Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Archive document: Waffenfarbe color and shoulder board insignia for all German Army units, 1944

The German military uses insignia piped in different colors (known as Waffenfarbe) to distinguish different service branches. In WWII, the Wehrmacht used shoulder board insignia as the only distinguishing unit insignia for most units. This original 1944 German document from the US National Archives indicates the correct Waffenfarbe and shoulder board insignia for every type of unit in the German Feldheer.

"Übersicht der Truppenkennzeichen des Feldheeres"

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Talking to the Media: Suggestions for WWII German Reenactors



You need to proceed from the assumption that they are going to call you a Nazi.

Over the years, I have done very many interviews for television news broadcasts and other TV programs, newspapers and other print publications, and radio broadcasts. With regard to reenacting specifically, I have been quoted in a number of newspaper and magazine articles. In 2011, I participated in a WWII reenactment at which another reenactor was badly injured, after which I was interviewed for the local CBS television news broadcast- an interview later quoted in national and international news coverage of the accident. The purpose of this post is to share my perspective and to make suggestions based on my experience. I am not a professional in public relations and do not claim to be an expert, but I have noticed, over time, some clear patterns with regard to media coverage, favorable or unfavorable.

Why talk to the media at all? It’s a valid question. Especially in our current political climate in the USA, news reports about WWII reenacting have a better-than-even chance of being negatively slanted. A case can certainly be made that at this point, the less the average man on the street knows about reenacting, the better. My personal opinion is that there are several potential benefits to carefully considered interactions with journalists. Even decidedly negative news coverage may kindle an interest in someone who might otherwise never have considered reenacting. But either way, in the final analysis, refusing to speak to reporters won’t stop them from writing and broadcasting about reenacting. The following tips have served me very well in interactions with reporters.

-Reporters are looking for sound bites. Before the reporter talks to you, they probably already know what their piece is going to look or sound like. They probably already have a fairly solid idea of the exact sound bite or brief quote they want you to provide. Try to speak in short sentences and answer their questions in as concise a way as possible, they will appreciate this and there is also less of a chance for them to get you to say something they can take out of context. Don't be afraid to repeat your talking points using different wording. You want to give them sound bites that put a positive spin on living history but more importantly, you want to deny them any negative or damaging quotes they may be looking for.

-Reporters will lie. Don’t believe that they are writing a positive piece that will make you look cool, even if they give you every assurance. Definitely do not ever make candid, "off the record" remarks. In every interaction with them, keep your guard up.

-Do your homework. If you are contacted by a journalist, look at their other work, look at the publications or broadcasts they work for. If they work for a news source that leans toward clickbait articles or lurid headlines, there is every reason to assume they will negatively sensationalize you however they can. You are probably better off not working with such an outlet. And regardless of your personal political leanings, news organizations that have a "progressive" slant should be regarded with a maximum of caution. Any news coverage by such a source is likely to be negative.

-Use a fake name. You can’t know how the reporter might twist your words. You might even find that the article uses your photo, but the only reenactor quoted in the text is some ignoramus making statements you want nothing to do with. A lot of news content goes online and could be there forever. You don’t want potential employers or others finding your name in a hit piece about Nazis, if they do a Google search. Don’t give your impression name, it’s too obvious. Just pick a regular, typical, common and believable name. They won't ask for your ID. They just need someone to provide the sound bites they need.

-Keep it mundane. You don’t want to get caught up in flowery language about higher purposes of reenacting. They can make you look stupid by juxtaposing your words with professional educators and historians, or members of other groups who will contradict you. Try to keep it fact-based and basic. Don’t claim to be an educator if that’s not your profession. You can talk about how reenacting is educational for participants, you can point out that reenactors work with accredited and legitimate historical sites and provide visual props for historic sites. Try to speak in broad terms.

-Don’t get involved in moral judgments or posturing. Wehrmacht soldiers were men of their time. Do not praise them, do not condemn them. Avoid using words like "bad guys" or "evil." You want to stay morally neutral. Definitely do not ever bring up Allied war crimes or make any kind of better/worse comparison, you cannot win with this. If the journalist specifically asks about Allied war crimes, try to find a way out of giving any usable answer. You need to be acutely aware of possible attempts to make you look like a revisionist or denier. If the reporter brings up the Holocaust you have to give some kind of very basic response. "The crimes and wartime atrocities of the Nazi regime are well-documented. The enormity of the human tragedy is one of the reasons why it is so important to commemorate and to remember this period of history."

