The Winter Clothing of the German Soldier
by Oberfeldzahlmeister Wortmann
published in “Deutsche Uniformen-Zeitschrift”, February 1944
Translated by Chris Pittman
The winter of 1941/42 showed that our German winter clothing, built for central European conditions, does not measure up to eastern European degrees of cold. Through the unparalleled donation by the German people of fur and wool items, the troops in winter 1941/42 were provided with the necessary additional cold protection. The donations were even so generous that considerable surplus remained, which was professionally stored and partially reworked, and made usable for the troops for the next year. Additionally, the clothing that had been worn in the winter was collected again in Spring 1942 and prepared with much care for the winter of 1942/43- disinfected, cleaned, repaired.
This stock of winter uniforms formed a foundation that could be built on, but in no way did it achieve an adequate supply for our troops deployed in the East in winter 1942/43. Totally new clothing, suitable for the eastern European winter, had to be developed. For this, the experiences of the first winter were extensively used. Clothing pieces were needed that adequately protected the soldier from the rigors of Eastern weather, while at the same time not hindering his ability to move. The heavy fur coat was not suitable for these requirements, because it was unusable in combat and on the march. Other ways had to be pursued.
Through wear trials, tests in cold chambers, and tear tests, the so-called Winteranzug (padded winter uniform) was developed in painstaking detail. It consists of a hood, a padded jacket, padded trousers, mittens, leg warmers and felt boots.
The clothing was, in all parts, originally white on one side for snow camouflage, with the other side kept in the normal field gray camouflage color. This Winteranzug was to have been on hand for every fighting soldier in the winter of 1942/43, according to our ambitious goal. Between development, planning and manufacture there was still a long and thorny journey. Everyone in the positions concerned with manufacture of the winter clothing had to be brought up to speed. The production of the Winteranzug required large quantities of wool, spun rayon, leather, impregnation material, etc.- all materials, that we had a shortage of in Germany. The raw materials had to be procured, and they were procured. Also, the manufacturing difficulties that arose due to wartime conditions were energetically attacked and overcome.
Already in fall of 1942 the total supply of entirely newly developed and manufactured winter clothing stood behind the Eastern Front, ready for distribution to the troops.
The winter or combat clothing, that was worn over the usual uniform, was still only intended for the real combat troops, for whom the fur coat or large overcoat was too heavy and too much of a hindrance to movement. All other soldiers, who did not get the Winteranzug, instead received the large overcoat, fur overcoat, fur jackets and the like. In any case, by the winter of 1942/43 there was not remaining one soldier on the Eastern Front who was not adequately equipped with outstanding winter clothing.
In this new eastern winter, as a rule, every soldier in the east and in the north had in addition to the Winteranzug or fur coat or large overcoat at least two toques, two pairs of gloves, two sweaters, and one pair of felt boots, or felt shoes, or fur boots, or cloth overboots. Along with that came also padded undertrousers and oversocks for those soldiers not equipped with the Winteranzug. To compensate for unexpected demands, reserve stocks of paper overgarments (used to good effect in Japan and Finland) and straw boots were built up in all battle areas.
Of course, there were some growing pains with the Winteranzug and the entire usual winter clothing, nothing that reduced the value of the winter kit, but instead led to valuable suggestions for improving the supply for winter 1943/44. Spring and summer of 1943 were extensively used for the further development and production of additional winter clothing articles. The Winteranzug was given additional camouflage effectiveness by replacing the previous field gray side with splinter pattern camouflage, and additional improvements were made to manufacture. The felt boots got leather up to calf height and a sturdy leather sole, so that they could also be used as marching boots. Gloves, the padded hood, large overcoats, and other winter clothing articles were improved on the basis of previous experiences.
In the winter of 1943/44, on the entire eastern and northern fronts, every soldier was splendidly equipped with winter clothing. The combat troops got the previously described Winteranzug, gauntlet gloves and felt boots, in which they could confidently hold up even in temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero, and lower. The members of the troop trains and units deployed to rear areas were equipped with fur coats, large overcoats, felt boots, felt shoes, etc. Special camouflage garments, such as snow smocks, snow jackets and pants, anoraks, wind jackets, etc., are available in large quantities for ski troop and scout troop operations.
For our troops in the East, everything possible is being done to supply them with the best in winter clothing. Our soldiers also thankfully acknowledge the work being done in this regard in the homeland.