David A. Suter for Wehrmacht-Awards.com
One of the distinguishing features of the WWII Heer uniform is the use of the shoulder strap (Schulterklappe) and shoulder board (Schulterstücke) to denote rank, branch of service, and in some cases the assigned unit, right down to the company. These distinctions were displayed by the use of branch colors (Waffenfarben) and the use of letters, numbers, and other symbolic devices. While it may appear to the novice that this should all be fairly straightforward, the reality is that it is not. Unit designators came and went during the war, and in some cases even the branch color was changed. It is my intent to simplify this as much as possible and show as many examples as I can, however, this article can not show or even list every insignia, nor replace the need for reference books.
A note on rank terminology:
While the officer ranks offer a direct correlation to U.S. Army ranks, the same is not true of the unlisted rank structure. There are several schools of thought on equivalencies. To alleviate the problem and allow the reader to use whatever conversion method he is comfortable with, I will refer to enlisted/NCO ranks by their German name.
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pictures from the David Suter collection unless otherwise noted.
Text and Content David A. Suter, Editing and Layout Sebastian Bianchi
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