic Series

National Guard Armory near Woodbury, Georgia

The Governor mentioned that many of the soldiers at the installation deserted in order to be with their friends and families. A few of the Woodbury survivors were soldiers themselves and the town continued to use the base to occasionally retrieve weapons and ammunition and gasoline. The Prison survivors looted the remaining weapons for their upcoming battle with the Woodbury Army and commandeered a troop transport before setting the fuel depot ablaze to prevent the residents of Woodbury from using any of the remaining supplies against them.

TV Series

King County, Georgia

Military hospital

The abandoned military outpost at the hospital

The U.S. Army, notably the 1st Cavalry Division, had set up a makeshift base near the hospital in King County, Georgia. They assisted with the evacuation of civilians as FEMA and various medical staff worked to quarantine the infected. During the later stages of the outbreak, the infected individuals were everywhere and despite the military's efforts to halt the infestation, they pulled out and abandoned the outpost.

Military execution

Soldiers shortly after executing infected civilians

It seems as though they were initially successful in managing to contain the amount of walkers in the area, as numerous bodies wrapped in sheets are seen within the loading dock of the hospital. Nevertheless, the Army lost several soldiers due to the high amount of the undead. Before the Military pulled out, many who were infected, or came into close proximity of them, were indiscriminately executed within the hallways of the hospital, as witnessed by Shane who attempted to carry an unconscious Rick to safety.

Atlanta, Georgia

Military checkpoint in Atlanta

A Military checkpoint in Atlanta

The Military had focused most of its efforts in their attempt to keep the city of Atlanta free of infected and safe for people to take shelter in. Garrisons of heavily armed troops were stationed among numerous checkpoints and barricades throughout the streets of Atlanta. Various helicopters, both civilian and military, flew in evacuees from the surrounding area and from small, nearby towns. Multiple aid stations had been set up, as well as a refugee center equipped with quarantine measures. As planned, the military formed a defensive line but was quickly overwhelmed by the numbers of infected. After the defensive line was beaten, they set up safe areas for evacuation but they knew it wouldn't work, so the military panicked and retreated back to the base. However, the Military's attempt to establish a safe zone proved faulty at best as the large amount of people in one place increased the likelihood of the infection spreading violently. Within a short period of time, Atlanta had been overrun by large hordes of walkers amassing over the streets. In a last-ditch effort to stop the violent disease, the Military resorted to the nationally implemented "Operation Cobalt" and bombed the walkers from the air.

When Rick Grimes rides into Atlanta during the events of "Days Gone Bye", he passes through a Military checkpoint at an intersection.  When he is swarmed by a horde of Walkers, he finds shelter in an abandoned Abrams tank.  Inside he finds a seemingly dead tank crewman.  Rick takes the tanker's M9 Beretta pistol, but then realized that the soldier is a walker.  Rick quickly shoots the tanker in the head, and the blast in such a small area disorients him.  Upon discovering that the commander's hatch is open, Rick goes to the hatch and closes it, but not before realizing that his bag of guns is surrounded by Walkers and that Walkers are climbing on top of the tank.  He is later saved by Glenn Rhee, who guides him out via radio in "Guts".

Los Angeles, California

As the epidemic continued to spread and the Los Angeles Police Department proved unable to cope with the increasing violence on the streets, the Governor of California issued a State Executive Order announcing a state of emergency and begun to deploy the National Guard to the worst affected areas. Realizing it would be impracticable to save everyone, the Guard abandoned most of the city and concentrated their resources on easy-to-defend areas, setting up twelve secure, fenced off safe-zones where they could provide basic services and protect the remaining population. The people who refused to be evacuated to the safe-zones either made their own way out of the city, were killed by infected or were executed by the Guard due to their potential exposure to the virus. The city was later firebombed by the military along with the entire California coastline. The Coast Guard later broadcast a message stating that they could no longer provide assistance via air, sea or land. It is unknown whether this was due to desertions, loss of personnel to the infection, loss of equipment or a combination of all three.

L.A. is firebombed by the military


The California National Guard in one of the suburbes that served as a safe zone in L.A.

National guard

National Guard troops storming a library during the oubreak in Los Angelus

Western Seaboard

George Geary mentions that the military have bombed several major cities along the western seaboard of the United States, including Portland and Seattle. Thus, it can be assumed that what happened in Los Angeles happened in these cities as well.

