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The steel helmet (Stahlhelm) is probably one of the most recognizable symbols of the Third Reich, next to the Swastika. It's lineage, however, originates from the German sallets of the fifteenth century and was revived during the First World War. (Indeed, the 1916 helmet was still used by members of the Volksturm and reserve units, rescue and fire crews in German cities, and anti-aircraft units throughout the war.) The helmet changed very little during the war; the original M1935 helmet undergoing slight modification in 1940 (ventilation hole) and 1942, when the edges of the helmet were no longer crimped under to ease production.

Heer and SS

Transitional_M17.jpg (37638 bytes) TRANSITIONAL DOUBLE DECAL HELMET

As a result of the restrictions placed on the German’s by the Treaty of Versailles, which dictated a standing army of only 100,000 personnel, there was an abundant surplus of these helmets and though they saw widespread use by Freikorps (Free Corps/Independent Paramilitary), personnel, there was still a stockpile controlled by the Reichswehr, (National Defence {Force}), (Circa 1919-1933). These excess helmets underwent minor modifications in 1923 with the addition of provincial identifying shield decals and in 1931 with the development of a new chinstrap and liner system. Although helmet development was ongoing when Hitler came to power in 1933, the M16 and M18 helmets were still the main headgear worn by the Reichswehr. The helmets remained the same until March 14 1933 when the provincial shields were discontinued in favour of the national tri-color shield. On February 17 1934 the national eagle shield was introduced, and both the tri-color and eagle shields were applied to the helmets. Of Note: Originally the Third Reich national tri-color helmet decal was worn on the left side of the helmet when it replaced the Reichswehr era state shield insignia. With the introduction of Wehrmacht eagle decal the national tri-color decal was shifted to the right side of the helmet with the Wehrmacht eagle decal positioned on the left hand side. Regulations of March 21 1940 dictated that the national tri-color decal was to be removed from all helmets and further regulations of August 28 1943 abolished the Wehrmacht eagle decal and dictated that it was also to be removed from all helmets although the directives were not completely adhered to. After the development of the new M35 helmet, in June 1935, the WWI helmets were still issued to second line and training troops well into WWII.Developed in 1916 the Austrian M16 helmet was almost identical to the German version with the positioning of the chinstrap liner rivets being the most readily identifiable difference

Initially painted grey-green, the Stahlhelm was repainted in matt dark grey after spring 1940. At the beginning of the war, it was worn with two decals on the sides: on the left, a silver-grey eagle with folded wings and a swastika in its talons, on a black shield; on the right, tricolor shield of black above white above red. The tricolor shield was ordered painted over in 1940, the eagle disappearing in 1942-43 – they made convenient aiming points for snipers!

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Heer model 35 double decal Heer model 35 (other side) SS model 42 single decal

Members of the Afrika Corps painted their helmets a light sand color, and dipped them in sand while wet to give a rougher finish.

The Stalhhelm was also issued to Panzer crews, who rarely wore them, given the confines of their tanks. Instead, they hung them on the turrets of their tanks. The decals tended to disappear at a slower rate in Panzer units than in infantry units.

The SS wore the same dark grey helmet as the Wehrmacht, but with different decals. On the left, a red shield with a black swastika in a white circle; on the right, a silver-grey shield with the SS runes in black. The SS runes were ordered removed at about the same time as the Wehrmacht. However, it is not uncommon to still see them worn late in the war, probably because camouflage covers made it unnecessary.

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Heer helmet camo (splinter) SS helmet camo (oakleaf) Normandy pattern spray camo


Two different types of Stahlhelm were worn in the Luftwaffe. The standard M1935 version was issued to members of the Hermann Goering Division, Luftwaffe Field Divisions, anti-aircraft and other ground units and, in many cases, were also worn by machine gunners in bomber crews. It was painted Luftwaffe blue-grey with a white Luftwaffe eagle on the left, and the black/white/red shield on the right. These decals, particularly the Luftwaffe eagle, were seen longer than either in the Wehrmacht and SS; in some cases, the eagle can be seen throughout the war.

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Luftwaffe model 40 single decal ... with camo netting

The paratroopers wore a cut-down version of the M1935, with additional straps to hold the helmet tight. A helmet cover in splinter-pattern camouflage was often issued. Members serving in North Afrika also painted their helmets sand color. The white Luftwaffe eagle was often retained.

Helmets were often covered in hessian, had mud spattered over them and foliage attached to them, using chicken wire or hemp rope-anything to break up the outline of the helmet.

