BACKGROUND: Although military ranks and rank designations can be traced back to the mercenary armies of the 17TH century it wasnít until the creation of standing armies in the early 18TH century that distinguishing insignia of rank began to be developed. Originally the shoulder straps were functional items designed to secure the saber and ammunition shoulder cross straps and the larger, metal trimmed epaulettes were a throw back to the protective shoulder pieces worn on medieval armor. By 1800 the epaulettes had lost their protective function and were retained as a badge of rank. Generally military shoulder straps would indicate the rank, branch of service and the unit of the wearer. The first pattern shoulder straps utilized by EM/NCOís during the Third Reich period were a carry over from the Weimar Reichswehr, (National Defence Force, Circa 1919-1933), era. On November 26TH 1938 the first pattern, pointed tip, shoulder straps without waffenfarben, (Branch of Service Color), piping, utilized by EM/NCOís were replaced with a rounded tip shoulder strap that included the branch of service waffenfarben. Originally these second pattern straps were manufactured in blue/green badge cloth until regulations in May 1940 altered their construction to field-grey wool. These second pattern shoulder straps were worn for the duration of the war although a slightly modified, third and final pattern was introduced in September 1944. The different branches of service within the German army were allocated a specific, identifying, waffenfarbe, (Branch of Service Color), with wine red being chosen for Nebeltruppen, (Smoke Troops), personnel which was generally displayed as piping on the shoulder straps. Of Note: The term Nebeltruppen, (Smoke Troops), was partially a camouflage term utilized by personnel manning the small, light weight, mobile, rocket launcher/projectors. Original the main function of the rocket launcher/projectors was to produce heavy clouds of smoke to conceal troop movement from the enemy but eventually, (Circa 1940), they began to be used as high explosive launchers and were utilized in concentrated numbers for the best effect and repositioned immediately after firing. By 1942 larger caliber, multi-barrel/tube, launchers were being produced and additional ammunition including Napalm shells were utilized. The Smoke Troops branch of service color was originated by combining the light blue of Transport troops and the bright red of Artillery troops. Although designated "Bordeauxrot" (wine red), it generally had a distinctive, purple hue. The Smoke Troop units were generally auxiliary units added to divisional strength on an as required basis. The German armed forces utilized a wide variety of shoulder strap cyphers that indicated numerous specific, assorted trades, careers, functions and/or unit designations. Regulations decreed that the shoulder strap cyphers were embroidered in the appropriate branch of service color for EMís and Junior NCOís and in silvered metal for Senior NCOís. Originally the shoulder board/strap cyphers for Senior NCOís used during the Third Reich were a low, flat pattern that had been utilized by the Weimar Reichswehr, until regulations of September 10TH 1935 introduced new Wehrmacht, (Armed Forces), pattern cyphers that featured a horizontal ribbed interior and raised outer edges. Both Junior and Senior NCOís ranks shoulder straps were further distinguished from enlisted personnelís shoulder straps by the addition of NCOís rank tress and rank pips. Originally NCO ranks wore a bright, silver/aluminum tress as adornment on the shoulder straps until regulations of, April 25TH 1940, introduced a new subdued tress of matte blue/grey rayon for wear on the field uniform and a subdued golden tan rayon tress for wear on the tropical uniform. Although these new subdued tressís were intended to replace the highly visible bright, silver/aluminum tress both types were utilized until the end of the war.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Early, (Circa November 1938-May 1940), second pattern, blue/green badge cloth construction, slip on shoulder straps with wine red wool waffenfarbe piping and silver/aluminum, diamond patterned, NCOís tress to all the outside edges. The shoulder straps also features a rank pip and the Wehrmacht pattern, (Circa September 1935-May 1945), silver washed, die stamped, alloy, numerical, unit designation cypher, "53". Seldom encountered Smoke Troop personnelís early pattern shoulder strap.

GRADE ****1/4                             PRICE $250.00

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