Centers for Disease Control - Zone 5

Military cdc 2

The overrun military checkpoint at the CDC

Among the facilities closely guarded by the Military, the CDC building within Zone 5 near Atlanta, Georgia, is among them. According to Dr. Edwin Jenner, the Military cordon was overrun shortly after Atlanta fell. Afterwards, the facility's few remaining staff members committed suicide,had fallen victim to the infection or had fled to be with their families. Being the only research scientist left in the building, Dr. Jenner was forcibly committed to finding a cure. However, his endeavor was short lived after a mistake in containment protocol destroyed one of the last remaining necrotic flesh samples from Test Subject 19, effectively destroying weeks of amounted work. During his research, he kept a series of video logs in hopes that someone important might be listening, but promptly gave up after his results to find a cure failed. Shortly thereafter, Rick and his group arrived to seek shelter from the outside. Jenner reluctantly let them in and offered them the facilities limited commodities in exchange for blood tests and human company. During their time there, Jenner attempted to explain what he knew about the disease, even showing a recorded video session of his latest test subject, later revealed to be his wife, and the effects the infection had with the human brain. The facility eventually self-destructed after the building's generators ran out of diesel fuel, taking Dr. Jenner with it, and Rick's group narrowly escaping the buildings destruction.

Fort Benning

The U.S. Army base was over 120 miles from the outskirts of Atlanta, and was described by Shane as "safe and heavily fortified" along with food, supplies, and protection since it was relatively isolated from civilization and away from the hot zone. After the trip to the CDC, the group came to the conclusion that Fort Benning was their next best option for survival. In Season 4 it is hinted that US army personnel, or at least some of them, deserted their posts and left the base, though the actual fate of Fort Benning has not been revealed.

Unnamed High School

High School

The FEMA aid center overrun with walkers.

A high school near the Greene family farm was converted to an aid station by FEMA, most likely in response to the nearby hospital going up in flames some months ago. A trailer acting as a storage unit contained much needed supplies for Hershel Greene's impromptu surgery on Carl Grimes after he sustained a bullet wound to the chest. Shane Walsh and Hershel's farm hand Otis were tasked to retrieve the medical equipment, including respirators and anesthetics, in order for Carl to survive the operation. Some U.S. Army soldiers, specifically that from the 82nd Airborne Division, were stationed to protect the school grounds from the wandering dead. When Shane and Otis arrived, it is clear that the defense did not last long as many, if not all, of the soldiers succumbed to the army of walkers.

Unnamed Refugee Center

Military camp

One of the M35 trucks

A small refugee camp protected by members of the Army National Guard was said to have been overrun shortly after the start of Season 3. As the camp was overrun, a group of Army National Guardsmen were forced to abandon the camp as panic took hold of its inhabitants and mass chaos ensued. The group escaped with two M35 trucks laden with food, equipment, and supplies, one Humvee, and a flatbed truck, with a UH-1 "Huey" helicopter in tow. After no more than a few days of driving, the convoy encountered a roadblock of vehicles on a highway and diverted off road. The helicopter was then unstrapped in order to fly ahead and scout the countryside for any signs of activity. After encountering mechanical failure, the Huey helicopter crashed into the forest near the fortified community of Woodbury. The only survivor out of its three occupants, its lone pilot, Lieutenant Welles, was taken to Woodbury. While being treated there he, without knowing The Governor's true intentions, informed him where the convoy was located. Being promised that his men will be led back to Woodbury for safety.

Military camp 3

Members of the convoy shortly before their massacre

The Governor later traveled to the convoys location where he informed one of the soldiers in command, Brady, that Welles was at Woodbury, alive and well. Shortly after doing so, the Governor shot corporal, and the other Army National Guardsmen were gunned down by the Governor's men from the surrounding field and nearby tree line. All of the Army National Guardsmen's supplies were then looted by the Governor's men, and taken back to Woodbury, where he himself deceived everyone at Woodbury into thinking that the undead overran the convoy before they arrived. Shortly thereafter, Lt. Welles was quietly murdered and his head was kept as a trophy of sorts inside an aquarium along with other severed heads of the Governors victims.[11] The Governor would later return to this outpost after slaughtering his own army, where he was abandoned by his last remaining soldiers Caesar Martinez and Shumpert.

Big Spot Supermarket

Big Spot crash

The crashed helicopter surrounded by walkers atop the supermarket

Near the West Georgia Correctional Facility, a contingent of U.S. Marines had set up a fortified encampment right outside the Big Spot supermarket for civilians to take shelter in. It was later overrun or abandoned, and a crashed twin-engine helicopter, possibly a Chinook, is seen wrecked on the roof of the building with its former passengers now walkers. Later on, several members of the prison attempted to raid the store for food and supplies, but walkers fell in through the badly decayed roof, and eventually the helicopter itself, destroying a large portion of the store and forcing the group to leave with very little supplies in hand. Considering no undead marines are actually seen, it can be assumed that the outpost was quickly ditched by the forces on the ground and the helicopter crew were the only casualties.

Unnamed Military Camp (Fear the Walking Dead)

This camp was set up to house refugees and to test for infection- owing to the fact that their were haz-mat suits available for survivors to wear. After the camp was overrun, there was a lot of military equipment left behind and at least two survivor. It appears that the military did not have time to evacuate before they were overrun as at least three soldiers were seen- the corpse of one, and two as walkers.

