[Lone Sentry]
  [Lone Sentry: Photographs, Documents and Research on World War II]
Home Page  |  Site Map  |  What's New  |  Search  |  Contact Us

"The Individual Soldier" from Intelligence Bulletin, November 1942

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on the individual German soldier was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, November 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



The German soldier is a grimly determined fighter who has scarcely known what it is like to live as an independent human being, and whose religion may be summed up in a single word: Nazism.

In his parent's home, in school, in the many subdivisions of the Hitler Youth Movement, in the shop, and in the Reich Labor Service, the army recruit has been bred as a National Socialist. The official point of view regarding national and international matters has been the only point of view he has ever known. All his newspapers, books, magazines, and every other source of information available to him have been "doctored." He knows what the Nazi Party permits him to know, and nothing more. Above everything in the world, he is aware of his allegiance to the National Socialist State and of his life work of being a German. It is his proudest belief that he belongs to "the German race" and that as a result he is something he calls an "Aryan."

Nothing is easier to explode than this theory, and the fact that the Germans cling to it shows how far state control has corrupted the common sense of a whole nation. Actually, the Germans are not a separate race. They are Caucasians (as are nearly all European peoples), and since Germany has been the melting pot of all the invading groups which have crossed that territory for the past 3,000 years, German blood is a mixture of many strains. It is heavily Polish, for example.

The truth about the word "Aryan" is that it does not pertain to physical characteristics, but to the science of words, and means a member of one of the peoples who speak what is called an "Indo-European" language; hence Portuguese, Armenians, Greeks, Italians, and dozens of other peoples are as Aryan as the Germans. Contrary to all modern science, however, the Nazis use the term in a racial sense, and identify the German people with it.

The German superiority myth is not an invention of the Nazis, who merely give great publicity to a theory that was popular back in the 19th century. The Kingdom of Prussia and her sympathizers, at that time struggling to combine numerous German states into a united nation, found the doctrine of racial superiority a powerful political weapon. It must be remembered that the German soldier is a product of 1,500 unhappy years of German history, and that the inability of his people to form a united and lasting state has given him a private sense of national inferiority. In "Aryanism," with the Nazi trimmings, the German people have hit upon a kind of national religion, and one which helps them to forget that as a nation they have always been a political failure. In this religion the leaders are the state, and the state is god.

In teaching German superiority, the soldier's army training more or less picks up where the Youth Movement leaves off. His mind is filled with continuous propaganda which exalts war and makes it seem unavoidable, humane, and heroic. The present war is presented to him as a struggle for national existence forced on Germany by a degenerate, crafty, and ruthless enemy. The soldier is taught this kind of thing hand in hand with his really excellent training in purely military matters--not that he is receiving military training for the first time. It must be remembered that in the activities of Youth Movement societies he learned rifle marksmanship, close-order drill, combat scouting, and many other aspects of warfare. All along the way, these societies were preparing him for a soldier's life.

As soon as he is called up for Service, he is tested for his special abilities and qualifications so that the Army can decide in which branch he is to be trained. He is then sent to a training center, where he remains for about six months, unless the need for troops in the field is so great that his training period must be shortened. At the present time, German training centers take advantage of as many short cuts as possible. Normally, during the soldier's first 4 months at the training center, emphasis is placed on his development as an individual fighter. During the fifth month he works on platoon and company problems, and during the sixth month he takes part in battalion and regimental exercises. After the sixth month his class ordinarily would join in divisional maneuvers, but in wartime such large-scale maneuvers often are omitted. If the recruit displays marked ability while at the training center, he may be allowed to attend a specialists school--for example, a Communications School.

The German soldier's recreation is designed to build up his sense of mental and physical superiority. German sports have been geared to assist the nation-wide program of military training. Their chief function is to toughen the body and encourage combativeness. In most games, as in military training, the emphasis is on the importance of winning--not on sports for their own sake.

Plenty of books and motion pictures are made available to the troops, but, as is so often the case with Nazi generosity, there is a catch. The books are selected, and the films designed, with one fundamental purpose in mind: propaganda. Even when the soldier is relaxing, the doctrine of German superiority is being drummed into him.

The German Army pay scale is lower than ours. A German private receives $6 a month; a lance corporal, $30.80; a corporal, $47.48; a sergeant, $67.20; a first sergeant, $74.72. A lieutenant may receive from $960 to $1,680 annually; a first lieutenant, from $1,360 to $1,680. A private at the front gets an extra 40 cents a day, or 80 cents a day if he is sent to Africa. Officers and noncommissioned officers receive double this amount. Only soldier's dependents who can show evidence that they need assistance are granted financial aid, and even then the matter is in the hands of a district administrative authority. When the families of officers or noncommissioned officers include children, the following monthly allowances are made: $4 when there is one child, $8 if there are two, $10 if there are three or four. Unfortunately for the soldier's family, this does not insure a decent living standard, partly because such basic necessities as food, clothing, and fuel are not only very expensive in the Reich, but dangerously scarce.

