German World War II camouflage patterns

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Erbsenmuster (pea dot pattern), designed by Johann Georg Otto Schick and worn by the Waffen-SS, 1944

German World War II camouflage patterns formed a family of disruptively patterned military camouflage designs used for clothing and for Zeltbahn shelter halves. German camouflage developed from the 1931 Splittertarnmuster ("splinter camouflage pattern"), which combined a pattern of interlocking irregular green, brown, and buff polygons with vertical "rain" streaks.

Later patterns, all said to have been designed for the Waffen-SS by Johan Georg Otto Schick, evolved into more leaf-like forms with rounded dots or irregular shapes. Camouflage smocks were designed to be reversible, providing camouflage for two seasons, whether summer and autumn, or summer and winter (snow). Distribution was limited to the Waffen-SS, ostensibly because of a patent. Production was limited by shortage of materials, especially of high quality waterproof cotton duck.

History[edit]

The first German camouflage pattern, Splittertarnmuster, 1931, was initially used for Zeltbahn groundsheets.

The Reichswehr (Army of the Weimar Republic) started experimenting with camouflage patterns for Wehrmacht uniforms before World War II, and some army units used Splittertarnmuster ("splinter camouflage pattern"), first issued in 1931, and based on Zeltbahn shelter halves/groundsheets. Waffen-SS combat units used various patterns from 1935 onwards. The SS camouflage patterns were designed by Johann Georg Otto Schick, a Munich art professor and then the director of the German camouflage research unit,[a] at the request of an SS Major, Wim Brandt. Brandt was an engineer and the commander of the SS-VT reconnaissance battalion, and he was looking for better camouflage. Schick had researched the effect of light on trees in summer and in autumn. These led to the idea of reversible camouflage clothing, with green summer patterns on one side, brown autumn patterns on the other. In 1937, the patterns were field tested by the SS-VT Deutschland regiment, resulting in an estimate that they would cut casualties by fifteen percent.[b] In 1938, a reversible spring/autumn helmet cover, smock, and sniper's face mask in Schick's forest patterns on waterproof cotton duck were patented for the Waffen-SS. The patent is said to have prevented the Wehrmacht from using the patterns, which became a distinctive emblem of the Waffen-SS during the war.[2][3][4] Production of groundsheets, helmet covers and smocks by the Warei, Forster and Joring companies began in November 1938. They were initially hand-printed, limiting deliveries by January 1939 to only 8,400 groundsheets and 6,800 helmet covers and a small number of smocks. By June 1940, machine printing had taken over, and 33,000 smocks were made for the Waffen-SS. Supplies of high quality cotton duck, however, remained critically short throughout the war, and essentially ran out in January 1943. It was replaced by non-waterproof cotton drill cloth.[5][6]

Schick's patterns included:[7]

  • Platanenmuster ("plane tree pattern"; 1937–1942): spring/summer and autumn/winter variations, the first dotted camouflage pattern[7]
  • Rauchtarnmuster ("smoke camouflage pattern"; 1939–1944): spring/summer and autumn/winter variations[7]
  • Palmenmuster ("palm tree pattern"; circa 1941–?): spring/autumn variations, used by the Waffen-SS[2][7]
  • Beringtes Eichenlaubmuster ("oak leaf B"; 1942–1945)[2][7]
  • Sumpfmuster ("swamp pattern"; 1943): a blurred form of splittermuster; summer/winter variations: the green-brown smocks were reversible to white snow camouflage[2][7]
  • Eichenlaubmuster ("oak leaf A"; 1943–1945): spring/summer and autumn/winter variations on reversible Waffen-SS smocks, also used for Zeltbahn tent sheets[2][7]
  • Erbsenmuster ("pea dot"; 1944–1945): based on oak leaf pattern[2][7]
  • Leibermuster (1945), a six-colour (black, tan, olive, pale green, white, and red-brown) pattern of irregular black stripes over splotches of reddish-brown and green, on a pale green field. It was designed to absorb infra-red, but saw only limited usage.[2] However, it inspired the postwar US ERDL pattern.[8][7]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Almost nothing is known about Schick beyond these bare facts. The film director Michael Madsen planned to make a film, The Black Forest, about Schick's shadowy life, but it has not appeared.[1]
  2. ^ The methodology behind this claim is not known.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Michael Madsen born 1971 Documentaries". Danish Film Institute. ... 2003 ... IN DEVELOPMENT: ... The Black Forest. A film on dead angles & Modern Identity. The life’s and disappearances of Professor Otto Schick, key German master camouflage inventor, WWII. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Newark, Tim (2007). Camouflage. Thames and Hudson. pp. 133–137. ISBN 978-0-500-51347-7. 
  3. ^ Davis, Brian L. (1998). German Army uniforms and insignia : 1933 - 1945. London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 978-1-86019-869-4. 
  4. ^ Wilkinson-Latham, Ed (16 December 2011). "A Short History of Camouflage". Toronto Standard. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  5. ^ Mann, Chris (2014). SS Totenkopf: The History of the 'Death's Head' Division 1940–45. Amber Books. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-907446-87-0. 
  6. ^ Ferguson, Robert; Lumsden, Robin (2009). Himmler's SS: Loyal to the Death's Head. History Press. p. 310. ISBN 978-0-7524-9722-8. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Beaver,, Michael D.; Borsarello, J. F. (1995). Camouflage Uniforms of the Waffen-SS. Schiffer. p. 202. ISBN 1-84176-854-5. 
  8. ^ Richardson, Francis (1945). Camouflage Fabrics both Plain and Printed for Military Use by the German SS and German Army. Reprinted in: Borsarello, J.F. (Ed.) (1990?). SS & Wehrmacht Camouflage, ISO Publications; London.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mollo, Andrew (1987). The Armed Forces of World War 2: Uniforms, Insignia and Organization. (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Steven, Andrew & Amodio, Peter (1998). Europa Militaria No. 6: Waffen SS Uniforms in Colour Photographs. (Crowood Press)
  • Peterson, Daniel (1998). Europa Militaria No 17: Wehrmacht Camouflage Uniforms and Post-War Derivatives. (Crowood Press)
  • Peterson, Daniel (2001). Europa Militaria No 18: Waffen SS Camouflage Uniforms and Post-War Derivatives. (The Crowood Press)
  • Beaver, Michael D. & Borsarello, J.F. (1992). Camouflage Uniforms of the Waffen-SS: A Photographic Reference. (Schiffer)
  • Palinckx, Werner & Borsarello, J.F (2002). Camouflage Uniforms of the German Wehrmacht.(Schiffer)