Video Game

Robins Air Force Base

An Air Force base where Lilly was stationed, this military base was mentioned in the video game. Extra dialogue with Mark, who was also stationed there, reveals that the base was completely overrun by the time he escaped. There was a large food supply there though, which the group took and lived off for three months.

Macon, Georgia

The military made some attempt to establish a presence at the town in order to aid civilians and help evacuation efforts. Gunfire and explosions were heard by Lee and his group at the motel after escaping his family's drugstore as the military engaged a large horde of walkers. In the end, the military was forced to retreat and pull out of the town as more and more appeared and outnumbered the troops. A military helicopter ended up crashing through the roof of the store sometime later. The pilot inside died and turned in to a walker. An army jeep with a winch attached was also abandoned there, later used by Lee.

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

Oakview, Georgia

During the onset of the outbreak, residents of Oakview, Georgia began to flock towards Cherokee Hills Lumber Mill. The survivors there were led by Mike Swenson, a local logger, who fortified the isolated area from the undead. He initiated a deal with a military unit for supplies and ammunition and also began receiving government aid. Unfortunately, the entire place was overrun by walkers during the arrival of Daryl Dixon.

Firesign Stadium

Firesign Stadium2

The military evacuation site seen by Daryl Dixon at Firesign Stadium

The Military had organized an evacuation site in Firesign Stadium for civilians seeking refuge from the pandemic. Unfortunately, the entire stadium got overrun by walkers since many who arrived appeared to be infected, causing quarantine measures to be broken. However, pilots, both civilian and military, were still airlifting people away from the stadium as waves of the undead broke through the perimeter. Soldiers who stayed behind were either devoured by the infected or joined it ranks of the undead. Upon Daryl Dixon and his group's arrival, the stadium was already overrun with the last few helicopters departing elsewhere. Daryl's brother Merle then arrived in a humvee and stops Daryl from getting aboard the last one, telling him that the pilot was showing symptoms of the infection, leaving the accompanying survivors' fates unknown.



Badge worn by the National Guardsmen in the show.

Significant amounts of US Military materiel appear throughout series media.

In The Walking Dead (TV Series)

  • Military (and ex-military) firearms are very prolific. The M4A1 Carbine is by far the most common assault rifle in the TV series. Browning M2HB heavy machine guns have made several appearances, first in Atlanta, and subsequently in Season 3 used by Woodbury residents. In Season 6, Abraham Ford finds an Airtronic RPG-7 (a custom variant of the Russian RPG-7 developed for special forces) on a reanimated soldier, later taken by Negan. Other active weapons that have appeared include the Beretta M9, Colt M1911A1, HK MK23 Mod 0, HK MP5, M16A2, MK18 Mod 0, HK416, M27 IAR, M14 EBR, and KAC SR-25. Former military firearms like the IMI Uzi, MAC-10, M16A1, and M1 Carbine also appear.
  • Military gear and clothing, designed to be rugged and withstand the stress of a combat environment (and thus also suited to the post-apocalyptic world), is often used by survivors. Sasha Williams uses an ex-USMC Load-Bearing Vest (LBV.) Abraham Ford occasionally wears his issue BDU pants. A variety of vests, holsters, backpacks, headgear, shirts, pants, boots, knives, and other equipment that appear is military issue, or surplus.
  • Abandoned military vehicles are fairly common. Three abandoned M1 Abrams tanks (actually mocked up FV4201 Chieftain Tanks) exist in Atlanta, one at a blockade and two at the CDC witnessed in Season 1. They are not seen during Atlanta's Season 6 appearances, so their ultimate fate is unknown. A Stryker APC also appears in the Season 1 premiere, most likely equipped with NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection. HMMWVs and military trucks (such as the M-35) make many appearances at military checkpoints.
    • On occasion, survivors make use of military vehicles. In Season 3 The Governor steals two M-35 trucks and an HMMWV from the National Guard soldiers he kills, leaving behind a flatbed truck he later takes when on his own in Season 4. As shown in Season 7, The Saviors have at least one M-35 truck of their own.
    • Mitch Dolgen's tank is an anachronistic M60 Patton MBT, phased out of the military by 1997. However, many were retained in domestic armories until the mid-2000s as reserve vehicles and target tanks for the USAF, and several have been maintained for display at various bases. Mitch's M60 has also had its coaxial and external machine guns removed, so it is very likely to be one of those decommissioned models (and not his "service tank" as he implies.)
  • Unseen US Air Force jets bomb the Georgia hospital that Rick is in during a flashback in TS-19. AH-64D Apache helicopters are seen bombing Atlanta during a Season 2 flashback. The national guard helicopter in Season 3 that later crashes is a UH-1H Huey. A crashed CH-47 Chinook appears in the Season 4 premiere.

