WWII: The German Army

By Norbert Ackerman

German Army

In World War II, 1939-1945, the Germans were part of the Axis powers, along with Japan and Italy. The armed services of Germany did not fight as one single force, but as a bunch of different organizations. Each one reported separately to the leader Adolf Hitler as Commander-in-Cheif. The main army was the Wehrmacht. It was entirely distinct from Schutzstaffel, which Hitler introduced to support his National Socialist Party. Many members of the secret police held Schutzstaffel rank. The armed Panzer divisions, the navy, and the air force were also separate. Something that was important to form a strong identity and attract a young loyal force was the uniforms and emblems they wore.

General Officer Uniform

An example of a uniform that the Germans wore during World War II is a general officers uniform. They would wear a field service tunic with the national emblem, rank badge, oak and laurel leaves, a hook for a dagger, an iron cross, and a ribbon bar. The belts they wore had a holster. There would also wear pants or breeches with a broad red stripe to indicate the we're was a general officer in the artillery unit. The pants also had calf laces to tighten the bottom of the pants. The general officer would also wear a cap and a pair of boots.

Schutzstaffel Division

The Schutzstaffel troops often wore a black, close-fitting jacket well suited to the cramped conditions in the tanks. The field caps they for were decorated with both the national German emblem and the Schutzstaffel death's head. The uniforms consisted of a field cap, Panzer jacket with a color patch with victory symbols, trousers with ankle slits and edging, belts with their motto "Meine Ehre heist Treue" meaning "loyalty is my honor", and boots. The Schutzstaffel troops also wore a distinct armband with the colors red, white, and black. These soldiers were known for violence and cruelty and ran the concentration camps.

Sturmabteilung Division

Soldiers in the Sturmabteilung division were known as the brownshirts because of their all brown uniforms. Their division was formed in 1921 to protect Nazi speakers at public meetings. The force grew to more than 500,000, but in 1934 their powers were greatly reduced.


The main symbol of the German army was their national emblem. It was an eagle holding a swastika or an ancient symbol for good luck. This was often worn as a badge.