Grossdeutschland Vehicle Markings

In September 1939, not long after the formation of Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland, it was decided that Regimental staff vehicles would be marked with the white steel helmet symbol as a means of unit identification.  The symbol was quickly adopted by the entire regiment, and was firmly established as the unit markings when expansion to Division status came in 1942.  

Divisional HQ company vehicles were further designated by the addition of a black line over the top of the helmet, or alternately, a black border to the entire symbol.

For the battle of Kursk, German units changed their divisional markings temporarily; some (replacement) GD units used the geometric symbols shown below right during the summer of 1943, whilte the white helmet was retained by other units.

It appears that GD's Tigers did not use the white helmet device.

stahl.gif (949 bytes)

stahlhq.gif (1005 bytes)

kursk.gif (1751 bytes)

Regimental Markings

During the French Campaign, GD used the standard tactical markings that had been in existence since about 1935.  Subunits in the Regiment were also designated by geometric shapes around the white helmet.  The First Battalion used a square, the Second Battalion a circle, the Third Battalion a triangle and the Fourth Battalion a diamond.  Different colours were also used to differentiate companies within each battalion.

Battalion Sign Company Colour

gd1.gif (1727 bytes)

Headquarters Dark Green gdsh.gif (924 bytes)
Heavy Green/White gdss.gif (945 bytes)
1 White gds1.gif (934 bytes)
2 Red gds2.gif (924 bytes)
3 Yellow gds3.gif (952 bytes)
4 Blue gds4.gif (924 bytes)

gd2.gif (1727 bytes)

Headquarters Dark Green gdch.gif (944 bytes)
Heavy Green/White gdcs.gif (954 bytes)
5 White gdchh.gif (944 bytes)
6 Red gdc2.gif (941 bytes)
7 Yellow gdc3.gif (971 bytes)
8 Blue gdc4.gif (941 bytes)
Battalion Sign Company Colour

gd3.gif (1727 bytes)

Headquarters Dark Green gdth.gif (963 bytes)
Heavy Green/White gdts.gif (989 bytes)
9 White gdt1.gif (973 bytes)
10 Red gdt2.gif (963 bytes)
11 Yellow gdt3.gif (999 bytes)
12 Blue gdt4.gif (963 bytes)

gd4.gif (1727 bytes)

Headquarters Dark Green gddh.gif (987 bytes)
13 (Infantry Gun) White gdd2.gif (988 bytes)
14 (Anti Tank) Red gdd1.gif (987 bytes)
15 (Heavy Infantry Gun) Yellow gddy.gif (1003 bytes)

Tactical Markings

The official system of tactical signs described on the main vehicle markings page was also adopted by Grossdeutschland vehicles.

org.gif (3560 bytes)

Some specific examples follow; all are taken from actual photos of GD vehicles:
rec.gif (1046 bytes) Motorcycle and reconnaissance units used this symbol; photos of GD units show this symbol in use on Kübelwagens and 8 wheeled armoured cars in addition to motorcycles.
gdtran.gif (1040 bytes) An example of the tactical sign for a motorized transport company, seen on a GD vehicle in Russia.  The thickened border indicates a company sized unit.
gd88.gif (1184 bytes) Seen on a GD prime mover.  The 2 designates the second battery while the symbol designates towed artillery battalion.
gdarty.gif (1015 bytes) This symbol was carried by a vehicle belonging to the HQ of the motorized artillery regiment.

Upon changing to divisional status in 1942, the GD Divisional pennant  was as for a standard division, with the GD monogram added to the white centre. 

Other GD specific pennants included the 1a pennant (1a was a designation for a divisional staff officer) and the division commander's pennant shown below.

divpen.gif (1862 bytes)
gdpenns.gif (1936 bytes) gdpenns2.gif (1956 bytes)
Battalion Pennants were triangular, with waffenfarbe (branch of service colour - see chart below) used to designate the type of unit.

motor.gif (1865 bytes)
One history shows a wartime sketch of this pennant for the Motorcycle Battalion of GD circa 1942  Von Usedom was the name of the commanding officer.

gdartyflag.gif (1236 bytes)

Another history shows this non-regulation pennant used on a command car belonging to 1 Battery, Artillery Regiment GD

Units of battalion, regiment or brigade size were designated by a flag bearing the Waffenfarbe, or arm of service colour, associated with that unit.  Grossdeutschland's command vehicles would thus have been marked by a unit pennant in white.  Upon expansion to divisional status, GD panzer battalions would have used rosa (pink), artillery red, signals lemon yellow, pioneers black, reconnaissance golden yellow, and the infantry (later panzergrenadier and panzerfüsilier) regiments retained white.

