Wrap it up

This Obergefreiter is probably a member of a Panzerhaubitze (self-propelled howitzer) crew, identifiable by his field-grey “panzer wrap” jacket, the General Assault Badge in silver, the Litzen collar tabs edged with “Russia braid”, the Waffenfarbe piping (most likely the red of artillery units) on the shoulder straps, and the War Merit Cross (Kriegsverdienstkreuz, KVK) ribbon. The black uniform worn by armored vehicle crews was poor camouflage when out in the open. As the self-propelled gun crews were more exposed, a field-grey version of the uniform was introduced in 1940.

The reason I think this guy is an artilleryman and not an assault gunner is the KVK ribbon. If he had been an assault gun crewman, it would’ve been more likely that he had been awarded an Iron Cross, 2nd class. Not all self-propelled howitzer crewmembers wore “panzer wraps”; the regular tunic was worn, too. Of interest is that the man in the photo wears what appears to be a zippered shirt, which might be a private purchase. Anyone thinking that “military uniform” means identical clothing adhering to regulations once the soldiers have been in the field for a while is gravely mistaken…

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