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Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-0434-05A, Günter Lütjens

German Vice Admiral Günther Lütjens during World War II


Großadmiral Karl Dönitz Official portrait

The Kriegsmarine was the navy of Nazi Germany prior to and during World War II. Kriegsmarine uniform design followed that of the preexisting Reichsmarine, itself based on that of the 1st World War Kaiserliche Marine. Kriegsmarine styles of uniform and insignia had many features in common with those of other European navies, all derived from the British Royal Navy of the 19th century, such as officers' frock coats, sleeve braid, and the "sailor suit" uniform for enlisted personnel and petty officers.

Basic structure[]

The basic structure of Kriegsmarine uniforms and insignia was divided into 5 categories of personnel:

  • Matrose (Seaman): Enlisted personnel, usually serving for a short term of enlistment
  • Maat: Technical specialist, the equivalent of a Petty Officer
  • Feldwebel: Sergeants, sometimes referred to as Matrosenfeldwebel or literally "Sailor Sergeants".
  • Marine Offizier: Naval Officers
  • Admiral: Flag Officers

Uniform design[]

The uniform for an enlisted sailor consisted of a jacket, a pair of trousers, a white and a blue shirt, matching collars edged with three stripes, a silk neckerchief, grey gloves and a cap with two ribbons. An officer wore a midnight-blue[1] double-breasted jacket with ten brass buttons and a matching peaked cap. U-boat personnel also wore jackets and overtrousers of brown or grey leather. As an unwritten rule, the captain of a U-boat wore a white peaked cap.

When U-boats were at sea, there were few dress restrictions. Full uniforms were typically worn on departure from and return to base, but due to the cramped and humid conditions, U-boat crews wore more comfortable civilian clothing on patrol. These included seaman's jumpers and sleeveless shirts. Lookouts wore oilskins and sou'westers on duty. A grey-brown denim "battle-dress" uniform was also worn on patrol, the original issue being from British uniform stocks abandoned at Dunkirk.[2]

Commissioned Officer ranks[]

Commissioned Officer Rank Structure of the Kriegsmarine (sleeves and shoulder boards)
Shoulder Boards Insignia Deutsche Marine epaulette Grossadmiral Kriegsmarine epaulette Generaladmiral Kriegsmarine epaulette Admiral Kriegsmarine epaulette Vizeadmiral Kriegsmarine epaulette Konteradmiral Kriegsmarine epaulette Kommodore Kriegsmarine epaulette Kommodore
Sleeve Insignia Nazi Kriegsmarine Grossadmiral Nazi Kriegsmarine Generaladmiral Nazi Kriegsmarine Generaladmiral Nazi Kriegsmarine Vizeadmiral Nazi Kriegsmarine Konteradmiral Nazi Kriegsmarine Kommodore Nazi Kriegsmarine Kapitan zur See
Title Großadmiral
Grand Admiral
General Admiral
Vice Admiral
Counter Admiral
Kapitän zur See
Captain at Sea
Shoulder Board Insignia Kriegsmarine epaulette Fregattenkapitän Kriegsmarine epaulette Korvettenkapitän Kriegsmarine shoulder Käpitanleutnant zur See Kriegsmarine shoulder Oberleutnant zur See Kriegsmarine shoulder Leutnant zur See Kriegsmarine shoulder Oberfähnrich zur see Kriegsmarine shoulder Fähnrich zur see
Sleeve Insignia File:Nazi Kriegsmarine Fregattenkapitan.png Nazi Kriegsmarine Korvettenkapitän Nazi Kriegsmarine Kapitaenleutnant Nazi Kriegsmarine Oberleutenant zur See Nazi Kriegsmarine Leutenant zur See Nazi Kriegsmarine Oberfahnrich zur See Nazi Kriegsmarine Oberfahnrich zur See
Title Fregattenkapitän
Frigate Captain
Corvette Captain
Captain Lieutenant
Oberleutnant zur See
Leutnant zur See
Lieutenant (junior grade)
Oberfähnrich zur See
Passed Midshipman
Fähnrich zur See

Ranks of Petty Officers and Seamen[]

Petty Officers and Seaman used a rating system similar to other European navies of the day as well as standard titles of rank. Basic sailors were known as Matrose, while technical specialists were known by the title Maat. Rating badges in the form of a small patch worn on the upper sleeve indicated the particular specialty of the sailor in question.

The enlistment system of the German Navy was designed to differentiate between those sailors wishing to make the Navy a career and those simply completing a standard tour of enlistment. Those who were drafted, or who had no aspirations to become Petty Officers, became Matrosengefreiter (litererally "Seaman Lance Corporals"). Special grades existed for six and eight years of service, denoted by sleeve chevrons.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-2105-20, Bootsmann eines Hafenschutzbootes

Steuermann (Petty Officer First Class - Quartermaster)

Bundesarchiv N 1603 Bild-036, Rumänien, Marine-Filmberichter Horst Grund

Obermaat (Petty Officer Second Class)

File:Uffz Marine Portepee.jpg

Bootsmann (Petty Officer First Class) (1) Stabsbootsmann (F) (Petty Officer First Class with 12 years time-in-service) (2) Oberbootsmann (Chief Petty Officer) (3) Stabsoberbootsmann (Chief Petty Officer with 10 years time-in-service, including 3 years time-in-grade.)(4) Fähnrich (Midshipman) (5) Oberfähnrich (Passed midshipman) (6)

Uffz Marine

Bootsmannsmaat (Petty Officer Third Class - Coxswain) (7) Oberbootsmannsmaat (Petty Officer Second Class - Coxswain) (8) Steuermannsmaat (Petty Officer Third Class - Quartermaster) (9) Obersteuermannsmaat (Petty Officer Second Class - Quartermaster) (10)

Mannschaften Marine k

Matrosengefreiter (Seaman 2nd class) (1) Matrosenobergefreiter (Seaman 1st class) (2) Matrosenhauptgefreiter (Seaman 1st class with 4 ½ years time-in-service) (3) Matrosengefreiter UA (Seaman after training as Petty Officer) (4) Matrosengefreiter UA (Seaman during training as Petty Officer) (5) Matrosenstabsgefreiter (Seaman 1st class with 6 years time-in-service)( 6) Matrosenoberstabsgefreiter (Seaman 1st class with 8 years time-in-service) (7)

Image Gallery[]

Awards and decorations[]

Members of the Kriegsmarine were eligible for all Third Reich military awards as well as certain war badges and medals specific to the Kriegsmarine. The Knights Cross of the Iron Cross was a standard award for highly successful U-boat commanders.

See also[]


  1. Kriegsmarine uniforms were discernibly very dark blue, unlike US and UK "blue" Navy uniforms which are effectively black.
  2. Mollo, A & McGregor, M (1975) p.123, Naval, Marine and Airforce Uniforms of WW2 Blandford Press, Poole, UK
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