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Waffen-SS Camouflage clothing

 

The development of SS camouflage items was initiated by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler in 1935 when he tasked the Reichsführung-SS, (National Leadership of the SS), to begin research of new camouflage patterns and garments for use by the fledgling SS-VT, SS-Verfugüngstruppe, (SS-Special Purpose Troops). In late 1936 and early 1937 the first SS camouflage garments were issued to personnel of the SS-VT Standarte Deutschland for field testing and evaluation. The first items evaluated were the Quarter shelters/ponchos, followed by steel helmet covers, face masks and smocks. As the war continued various other clothing items were produced in the assorted camouflage patterns. Originally the camouflage patterns were all produced in the time consuming manual screen printing until the development of the machine roller printing in 1940. By the end of the war no fewer then ten assorted camouflage patterns had been developed and used by the SS.

Camouflage smock
Tarnjacke

The Waffen SS was responsible for one of the genuinely important innovations in military dress – the use of camouflage-patterned cloth in combat uniforms. The first camouflage smock (tarnjacke) and helmet cover introduced in 1938, and was worn throughout the war. It was thigh-length, of generously baggy cut, pulled tight at the waist with a drawstring. The front was of pullover type; a slit halfway down the chest from the neck was closed by drawstrings. There was no collar, and the collar of the tunic was usually fully exposed outside the neck-opening of the smock. The wrists were also gathered, emphasizing the baggy look of the arms. Early smocks had only vertical slits through which the tunic pockets could be reached. Later versions introduced in 1942 had two skirt pockets, with two large vertical pocket flaps on the ribs, closed by a single button in the centre of each. Often, but not invariably, late-model smocks also had extra loops of the basic material were sewn to the shoulders and upper arms to take foliage camouflage. There were usually three in front and three behind each shoulder, about 3 inches (76 mm) long, parallel to the ground, and ending at the shoulder seam; another two or three close together across the top of the sleeve at the outside; and, occasionally, three more in the middle of the back, just below the collar.

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M42 Tarnjacke worn by an SS-sturmbannführer with the spring camo side upwards. He also wears his peaked cap and fieldgrey breeches. His sidearm is a Mauser M712 (schnellfeuer) On his belt we see a mapcase.
(war-time picture)

There were about seven variations of camouflage patterns (plane tree, oak leaf, palm tree, blurred edge) , and a range of seasonal versions: light and dark green for spring, two shades of green and a purplish brown for summer, and three shades of russet and brown for autumn. All featured small, basically rounded patches of superimposed colours in patterns resembling leaves. The helmet cover used the same patterns, with additional foliage loops often sewn to the sides. Both smock and helmet cover were completely reversible, with the spring/summer pattern on one side, the autumn pattern on the other. Insignia was rarely worn on the smock.

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Left: M42 blurred edge (rauchtarn) smock worn by a SS-Rottenführer with the spring camo side upwards.

Middle and right: M42 Oak leaf (eichenlaub) smock worn by a SS-Rottenführer with the autumn camo side upwards. He has a helmet camo cover in plane tree camo pattern. His straight trousers are the M43 keilhose. His arms are a MP40 machinegun and a stick grenade.      (war-time picture) (pic2) (pic3)

Camouflage/white reversible winter parka (Oak-leaf A)
Tarnungs jacke

After the devastating winter of 1941/42 on the Russian front the high command saw the need for heavier winter clothing and testing began in the spring of 1942 to develop suitable garments. In April 1942 Hitler approved the chosen design, and the first models were issued in the autumn of that year, in the reversible blue/grey/white colorations, which was modified to camouflage pattern/white combinations in 1943. Included with these new garments were heavy, padded, reversible winter hood. The SS followed the army’s lead and new winter camouflage items were issued in October 1943. The machine rolled, screen printed, Oak-leaf "A" pattern camouflage was originally developed in 1941 and was utilized through to 1945 for a wide variety of garments. Of Note: The winter garments were a standard issue item and were distributed to all EM/NCO’s for the winter season, (September 15TH to April 15TH), and were to be returned to the units storage depot at the end of the season for reissue the following year.

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Reversible winter parka (oak leaf A) worn by a SS-Rottenführer with the autumn camo (spring camo had more green shades). His straight trousers are the M43 keilhose. His arm is a MP40 machinegun.  (war-time picture) (pic2)

Dot pattern camouflage field blouse (M44)
Erbsentarn feldbluse

In 1944 a new camouflage uniform began to appear which was widely issued but never wholly replaced the smocks. This pattern, which does not seem to have reached the front in any great numbers until mid-summer, comprised a jacket of the same basic cut as the M1943 tunic, with straight-cut trousers. Unlike the smock, neither tunic nor pants was reversible. The two parts of the uniform were in the same camouflage pattern: the spotted effect was even more noticeable than before, and the colours – two shades of green, dark brown and light tan brown – appeared in a continuous pattern of multi-coloured spots (erbsentarn) over large irregular areas of contrasting colours. It could be worn over the woollen uniform, but more often than not, was worn instead of it. (There are many examples of the camouflage pants being worn with the non-camouflage tunic.)

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M44 Dot pattern camo fieldtunic worn by a SS-schütze  He has a fieldmade dot-camo feldmütze. His straight trousers are the M43 keilhose and he's wearing shoes instead of boots which is normal for that period. His arms are a MP44 sturmgewehr and an egg-grenade. (war-time picture)

Though regulations stated that only the green-on-black rank insignia were to be worn, it is not uncommon to see photos of sleeve eagles, uniform shoulder-straps and even collar patches and cuff-titles being worn on the camouflage tunic.
A camouflage version of the M1943 field cap was also issued, and was worn both with and without conventional cap insignia. Mountain and armoured formations seem, from photographic evidence, to have made more use of it than infantry units.

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