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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Uniforms, Decorations, and Insignia

With the exception of the People's Navy, whose dark-blue uniforms follow the style of the majority of navies around the world, all NVA services and the Border Troops wear the same basic uniform adopted in 1956 when the NVA was officially established. Several improvements have been made since that time, but the style and cut remain fundamentally the same. There are various kinds of uniforms, worn according to the work or social situation and differing in material for summer or winter wear. Most uniforms--service, semidress, and parade--are stone gray, a brownish-gray color that is conspicuously different from the gray-green of the People's Police uniform.

Several basic categories of uniforms--field (Felddienstuniform), service (Dienstuniform), semidress (Ausgangsuniform), parade (Paradeuniform), and fatigue (Arbeitsuniform)--are worn. The better quality and texture of the cloth in officers' uniforms distinguish them from the uniforms of enlisted personnel. The field and service uniforms are normal attire in garrison and for most other duty activities.

In summer, the field uniform consists of a jacket and trousers with a dark-brown raindrop camouflage pattern on a stone-gray background. The uniform is worn with a field cap, service cap, or steel helmet; high black boots; and a leather belt with vertical web shoulder suspenders. In winter, a quilted stone-gray padded suit without a camouflage pattern is worn over the service uniform. The winter uniform also includes a fur pile cap or a steel helmet, boots, knitted gray gloves, belt, and suspenders.

The summer service uniform for officers features a bloused jacket, worn without a shirt, trousers, and a visored service cap. In winter, a service jacket with four large patch pockets with button-down tabs, worn with a black belt, the service cap, breeches, shirt, tie, belt, and high boots are provided for officers and NCOs. For winter, there also is a long, heavy, belted overcoat.

The semidress uniform, except in details, is the same for all ranks and is worn on off-duty or off-post occasions. It includes the service cap, jacket, long trousers, and black low-quarter shoes. The single-breasted jacket is worn without a belt, with a silver-gray shirt and a dark-gray tie. Officers may wear the jacket with a white shirt. During periods of warm summer weather, either the shirt and tie or the jacket may be omitted.

The parade uniform for officers is the semidress jacket worn with all authorized awards and decorations, breeches and riding boots, steel helmet, white shirt, dark-gray necktie, and a ceremonial dagger on the left side, fastened to a silver-gray parade belt. Officers in guards of honor carry sabers. In winter, overcoat and gloves are worn.

Seasonal considerations and weather govern the kind of fatigue, or work, uniform worn. Generally, reconditioned items of service clothing--field, semidress, and winter padded uniforms--are dyed black and issued for all kinds of fatigue and maintenance details. Coveralls are also used by the lower ranks, especially armor and air force personnel. Officers in technical branches supervising fatigue details wear a laboratory-style smock.

Other kinds of NVA uniforms exist as well. High-ranking officers occasionally wear white uniforms, and staff officers are supplied with staff service uniforms. Women service members have their own uniforms--jackets, skirts or slacks, blouses, caps, boots or pumps, and other appropriate items in accordance with the season and the occasion. Paratroopers, motorcyclists, tank personnel, and others have special items of apparel. The uniform of the Border Troops is distinguished from that of the NVA ground force and Air Force/Air Defense Force by a green armband with large silver letters identifying the wearer's affiliation.

East German armed forces personnel display rank insignia on shoulder boards or shoulder loops on service, semidress, and parade uniforms, and subdued sleeve insignia midway between the shoulder and elbow on the left sleeve of the field uniform, coveralls, or other special uniforms. General officer rank is denoted by five-pointed silver stars mounted on a gold and silver braided shoulder cord set on a bright red base. All other officers and NCOs wear a four-pointed star (see fig. 16; fig. 17).

The regime has some seventy decorations for persons or groups it wishes to recognize, and it bestows them liberally. Some, such as battle decorations, are specifically set aside for armed forces personnel, many may be awarded to soldiers and civilians alike, and others, although ordinarily civilian awards, can on occasion be earned by those on military duty. The latter group includes decorations for achievement in the arts, literature, production, and work methods. They may be awarded to service personnel or specific units that have participated in civil production projects or assisted during harvesting.

The Order of Karl Marx, Order of Merit, Star of People's Friendship, Banner of Labor, Order of Scharnhorst, Order for Service to the Fatherland, and the National Prize are among the more important awards. Some, including the Order of Merit and the Star of People's Friendship, are awarded in three classes. A few are accompanied by substantial monetary premiums. Unlike the Bundeswehr of West Germany, the NVA does not permit military personnel to wear Wehrmacht awards and decorations.

Data as of July 1987

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East Germany Table of Contents