Kurtz und Lang

I have a few photos in my collection which have the same theme: the tallest and the shortest guys in the company standing next to each other. This photo show two buddies, probably around 1939, posing for comedic effect.

To calculate their height, I measured the ammunition pouches. In real life, they are 10 centimeters high, which gave me something to base my calculations on. Give or take a couple centimeters, “Kurtz” is 160 cm’s (5′ 3″), while his buddy “Lang” is 197 cm’s (6′ 6″). It does the German uniform supply system credit that they were both able to get uniforms that fitted, even if “Lang” wears the older three-buckle laced boots, presumably because his size was hard to find.

Short soldiers were ideal as tank crews because of the cramped confines of the vehicles; the third highest-scoring tank ace of all time, Otto Carius, was about 160 cm’s tall. Another Otto was Otto Skorzeny, who at 192 cm’s towered over even other members of the Waffen-SS, in which he was an officer and known as a fearless commando.

The average male was shorter in the 1940’s, in some cases a result of malnutrition after WW1 and during the financial crisis in the 1920’s. On the other hand, people were more slim due to exercise and healthier diets.

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