German-Helmets.com  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Collector Topics:  Helmet Decals

Photo:  A Berlin maker label in a Luftschutz helmet.

Helmet Decals

The study and evaluation of wartime helmet decals is one of the most fascinating aspects of collecting World War II German headgear.  The number, type, color, and purpose of each type of helmet decal is a key element in understanding whether or not a helmet is original and to which arm-of-service it belonged.

During World War II helmet insignia was used extensively throughout the German military system.  The application of helmet insignia originated during World War I when hand painted black and white shields were placed on the left side of steel helmets worn by the Kaiser's elite Prussian Guard.  Following World War I, the Reichswehr Army expanded the use of hand painted helmet insignia as a means to identify the district or state in which a given military unit was assigned.

When Adolf Hitler decreed that a new national military was to be established there came the need for insignia that could independently distinguish helmets of the Heer, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine.  Symbolism was a primary element in the motivation efforts behind National Socialism.  Naturally this served to continue the drive for military helmet insignia in the Wehrmacht and also the Waffen-SS.  The regulations governing the application of helmet insignia was distributed in the many military handbooks, manuals, and official orders that aided military personnel in understanding basic uniform standards.  

Between 1933 and 1945 the use of helmet insignia was not just limited to the military.  Helmet decals were also used by civilian and political groups throughout National Socialist Germany.  Their helmets were typically adorned with well-designed decals that denoted the organization to which their members belonged. These groups included both men and women who served in the capacity of air defense volunteers, factory guards, and red cross personnel among many others.  Most auxiliary units that wore protective helmets utilized some form of decal insignia until regulations or wartime efforts no longer required their use.  

Much to the fascination of collectors, there are variety of decal styles (and sometimes variants) among all the possible types that exist.  This variety is due in part to the number of manufacturers that produced helmet decals during World War II.   The majority of helmet decals were produced by well established printers both small and large.  These printers were generally experienced in lithographic art design and color printing.  Many also operated multiple print shops while some also served as wholesale book publishers.  Each firm was granted a contract for the production of helmet insignia by the Armed Forces Procurement Office (Wehrmacht-Beschaffungsamt) under the direction of the Chief of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht).  

Original wartime decals were printed to exacting requirements.  Postwar comparison of unapplied examples proves that precise standards in size and color were accomplished.  Decals were printed and distributed to armed forces personnel including retail shops, drug stores, and clothing dealers that were authorized to sell military insignia.  The cost for a set of decals was quite minimal.

Overview

Each section of German-Helmets.com is divided into separate Information Tracks that outline important details, facts, and historical notes pertaining to steel helmets used by the German Armed Forces during World War II.  

Information Tracks are organized by subject matter and their content is directly related to the service arm or organization to which each topic is related.  Topic areas that bridge one subject matter to another are cross linked within each Information Track.

This Information Track provides historical facts pertaining to helmet decals circa 1933-1945.  Individual links related to this subject are outlined below.

    Decal Main Topics

Application

Decal Printers and Dimensions

Construction

    Service Insignia

Heer

Kriegsmarine

Luftwaffe (see below)

National Colors

NS-Party Decals

Polizei Eagle Decals

Reichswehr

SS Runic Shields

    Collector Topics

Chinstraps

Camouflage

Decals

Dome Stamps

Factory Production

Foreign Use

Helmet History

Liner Systems

Paint

Fakes and Reproductions

Rare and Unusual

Appraisals

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