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Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1949-Present From West Germany through to the modern reunified German Republic.

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Bundeswehr uniforms color:why grey?
Old 11-15-2009, 02:40 PM   #1
carpu65
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Default Bundeswehr uniforms color:why grey?

In early-mid 50s all uniforms of NATO countries were very similar,and were inspired by British models.
Officers wore single breasted-four buttons belted tunics,with notched lapels, breast patch pockets,and low bellow pockets,
Officer's field uniforms and privates uniforms were battle dress type.
The color for all were khaki (or olive-khaki).



Ironically,the most diverse were the Americans officers ,with "pink and green" uniforms,but (untill late 1957 when "Army Green" was introduced ) Ike jackets and summer uniforms were very similiar at those of same type of the others NATO Armies.



Take for exemple my country,Italy.
In 1946-1948 the reborn Esercito Italiano passed fron gray-green to khaki,and adopted a battle dress type uniform very closed to British model,and for Officer class A, the same cut of the Regia Aereonautica (Royal Air Force) uniform,that from the beginning ( 1923) was inspired from British models.



So would be logical expect that in 1955 for the uniforms of Bundeswhehr was chosen khaki (something of this):



Instead was chosen something of (at the time) different to the others western allies: Gray.


The double breasted tunic is also a strange choise.
In 1955 the only Army where a gray DB jacket was worn was...Soviet Union.




So,why this "original" choise?
How are born the Bundeswehr uniforms,who has chosen?
Kakhi was considered?

Thanks.

Last edited by carpu65; 11-15-2009 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:05 PM   #2
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This is an interesting question and, no doubt, open to considerable debate. To be fair, aside from the very first few years, the color grey is unique to the land forces (Heer and land-based naval forces) as both the Luftwaffe and Bundesmarine continued to use slightly modified version of their pre-war/wartime uniforms.

In the immediate postwar years, there were huge stocks of uniforms and fabrics available so many European nations used existing surplus to outfit their newly formed militaries. Also, many armies-in-exile were equipped by the British and it would be logical for these British inspired uniforms to remain in use.

By the 1950s, all-purpose uniforms already starting to give way to task-specific garments -- i.e. dress uniforms and field uniforms.

For the actual color chosen, I have no idea. The original dark grey didn't look too bad, in my opinion. Clearly a return to field grey was out of the question for political reasons. With the air force using blue-grey, the navy using dark blue, and feldgrau out of consideration, there really aren't that many palatable colors remaining. The German military, insofar as I'm aware, has no historical use of khaki -- unlike the US/British/Commonwealth armies.

The double breasted Affenjacke was only around for a few years. The familiar 4-pocket service uniforms were reintroduced in 1957.

The Bundeswehr did/does have a tan summer uniform very similar to those of other NATO countries.
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Old 11-16-2009, 10:28 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SprogCollector View Post
For the actual color chosen, I have no idea. The original dark grey didn't look too bad, in my opinion. Clearly a return to field grey was out of the question for political reasons. With the air force using blue-grey, the navy using dark blue, and feldgrau out of consideration, there really aren't that many palatable colors remaining. The German military, insofar as I'm aware, has no historical use of khaki -- unlike the US/British/Commonwealth armies.
The thing that seems strange to me is that in an historical moment in which West Germany would be perfectly integrated between Atlantic nations,gave to his soldiers a look so dissimiliar than others allied Armies.
If you look an old colour picture of some NATO ceremony,the Bundeswhehr apparence contrast with all other.
As if they wanted remember to all that "We the Germans,are different".
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Old 11-16-2009, 11:03 PM   #4
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carpu65,

Your comment that they wanted to stand out may not be too far off the mark. The first uniform worn by the Bundeswehr was almost a direct copy of the WWII American uniforms but they last only about a year. The choice of uniforms for the Bundeswehr in the early years was heavily, if not totally, influenced by political considerations. The eventual decision to adopt one uniform design for both the Heer and the Luftwaffe was almost certainly a politically motivated one. The decision on the Marine uniforms was also politically motivated. In one of my reference books a letter is quoted as being sent from the President of the BRD to the Minister of Defence advising him that he did not like the pictures of the proposed naval uniform he had seen in a newspaper and that they should not be following in the footspteps of Wilhelm or of Adolf Hitler in their uniform design.

Regards,

Gordon
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Old 11-17-2009, 11:10 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon Craig View Post
carpu65,

The first uniform worn by the Bundeswehr was almost a direct copy of the WWII American uniforms but they last only about a year.
You have a pictures of this uniform? Was olive drab or grey?
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Old 11-17-2009, 03:48 PM   #6
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carpu65,

Before going any further I need to qualify what I said earlier. The uniform you asked about was not specifically designed for the Bundeswehr but came into being in 1952. Because of the advent of the Cold War, the U.S.A. suggested the formation of a west European State military. In German this was Europaischen-Verteidigungs Gemeinschaft (EVG). The West Germans were involved in this organization and designed a uniform based on the U.S. Armies battle dress. It was supposed to have been Khaki in colour. I know very little about this uniform other than it existed. Discussions on the singing of the agreement to form the EVG continued until 1954 and were then abandoned and instead NATO was formed in 1955. Pictures of the EVG uniform are shown below. They are from the book "Die Bundeswehr und ihre Uniformen - 30 Jahre Bekleidungsgeschichte" by Jorg-M. Hormann.
The most common uniform in the first year or so of the Bundeswehr was the BGS uniform. To form the Bundeswehr all of the serving members of the BGS were given the opportunity to transfer from the BGS to the Bundeswehr. Approximately 50% of the BGS opted to transfer to the Bundeswehr.

