Tactical symbols are used to easily identify the type and function of units and weapons. The tactical symbols used by the German Army during the Second World War were used for three main purposes:

  • Identify units on maps.
  • Stencils on vehicles.
  • Graphic representations of units, which made it possible to quickly determine the major components and weapons used without reading the table of organization and equipment.

Like the current NATO tactical symbols the German symbols were modular, in that several symbols could be combined to create more complex meanings.

The German system was less standardized than the NATO one. Symbols were developed and changed during the war without being backwards compatible. Furthermore, the symbols were much more elaborate, mainly because they were much less abstract. While this makes them artistically appealing, hand-drawing them would have been much more time-consuming, and identifying them would have taken longer.

Because the number of potential combinations is immense, it is not realistic to create a complete list of symbols. Being hand-drawn, there were also many variations of the same symbol. This article will therefore first cover the individual, generic component symbols, and then present examples of how these components could be combined.

Generic Symbols


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