The German word Waffenfarbe which literally translates into 'Armed Color' is a means in which the German armed forces have used throughout it's history to distinguish between different occupational specialties in regards to the different branches in its military forces. Waffenfarbe is generally the color located on the collar patch "Kragenspiegel" and piping or colored edges around the shoulder boards or shoulder straps and in the case of the enlisted ranks; of the piping around the collar and the garrison cap known as "schiffchen". The color of the waffenfarbe has fluctuated greatly regarding to the period of history. Following the end of the Second World War when the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was established following a period of no military existence with the dissolution of the Wehrmacht; it established its armed forces the Bundeswehr "Federal Forces" in 1955 with three main branches:
- The Heer (Army) would be tasked with defense of West Germany's territorial borders and supply troops to the greater NATO effort to counter mounting Soviet aggression in the East.
- The Luftwaffe (Air Force) of which it's name would be retained following the dissolution of the Wehrmacht era variant, would be the new air arm of a federal armed forces tasked with maintaining Germany's sovereignty in the skies.
- The Bundesmarine (Navy) would be West Germany's naval arm for protecting her waterways and coastal approaches from incursion by water.
In 1949 the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was established with the backing and support of the Soviet Union and soon formed its own armed forces known as the National Volksarmee "National People's Army" (NVA) in 1956 from existing police and small militia groups. Prior to 1956, rearmament in the eastern zone was done in great secrecy by the Soviet Union. When the NVA was officially established It would be comprised of four branches:
- The Landstreitkräfte (Ground Forces) would be East Germany's army tasked with land based offensive and defensive operations.
- The Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung (Air Force/Air Defense) were modeled on existing Soviet military organization and would be the branch tasked with guarding East German's airspace with a system of airfields and anti-aircraft installations and radar systems.
- The Volksmarine (People's Navy) was the small maritime force tasked with naval operations and while it remained relatively small in comparison to the Bundesmarine it was still a lethal force.
- The Grenztruppen der DDR (Border Troops of the German Democratic Republic) were established as a military unit tasked with patrolling the East German border frontier areas and preventing unauthorized escapes from East Germany.
Each branch had its own respective color to signify troops in its ranks.
WAFFENFARBE IN THE WEST GERMAN BUNDESWEHR
In the West German Heer Waffenfarbe were as follows:
- Orange: Military Police
- Lemon Yellow: Signals
- Brown: Army Air Defense
- Gray: Army Aviation
- Purple: Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Defense
- Red: Artillery
- Golden Yellow: Armored Reconnaissance
- Green: Infantry(Light Infantry & Mechanized Infantry)
- Pink: Armored Troops
- Black: Engineers
- White: Music
- Bright Blue: Technical Troops
- Dark Blue: Medical Troops
Luftwaffe (Air Force)
The West German Luftwaffe only really signified itself with one color:
- Golden Yellow: Air Force Personnel
The West German Bundesmarine did not rely on Waffenfarbe instead using a system of various emblems above the rank stripes on the uniform sleeves.
WAFFENFARBE IN THE EAST GERMAN NATIONAL VOLKSARMEE
Landstreitkräfte (Ground Forces)
In the East German Landstreitkräfte Waffenfarbe were as follows:
- Scarlet Red: General Staff
- White: Motorized Infantry/Reconnaisance
- Dark Red: Artillery/ Rockets/ Rockets & Weapon Technical Service/ Army Air Defense/ Command & Control
- Pink: Armor
- Black: Engineers/Chemical Service/Motorized Vehicle Service/Military Transport Service
- Yellow: Signals
- Orange: Paratroopers
- Maroon: Stasi
- Dark Green: Supply/ Legal/Finance
- Olive: Construction Troops
- Light Blue: Army Flying Forces
Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung (Air Force/Air Defense)
The East German Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung differentiated itself from the West German Luftwaffe instead by wearing gray uniforms resemblant of the Ground Forces. It's Waffenfarbe were as follows:
- Light Blue: Air Force Personnel
- Gray: Air Defense Personnel
Volksmarine (People's Navy)
The Volksmarine Waffenfarbe were as follows:
- Light Blue: Navy Flying Forces
- Dark Blue: Naval Forces
Grenztruppen der DDR (Border Troops of the German Democratic Republic)
The Grenztruppen Waffenfarbe were of one distinctive color:
- Green: Border Troops