Regards,

Gordon
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Old 11-17-2009, 03:50 PM   #7
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Another view of the EVG uniform.
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Old 11-17-2009, 06:25 PM   #8
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carpu65 - Welcome to the BRD Forum. Thanks for your thoughtful and well laid out inquiry on the color of Bundeswehr dress uniforms.

Gordon - Very interesting pictures indeed of the EVG uniform. I never had an inkling that uniforms for this short-lived organization actually made it into small scale production.

All the best - TJ
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Old 11-17-2009, 10:54 PM   #9
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TJ,
I have no idea of how many uniforms were made. Possibly just a handfull for picture purposes. I am translating what Hormann says in his book and I will PM you with what I think he says when I am done.

Regards,

Gordon
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Old 11-24-2009, 03:52 PM   #10
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carpu65,

I meant to get back to this thread earlier and expand upon my comments that the choice of grey was political.
As you can see from my posts above, early choices would have been a Khaki uniform of some shade. When the Bunbeswehr uniforms were under design the Federal president made it quite clear that he did not wish any uniform design or colour to be used that would remind West Germany's new allies, who had been such a short time ago enemies, of German WWII uniforms. Therefore, any colour or design close to the Africa corps was out. Any colour or design that resembled the Wehrmacht "feldgrau" was out. So a four pocket tunic that evoked memories of the Wehrmacht that was a colour similar to the green shade of "feldgrau" used during WWII could not be used. That left black, which was a no no for obvious reasons or grey. Dark grey was worn for a while and then a lighter grey when they went back to a four pocket tunic and eventually the lighter grey that they wear today.
I believe the choice of grey was influenced by the uniforms worn by the German forces during WWI. There were several shades of grey used then, which is where the use of the term "Feldgrau" first originated. To illustrate my point of view I have posted a picture of a German 1916 Litewka below. It is a light grey and is slightly on the blue side.

Regards,

Gordon
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Old 11-24-2009, 06:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas J. Cullinane Jr. View Post
carpu65 - Welcome to the BRD Forum. Thanks for your thoughtful and well laid out inquiry on the color of Bundeswehr dress uniforms.

Gordon - Very interesting pictures indeed of the EVG uniform. I never had an inkling that uniforms for this short-lived organization actually made it into small scale production.

All the best - TJ
I understand that this is much difficult to know,but there was a "class A" tunic for officer of EVG uniform?
My two cents that if yes,had cloth belt, and bellows lower pockets.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon Craig View Post
carpu65,

I meant to get back to this thread earlier and expand upon my comments that the choice of grey was political.
As you can see from my posts above, early choices would have been a Khaki uniform of some shade. When the Bunbeswehr uniforms were under design the Federal president made it quite clear that he did not wish any uniform design or colour to be used that would remind West Germany's new allies, who had been such a short time ago enemies, of German WWII uniforms.
This is very interesting.
So the final choise about colour was from Theodor Heuss ( President of the Federal Republic of Germany 1949-1959)?
But i read in his biography on Wilkipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Heuss
"He was opposed to re-armament and the founding of the new West German Army in 1955, but had no power to stop it. His ironic speech at the swearing in of the first new soldiers, "Nun siegt mal schön!" ("Happy war-winning!"), is well remembered".
Is hard to imagine that put a veto on the colour or the shape of the uniforms.
Maybe may have been Adenauer?
In any mode the choise was courageous and original.
I also suspect that the choise of an uniform in American or British shape was not recommended for the fear that the East Germany could accuse the Bundeswehr be an "colonial Army" of USA.
I agree for the origin of colour: the Grey was influenced by the uniforms worn by the Imperial German Army.

Last edited by carpu65; 11-24-2009 at 07:10 PM.
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Old 11-24-2009, 07:22 PM   #12
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carpu65,

The only uniform conceived was the one pictured in this thread. An almost exact copy of the American WWII "Battle Dress". A committee formed of representatives of the six nations who would form part of the EVG spent a lot of time developing the proposed uniform, plus a proposed rank system, in 1953. General Heusinger represented Germany on this committee. Some uniforms were obviously produced as a result of these efforts. When France reputiated the formation of the EVG on 30.8.1954 these uniforms were not adopted. When Germany was admitted to NATO the Germans turned their efforts to designing a uniform for their own NATO contingents but with the same criteria as used in the design of the EVG. uniform.

Regards,

Gordon
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Old 11-25-2009, 05:03 PM   #13
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The reason for the two-coloured uniforms of today's Heer is very simple: As the jacket is light grey and the trousers dark grey, the dumb members of the Heer know exactly which part to wear on the upper part and which one at the lower part of the body ...

At least we say so in the Luftwaffe ...







Okay, this statement do not help the thread any further.
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Old 11-25-2009, 06:49 PM   #14
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Steve,

I appreciate the humour! We don't want to take ourselves too seriously here.

Regards,

Gordon
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Old 11-26-2009, 01:13 PM   #15
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