-Don’t do politics at all. None. You are an amateur historian and not a politician. You cannot overstate this. Simply refuse to answer any questions about modern politics. Keep the names of modern politicians out of your mouth completely.

-Don’t tokenize people. Do not point out that people in your group, or in your life, are ethnic minorities, or Jewish, or gay, to demonstrate that you are not a racist or bigot. It has the opposite effect. Don't ever do this. But ESPECIALLY don't do this talking to a reporter.

--Don’t conflate reenacting with actual WWII service. Never say "we" or "us" when talking about WWII soldiers.

-If you are out in public as a reenactor, you are a public figure. It’s OK to politely decline to speak to a reporter. But if you are going to freak out and hide your face if a reporter is shooting photos or video, you really should not be going to public events. If you are doing something where spectators are there to see you, the potential of being on the news exists. Participating in a public event is a choice that you make. Acting rude or indignant towards reporters makes us look bad.

-Look at the big picture. You are making statements not only for yourself, or as a representative of your unit, but on behalf of all of reenacting. Keep it professional, but try to talk up our hobby and be a cheerleader for it in whatever small way you can. Definitely don’t disparage reenacting in any way. And don’t be afraid to say it is fun.

-Trust your gut. If you don’t feel confident, walk away. Leave it for someone else.
 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

WWII German Army Regulations on Cleaning and Maintenance of Uniforms and Equipment


This material is translated from the 1943 edition of the Wehrmacht manual "Hilfsbuch für den Hauptfeldwebel" by Hans Rödel.

Instruction Sheet Regarding Care and Upkeep of Clothing and Equipment Items

1. Means for individual cleaning and maintenance of clothing and equipment

Enlisted men are to obtain by their own means the following commercially available goods, and to constantly keep them in usable condition:

1 large clothing brush (Kleiderbürste), 1 stiff brush for removing dirt (Schmutzbürste), 2 small brushes (Auftragsbürste), 1 polishing brush (Blankbürste), 1 bristle brush (Borstenbürste), 1 clothes whip (Klopfpeitsche).
Shoe cream or shoe polish, leather fat, curd soap (Kernseife).
1 pair scissors, sewing and darning needles, darning yarn, black white and gray thread, various buttons.

2. Cleaning and Maintenance of individual uniform and equipment pieces

I. General

The soldier is obligated to keep the uniform and equipment items in his possession well and carefully maintained. The soldier himself has to care for the cleaning of his underclothing and must pay for the cleaning costs out of his own income. The cleaning of the remaining items issued to the soldier for his use is also his responsibility, insofar as he can clean them with water, soap, etc. - or if need be, with a soft brush.

All items must be kept constantly maintained. Every soldier must himself perform small repairs on the uniform and equipment items he was issued, as long as these do not require specialized craftsmanship knowledge to be repaired, for example replacing buttons, replacing hooks and eyes, sewing split seams. The necessary supplies must be provided through his own means. Larger maintenance tasks are to be given to the Bekleidungsoffizier promptly, meaning when the damage first happens.

II. Cleaning of uniform pieces

Underclothes: Underclothes and sports shirts should soak in cold soapy water for a long time, at least overnight. A brush may not be used for the cleaning of underclothing and sports shirts. Sports shorts and swim trunks, collar binds, helmet bands and arm bands are not to be boiled, rather just washed by hand in warm soapy water (without a brush) and then rinsed.

Knit wool items: All knit wool items should be washed in lukewarm water or soapy water. Boiling or the use of hot water or brushes is forbidden, this causes the wool to become matted.

Wool uniform items: Wool uniforms should whenever possible not be washed. They are cleaned by brushing and by beating with a clothing whip. The use of wire brushes is forbidden. Stains can be removed with gasoline or diluted Salmiak (ammonium chloride). The Exerziergarnitur (uniform for field use) may be cleaned with a short-trimmed bristle brush and soap in places that are heavily soiled.

HBT uniform items:
HBT uniforms can be cleaned with a bristle brush and soap in hot water, but long boiling is to be avoided.

Bread bag: The bread bag is to be cleaned with a soft brush, warm water and Kernseife (curd soap). Drying the bread bag near an oven is to be avoided, as this makes the leather straps brittle.

III. Care of footwear

Leather uppers that are poorly cared for, or that have been improperly cared for with inferior, poorly-suited care products, become hard and brittle. Hard upper leather is in most cases the root cause of the formation of hard creases and foot damage. The soldier is obligated to keep the footwear items in his possession well and carefully maintained.

