Chapter 9

Clothing and Equipment

Improvisations of clothing became necessary when the German Army was suddenly faced with the prospect of a winter campaign in Russia. To alleviate the lack of adequate clothing during the winter of 1941-42, several divisions helped themselves by organizing large sewing workrooms in near-by Russian cities. From used blankets and old clothing, local workers produced flannel waistbands, ear muffs, waistcoats, footcloths, and mittens with separate thumbs and index fingers. Sheepskins were tanned and transformed into coats for sentries and a limited number of felt boots were manufactured in small Russian workshops. It was possible to requisition fur garments and felt boots from local inhabitants for a small number of men. Some winter clothing was also acquired from dead enemy soldiers. Fur-lined coats, warm underwear, gloves, and ear muffs of regular winter issue did not arrive from Germany until the early spring of 1942. During the first crucial winter the available supply was sufficient for only a small percentage of the forces. The clothing of the great majority of men was not nearly adequate since few of them had more than one item of winter clothes. Whoever possessed extra underwear wore one set on top of the other. All supplies of underclothing in the divisional and army dumps were issued. Eventually every man was able to protect his head and ears to some extent by using rags and waistbands.

Effective relief gradually reached the front once the so-called fur collection campaign got under way throughout the Reich. This campaign was by far the greatest and most valuable improvisation in the field of clothing. Even though the outfits were of varied appearance they fulfilled their purpose. If it had been started earlier many casualties could have been prevented during the severe winter of 1941-42.

At the beginning of the war the German armed forces were quite unfamiliar with the geographic data and climatic conditions of the far north. German clothing and equipment allowances failed to take into account the peculiarities of warfare in the


arctic. The troops sent to this theater were unable to operate effectively until they were issued the same clothing and equipment as mountain divisions. This consisted of laced mountain boots instead of standard infantry boots, mountain trousers and tunics instead of regular issue, visored mountain caps with turn-down ear and neck protectors instead of the ordinary field caps, and rucksacks in the place of field packs. Every man was issued complete skiing equipment.

Intermediate and lower commands improvised many other items of clothing and equipment but most of them were of little consequence or of limited application and are therefore not mentioned in this study.


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