Rank Equivalents

General WWII era German military discussion that doesn't fit someplace more specific.
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Wolfkin
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Rank Equivalents

Post by Wolfkin » Sun Mar 16, 2003 1:53 pm

Hey guys!

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.

Mannschaften:

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!!!

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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duncan
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Post by duncan » Sun Mar 16, 2003 2:49 pm

The War Department Technical Manual (TM 30-506 German Military Dictionary, 1944), published by the US War Department supports some of what you write, although not in such detail.

Couple of small contributions for readers with less experience and less knowledge of the German Language:

It describes:
Mannschaften - enlisted men.
Schutze - Private (inf), rifleman, machine gunner, marksmen.
Portepee - Swordknot

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Wolfkin
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Post by Wolfkin » Mon Mar 17, 2003 5:57 pm

Thank you, Duncan, for adding those notes!

I forgot that maybe some readers would not know some of these terms. I take for granted that everyone would know these, I guess I forget that when I first started researching, I did not know too much, and others may not as well.

I am just glad to share some info. Too often I have seen Gefreiter and Obergefreiter described as Corporal. This is incorrect and I believe could give people the wrong information and understanding. These two ranks are enlisted men and the NCO ranks do not start until Unteroffizier.

Thanks again and Cheers!

Wolfkin
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duncan
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Post by duncan » Tue Mar 18, 2003 11:32 am

Happy to help!!

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Sam H.
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Post by Sam H. » Tue Mar 18, 2003 2:25 pm

Thanks for sharing this info, it helps for those of us not competent in German.

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Post by Baltasar » Wed Mar 19, 2003 11:00 am

If anyone is interested in the current Bundeswehr ranking system:

Mannschaften:
Schütze/Flieger/Grenadier/... describes the lowest rank in the unit depending on its role (Support, Infantry, Air Force)
Gefreiter
Obergefreiter
Hauptgefreiter
Stabsgefreiter
Oberstabsgefreiter

Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee:
Unteroffizier/Fahnenjunker (<- will become Officer)
Stabsunteroffizier

Unteroffiziere mit Portepee:
Feldwebel/Fähnrich (<- will become Officer)
Oberfeldwebel
Hauptfeldwebel/Oberfähnrich (<- will become Officer)
Stabsfeldwebel
Oberstabsfeldwebel

Offiziere:
Leutnant
Oberleutnant
Hauptmann
Stabshauptmann
Major
Oberstleutnant
Oberst
Brigadegeneral
Generalmajor
Generalleutnant
General

The Marine (Navy) uses other names and symbols when it comes to NCOs
Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee:
Maat/Seekadet (<- will become Officer)
Obermaat

Unteroffiziere mit Portepee:
Bootsmann/Fähnrich zur See (<- will become Officer)
Oberbootsmann
Hauptbootsmann
Oberfähnrich zur See (<- will become Officer)
Stabsbootsmann
Oberstabsbootsmann

Offiziere
Leutnant zur See
Oberleutnant zur See
Kapitänleutnant zur See (called Kaleu)
Stabskapitänleutnant
Korvettenkapitän
Fregattenkapitän
Kapitän zur See
Flotillenadmiral
Konteradmiral
Vizeadmiral
Admiral

/edit: Here's my source.

ISBN 3-8132-0671-8 "Reibert - Das Handbuch für den deutschen Soldaten"

The cover says that this book was also available during WW II. I think it would be interesting to have a look at one of the WW II versions.
Last edited by Baltasar on Sun Mar 30, 2003 6:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
Wenn man nichts zu sagen hat, einfach mal die Fresse halten.

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Wolfkin
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Post by Wolfkin » Sun Mar 23, 2003 12:26 pm

Thank you Baltasar!

Hey, it looks like the rank system has not changed too much. Except they added some of those "Oberstab..." ranks. Interesting! Thanks again, Baltasar!

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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Baltasar
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Post by Baltasar » Mon Mar 24, 2003 5:46 am

You're welcome Wolfkin.

When I did military service, the Mannschaften were still inofficialy called "Landser". I have to add that it's forbidden to do so, but it's still common in the Bundeswehr.
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Post by jo » Fri Mar 28, 2003 3:16 pm

Hi Baltasar

do not forget the "Oberfähnrich" as an Unteroffizier mit Portepee

servus

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Post by Baltasar » Sun Mar 30, 2003 6:17 am

jo wrote:Hi Baltasar

do not forget the "Oberfähnrich" as an Unteroffizier mit Portepee

servus
Thanks jo,just forgot him. Don't think he was mentioned in the book also.
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Enrico Mölders
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Post by Enrico Mölders » Wed Apr 09, 2003 5:26 am

Hi Wolfkin,

realy a great job you and the others made.
Thanks alot, it's realy very helpful for all of those of us which are not that familar with the German ranking system.

Wünsche noch einen schönen Tag
Enrico
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Wolfkin
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Post by Wolfkin » Thu Apr 10, 2003 12:57 am

Hey, no problem!

You are very welcome, I just remember all the confusion I had when I first tried to understand all the different systems! Anything I can do to help someone else avoid this confusion is good.

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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sflynn
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Post by sflynn » Tue Apr 29, 2003 7:57 pm

Thanks for clarification especially since so many printed sources are incorrect and contradict themselves on this issue. Is it safe to assume then, that Waffen-SS ranks were relatively equivalent in this sense?

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Post by Wolfkin » Tue Apr 29, 2003 11:16 pm

Thank you sflynn!

Yes, the Waffen SS ranks seemed to have followed the same system, with only a few differences. Here are the equivalents:

Mannschaften

Schutze = SS Schutze
Oberschutze = SS Oberschutze
Gefreiter = SS Sturmmann

Obergefreiter = SS Rottenfuhrer
Stabsgefreiter = No equivalent

Unteroffizier ohne Portpee

Unteroffizier = SS Unterscharfuhrer
Unterfeldwebel = SS Scharfuhrer

Unteroffizier mit Portpee

Feldwebel = SS Oberscharfuhrer
Oberfeldwebel = SS Hauptscharfuhrer
Stabsfeldwebel = SS Sturmscharfuhrer

Hauptfeldwebel = SS Stabsscharfuhrer

I hope this helps!

Cheers,

Wolfkin
Amateurs limit their study to either Tactics, Strategy or Logistics. Professionals study ALL THREE of these!!!

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Post by sflynn » Wed Apr 30, 2003 8:41 am

Thanks again Wolfkin!

I was wondering what you or anyone else has heard of this: in the U.S. War Department's Handbook on German Military Forces talks about unteroffiziers usually being promoted to feldwebel as opposed to unterfeldwebel.

In Franz Kurowski's Infantry Aces several of the featured personalities go from unteroffizier/ss-unterscharfuhrer to feldwebel/ss-oberscharfuhrer as well.

Does anyone know if this was common practice? Is unterfeldwebel/ss-scharfuhrer sort of a dead-end rank like stabsgefreiter? Or does it indicate someone is the senior section leader in his platoon?

Thanks in advance for any insights.

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