On Texas and Louisiana battlefields, German soldiers are fighting. War has been made so realistic that practice armies are garbed in the clothes of the enemy. Soldiers in training will be able to recognize their opponents when the real time comes, won't mistake a German officer for an ally.
The old phrase "clothes make the man" might well be reversed to describe the Nazi Luftwaffe uniform. The Nazi uniform reflects all the glittering sham of their philosophy. The well-dressed Luftwaffe soldier has a booklet which tells him the suitable dress for attending laying of foundation stones, races, concerts, unveilings, and various types of parades
Since the Versailles Treaty forbade Germany to have an air force, which Hitler re-created in March, 1935, the Luftwaffe is by far the newest of the three branches, and has been more closely identified with the official German party than either the Army or Navy.
New, distinctive, are the uniforms in air force blue which, however, borrowed shoulder straps, rank badges from the Army, the white uniform, mess jacket from the Navy. Greatest innovation is the air force version of the National Emblem, which consists of a flying eagle clutching the swastika in its long claws. Also especially designed for the Luftwaffe are the wing badges on collar patches, and the general cut of the uniform.
The German Air Force also borrowed part of its organizational setup from the Army, Navy. Administratively an independent arm, the Air Force is headed by Air Minister Reich Marshal Hermann Goering, who also is Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe. Organized on a territorial basis, the various Luftflotten (Air Fleets) are allotted areas for operation. Most pilots hold only the highest noncommissioned rank equal to our top sergeant.
Air Force men attached to these various branches of the Luftwaffe are distinguished by their Waffenfarben, translated to mean arms of the color of the service. Waffenfarben is used as piping on the collar patch, and underlay on the shoulder straps. Generals, members of the General Goering special regiment, wear white, flying units, golden yellow, air ministry, black, anti-aircraft, red, and the Wehrmachbeamten, or administrative branch, light blue. Color marks are complicated to recognize, as enlisted men in General Goering's regiment wear bright red collar edging, while officers wear white.
Not only are enlisted men, noncoms, officers distinguished by various colors, but also by the grade of material used. Noncoms, enlisted men, wear the color of the arm of their service branch, plus silver wings on collar patches. Stripes are made of silver braid on blue-green cloth, while wings are white metal.
Rank is indicated in various ways. Noncommissioned officers wear rank badges on the left upper arm, plus wings on collar patches. Senior noncoms, warrant officers indicate rank on their shoulder straps, and by the number of wings on collar badges. Officers also indicate rank shoulder straps in silver, but from the rank of vice air marshal up, these appear in gilt.
Comparable to the insignia of the USAAF are the regimental badges of the Luftwaffe. Noncoms, warrant officers, are in color braid, but from the rank of senior flight ensign (comparable to our flying officer), these insignia appear in white metal. Collar badges of the high, mighty Air Vice Marshals are lavishly edged in gilt cord. After one reaches the rank of flying officer, the shoulder straps are plaited in silver cord. Before that, one just wears plain silver cord.
Many Luftwaffe men are the proud possessors of commemoration armlets which honor the exploits of German aces in World War I, and the heroes of the Nazi party in World War II. Some squadrons bear the names of some of these aces. Men belonging to these honored squadrons wear a dark blue band on their right cuff bearing the name of the squadron in silver. Those who fought with the 1st Richthofen Fighting Command have a special band which they may wear provided their unit has no other commemoration band.
The well-dressed Luftwaffe member, to be absolutely correct, should own a Flying Service uniform, a field dress uniform, a reporting uniform, a parade dress uniform, a walking out uniform, two or three kinds of formal dress, and a summer uniform. From head to toes he's gaily attired in gilt, brass and aluminum.
His air helmet is air force blue, instead of the usual German grey. On the right side is the special version of the National Emblem. Uniform caps, corresponding to our garrison caps, are in air force blue, are worn with so many different kinds of specified uniforms that even the well-informed Luftwaffe member must refer to his book entitled "Regulations Relating to Order of Uniforms for Special Occasions." Noncommissioned officers, enlisted men, wear piping in waffenfarben around the cap cover, and black patent leather chin straps. Upon reaching the rank of senior flight ensign, the patent leather chin strap is exchanged for silver cord.
Since the beginning of the Luftwaffe in 1935, the basic uniform has changed. Formerly, the German air force wore service tunics, flying service tunics, depending upon the occasion, but recently a uniform tunic, similar to our officer's blouse, has simplified the clothes problem. The uniform is air force blue with aluminum buttons. Principal difference between the uniform tunic and the old styles is that the uniform tunic has an extra button so that collar can be worn open or closed.
Evening dress may be either formal or informal. State occasions demand a white waistcoat, with a mess jacket, aiguillettes, peaked collar and mother-of-pearl studs. From top to bottom, regulations prescribe what Hitler's well-dressed air hero will wear.
This article was originally published in the March, 1944, issue of Air News magazine, vol 6, no 2, pp 20-21, 64.
The original article includes, in addition to the drawings above, 6 photos.
Air News drawings by Nicholas Strychalski; photos credited to Black Star, European.