Greasing: The leather of footwear must be kept soft. It is necessary to treat the upper leather at least once a week with acid free leather oil or leather fat. Before doing this, dirt and any remaining traces of polishing product must be removed by washing with lukewarm water. Excessive use of grease should be avoided, otherwise the product will soak through, soil the interior of the footwear, and also, in warm weather, lead to burning, formation of blisters or sores on the feet.

Cleaning: The use of shoe polish on the foot part is to be limited to the smallest amount possible. Polishing work may only be done with a brush or cloths. Use of other products and the working of a "high gloss" finish on the foot part, are forbidden. A very light dusting of grease on the foot part during the daily cleaning results in a soft, march-ready boot. Wet-washing or rinsing of the interior leads to disintegration of the sole and with that, foot damages.

Treatment: Drying wet footwear in the vicinity of a heated stove, a radiator, etc. is forbidden. They should be stuffed with paper or straw and as much as possible aired out or put in a slightly warm place to dry. Before doing this, no product should be applied to the footwear. Wet footwear is not to be stretched out on chair legs, etc., as this deforms the wet leather at the rear seams. The boots can be put on by helping each other by hand, or with a boot jack. Bed and table parts, etc. may not be used for this, as it puts pressure on the caps of the heels. By stepping on the tip of the foot, it puts pressure on the upper leather and brings about rubbing on the toes.

IV. Miscellaneous

Overcoat: The rolled overcoat must immediately be unrolled upon return.

Mess kit, canteen and drinking cup: Never store the canteen for a long time. When cleaning, abrasive products like wire brushes, metal polishing cloths, sand, etc. are not to be used. The simplest materials are water and brushes. After cleaning, it is good to rinse with water that is as hot as possible, and wipe completely dry. Mess kits and canteens are not to be kept closed with moisture inside. With use, the inside of the mess kit will develop a yellow-brown to gray-black visible coating (oxidation layer), that has no effect on the taste, the appearance or the quality of food. It protects against being worn out and may not be removed.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WWII German Wehrmacht trenches, shelters, field fortifications

Some illustrations taken from wartime German manuals on constructing field fortifications.

A schematic drawing of a trench line. In the illustration at top, the camouflage has been removed.
Trench features. 1: A trench in which one must crawl. 2: A connecting trench. 3: A niche for a rifleman. 4: A niche for ammunition.
Shelter made of wooden boards, for 6 men sitting or 3 men lying down.

Observation position, also made of boards.
Simple field shelters. 1: Simple dirt hole for one man. 2: "Heinrich" position made of corrugated sheet metal, for 3-6 men. 3: "Siegfried" position made from sheet metal.
More simple shelters. 4: Position made of 8 cm diameter logs, for 2-3 men. 5: Position made of flat corrugated sheet metal or logs, showing 3 stages of construction. The work had to begin at night, the later stages could be worked on also during the day.
Shelter made of wood with a corrugated metal roof, for 3 men lying down, or 6 men sitting.
A larger version of the "Siegfried" shelter made from sheet metal frames.
"Heinrich" shelter.
A larger "Heinrich" using two corrugated metal sheets.
A Schützenloch (what in the US military might have been called a "foxhole") for two riflemen.
Schützenloch for a light machine gun, such as an MG34 or MG42.
Another diagram showing an MG position, also for a gunner in a standing position.
A more sophisticated machine gun position, a "Ringstand" built from logs.
A log machine gun bunker.
Details of the above bunker.
Holes for riflemen and for shelter from tanks. 1: For firm ground. Riflemen positions on the left, machine gun positions on the right. 2: For softer ground.
This table lists 12 kinds of field fortifications. For each type, it is indicated how many cubic meters of earth had to be moved, how many men each would take to build, how many hours each would take, and what tools were needed. For the more complicated positions, it also lists what building materials were required. The chart at upper right indicates how many cubic meters of earth one man could move in an hour, depending on how hard or soft the ground was. A man could move more earth in one hour than what he could move per hour if working for hours.
An illustration of dummy positions that were to act as decoys. I have added a translation to this original illustration.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Wehrmacht Regulations on the Fit of Uniform and Equipment Items


Overview of the Fit of Clothing and Equipment Items

[Translated from "Hilfsbuch für den Hauptfeldwebel" by Hans Rödel, 1942. Translated by Chris Pittman]

Field cap: The cap is to be worn slightly tilted to the right, in such a way that the lower edge is 1 cm over the right ear and 3 cm over the left ear, and about 1 cm over the right eyebrow as seen from the front. The cockade is in line with the center line of the face. The cap must fit in such a way that the back of the head is covered.

