Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Wehrmacht unit structure, assigned weapons and vehicles according to K.St.N.

Every type of wartime Wehrmacht unit was organized according to specific guidelines that were laid out in a special chart. The chart laid out exactly how many men were to be assigned to the unit type, what their roles would be, what ranks these soldiers were to hold, and what weapon each was to carry. The chart also specified exactly what kinds of vehicles each unit type was to be equipped with. This chart was called the K.St.N., an abbreviation for Kriegsstärkenachweisung - War Strength Certificate.

Weapons were assigned to soldiers based on their roles, not their ranks. The issued weapon did not become the personal property of the soldier; it was owned by the German Reich, and units had to hold soldiers accountable for the weapons issued to them. To identify what sort of weapon was issued to a soldier, one need only look at the K.St.N. chart for the corresponding unit type.

As of this writing, there are some great resources online for looking up the K.St.N. charts. One of these is Christoph Awender's WWII Day by Day, which contains many of the K.St.N. charts neatly laid out in a way that makes it easy to visualize the manpower and equipment of each unit type. Sturmpanzer.com has a download section that allows one to download lots of K.St.N. as scans of the original wartime German documents.

To illustrate the information contained in the K.St.N., let's look at the original German K.St.N. number 4033, for a Landesschützen-Kompanie stationed in the occupied Western territories. The K.St.N charts were changed and updated until the end of the war, so it is important to note the date; this one is dated February 1, 1941.


From this document we can see that a Landesschützen-Kompanie in the West was to be commanded by an officer, armed with a pistol or machine pistol, and assigned a horse for his use (later this was removed). To the commander was attached a Kompanietrupp consisting of a Hauptfeldwebel armed with a pistol or machine pistol, 5 enlisted messengers on bicycles armed with rifles, 2 enlisted clerks armed with rifles, an enlisted caretaker for the horse armed with a rifle, and one car, with an enlisted driver armed with a rifle.

Within the Landesschützen-Kompanie were 4 Züge (platoons). Each Zug had an officer, armed with a pistol or machine pistol and assigned a bicycle, as a platoon leader. To this leader was attached a Zugtrupp consisting of an NCO armed with a rifle, and 4 enlisted messengers armed with rifles, of which two were on bicycles, and one was equipped with a signal horn.

Each Zug had 4 Gruppen (squads). Each Gruppe was led by an NCO, armed with a rifle. One Gruppe had a light machine gun, and a cart to go with it. The MG gunner and his assistant (enlisted men) were armed with pistols. This Gruppe also had 7 enlisted men armed with rifles. The other 3 Gruppen simply had 9 enlisted riflemen.

The unit also had a Tross, which was the logistical and administrative part of the Kompanie. The Tross had 5 NCOs, armed with pistols or machine pistols, each with his own specific duties. Two of these NCOs had bicycles. The Tross also had 5 enlisted men armed with rifles: three horse drivers, a cook, and a vehicle driver. The Tross had two carts with two horses each- one for rations, and one for baggage. It also had a field kitchen, with two horses to tow it, and a light open truck.

This K.St.N was different from the K.St.N for a Landesschützen-Kompanie in the Ost, which had 4 machine guns per Zug. It was also different from the K.St.N. for a Landesschützen unit located within Germany.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Wehrmacht Feldbluse measurements

Seven original unaltered wartime enlisted issue tunics were examined and measured to look at similarities and differences in the cut and tailoring.

Some aspects of the cut of each garment appear to be constant. The rear skirt is always shorter than the front skirt, between 1 inch and 2.5 inches shorter. The waist measurement across the front is always smaller than the armpit-to-armpit measurement, though this difference is small as .75" and as big as 2.5".

Other measurements vary widely from one example to the next. This should be no surprise. These garments were not sized as small, medium and large. Each garment was sized five different ways: the length of the tunic back, the collar size, the chest size, the overall length, and the sleeve length. These numbers varied independently of each other, as we can see looking at the original marked sizes on these examples. There is no direct correlation between the various sizes; a tunic could have a larger chest size but a shorter overall length. There is also no readily observable correlation between sleeve length and overall length. Two of the garments are stamped with a height range indicating they were suited for people who were 171-175 cm tall. These garments have different stamped sleeve lengths.

