The Blog


Welcome to The Blog! In this new section (new as of 2017) my goal is to offer additional perspectives on the multiple phases of collecting…everything from examining “collector myth” to exploring details of items that have never been covered in the books.  Add in a mixture of thought and opinion and voila! The goal here, as in the rest of the site, is education-based yet I hope to also incite thought and further conversation.


July 27, 2017


Today’s Topic:

Wearing shoulderboards backwards, and five-loop Generals boards


Over the decades there have been many times I’ve heard collectors question a Generals or field grade officers tunic because the shoulderboards were installed backwards or were non-matching.  This can be a deal-killer when a collector looks at a potential acquisition and begins to believe that it was put-together post-war because it doesn’t conform to regulations.  It’s a problem when things like this can discredit a legitimate item, simply because the collector isn’t aware that the regulations weren’t always applied….and in this particular case they seem to have been quite commonly ignored!


The Regulation:

General’s shoulderboards were to be constructed of braided gold & silver cords with four bends at each side and a loop for the button at the top.  The long end of the button loop was to be worn at the back of the tunic, presenting a mirror image (the boards were manufactured so that there was a “left” and “right”, based on the long end of the loop).  This was also the case for field grade officers (Major thru Oberst).


The Reality:

In the majority of cases this regulation was followed, but it is incredibly easy to find period photos where there was a variation, especially among many of the better-known high ranking personalities.  These variations include;

1.wearing both boards backwards,

2.wearing an un-matched pair (two lefts, or two rights)

3. and the rare variant five-loop Generals boards. 

Another oddity, is a General wearing late pattern Field Marshal’s shoulderboards, which were constructed of braided gold cords with no silver inner cord (Rommel had a pair of these as General der Panzertruppen).



As you’ll see below, even many of the well-known personalities in the Third Reich exhibited some non-regulation wear of the shoulderboards.






four loop example.jpg


To aid in better understanding the concept, above is an example of a regulation General officer shoulderboard.  It consists of two outer gold cords interwoven around an inner silver cord to form four bends and a loop at the end for securing the board with a button.  The long end of the button loop is to be positioned so that it faces the back of the tunic.  The design helps tilt the board toward the front of the tunic for optimum viewing. The example you see is on the wearer’s right shoulder. The boards all had an underlay color which indicated branch of service (in this case, light grey for Waffen SS Generals).


shoulder identification.jpg

Above is a “matched” pair of shoulderboards for a Generalmajor.  Notice how the button loops are on alternating sides so that when properly attached the long end of the loop is always at the back of the tunic.

five bend board GFM.jpg

Here is an example of a “five bend” variant General officer’s shoulderboard, this one the rank of a Generalfeldmarschall.  Notice that there are five bends (excluding the loop for the button).


Luftwaffe General Hans-Georg von Seidel with correctly installed left & right matching shoulderboards, with the long button loops at the back.  By regulation, this is how General rank shoulderboards are to be sewn to a tunic (this also applies to the ranks of Major through Oberst).



Barth, Otto - Generalmajor.jpg

Heer Generalmajor Otto Barth wearing a pair of correctly installed, matching pair of shoulderboards with the long end of the button loops at the back of the tunic



Heer General Rudolf Schmidt, our first example of a tailor who broke the rules.  He has a matched set of boards, but the button loops are both facing the wrong direction…to the front, instead of the back.



Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle.  Oops, both of his boards are on backwards too!  As collectors on the militaria forums are often seen to say, “not the quality expected of a General or a Field Marshal”.  Yet here it is….




Heer General Eduard Dietl as a cover-boy wearing his boards backwards.



Heer General Eduard Dietl evidently was quite the rule-breaker, as here he is wearing non-regulation Generals shoulderboards with five bends instead of six.  These are a rarely encountered variant (or possible manufacturer mistake).  Many collectors are suspicious of them as the five bend variety became regulation in postwar DDR Germany.  I have seen five-loop variants with every branch of service underlay except Kriegsmarine (one must speculate that they probably exist as well).


Scultetus, Herbert - Generalmajor.jpg

Heer Generalmajor Scultetus displaying his backwards boards on a piped service tunic.



Kleist five loop.jpg

Heer Generaloberst Ewald von Kleist, wearing the five-bend variant shoulderboards.



One of my favorite regulation-buster photos….Reichsmarschall Goring wearing his unique shoulderboards backwards with the long button loop to the front.  His RM eagle devices that mounted on the shoulderboards were designed left/right so that the eagles faced forward.  If the eagles were mounted correctly on these boards, the eagles would be facing the rear, which would be wrong.  Even the highest ranking guy in the Third Reich had problems getting his insignia to follow the rules!



Another problem you’ll encounter with uniforms, though this one is much more rarely seen, is when the tailor didn’t have a matching set of boards.  In the above picture, it appears SS General Sepp Dietrich may have only had two “right” side boards instead of a matching pair, when this tunic was tailored.  It appears that the board on his left shoulder has the long button loop toward the front, while the board on his right shoulder has the long button loop toward the back.  Thus, he has two “right shoulder” boards instead of a matched pair.