First pattern tropical pith helmet

In late 1940, with the impending German entrance into the North African campaign, tropical uniforms, headgear and equipment were quickly developed and issued in time for DAK, Deutsches Afrika Korps, (German Africa Corps), personnel’s arrival in Tripoli in February 1941. One of the new headgear items introduced was the tropical pith helmet which was based on the design of the earlier Kriegsmarine pith helmet. On its introduction the pith helmet was constructed of a formed cork base with a cotton twill covering until a second pattern pith helmet was introduced with a formed cork base with a felt covering. The second pattern pith helmet followed the same basic design as the first pattern but was modified to ease production time and material costs. Wear of the pith helmets was extended to personnel serving in southern areas of continental Europe but the helmets proved ineffective and unpopular and manufacture was discontinued sometime in 1942. On introduction the tropical pith helmets were outfitted with a national eagle and national tri-color identification shields. dakhelmet.jpg (65639 bytes)

M38 paratroopers helmet

FJ_M38.jpg (35111 bytes) One of the items developed for the paratroopers was a specially designed helmet first introduced in 1935. This first pattern helmet was found unsuitable and a second pattern was introduced on June 16TH 1938, and remained in use until the end of the war with minor variations. The Luftwaffe pattern national eagle was originally introduced for wear by Fliegerschaft personnel on August 18TH 1934, and adopted for wear by the Luftwaffe on March 1ST 1935 along with the national tri-color shield for wear on the helmet. The first pattern national eagle was utilized until a modified second pattern eagle was introduced in late 1936 or early 1937. Regulations of June 12TH 1940 discontinued the use of the national tri-color decal and further regulations of August 28TH 1943 abolished the national eagle decal and dictated that it was also to be removed from all helmets although the directives were not completely adhered to.


Members of the shore-based naval batteries, Marine Infantry Divisions and gun crews on naval vessels also wore the M1935, though the decals differed slightly. Members of naval batteries and ships' gun crews wore a gold version of the Wehrmacht eagle on a black shield on the left, and the black/white/red shield on the right. It is likely members of the Marine Infantry Divisions also wore this helmet, but also wore helmets without decals. The decals on naval helmets also stayed on long after 1940-in some cases, throughout the war.


Officer's peaked cap (Schirmmütze)


The officer's peaked cap was called the Schirrmütze in all branches of the German military. Introduced in September 1935, it replaced the more traditional "plate" style and it's high cap-band and low circular crown. Though later caricatured as typically "German", it was in fact a revolutionary design.

Wehrmacht and SS

The Wehrmacht version had a black peak, a dark green cap band and a field-grey crown. The white eagle and swastika were worn on the crown, while the cockade, surrounded by an oak wreath, was worn on the cap band. The eagle, and less often the wreath, were usually made of cast aluminum, but were occasionally woven in heavy silver metallic thread. The crown seam and edges of the cap band were piped in Waffenfarbe. A heavy plaited double-cord in silver thread, held in place by two silver buttons, replaced the leather chin strap. NCOs also wore the same cap, but with leather chin strap and two white metal buckles instead of the double cords.

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Heer General schirmmütze Heer officer artillery schirmmütze Heer officer infantry schirmmütze
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Heer NCO panzer schirmmütze Heer officer gebirgsjäger schirmmütze Heer officer pioneer schirmmütze Heer officer OKW schirmmütze

The SS wore the same version as the Wehrmacht, but with a black velvet cap band. The SS eagle and swastika were worn on the crown, and a metal death's head on the front of the cap band. Officers wore the double cords on the cap, while NCOs had the standard leather chin-strap and black wool cap band. Both the crown seams and the edges of the cap band were piped in white (the appropriate Waffenfarbe was a short time in use though).

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SS officer schirmmütze


Officer's "crusher" visor cap (Offiziersfeldmütze alter art)

Crusher.jpg (15408 bytes) The "Crusher" style caps were introduced as a field cap for Officer’s in March 1934. In 1938 the Crusher caps were to be replaced with the M38 Officers overseas style cap, with the wear-out period determined as April 1942. The Crusher style cap mimicked the visor cap, with the exclusion of the internal top stiffening wire, chinstrap and sweat diamond, leaving the cap very flexible, and giving the owners the ability to fold it and place it in a pocket if so desired. Due to its relaxed appearance and convenience the Crusher cap proved very popular with the Officer’s.


The Luftwaffe cap was the same basic design, but with a blue-grey crown and black velvet cap band. The Luftwaffe eagle and swastika were worn on the crown, while the cockade, surrounded by an oak wreath and stylized wings, were worn on the cap band. The crown and edges of the cap band were piped silver for officers, and in the appropriate Waffenfarbe for NCOs. Officers also worn the double-cords, while NCOs had the standard leather chin-strap.

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Officer continental peaked cap

As well, a summer version of the cap was available to Luftwaffe officers. It was of the same design as the basic cap, but with a removable white cloth top. There was no piping around the crown of this cap. The eagle and swastika were sewn on a white backing; all other details were the same as for the standard officers' cap.

