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Outerwear: Overcoats, Peacoats,and Raincoats
about the variety of protective outerwear worn by the East German
armed forces, Police and other agencies, especially in the early
years of the DDR, remains too incomplete to justify more than
a few cautious generalizations. The most obvious of these is how
closely the winter coats -- overcoats, peacoats and certain foul-weather
gear -- worn by East German armed forces resemble those worn by
German soldiers during the period of the 3rd Reich (1932-45).
The resemblance is not exact, and became less apparent as time
went on, but is nevertheless often striking.
On the other
hand, with raincoats and most other raingear, including Police
all-season coats, the primary considerations appear to have been
functionality and cost-effectiveness, not preserving tradition.
The raingear is generally made out of inexpensive nylon or other
synthetic, adequate to do the job but readily disposable. These
and related themes are treated in more detail below.
(Sizes are approximate).
for Weight/Body Build. East German Number Code with U.S. Equivalent.
Example: East German size 48. 48 = normal body build. 48-0 = slightly
thinner. 48-1 = slightly larger. 48-2 = much larger.
for Height. East German Letter Code with U. S. Equivalent.
E. German size: SK = Very short. K = Short. M = Average. G = Slightly
taller than average. SG = Very tall. UG = Ultra Tall.
appearance, the overcoats worn by the East German armed forces
resemble the greatcoats worn by German troops in World War 2.
The resemblance is especially close in the early years of the
NVA, when the East Germans followed the Wehrmacht in using overcoats
with dark collars, double (or French) cuffs, and 10 buttons (2
rows with 5 buttons per row). The similarity remained even after
double cuffs were phased out in the mid-1960s, and the number
of buttons limited to 7 (2 rows with 3 buttons per row, plus collar
button). Throughout the DDR period, in other words, career and
non-career soldiers alike continued to wear overcoats obviously
modeled on what had been used in Germany before 1945, not on what
their Soviet allies wore.
between the overcoats worn by the members of the various East
German Police agencies, including the Customs Administration,
and those used during the World War 2 years was less striking
but still apparent.
from the NVA's earliest years (1956-65) are rarely seen and therefore
difficult to comment on.
in use from 1965 to 1986 continued the sharp distinction previously
made between career soldiers ("Berufsoldaten") and non-career,
or limited time ("Auf Zeit"), soldiers. Career soldiers
of all ranks in the Land Defense Forces, including Border Guard,
wore gabardine (smooth fabric) grey-green overcoats with black
or, more accurately, dark collars. Soldiers in the various Guard
("Wach") regiments and Military Musicians' School also
wore black collar overcoats, although not exclusively, with unit
cuff titles added.
In this same period, soldiers in the Air Force and Air Defense
Forces wore overcoats with plain collars - that is, the collar
and the rest of the coat were the same grey-green color. In addition,
they wore collar tabs on their greatcoats whereas members of the
Land Defense Forces and Wach regiments did not.
difference between the overcoats worn by conscripts and other
non-career soldiers and those above is that the basic fabric of
the non-career overcoats was wool instead of gabardine, which
gave them a courser appearance than the more polished look of
The era of
the black collar overcoats came to an end with the 1986 NVA Uniform
Regulations. These initiated the plain collar overcoat, with no
color variation between the collar and rest of the coat, as the
new standard issue for all units and ranks. As before, the overcoats
worn by non-career soldiers were more "wooly" to the
worn by the various East German police agencies differed in color
and insignia, but in basic design they varied little. Unlike NVA
overcoats, Police overcoats were made out of the same thick gabardine
material for all ranks. Also unlike the NVA, Police overcoats
had collar tabs as well as shoulderboards, and in addition might
have sleeve patches and time-in-service chevrons.
are the distinctive dark blue, hip-length coats worn by sailors
of many navies. In the East German Navy/Volksmarine, they were
worn by the two lowest ranks: Matrosen/Seaman and Maat/Junior
Petty Officer. Volksmarine peacoats are characterized by open
collars, two lower pockets, and 10 large brass anchor-design buttons.
Standard insignia includes collar tabs and shoulderboards, and
up to four different rank/specialization patches and chevrons.
(Note: Peacoats used before 1986 may have gold (brass) rank/career
specialization insignia, some of which closely resemble those
worn by German sailors during World War 2).
peacoats, Maat rank and above, have gold tress around the collars.
Peacoats worn by the Navy Grenztruppen/Border Guard are distinguishable
by the green and white cuff title around the left sleeve.
Volksmarine peacoats and various sleeve insignia are very similar
to those worn by the Kriegsmarine during the period of the 3rd
Police All-Season Coats
response of the VOPO Police to Germany's unpredictable weather
was a hip-length coat with water-repellant surface and removable
quilted lining, attached by snaps plus buttons. The 4-button green
coat has four pockets and, rarely, matching trousers.
East German armed forces wore several types of protective rain
gear, especially in the 1960s-1970s. By the 1980s these had become
standardized into the stylish raincoat described below and one
or two others not listed.
permitting, the VOPO Police did their rainy day duties wearing
a full-length, lightweight raincoat made out of rain-repellant
nylon. The raincoats had an inner lining, ventilated shoulder
capes and matching belt. Insignia was limited to shoulderboards.