Generalfeldmarschall Model with boards on backwards.



Luftwaffe Generaloberst Ernst Udet, with backwards boards on his kleiner Rock.


When discussing manufacturer variations (like the five-bend Generals boards) one other variation that is seldom discussed is that of insignia that was custom-made by a tailor when he didn’t have access to what he needed.  In this particular example, a rather ingenious tailor didn’t have Luftwaffe General’s shoulderboards when constructing a General’s kleiner Rock, so he made them out of field grade Major/Oberst shoulderboards (which by regulation have five bends and are all silver cord).  By taking apart the base boards and interweaving two thinner outer gold cords, he created the gold/silver weave of a General officer.  He also added the white underlay, using the exact same material he also used in the kleiner Rock to pipe the sleeves.  What is odd, is that he DID have available a very high quality, beautiful Generals breast eagle on white backing as well as an equivalently high  quality pair of General der Flieger collar tabs that were sewn to the tunic.  Evidently the General liked the customized boards, as they were left on the tunic and never replaced with proper ones!

Well, that’s it for today.  If you have some period photos showing variations on a regulation that you’d like me to feature in this blog, please contact me and include the photos.  If they merit a topic, I’ll be certain to include them.  I plan to regularly cover variation in this Blog in a concerted effort to make sure collectors are aware of all the possibilities they may encounter.


Please see below for previous Blog entries.






July 12, 2017


Today’s Topic:

“They never did that”, and whatever happened to that damn textbook, anyway!


One of the more maddening aspects of collecting in this modern era is dealing with all of the opinions out there about how “textbook” something should be.  Granted, there were regulations written about the way things “should” be sewn, worn, combined, etc., etc.  These regulations, however, weren’t always followed and in many cases ignored all together.  How do we know this? All you have to do is look at the period photos!  For every regulation you read in a reference book, if you look long enough you can find a period photo that will contradict it.  Sometimes you can find a lot of photos, sometimes it’s just one or two that have ever surfaced (and of course, the “textbook guys” will loudly shout that it’s only “ONE” picture and that it doesn’t prove anything).


So, where am I going with this?  Well, we should take regulations as a general guideline of how things were supposed to be done, not as an absolute.  If the collar tabs on your tunic aren’t sewn exactly like it is described in the book, don’t go into a mad panic and think your tunic is fake because it doesn’t line up perfectly with the ideal set in the regulation.  You have to remember that there was a war going on….many, many people were involved in the industry supplying the war effort.  They didn’t always have access to the correct materials or supplies and sometimes had to make do with what was available. Their talent also varied.  In the case of sewing, insignia could’ve been put on by the finest tailor in town, an officers adjutant, the soldier himself while out in the field after getting a battlefield promotion….or maybe his mother when he was home from the front.  Does anyone here see an opportunity for some “sloppy sewing” with all of these variables?  Okay, granted, fake and put together items are a problem in this hobby and we all have to be careful…BUT, we also have to be careful about calling a good piece “bad” because it doesn’t conform to some perceived textbook criteria.  Keep an open mind.  It pays to be cautious, but you also need to use a little logic and do further research.  Now, let’s begin to look at examples of where collector myth about textbook intersects with the reality of period photos.


The Regulation:

Kriegsmarine breast eagles were to be sewn in line with the fifth button (up from the bottom) on the blue reefer jacket and frock coat.


The Reality:

This regulation seemed to be followed fairly well if you look at period photos, however it’s not hard at all to find the variations once you start looking.  My speculation as to why it wasn’t followed has to do with location.  The tailors near the naval bases probably followed regulation very closely due to the volume of uniforms they were making and the constant presence of high ranking officers.  Tailors well away from the coastline and inland probably had less opportunity to produce naval uniforms and as a result didn’t know the regulations (or didn’t bother to look them up) and just placed the eagles where they thought they should go or where they thought looked best.



This is one of my favorite non-regulation pictures ever!  The sailor in the middle has his breast eagle sewn to regulation, in-line with the fifth button up from the bottom.  The sailors to his left and right obviously have their eagles sewn incorrectly below and above the button….what are the odds of that?!  I have made one other observation from looking at period photos; if the sailor/officer was awarded the DKiG or DKiS (or any breast badge that would be worn on the right side), the eagle may have been raised a little higher to provide additional room to highlight the award.  That said, notice that the sailor on the left in the photo appears to have a breast badge, yet his eagle is positioned lower than where it should be.  Never say never!




In the photo below we see DKiG recipient Rolf Johannesson with a breast eagle sewn well above the fifth button of his reefer jacket.


Rolf Johan.JPG




Here’s another interesting photo of a very highly placed breast eagle, well above the regulation fifth button (notice that there are two breast badges on his right side, which may account for the eagle placement as speculated above).  This is Admiral Otto Ciliax.


Admiral Otto Ciliax.PNG


Well, that’s it for today.  If you have some period photos showing variations on regulation that you’d like me to feature in this blog, please contact me and include the photos.  If they merit a topic, I’ll be certain to include them.  I plan to regularly cover variation in this Blog.