Despite the internal conditions in Germany, the average German soldier seldom feels that he is being pushed around by his leaders. His morale is good. He takes pride in the unit to which he belongs, and fights without a word of question or reproach. On the whole, he is convinced that although World War II is unfortunate, it is necessary if his people, the master race, are to rule the world.


a. Standard Field Service Uniform (see fig. 1b)

Privates and noncommissioned officers in the field wear a steel helmet painted with a gray, rust-resistant paint, or a field service cap made of greenish-gray cloth. This cap may be worn under the helmet. The blouse is also greenish-gray; it has a standing collar of a darker shade. The waist belt is of soft black leather and has a dull white metal buckle. Cartridge pouches are attached to the belt. The gray cloth trousers are tucked into the top of black calf-length boots. The overcoat is gray, with a dark green collar, and is double-breasted. The soldier carries a pack (haversack in the case of mounted troops), a shelter-half with ropes, a canteen, a gas mask and protective gas cape, an entrenching tool, and side arms. Officers' field uniforms are similar to those of line soldiers.

b. Field Uniforms of Special Units

(1) Armored force troops.--Tank and armored-car personnel wear a loose-fitting black uniform with a black field service cap or a steel helmet. Armored-car personnel may also wear a protective camouflage uniform of greenish cloth, cut like the black uniform. Medium armored troop-carrier personnel wear the black uniform with a black beret. The crews of medium self-propelled antitank guns wear a gray uniform, cut like the black uniform, and a gray field service cap or steel helmet.

(2) Parachute troops1 (see fig. 1a).--Parachutists wear a brimless steel helmet with chin and neck straps, loose-fitting gray-green coveralls with very short legs, gauntlet gloves, and ankle-length boots laced at the sides. Loose gray trousers (like extra-long knickers) and a gray blouse are worn under the coveralls. The leather belt is supported by two front straps fastened to a ring and a single strap at the back. To the belt are attached a revolver, two haversacks, a canteen, and a gas mask. A rolled bivouac cape may be hung from the shoulders down the back.

(3) Mountain troops.--These troops wear a special cap (similar to the field service cap, but with the addition of a cloth visor), the ordinary type of service blouse, gray trousers fastened around the ankles by puttees, and ankle boots. They carry a loose knapsack (rucksack) and a large canteen. In snow, they may be equipped with snowshoes or skis, and white coveralls.

[Figure 1. (a) German Parachutist's uniform (standard); (b) German Field Service uniform (standard).]
Figure 1. (a) German Parachutist's uniform (standard); (b) German Field Service uniform (standard).

c. Insignia of Grade

Sergeants wear distinctive shoulder straps (no chevrons). The gray-green background of the strap is bordered by a silver strip, around which is a narrow braid in the distinctive color of the wearer's arm or service. Certain grades of sergeants also wear silver stars on their straps. Corporals', lance corporals', and privates' straps are gray-green, with a braid in the distinctive color. The regimental number may appear on the background of the strap; the strap button may show the number of the wearer's company or equivalent unit. Corporals and lance corporals wear chevrons on the sleeves of their blouses. Collar patches, showing the color of the arm or service, are worn by all grades.

d. Other Distinguishing Marks

(1) Distinctive colors of arms and services.--Each of the arms and services has a distinctive color. The more important are as follows:
Red       Artillery.
Dark greenOfficials.
Dark blueMedical.
Light blueMotor transport.
CrimsonGeneral Staff officers.
VioletSmoke troops.
Light yellowSignal.
Deep yellowCavalry regiments, mounted or partly mounted. Cyclist battalions (+ letter R).
PinkTank regiments. Antitank battalions (+ letter P).
Grass greenMotorcycle battalions (+ letter K).
Copper brownReconnaissance units (+ letter A).
WhiteInfantry regiments (normal and motorized). Motorized machine-gun battalions (+ letter M).
Light greenMountain rifle regiments. Rifle battalions.

On the field uniform, the appropriate color appears in the background or small braid of the shoulder strap and in the background of the collar patch.

[Figure 2. German insignia: Shoulder straps. Numerals denoting company, battery, or troop may appear on the end buttons; numerals denoting regiment may appear on the center of the straps.]
Figure 2. German insignia: Shoulder straps. Numerals denoting company, battery, or troop may appear on the end buttons; numerals denoting regiment may appear on the center of the straps.

(2) Paybooks.--Although paybooks are not supposed to be carried into battle, United Nations troops may capture them in the course of offensive operations. The paybook will show the unit in which the holder is serving, and in addition, the units of the field army in which he has served previously, the depot unit in which he was first trained (unless he was already serving in the army on mobilization in 1939), and the depot units which supply replacements for various field army units. All such entries should be noted.

(3) National insignia.--The national insignia (a spread eagle over a swastika) is worn above the right breast pocket of the field blouse, on the front of the cap and beret, and on the left side of the steel helmet.

(4) National rosette.--This is a small circular insignia in black, white, and red. It is worn below the national insignia on all headdress except the steel helmet. On the black beret, and on all visored caps except the mountain cap, it is flanked by oak leaves.

(5) National colors.--The national colors--black, white, and red--are worn in the form of a shield painted on the right side of the steel helmet.

(6) Identification tags.--German identification tags seldom show the unit in which a man is currently serving (unless he has lost the original tag which was issued him when he was assigned to a depot unit, and his present unit has issued a replacement). However, these tags may record the existence of a previously unidentified unit, and a report should always be made of the information stamped on them.

1Parachute troops are members of the Air Force.


[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page

LONE SENTRY | Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Search | Contact Us