General’s/Admiral’s Breast Eagles




Hand-embroidered breast eagles for officers are often small works of art in which the embroiderer had an opportunity to display his or her personal skills at detail and execution which can lead to a wide variety of designs and features.  Some of these individual details are quickly recognized by longtime collectors and highly valued over other, more common varieties.  Two of the three basic Wehrmacht branches, the Heer and the Luftwaffe,used gold bullion embroidery to indicate the rank of a General officer. 


The Kriegsmarine is an exception, as gold was the standard color used for all breast eagles, from enlisted all the way up to Admiral (except for the Administrative branch, which was silver).  So typically the only difference may be in quality of embroidery (an Admiral may have a higher quality eagle than a junior officer, though not necessarily as any officer who wanted to pay more for better quality insignia was able to do so).  Therefore there really is no specific “Admiral” breast eagle.  Any gold bullion or gold wire hand-embroidered breast eagle that is on a dark blue backing is considered to be that of a Naval officer up to and including Admiral.


The SS was also an exception, as they did not use a breast eagle and instead wore their own specific version of a national eagle on the left sleeve instead of the breast.  These eagles were silver embroidered for all officers including General…..with the one exception being Oberst-Gruppenfuhrer Sepp Dietrich, who chose to have his own insignia created using gold bullion and wire for not only his sleeve eagle, but also his cufftitle.


Below we will explore various examples of these hand-embroidered eagles, both those on surviving tunics and loose examples.


The Army (Heer) Generals



Here’s an example of a brand new Heer General officer breast eagle, discovered in 2016 as part of a tailor-shop horde of high ranks insignia.



Once the eagles were embroidered, they were inserted in rice paper envelopes for safe storage until needed for use on a tunic.



A close look at the fine detail of the embroidery.



Another very nicely detailed example from the horde.



The reverse of the above eagle showing the protective black paper backing that is often found on hand-embroidered breast and cap eagles.




This eagle is a mixture of bullion and celleon embroidery.



The reverse of the above eagle gives us a good look at how the embroidery was finished from the back.  Not all eagles have a protective paper backing attached.




A bullion example similar in style to those above.



Again, a similar style yet with tiny differences in the feet, inner and outer wings.



Two-tone bullion and celleon eagle from the uniform tunic of Generalarzt Hans-Joachim Barnewitz.



Tightly woven Celleon eagle from the uniform tunic of Generalmajor Friederich Fangohr


army front.jpg

Un-issued gold bullion wire Generals eagle.



Bullion eagle with the typical wire twist top at the wings.




This is one of the more sought-after patterns of General officer breast eagles.  Notice the multi-tone bullion wire.



manstein eagle

GFM von Manstein tunic.  Gold wire and bullion in the same pattern as the above eagle.

(private collection)



A multi-tone bullion embroidered eagle.



A gold wire and bullion embroidered eagle with yellow thread highlights, from the parade dress uniform of Generalmajor Erwin Rommel.



A gold wire embroidered eagle from the tropical uniform of General der Panzertruppe Georg Stumme.



A spectacular example of a multi-tone bullion embroidered eagle with yellow thread highlights on a tropical olive backing, from the tropical uniform of Generalmajor Heinrich-Hermann von Hülsen.



A gold bullion embroidered eagle with yellow thread highlights, from the tropical uniform of Generalmajor Walter Stettner.





This example is embroidered in celleon with orange thread highlights.



Another celleon example, this particular example on a black General’s panzer wrapper.



Another black backed Generals eagle with very interesting black thread highlights.




Generalleutnant Mack tunic. Gold wire and bullion.

(private collection)


Celleon breast eagle.

(Ron Richter collection)


Celleon breast eagle.

(Ron Richter collection)


Gold wire embroidered breast eagle.

(Ron Richter collection)


Gold bullion and gold wire breast eagle.

(Ron Richter collection)


Gold wire breast eagle.  This, again, is the most sought after pattern.

(Ron Richter collection)



Same pattern as above.  The breast eagle from Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt’s uniform tunic.




Generalmajor Beelitz tunic. Gold bullion.

(John M. Donovan collection)



Un-named Administrative Generals tunic. Gold wire and bullion.

(Howard Kelley collection)




Generaloberst Falkenhorst tunic. Celleon and bullion.

(Howard Kelley collection)


von both eagle

General der Infanterie Kuno-Hans von Both tunic.  Celleon.

