Heer Enlisted Ranks of WWII
By Michael Dorosh

Originally Published on the LANDSER Website by Michael Dorosh; resurrected and revised by Ryan Crierie for greater coverage.

The following table lists the various ranks of the German Army, grouped according to category (Mannschaften (Men) and Unteroffiziere (Non-Commissioned Officers). A brief listing of rank-specific titles has been included also; this list has been greatly simplified as there were dozens of rank titles for soldiers holding specific appointments, from Senior Inspector of Music (Obermusikinspizient) to Army sports instructor (Heeressportlehrer). Many of the intricacies and cumbersome position/appointment/rank titles may indeed have been beyond the general knowledge even of serving German soldiers themselves.

The Waffenfarben piping on these examples is Rose Pink, worn by the Panzer and Anti-Tank Troops.

Mannschaften
(Men)

(No Badge)

Soldat

The term Soldat was generic; most soldiers had a rank title based on the type of unit they were assigned to, or the trade in which they were employed.

Branch – Specific Ranks:

Beschlagschmied schütze (Farrier)
Beschlagschmied-reiter (Cavalry Farrier)
Reiter (Cavalry Trooper)
Trompeter-reiter (Cavalry Trumpeter)
Panzerschütze (Armored Trooper)
Schütze (Mot. Infantry 1939-42)
Panzergrenadier (Mot. Infantry 1942-45)
Sanitäts-soldat (Medical)
Feldgendarm (Military Policeman)
Pionier (Engineer)
Schütze (Infantry 1939-42)
Grenadier (Infantry 1942-45)
Musikschütze (Musician)
Jäger (Light Infantryman)
Jäger (Mountain Trooper)
Kanonier (Artilleryman)
Funker (Signaller)
Fahrer (Driver)
Kraftsfahrer (Driver, Motor Vehicle)

Obersoldat

This grade was automatic upon one year's service.

However, most soldiers in the German Army could be expected to reach Gefreiter in less than a year's time - the conclusion to draw is that anyone being made an Oberschütze (etc.) probably was not considered a promising soldier.

Branch – Specific Ranks:

Beschlagschmied oberschütze (Farrier)
Beschlagschmied-oberreiter (Cavalry Farrier)
Oberreiter (Cavalry Trooper)
Trompeter-oberreiter (Cavalry Trumpeter)
Panzer-Oberschütze (Armored Trooper)
Oberschütze (Mot. Inf 1939-42)
Ober-Panzergrenadier (Mot. Inf. 1942-45)
Sanitäts-obersoldat (Medical)
Feldobergendarm (Military Policeman)
Oberpionier (Engineer)
Oberschütze (Infantry 1939-42)
Obergrenadier (Infantry 1942-45)
Musikoberschütze (Musician)
Oberschütze (Light Infantryman)
Oberschütze (Mountain Trooper)
Oberkanonier (Artilleryman)
Oberfunker (Signaller)
Oberfahrer (Driver)
Oberkraftsfahrer (Driver, Motor Vehicle)

Gefreiter

The rank of Gefreiter did not denote a non-commissioned officer in any sense of the word; he had no command authority and the rank he wore represented a raise in pay and little else.

Branch – Specific Ranks:

Beschlagschmied gefreiter (Farrier)
Sanitäts-gefreiter (Medical)
Gefreiter der Feldgendarmerie (MP)

Obergefreiter


Branch – Specific Ranks:

Beschlagschmied overgefreiter (Farrier)
Sanitäts-overgefreiter (Medical)
Obergefreiter der Feldgendarmerie (MP)


Until 1942/43


Post 1942/43

Stabsgefreiter

An Obergefreiter with more than six years' of service


A Portepee is a decorative sword knot; in many militaries (including the German Army) senior NCOs were distinguished from other ranks by carrying a sword.

Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee
(Junior Non-Commissioned Officers)

Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee means "NCO without Portepee", or in other words, those that did not carry swords or wear sword knots.

Unteroffizier


Branch – Specific Ranks:

Beschlagschmied unteroffizier (Farrier)
Unterwachtmeister (Cavalry)
Unterwachtmeister (Reconnaissance)
Sanitäts-unteroffizier (Medical)
Unteroffizier der Feldgendarmerie (MP)
Oberjäger (Light Infantryman)
Oberjäger (Mountain Trooper)
Unterwachtmeister (Artillery)
Unterwachtmeister (Signals)
Unterwachtmeister (Horse-Drawn Supply)

Unterfeldwebel


Branch – Specific Ranks:

Beschlagschmied unterwachtmeister (Farrier)
Wachtmeister (Cavalry)
Wachtmeister (Reconnaissance)
Sanitäts-unterfeldwebel (Medical)
Unterfeldwebel der Feldgendarmerie (MP)
Wachtmeister (Artillery)
Wachtmeister (Signals)
Wachtmeister (Horse-Drawn Supply)


Unteroffiziere mit Portepee
(Senior Non-Commissioned Officers)

Unteroffiziere mit Portepee means "NCO with Portepee", or in other words, those that did carry swords and wear sword knots.

Feldwebel


Branch – Specific Ranks:

Beschlagmeister (Farrier)
Schirrmeister (Saddler)
Wachtmeister (Cavalry)
Wachtmeister (Reconnaissance)
Sanitäts-feldwebel (Medical)
Feldwebel der Feldgendarmerie (MP)
Festungspionier-feldwebel (Fort. Pio.)
Wallfeldwebel (Fortifications)
Feuerwerker (Ordnance)
Brieftaubenmeister (Carrier Pidgeons)
Wachtmeister (Artillery)
Funkmeister (Signals)
Wachtmeister (Horse-Drawn Supply)

Oberfeldwebel


Branch – Specific Ranks:

Oberbeschlagmeister (Farrier)
Oberschirrmeister (Saddler)
Oberwachtmeister (Cavalry)
Oberwachtmeister (Reconnaissance)
Sanitäts-oberfeldwebel (Medical)
Oberfeldwebel der Feldgendarmerie (MP)
Festungspionier-oberfeldwebel (Fort. Pioneer)
Walloberfeldwebel (Fortifications)
Oberfeuerwerker (Ordnance)
Oberbrieftaubenmeister (Carrier Pidgeons)
Oberwachtmeister (Artillery)
Oberfunkmeister (Signals)
Oberwachtmeister (Horse-Drawn Supply)

Stabsfeldwebel

The Stabsfeldwebel rank was generally reserved for those soldiers who had signed on for full enlistments in the Reichsheer (interwar German Army), which required a man to sign on for 12 years.

Branch – Specific Ranks:

Stabswachtmeister (Cavalry)
Stabswachtmeister (Reconnaissance)
Stabsfeldwebel der Feldgendarmerie (MP)
Stabswachtmeister (Artillery)
Stabswachtmeister (Signals)