Stahlhelm Markings
By Michael Dorosh

(Updated 1 March 2011)

References:

Uniforms, Organization and History of the Waffen-SS, Volume 1 by Roger James Bender and Hugh Page Taylor

NOTES: This was originally published on the LANDSER Website by Michael Dorosh in the early 2000s. Later resurrected and revised by Ryan Crierie with permission from Michael Dorosh for greater coverage of the subject.

The M1935 (Modell 35) Helmet

A new Steel Helmet (Stahlhelm) was introduced for the German Army in July 1935 and subsequently referred to today as the M1935 or M35 Helmet. With the familiar "coal-scuttle" shape that had characterized the earlier steel trench helmet worn in the Great War from 1916 onwards, the helmet provided better neck and ear protection than helmets in use in the French, British or American armies of the time. The helmets were produced in a smooth finish, varying in colour from grey-green to a very dark green in five different sizes.

The M35 was intended to replace the older style helmets completely, though the rapid expansion of the Wehrmacht made this impossible and older style helmets saw use through to the end of the war.

In 1942, helmet manufacturers stopped rolling the edge of the rim on helmets (save for one firm which continued producing rolled rims until 1944) as an economy measure. The first helmets to be produced in this manner were completed in August 1942, and are referred to today as M1942 or M42 helmets.

Helmet Decals

Helmet markings, either in the form of decals, or painted on, were worn from 1923 to 1933, and based on the colours of the various German states. The National Socialists, when they attained power in 1933, preferred to stress the unity of the German nation, and adopted a tricolour shield to replace the older state colours.


1933 Tricolor Decal

The new M35 helmets saw new decals adopted as shown below. The tricolor shield was on the wearer's right side, with the branch insignia on the left-hand side. The SS, rather than having the tricolor shield, had the Nazi Party Emblem in it's place, emphasizing it's role in the Party.

Branch/Year

Left Side Decal

Right Side Decal

Heer (1935-1945)

Kriegsmarine (1935-1945)

Luftwaffe (1935-1937)
First Pattern Eagle

Luftwaffe (1937-1945)
Second Pattern Eagle

Waffen-SS (1935-1945)


(Discontinued 1941 for combat troops)

or or
(Discontinued Nov. 1943 for combat troops)

German Police (1935-1945)
(Also worn by SS-Polizei troops)

Spanish Blue Division (1941-1943)
(Based off this photo)

The decals were applied with lacquer and were not like the modern water-transfer decals found in plastic model kits, or used for reproductions of the helmet decals for reenactors, as they were printed face-down. Like everything produced in the Third Reich period, there were many minor variations to the design, which are well documented in books and on the internet, and are beyond the scope of this website.

The decals were often painted over in the field, obscured with camouflage materials, or removed altogether, and were also not immune to the effects of weather and hard use of the helmet.

Starting in March 1940, the tricolor decal was deleted on new production helmets; while the branch insignia remained on the left-hand side. Meanwhile, the Waffen-SS began to remove decals or overpaint them due to the relative largeness and bright primary colors of the Nazi Party Decal and the White SS Decal proving remarkably effective in attracting enemy fire.

By 1944 the use of the branch decal on new production helmets officially ceased, ending the practice of decaling on helmets. However, some helmets retained the decals until the end of the war. By 1942 also, the colour of helmets had switched to a medium or darker field grey, and rougher finishes were the norm.