Visor cap: The cap should sit horizontally on the head as seen from the front, the cockade in line with the center line of the face. It must be large enough to cover the back of the head. The lower edge of the visor should intersect the eyebrows at its lowest point.

Field blouse: The field blouse must fit over the wool sweater in such a way that it is wide and blousy in the torso, and the man is not hindered in his movements. Folds created when the belt is fastened are to be distributed in such a way that they do not press on the body. The belt buckle sits between the two lower buttons. The blouse should just cover the buttocks. The arm hole is large enough that the man can freely move his arms without causing pinching in the armpit. The lower edge of the sleeve extends to approximately 3 cm below the wrist. The collar bind should extend about 0.6 cm - 1 cm over the collar edge.

Waffenrock: The Waffenrock must hang freely in the skirt, without causing folds in the front and without jamming. The middle seam should be about 1 cm over the hips in such a way that the lowest front button should be covered by the belt. The arm hole is large enough that the man can freely move his arms without causing pinching in the armpit. The lower edge of the sleeve extends to approximately 3 cm below the wrist. The collar must be large enough that a collar bind can be worn. It must not protrude on the sides or in front. The shoulder boards should lie on the center of the shoulders. The skirt should cover the buttocks.

Overcoat: The overcoat should reach the center of the lower leg. The fastened belt lies above the rear belt and leaves it free. The sleeves extend 1-2 cm past the jacket sleeves. The collar sits lightly on the jacket collar in the rear and in the front must be loose enough that you could fit a flat hand between the jacket collar and the overcoat collar. The shoulder boards should lie on the center of the shoulders.

Collar bind: When the field blouse is open, the collar bind is buttoned to the 5 buttons in the neck hole of the jacket, and is visible about 1 cm all the way around. Both ends must be long enough that they extend at least to where the neck opening is closed. When the field blouse is closed, the collar bind remains buttoned to the three rear collar buttons of the field blouse. It should be visible over the collar about 2-3 cm in front, and elsewhere around 0.6 cm all the way around.

Wool trousers: The trousers should pull moderately tightly against the rear split. The lower ends of the legs may only extend to the upper edge of the boot heel in the rear, they may not bulge in the front. The rear closure belt must sit tight above the hips and the fastened leather belt must lie on the trousers beneath the buttons.

Boots: The boots must fit tight in the heel and along the length, to avoid squeezing. When walking, the heels lift a little from the sole and may not slip up and down. The tips of the boots or shoes must offer 1-1 1/2 cm space when toes are fully outstretched. With jack boots, do not choose too narrow shafts.

Belt: The belt sits on the rear belt buttons of the Waffenrock, on the belt hooks of the field blouse, with the overcoat the hooks on the field blouse are pulled through the slits and the belt sits on that, the belt sits over the waist strap. The bayonet frog sits a little in front of the left side belt hook on the field blouse, with the overcoat and Waffenrock it is worn in the corresponding place. The middle of the eagle on the belt buckle is in line with the front closure buttons on the Waffenrock and field blouse, with the overcoat it is in the middle of the two button rows. With the Waffenrock, the buckle covers the lowest button, it should be between the two lowest button on the field blouse, an on the overcoat it should be between the two lowest button pairs.

Helmet: Seen from the front, it should be 1 cm over the eyebrows. From the side, it covers half the ear.

Tornister: The Tornister is fitted with the rolled overcoat. The upper surface intersects with the lower collar edge, the lower edge of the Tornister should come to around the middle of the belt. The carry straps and auxiliary straps should not pinch and should not cut in under the arms.

Awards: The marksmanship lanyard is worn from the right shoulder to the second button on the Waffenrock or field blouse. Rank badges on the sports suit: horizontally on both arms, 12 cm beneath the arm hole, a 15 cm long and 1 cm wide strip of white cotton for NCO ranks. Rank badges on the sports shirt: Around the neck opening, a 1 cm wide black twill band for NCO ranks.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

WWII German book on orienteering: "Karten- und Geländekunde" (Maps and Landforms)

Undated WWII-era German manual, "Maps and Topography." This does not appear to be a military issue manual, but there is information here about reporting, so clearly this was geared towards military/paramilitary use. Topics covered: Maps, landforms, orienteering in terrain using a map, the preparation of sketches. This is a scan of the original, German language of course.

Download "Karten- und Geländekunde" as PDF