Decals (Wappenschilde)

Decals, the icing on the cake for German helmets

heer

Heer (Silver Eagle)

Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe (old and new model)
National decal identical to Heer
Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine (Gold Eagle)
National decal identical to Heer

After Stahlhelm shells were painted (for details take a look on the colors page) small unit specific decals were applied to one (or both sides) of the helmet. Almost every military, naval, and political organization had its own distinctive insignia, which was applied as decals to the sides of helmets. The right side of early M35 helmets bore the tricolored shield of black, white, and red stripes, the traditional national colors of Imperial Germany (cf. the black, red, and gold of today’s Germany, harking back to the 1848 Revolt). The left side of the shell often received decal insignia denoting the branch of the armed forces, or Wehrmacht, or an organization within the Nazi Party.

German-Army-Eagle-Decal
Heer / Army
German-Airforce-Eagle-Decal
Luftwaffe / Airforce (Eagle new model)

The Wehrmacht consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy), and the Luftwaffe (air force). While not technically part of the Wehrmacht, the Waffen-SS (“Armed-SS”) tactically operated as such and was considered part of Germany’s armed forces during the war. The same was true of some Sturmabteilung (SA) units, along with other subsidiary organizations, which functioned as part of the armed forces particularly towards the end of the war. Wehrmacht branches typically displayed distinctive emblems in the form of decals on their helmets. The Heer, or army, displayed a black shield bearing the frontal view of a silver-colored German eagle holding a swastika in its talons (known as the Reichsadler), while the navy used the same eagle emblem in gold. Luftwaffe decals displayed the side view of an eagle in flight, also holding a swastika. The SS was both a paramilitary and a political organization, and its black runic initials on a silver-colored shield (normally applied to the right side of the shell) looked like twin lightning bolts. Other military, political, and civil or defense organizations used similar decal insignia to distinguish their helmets. Such visible identification devices were gradually abandoned as the war progressed, however, so that by war’s end most Wehrmacht helmet insignia had been eliminated to reduce the wearer’s visibility in combat.