The blue border around the shoulder strap of this uniform indicates that its wearer is assigned to a logistics unit. Note that the epaulettes
on the camouflage uniform (Bundeswehr
) at the back do not have blue trim.
In the German military, Waffenfarbe (German: "branch-of-service color" or "corps color") is a visual method that the armed forces use to distinguish between different corps or troop functions in its armed services. The Waffenfarbe itself can take the form of the color of the collar patch, of the piping (embellishment) around the shoulder boards or shoulder marks, or—for enlisted ranks—of the piping around the collar and the garrison cap (Schiffchen). (In the latter places, NCOs wear cords of dark gold, officers silver, and generals gold.)
The Bundeswehr uses a Waffenfarben color scheme to indicate troop types; they appear on the collar patch and as piping around the shoulder boards or straps showing a soldier’s rank.
Colored soldiers’ berets are slightly less differentiated than the Waffenfarben; in fact, corps or troop function is indicated by a beret badge.
Waffenfarben of the Heer
with golden yellow piping (Bundeswehr
The Luftwaffe as the German air force only uses a restricted color spectrum. While the air force normally uses golden yellow, officers in the general staff service (there is no general staff or the like) wear wine-red, and generals bright red. The collar patches (Kragenspiegel) of generals and general staff service officers also differ from the normal air force design, as they are identical with the army ones.
The German navy uses various emblems above the rank stripes on the sleeves rather than function-specific colors to distinguish between corps. It traditionally did not use Waffenfarbe.
Waffenfarben used by the Reichsheer (1921 to 1935)
officers' collar patches: 1, Field Marshal from 3 Apr 1941; 2, General, and Field Marshal to 3 Apr 1941; 3, OKW
(dress); 4, Motorcycle Rifles or Panzergrenadiers (dress); 5, Light Infantry (service, backing cloth is collar-colored, only innermost stripes are in Waffenfarbe)
collar patches: 6, Artillery NCO (dress);
7, Enlisted (service) ; 8, Panzers
Wehrmacht officers' shoulderboards (the outermost colors i.e. the underlay
are the Waffenfarbe
which indicated function): 7, Oberst (Panzergrenadier); 8, Oberfeldveterinär (lieutenant colonel veterinarian); 9, Major (artillery); 10, Hauptmann (antitank); 11, Oberleutnant (6th Infantry); 12, Leutnant (engineer).
Shoulder straps of non-commissioned officers: 13, Stabswachtmeister, 12th Artillery; 14, Oberfeldwebel, infantry; 15, Feldwebel, Panzer-Lehr; 16, Unterwachtmeister, cavalry or recon; 17, Sanitäts-unteroffizier, medical
Shoulder straps of other ranks: A, Co. 4, 67th Artillery; B, 20th Panzer; C, Grossdeutschland
Waffenfarben used by the Wehrmacht (1935 to 1945)
In the German Heer and Luftwaffe there was a strictly defined systematic of Waffenfarben on collar patchs, and as uniform piping around the shoulder boards or shoulder straps. The Waffenfarben of the Reichswehr (1921 until c. 1935) were almost identical to those of the Wehrmacht.
Waffenfarben used by the SS (1938 to 1945)
Waffenfarben worn by the National People's Army (1956 to 1990)
East German (DDR) Nationale Volksarmee uniforms initially wore the Waffenfarben as worn by the Wehrmacht. Between 1974 and 1979, along with the introduction of uniforms with open collar and tie, the patches of the ground force uniforms were unified with a dark gray base and a white filling, along with a white collar piping; the piping of the shoulder boards/shoulder straps remained the only part carrying a Waffenfarbe. However, air/air defense forces, paratroopers, and generals as well as the navy continued to wear their specially designed Waffenfarbe patches.
The uniform of the Border Troops was distinguished from that of the NVA ground force and Air Force/Air Defense Force by a green armband with large silver letters identifying the wearer's affiliation, and a green cap band.
Similarities in other armies
The use of Waffenfarbe to distinguish between troop functions was not unique to the Wehrmacht during World War II. After 1942, the Soviet Army, too, used analogous shoulder boards to distinguish troop functions: ground forces general officers and infantry used crimson, cavalry used blue, artillery and tank troops used red, and the rest of the ground forces used black, while the air force and airborne troops used sky blue. Likewise the British Army utilized analogous strips of cloth on the sleeves to likewise identify troop functions.
Today, Waffenfarbe schemes are also used in Austria, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, and Switzerland. For a full list of analogous troop function insignia currently in use of the US Army, see United States Army branch insignia.
- ^ Official brochure on Bundeswehr uniforms (in German) (Waffenfarben of the army p. 14, of the air force p. 17)
- ^ In addition to the Waffenfarbe, monograms and symbols were used to denominate services or units.
- ^ The illustration erroneously depicts the NCO braid running around the lower edge of the collar, as on field uniforms. On actual dress uniforms the Tresse encircled the upper edge.
- ^ Klaus-Ulrich Keubke, Manfred Kunz: Uniformen der Nationalen Volksarmee der DDR 1956-1986. Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus, Berlin 1990, p. 159, 175
- Glossary of German military terms
- Adolf Schlicht, John R. Angolia: Die deutsche Wehrmacht, Uniformierung und Ausrüstung 1933-1945
Vol. 1: Das Heer (ISBN 3613013908), Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1992
Vol. 3: Die Luftwaffe (ISBN 3-613-02001-7), Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1999
(very detailed information and discussion, but not colorized)