Some of the variation is surprising. Variation in pocket size and shape is remarkable. The proportions are not consistent. Some lower pockets are wider than they are tall. On others, it is the opposite. Futhermore, the measurement from shoulder to shoulder seems to vary in a way that does not correlate with chest size. I do not believe that wear and stretching or shrinkage could account for all of these variations. I believe that they were different when made, and that some of these differences are either unintentional, or were manufacturer variations.

Here are the numbers for each garment. Measurements were rounded to the nearest quarter inch. The numbering is arbitrary and doesn't correspond to the photo. I have included the original stamped sizes for reference only. The sleeve length was measured on the M43 models only. Both of the worn M40 tunics had repairs to the sleeve ends that might have altered the original length.

Field blouse #1
Model: M40
Stamped tunic back length: 41 cm
Stamped collar size: 40 cm
Stamped chest size: 90 cm
Stamped overall length: 88 cm
Stamped sleeve length: 61 cm
Stamped height range: none
Measured shoulder width (seam to seam at the top): 16.75"
Measured arm hole height (top of shoulder to armpit): 8"
Measured armpit-to-armpit: 19.5"
Measured waist (across the front at the lowest belt hook hole): 18.75"
Measured chest pockets: 5" wide, 6.25" high
Measured lower pockets: 8.5" wide, 8" high
Measured sleeve length: N/A (repaired)
Measured front length (top of shoulder at collar to skirt end): 27"
Measured back length (base of collar to skirt end): 25.25"

Field blouse #2
Model: M40
Stamped tunic back length: 41 cm
Stamped collar size: 41 cm
Stamped chest size: 90 cm
Stamped overall length: 68 cm
Stamped sleeve length: 61 cm
Stamped height range: none
Measured shoulder width: 16"
Measured arm hole height: 9"
Measured armpit-to-armpit: 19"
Measured waist: 17.5"
Measured chest pockets: 5" wide, 6.75" high
Measured lower pockets: 8.75" wide, 8.25" high
Measured sleeve length: N/A (repaired)
Measured front length: 27.5"
Measured back length: 26.25"

Field blouse #3
Model: M43
Stamped tunic back length: 43 cm
Stamped collar size: 62 cm
Stamped chest size: 104 cm
Stamped overall length: 72 cm
Stamped sleeve length: 45 cm
Stamped height range: none
Measured shoulder width: 18"
Measured arm hole height: 9.5"
Measured armpit-to-armpit: 22"
Measured waist: 20.5"
Measured chest pockets: 5" wide, 6.25" high
Measured lower pockets: 7.75" wide, 8" high
Measured sleeve length: 23"
Measured front length: 27.5"
Measured back length: 26.25"

Field blouse #4
Model: M43
Stamped tunic back length: 43 cm
Stamped collar size: 43 cm
Stamped chest size: 96 cm
Stamped overall length: 72 cm
Stamped sleeve length: 62 cm
Stamped height range: 171-175 cm
Measured shoulder width: 16.5"
Measured arm hole height: 9"
Measured armpit-to-armpit: 21"
Measured waist: 18.5"
Measured chest pockets: 5.25" wide, 7" high
Measured lower pockets: 8.25" wide, 8.75" high
Measured sleeve length: 24"
Measured front length: 29"
Measured back length: 28"

Field blouse #5
Model: M43
Stamped tunic back length: 43 cm
Stamped collar size: 40 cm
Stamped chest size: 88 cm
Stamped overall length: illegible
Stamped sleeve length: 64 cm
Stamped height range: none
Measured shoulder width: 14.75"
Measured arm hole height: 9"
Measured armpit-to-armpit: 18"
Measured waist: 16"
Measured chest pockets: 5" wide, 7.5" high
Measured lower pockets: 8.25" wide, 8" high
Measured sleeve length: 25.5"
Measured front length: 29"
Measured back length: 28"

