By the summer of 1944, the ordinary ‘Landser’ (equivalent to the British Tommy or American GI) presented a far more drab appearance than the superbly tailored soldiers of the 1939-40 Blitzkrieg era. Mostly long gone were the dark green collars and shoulder boards, glitzy insignia, glossy double decaled steel helmets and the expensive high marching boots. Now the average foot soldier wore a matt grey or some- times hand painted camouflaged steel helmet devoid of insignia, a simplified tunic with plain collar and dull grey insignia, and British-style short ankle boots worn with canvas gaiters.
One major improvement in 1944 was the range of small arms available to the infantryman; the Mauser K98 bolt-action rifle was still the standard issue weapon however each Gruppe (Squad) carried an MG42 machine gun with the fearsome rate of fire of 1,200 rounds per minute – over double that of the British and American machine guns. Semi-automatic rifles such as the G43 started to appear on the Western Front too (they had been tested on the Eastern Front) and later the revolutionary MP44 Sturmgewehr – the world’s first true assault rifle. The individual German infantry soldier was now also able to take on Allied armour by use of the Panzerfaust single-shot anti- tank rocket projector which could easily knock out a Sherman or Churchill tank at close range.
Words by: Tony Dudman Photo by: John Smith :: First Published in Skirmish Magazine Issue 70 June 2009