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Officer candidate summer peaked cap Officer summer peaked cap

Photos often show pilots and paratrooper officers with rumpled-looking caps. This was achieved by removing the wire stiffener inside the crown.


German Naval uniforms and headgear were based on traditional designs that date back to the creation of the Prussian Navy in 1848, and although uniforms and headgear did evolve during the interim years many items used during the Third Reich would still have been quite recognizable to the Imperial sailor. The Kriegsmarine clothing regulations differed from the army and Luftwaffe in that enlisted personnel did not wear visor caps although all ranks from senior NCO’s upward did and regulations dictated the form of dress they were to be worn with based on the individuals rank. Officer and certain senior NCO ranks were responsible for purchasing their own caps and as a result were allotted a clothing allowance through the Kriegsmarine Kliederkasse, (Clothing Account), system. The Officers and senior NCO’s could choose to purchase their caps directly from the armed forces clothing depots or to privately purchase visor caps of higher quality. Originally the Reichsmarine era visor caps were worn until a new slightly modified version was introduced in 1933. Kriegsmarine officer’s visor cap also differed from their counterparts in the army and Luftwaffe in that they did not utilize the twisted chincords to denote rank as they proved impractical for actual usage and the leather chinstraps were worn instead. As a result of the use of the leather chinstraps there was no way to determine Officer’s from NCO’s until regulations of May 13TH 1936 introduced new identifying visor trim for officers ranks to distinguish them from the NCO’s. The new visor trim came in three different patterns with one pattern for Company Grade Officers, one for Field Grade Officers and the third for Flag Officers.

The Kriegsmarine cap (called the Dienstmütze) had a navy blue crown and black velvet cap band. A gold eagle and swastika were sewn to the crown, and the cockade, surrounded by a gold wreath, attached to the cap band. The standard leather chinstrap was worn by all officers; instead, an officer's status was denoted by gilt scallops or oakleaves sewn to the edge of the peak. For Leutnant to Kapitanleutnant, it was a narrow band of gilt scallops; for Korvettenkapitan to Kapitan it was a wide band of gilt oakleaves; for Kommodore and higher it was a double band of gilt oakleaves. Warrant officers' caps had the standard leather chinstrap, with no embroidery on the peak. No piping was worn on the cap.
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For Leutnant to Kapitanleutnant

A white summer version was also produced, from white twill, with the eagle and swastika embroidered in blue thread. It was almost universal for U-boat commanders to wear the white summer top to identify them instantly as the boat's commander. This was not, however, officially sanctioned.

Shore-based naval officers and those navy officers in the Naval Infantry Divisions wore the grey-green version of the cap, with gold badges on crown and cap band and dark green piping around the crown seam and the top and bottom of the cap band


KM_tellermutze.jpg (28944 bytes) German Naval uniforms and headgear were based on traditional designs that date back to the creation of the Prussian Navy in 1848, and although uniforms and headgear did evolve during the interim years many items used during the Third Reich would still have been quite recognizable to the Imperial sailor. One of the traditional headgear items utilized during the Third Reich was the "Donald Duck" sailor’s cap intended for wear by all Junior NCO’s and enlisted personnel. The design of the cap underwent numerous minor modifications during the intervening years, including a cap with removable, interchangeable white and blue covers in April 1926. In December 1931 a final pattern was introduced that remained in use until the end of WWII with the only alterations being to the insignia and cap tallies worn. Regulations of October 29TH 1936 replaced the previously used gilt wire thread for the script on the cap tallies with golden yellow celleon threads as a result of the earlier cap tallies oxidizing to a greenish verdigris tone. On November 1ST 1938 the "Kriegsmarine" titled cap talley was introduced for wear as a security measure in the case of mobilization, and the wear of named cap tallies was restricted to barracks and on ships only if there was no possibility of them being seen by outside personnel. Additional regulations of September 5TH 1939 withdrew all named cap tallies from further wear, to be replaced with the "Kriegsmarine" cap talley, for the duration of the war.




Uniform and headgear regulations for Nazi political leaders were addressed as early as 1920, with the standard headgear at that time being a Kepi-style cap. The political uniform and headgear regulations subsequently underwent numerous modifications, and in January of 1934 a visor cap, based on the army style, was introduced for wear. This 1934 visor cap also underwent modifications until a final pattern was introduced in July of 1939. The N.S.D.A.P. was structured in four ascending levels of government, consisting of the "Ortsgruppe," the "Kreisleitung," the "Gauleitung," and the "Reichsleitung," with each group being distinguished by a specific color of piping on the collar tabs and visor cap.

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