(private collection)


suter eagle

Generalmajor Hermann Bacher tunic.  Gold wire and bullion with thread highlights.

(Thomas Suter collection)




Gold metal, pin-on eagle for use on the summer tunic.  Gold plated metal.

(Mike Peters collection)



Un-named General’s tunic.  Gold bullion.

(private collection)


generals eagle

Un-issued General’s eagle.  Gold bullion.

(private collection)




Generalmajor Angernn tunic. 

(Mike Peters collection)


schopper eagle

Generalleutnant Schopper tunic.  Celleon with thread highlights.

(private collection)



The Luftwaffe Generals



Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall Milch tunic.  Gold bullion and wire.

(Holzauge Historical collection)



Luftwaffe General der Flieger tunic.  Gold bullion and wire.

(Ron Richter collection)



luftgen eagle

Luftwaffe Generalmajor tunic.  Gold bullion and wire.

(private collection)



This is one of the nicer examples I’ve ever encountered, very tightly embroidered of the highest quality.  This piece is from the uniform of an Engineering Corps General.



Bullion with yellow thread highlights.



A nice bullion example with a tightly woven swastika from the uniform of Generaloberst Alfred Keller.



A nice bullion example from the uniform of General Ludwig Keiper.




A stunning contrast of gold bullion wire over a white backing, from a General’s kleiner rock dress tunic.



Another white backed breast eagle from a kleiner rock, this one from the uniform of Kurt Student.




This tightly woven, early pattern white backed eagle belonged to Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch.




Yet another excellent specimen from the Milch estate.




Yet another tightly woven example, this one in celleon with matching gold thread highlights.



plocher eagle

Luftwaffe Generalmajor Hermann Plocher tunic.  Celleon.

(private collection)




Unknown Generalmajors tunic.  Celleon.

(private collection)


unknown luft eagle

Un-named Luftwaffe Generalleutnant tunic.  Gold bullion

(private collection)



A tropical backed General’s breast eagle.  This example from the tunic of Bernhard Ramcke.



lufteagle mint

Un-issued Luftwaffe General’s eagle, with original tags.  Celleon base embroidery with dark brown thread highlights.  While difficult to see in the photograph, in-hand this example has a brilliance to it that mimics bullion.

(private collection)




The Kriegsmarine Admirals


donitz eagle

Grandadmiral Donitz tunic.  Gold bullion.

(private collection)



Admiral von Puttkamer’s breast eagle from his blue reefer jacket.



The removable white backed breast eagle for the summer tunic belonging to Admiral von Puttkamer.



Admiral von Puttkamer’s frock coat breast eagle (which has been restored).



von trotha eagle

Vizeadmiral Von Trotha’s tunic.  Gold bullion with thread highlights.

(private collection)





The SS Generals


The SS Generals did not wear eagles on the breast of their tunics, as the Heer, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine did.  They wore their own pattern of an eagle on their left sleeves (as did all officers and enlisted personnel). There was no SS order or regulation specifying a separate sleeve eagle for General officers and they wore the exact same silver embroidered eagles that were worn by all other officers.  As shown below, Sepp Dietrich was the only exception and his use of a gold bullion eagle was a personal preference and his revered status within the SS and with Hitler allowed him to exercise this freedom. 





The only General officer in the SS to wear a gold embroidered sleeve eagle was Oberst-Gruppenfuhrer Sepp Dietrich.  This example is from one of his uniform tunics.



With the exception of the gold Dietrich eagle shown above, all other General officers in the SS wore a silver hand-embroidered sleeve eagle as in this example. 


The Police Generals


The German Police wore gold eagles on their left sleeves in the same fashion as the SS.  There were two patterns of sleeve eagles worn by Police Generals.  The first pattern was a similar design as the Police eagle worn on sleeves by officers and enlisted personnel with the exception that it was hand-embroidered in gold bullion or gold wire.  The second pattern was exactly the same design as the Heer Generals eagle, with the exception being that the eagle’s head was to face the left (though one must assume many of the eagles worn probably had the eagle facing right as Heer eagles would have been easier to acquire or easy to mistake for a Police eagle).



The first pattern Police Generals sleeve eagle, embroidered in gold wire.



Alfred Wunnenberg.jpg

A period photograph showing Police General Alfred Wunnenberg wearing the gold embroidered Heer style second pattern sleeve eagle for Police Generals.  Unfortunately there is not a period example with a left-facing eagle to show.