Field blouse #6
Model: M43
Stamped tunic back length: 43 cm
Stamped collar size: 42 cm
Stamped chest size: 92 cm
Stamped overall length: 72 cm
Stamped sleeve length: 64 cm
Stamped height range: none
Measured shoulder width: 16.5"
Measured arm hole height: 9.25"
Measured armpit-to-armpit: 19"
Measured waist: 17.25"
Measured chest pockets: 5.25" wide, 7.25" high
Measured lower pockets: 9.5" wide, 9" high
Measured sleeve length: 25.5"
Measured front length: 30"
Measured back length: 27.5"

Field blouse #7
Model: M43
Stamped tunic back length: 43 cm
Stamped collar size: 40 cm
Stamped chest size: 88 cm
Stamped overall length: 72 cm
Stamped sleeve length: 64 cm
Stamped height range: 171-175 cm
Measured shoulder width: 15"
Measured arm hole height: 9.5"
Measured armpit-to-armpit: 17.25"
Measured waist: 16.5"
Measured chest pockets: 5.25" wide, 7.5" high
Measured lower pockets: 8" wide, 8.75" high
Measured sleeve length: 25"
Measured front length: 29.25"
Measured back length: 28.25"

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Wehrpass of a Gefreiter in Sicherungs-Regiment 107

Willi Hermann was born near Dresden in 1906. He worked for a textile company. In 1939, he was given a military physical, deemed to be fit for duty and assigned to the "Ersatzreserve I" category, which included males under the age of 35 with no military training. He was drafted in 1941, at the age of 35, and after barely more than one month of training, he was assigned to Landesschützen-Bataillon 464. Initially, he was trained on how to use the Gewehr 24 (t) and MG 26 (t), these were the German designations for the Czech VZ24 rifle and ZB26 machine gun. It's probable that Hermann was trained on the use of these Czech weapons because he trained to serve in rear area type units that would have been armed, at least in part, with obsolete and captured weapons. On November 5, 1941, Hermann was transferred, and assigned to a Marschbataillon, a unit for soldiers in transit. Almost 3 weeks later, he officially joined his new unit: Landesschützen-Bataillon (later Sicherungs-Bataillon) 869, at that time active in Russia in Army Group North and attached to the 281. Sicherungs-Division. He served with this unit for 11 months, during which time he participated in security duties and also fights against partisans. For his service with this unit in Russia in the winter of 1941/1942, he was awarded the "Ostmedaille" campaign decoration. In August of 1942, after serving in the Wehrmacht for more than 14 months, Hermann was promoted to the rank of Gefreiter. On October 15, 1942, the Sicherungs-Bataillon of which Hermann was a part, was redesignated, and became the I. Bataillon of Sicherungs-Regiment 107.

On November 12, 1942, strong partisan bands emerged in the area 28 kilometers southeast of Salkowitschi*. Hermann's unit, 4. Kompanie, Sicherungs-Regiment 107, was at that time based in this area, in the locality of Machnowka. The next day, November 13, Hermann's unit made contact with a strong partisan band in the area of Chulpowo, 10 kilometers north-northeast of Machnowka. By November 15, the operation was over. In this combat, 4./Sich. Rgt. 107 suffered 3 men wounded, and one officer, 3 NCOs, and 10 enlisted men killed- among them, Willi Hermann. The officer killed in that action, was the man who had certified the promotion entry in Hermann's Wehrpass. The Wehrpass records that Willi Hermann died in a place called Ssiwkowo, and was buried in Ostrow. He was 36 years old.

Willi Hermann was mourned by his wife, his mother, and the two children he left behind. He was one of 3.4 million German soldiers killed in WWII.

*I have retained the German spelling for all place names.

Photo and personal details of Willi Hermann

List of the units Hermann served with in WWII.

Weapons trained on: Gewehr 24(t), l. MG 26(t), and later, the K98 rifle.

Page 22 records Hermann's rank promotion. It is signed by Leutnant Grüssinger, who was killed in the same action as Hermann. Page 23 records the award of the "Winterschlacht im Osten" medal.

List of all the campaigns Hermann was a part of. From November 11, 1941, through December 31, 1941: Securing the operational area and fights against partisans, with Army Group North. January 1, 1942, through November 13, 1942: Action against the Soviet Union.

This entry records the details of when and where Hermann was killed, and where he was buried.

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.