Panzer Groups

During the invasion of France, two formations named for their commanders, Panzer Group von Kleist and Panzer Group Guderian, wore capital letters denoting these designations on their vehicles as an additional form of identification.  After the invasion of Russia, other formations sometimes wore similar unofficial markings- GD wore the "G" on their vehicles during the early phases of the invasion of Russia, while attached to Panzergruppe 2.


Vehicle Numbers

The early Panzertruppe GD (also known as Panzer Abteilung GD) consisted of a battalion-sized group of armour with 3 companies.  The 1st company, equipped with PzKpfw IVs, used their own system of markings for at least a short time. tanksys.gif (1856 bytes)

In general, however, the system involved use of 3 digits numbers; the first digit indicating the Company the tank belonged to, the second the Platoon, and the third the vehicle's position within the platoon.

The 13th company of Panzertruppe GD (and from the summer of 1943 on, the entire III Battalion of the Panzer Regiment) was equipped with Tiger tanks, and they numbered their vehicles with the letter S (presumably for "schwere", or heavy) followed by a two digit sequence representing the platoon and vehicle.  After the Panzer Abteilung expanded to a full regiment, and an entire battalion of Tigers was created, the unit used the letters A, B and C to indicate the 9th, 10th and 11th companies of the Panzer Regiment GD, again followed by a two digit sequence representing platoon and vehicle.

An interesting variation confirmed by photographic evidence was the use of the GD steel helmet replacing the R on the command tank of the commander of Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland.  The helmet was very small so as not to be obtrusive, and used in conjunction with the numerals 01. 01.gif (1200 bytes)

Unofficial Unit Markings

Some GD vehicles are seen with a windmill device painted on the side, a reference to a familiar landmark near Stonne in France where GD fought its first large scale battle in 1940.   According to one source these windmill emblems appeared only on motorcycles, Sd Kfz 250 halftracks and troop carrying vehicles - and apparently only during maneuvers in early 1942.

This marking also reappears in 1944, known as the "uhu" or owl marking, and is believed to have been used only by the reconaissance battalion. 

uhu.jpg (229918 bytes) uhu2.jpg (201205 bytes)
One reference (an article by a Mr. Kitamura's in Panzerblatt #6 (Armour Modelling magazine, issue 6) says that the reconnaissance battalion had their armoured cars carry this marking because of the commander's name (Usedom) and Hussar tradition (Usedom Husaren).  The first letters of Usedom and Husaren are, of course "Uhu", which in German means "owl" - a creature associated with wisdom or intelligence.

The First (armoured) Battalion of the Panzerfüsilier Regiment was nicknamed the "Lion Battalion", after their commanding officer Horst Niemack continuously referred to them as "killer lions" in action.   On 20 August 1944, he promulgated the following order:

I Battalion has fought extremely well in the battles of the past few days.
In recognition of its proud success, with the authorization of the division commander I decree that the battalion may apply the lion to its APCs as a special recognition marking.  Niemack.

Unknown Markings

And finally, some markings for which photographic evidence is in existence may never be fully understood.  The following photo shows Maultier halftracks of a GD supply column, taken in 1943.  Two digit numbers are worn on the doors of the vehicles, with the GD steel helmet and tac signs on the fenders.  The arrow symbol on the bonnet of the truck is a mystery.

truckb.gif (1869 bytes) The tactical sign is the 1943 version of the "truck column" sign.  The M may stand for "mittlerer" for medium, or perhaps "Maultier", the type of truck.  The thick bar on the left indicated a company sized unit.
trucka.gif (1050 bytes) The bottom part of the tactical sign - indicating the method of transport - is obscured in this photo, but would indicate either a motorized unit (above left) or half-tracked (left).

maul.jpg (31650 bytes)
Photo courtesy Collection Akira Tamaguchi