In The Walking Dead (Video Game)

  • Very old Civil War-era (deactivated) cannons, howitzers, Gatling Guns, and other pieces of 1860s military hardware and memorabilia appear in a museum Season 2.


Comic Series

  • Abraham Ford - former non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army
  • Bob Stookey - Served as an Army medic sometime prior to his retirement.
  • Dwight - confirmed to have been a soldier before the outbreak.

Novel Series

  • Gene Gavin - Major in the Army National Guard
  • Manning - NCO in the Army National Guard
  • Stinson - member of the Army National Guard
  • Tommy Zorn - member of the Army National Guard
  • Trey Barker - Master Sergeant in the Army National Guard
  • Greely - member of the Army National Guard
  • Johnson - member of the Army National Guard

TV Series

Fear the Walking Dead

  • Members of the California National Guard:
    • Moyers - a first lieutenant in the California Army National Guard
    • Andrew Adams - a corporal in the California Army National Guard
    • Cole - a corporal in the California Army National Guard
    • Richards - a private first class in the California Army National Guard
    • Melvin Allen - a sergeant in the California Army National Guard
    • Castro - a sergeant in the California Army National Guard
    • French - a private in California Army National Guard
    • Jones - a private in the California Army National Guard
    • Johnson - a corporal in the California Army National Guard
    • Bethany Exner - the chief medical officer in the California Army National Guard
    • Hodges - a nurse in the California Army National Guard
    • Scott - Served in the California Army National Guard.
    • McElory - Served in the California Army National Guard.
    • Shih - Served in the California Army National Guard.
    • Vrakking - Served in the California Army National Guard.
    • Nevins - Served in the California Army National Guard.
    • Willimas - Served in the California Army National Guard.
    • Many unnamed soldiers and doctors

Video Game

  • Lilly - airman stationed at Robins Air Force Base
  • Larry - Served in the U.S. Army.
  • Mark - airman in the U.S. Air Force

Social Game

  • Ed - Served duty in Iraq right before the outbreak occurred.
  • PFC Jackson - soldier seen running a small military camp full of survivors in Atlanta
  • Max - a soldier encountered in a destroyed building
  • Nathan - another soldier encountered with Max outside the destroyed building
  • Soldier 1 - a soldier encountered at the military camp
  • Soldier 2 - another soldier encountered at the military camp

Survival Instinct

  • Groves - a Lieutenant in the Military mentioned over the radio


Comic Series

TV Series

Video Game

Behind the Scenes

  • The only known and credited soldier in Season 1 is Private Gaines (played by Mike Senior) in a deleted segment in the episode, "TS-19".
  • The Tank soldier seen in "Days Gone Bye" was portrayed by Sam Witwer, in an uncredited cameo appearance. In interviews conducted after Frank Darabont's departure from the show, Witwer and Darabont revealed that the cameo was intended to set up a prequel episode (or webisode series) with the Tank Soldier as the central character. The story was to have focused on the Tank Soldier's attempts to secure Atlanta, his being bitten by a Walker, and his subsequent lonely death inside the tank.
  • The tank Rick climbs into in "Days Gone Bye" is actually a British Chieftain tank with a few cosmetic modifications to make it look like an Abrams.


  1. Season 1: Episode 5 - Wildfire
  2. Season 1: Episode 1 - Days Gone Bye - Mentioned by Morgan Jones
  3. Season 2: Episode 5 - Chupacabra - (Flashback) Shane and Lori are stuck in a traffic jam and soon witness the Military's shocking effort in containing the outbreak in Atlanta.
  4. Season 1: Episode 6 - TS-19 - (Flashback) Shane witnesses several patients and medical staff members being executed by soldiers.
  5. Cold Storage (Webisodes) - Hide and Seek - As mentioned by Harris.
  6. Season 1: Episode 6 - Wildfire - Stated by Dr. Edwin Jenner in a video log.
  7. Fear The Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 4 - Not Fade Away
  8. Season 1: Episode 1 - Days Gone Bye - Rick stumbles upon a makeshift military camp.
  9. Season 2: Episode 2 - Bloodletting - Shane and Otis arrive to a nearby FEMA aid station at a local high school, showing infected military and FEMA personnel alike.
  10. Season 3: Episode 3 - Walk With Me - Lt. Welles informs the The Governor of his convoy's situation.
  11. Season 3: Episode 3 - Walk With Me.
Organizations (TV Series)
Linden County Sheriff's DepartmentKing County Sheriff's DepartmentCenter for Disease ControlFederal Emergency Management AgencyU.S. MilitaryMert County Department of Public WorksWest Georgia Correctional FacilityWoodbury Army
Organizations (Video Game)
Atlanta Police DepartmentGeorgia State PatrolU.S. MilitaryFederal Rescue Services

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