I have, too often, seen things like Gefreiter being tranlated as Corporal and such. I would just like to correct people because like it says on the Feldgrau Home Page..."Information not shared is lost".
I have researched for a very long time and have been able to paint a balanced picture on what the closest equivalents would be. Thanks go to some guys who have helped me out over the years. Michael Dorosh and Stefan. These two have posted valuable information to me in reply to questions that I have made. Not too sure which Stefan this is, as there are a couple around here.
Anyways, this is a "Copy and Paste" job of a post I made in reply to another thread and I just thought that I would share it.
Here it is:
No, a Gefreiter is not a Corporal. Much confusion abounds because of the different systems used by the combatant nations of WWII. Much incorrect information is found in many books and many websites.
During WWII, in the German Army, an Unteroffizier was a section/squad leader. In the British/Canadian Army a Corporal was a section/squad leader. In the U.S. Army a Sergeant was a section/squad leader.
In the British/Canadian Army a Lance-Corporal was the 2 i/c of the section/squad. In the U.S. Army a Corporal would act as 2 i/c. The German Army did not really have a 2 i/c but the most senior Mannschaften would usually be picked, usually an Obergefreiter.
These 2 i/c positions are all unofficial and only the British/Canadian Army has an official position for this.
The confusion comes from the different systems. The German Army divides all the ranks into categories. There is much more emphasis placed on the Enlisted Ranks than in most armies.
Schutze= ordinary soldier, recruit
Oberschutze= ordinary soldier after 6 months
Gefreiter= ordinary soldier after 6 months
NOTE= after 6 months, a recruit can be promoted to either Oberschutze or Gefreiter. Gefreiter if he showed prowess, Oberschutze if he needed some more work. This is sort of like your "3 month evaluation" at a new job.
Obergefreiter= veteran ordinary soldier, after 2 years
Stabsgefreiter= veteran ordinary soldier, after 5 years
NOTE= Gefreiter, Obergefreiter and Stabsgefreiter are Mannschaften and not NCO's. The NCO's are the Unteroffiziere.
Unteroffizier ohne Portpee
Unteroffizier= section/squad leader
Unterfeldwbel= section/squad leader, 4 years as an Unteroffizier
Unteroffizier mit Portpee
Feldwebel= Platoon leader, 1 year as Unteroffizier
Oberfeldwebel= Platoon leader, 3 months as Feldwebel
Stabsfeldwebel= Senior NCO with 12 years service
NOTE= The times for all of the above are the minimum required times and a soldier may be promoted after the minimum time.
NOTE= The curious ranks are Oberschutze, Stabsgefreiter, Unterfeldwebel and Stabsfeldwebel. These ranks seem to be reserved for those soldiers in these positions that are not being promoted for one reason or another. The usual way of promotion would be, Schutze, Gefreiter, Obergefreiter, Unteroffizier, Feldwebel, Oberfeldwebel then possibly Leutnant.
A Hauptfeldwebel acted as the Company Sergeant/CSM and could be a Feldwebel, Oberfeldwebel or Stabsfeldwebel. The German Army had NCO Platoon leaders, the British/Canadian and U.S. Armies did not.
So, to do the closest equivalent, an Unteroffizier would be equivalent to a Corporal in the British/Canadian Army and a Sergeant in the U.S. Army.
A Gefreiter is not a Corporal and to do the closest equivalent he would be a Private First Class in the U.S. Army or a fully-trained Private in the British/Canadian Army.
My guess is that the German Army had all these Mannschaften ranks to distinguish between the trained or experienced soldiers from the raw recruits. For example, you would know that Gefreiter A is more capable than Schutze B. Yet, Oberschutze C might be almost as capable as Gefreiter A. But, Obergefreiter D is much more capable than all of these men in this section. This goes with the high emphasis that the German Army placed on the small units.
I hope this helps!!!
Amateurs limit their study to either Tactics, Strategy or Logistics. Professionals study ALL THREE of these!!!