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Winter Uniforms

For generations, the German army relied on the wool greatcoat to keep soldiers warm in the winter. While this worked, the German army realized it may not be warm enough to ward off the frigid winters of the Eastern front. As a result, the Wehrmacht and the SS developed a number of specific purpose winter clothing items to deal with the harsh climate. The most important development in the area of winter clothing was the parka set. These wool-lined parka sets were made reversible with one side being white to provide snow camouflage. The first ones issued had a mouse-grey side opposite of the white. Soon after the grey side was changed to a camouflage pattern appropriate to the branch of service. Heer and Luftwaffe troops were issued ones with splinter pattern camo (Splittertarnmuster) and the SS were issued sets in one of the range of proprietary SS camo patterns. In 1944 an additional pattern was issued for the Wehrmacht. This was the so-called marsh pattern camo (Sumpftarnmuster). By the end of the war, there were a few variants of Marsh pattern camo featuring harder and softer lines as well as brighter or more subdued colors. These uniforms were issued to units in the fall of each year and collected in the spring. A soldier who served for two or more winters would not get the same parka set back he had had the previous year. During the off months the parka sets would be cleaned, mended and the white could even be brightened with whitewash. Early war mouse grey sets continued to be issued until they were no longer usable. When they were reissued to units they were typically issued as a set although the camo patterns did not always match perfectly. It is not unheard of to see mismatched sets especially late in the war though typically an attempt was made to match the tops and bottoms of a set.  

In addition to parka sets the German army also issued a wide range of gloves, mittens, sweaters, toques, scarves, and hats to keep soldiers warm. Many of these were sent from home as part of winter clothing drives and were in civilian as well as military patterns. A number of less common styles of winter clothing were also produced. The German army had wind jackets for mountain and ski troops, fur-lined anoraks for SS soldiers, Quilted uniform liners and jackets for troops in artic locations, and even heavy shearling greatcoats for soldiers standing sentry duties and driving open vehicles. All of these were supplemented with special winter footwear which will be covered in a separate post. 

If you are interested in learning more about winter uniforms two new books on the topic have been released in recent years. Winter Uniforms of the German Army and Luftwaffe in World War II by Vincent Slegers  and Winter Uniforms of the German Army: Heer, Luftwaffe, Waffen-SS by Werner Palinckx

These photographs were taken from a number of books,  online sources, and auction sites.  They are presented here for educational purposes.  

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