|Billet Group "A"
Commander-in-Chief / General Officer in an "A" Group
Oberbefehlshaber / General in A-Stelle
General of the Army (Field Marshal)
|Billet Group "F"
Commanding General / General Officer in an "F" Group
Kommandierender General / General in F-Stelle
of the Cavalry
of the Infantry
of the Artillery
of the …
Lieutenant General (Medical Corps)
Lieutenant General ( … )
|Billet Group "D"
Divisional Commander / General Officer in a "D" Group
Divisionskommandeur / General in D-Stelle
Major General (Medical Corps)
Major General ( … )
|Billet Group "I"
Infantry, Artillery, or Brigade Commander / General Officer in an "I" Group
Infanterie-, Artillerie-, Brigadekommandeur / Offizier in I-Stelle
Brigadier General (Medical Corps)
Brigadier General ( … )
Brigadier General (Chaplain Corps)
|Billet Group "R"
Regimental Commander / Officer in an "R" Group
Regimentskommandeur / Offizier in R-Stelle
Colonel (Medical Corps)
Colonel ( … )
Colonel (Chapain Corps)
|Billet Group "B"
Battalion Commander / Officer in a "B" Group
Bataillons bzw. Abteilungskommandeur / Offizier in B-Stelle
Lieutenant Colonel (Medical Corps)
Lieutenant Colonel ( … )
Lieutenant Colonel (Band)
Lieutenant Colonel (Chaplain Corps)
Major (Medical Corps)
Major ( … )
Major (Chaplain Corps)
|Billet Group "K"
Battery, Squadron, or Company Commander / Officer in a "K" Group
Kompanie-, Batterie-, bzw. Schwadronführer / Offizier in K-Stelle
Captain (Cavalry Corps)
Captain (Medical Corps)
Captain (Veterinary Corps)
Captain ( … )
Captain (Chaplain Corps)
|Billet Group "Z"
Platoon Leader / Officer in a "Z" Group
Zugführer / Offizier in Z-Stelle
First Lieutenant (Medical Corps)
First Lieutenant (Band)
First Lieutenant (Paymaster Corps)
First Lieutenant ( … )
Second Lieutenant (Medical Corps)
Second Lieutenant (Band)
Second Lieutenant (Paymaster Corps)
Second Lieutenant ( … )
|Billet Group "O"
Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in an "O" Group
Oberfeldwebel (Unteroffiziere mit Portepee)
Warrant Officer First Class
Warrant Officer 1st Class of a Technical Establishment
Warrrant Officer 2nd Class
Warrant Officer 2nd Class (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
Sergeant Major (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
Sergeant Major (Band)
First Sergeant (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
Farrier First Sergeant
Ordnance First Sergeant
|Billet Group "G"
Non-Commissioned Officer in a "G" Group
Gruppenführer (Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee)
Staff Sergeant (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
Sergeant (Medical Corps)
Corporal (Medical Corps
|Billet Group "M"
Other Rank in an "M" Group
Private First Class
Trooper First Class
Private 1 (infantryman)
Private (alternate designation for infantryman)
Private (Mountain or Light Infantry)
Engineer / Pioneer (Engineers)
Driver (usually of a horse-drawn vehicle)
Driver (motor vehicle)
Farrier (horse smith)
Bandsman / Bugler
This is only a simplified account of the German military personnel structure and hierarchy.
Readers are warned that, as in all armies, they were in actual fact more complicated,
with important differentiations being made between designations of rank, billet, function, and skill..
‘Billet’ indicates an appointment to (staffing of) a position — also called a 'slot' —
like Squad Leader, Platoon Commander, Divisional Commander, Executive Officer, Supply Sergeant, etc.
Confusingly, in some cases, the billet has the same designation as a rank, such as Hauptfeldwebel.
The equivalent Ranks given in English are neither completely World War II British nor American, and is not going
to satisfy any specialist.
(However a specialist would probably not be reading this anyway). Nearly all German officer ranks correspond to
US Army ranks,
although their terminology differs, a Generalmajor being the equivalent of a brigadier general.
Modern US Army rank equivalents have some differences. There is one more enlisted rank (Command Sergeant Major),
and three more Warrant Officer ranks (Warrant Officers W3–W5). US Army Warrant Officers are counted as
officers, not enlisted men. In the German WWII Army, all ranks below 2nd Lieutenant were enlisted men.
The German Army divided officers billets into eight groups, depending on the function to be carried out.
German wartime officer ranks were permanent, which often made it impossible for German officers to be
promoted to the higher rank which their wartime billet would actually have warranted. For example,
although a Captain normally staffed the billet of Company Commander, this was not always a rule.
If there were not enough Captains then a senior member of a lower rank was assigned to that billet.
Conversely, if there were too many of a higher rank than one or more might be assigned a lower ranking
billet. Many Divisions were commanded by a Brigadier General — and even an occasional
Colonel — instead of a Major General. Conversely, if a billet was particularly critical,
a higher-ranking person might be assigned to that billet than would normally be the case.
Skill was preferred to rank. Promotion was achieved by serving time. The function or billet
filled as such was not a ground for promotion.
The enlisted men were divided into three billet groups: Senior Sergeants (Unteroffiziere mit Portepee)
("O" Group), Junior Sergeants (Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee) ("G" Group),
and Other Ranks (Mannschaften) ("M" Group).
Enlisted members of the German Army had an ‘Occupation’ (Laufbahn), i.e. a career or field of
specialty, like Infantry, Supply, Finance, and so on. The occupation might be incorporated into
the rank designation, such as Beschlagschmied-obergefreiter, a farrier (horseshoe smith)
corporal; or even be used instead of the rank designations, such as Beschlagmeister,
(‘Farrier Master’), who was an expert farrier sergeant.
The highest combat leader position held by an enlisted man was that of platoon leader.
However, this usually applied only to the third and fourth platoons. All other combat
command positions were held by officers. Sergeants and Warrant Officers were in charge
of logistics and administration, freeing the officers for their primary function of leading
men into combat. It was not unusual for senior enlisted men to become involved in combat
when the need arose, although the German Army considered it a waste of skilled manpower to use
these highly trained and experienced men for this purpose.
German Tables of Organization (KStN – Kriegsstärkenachweisungen) had many notes
indicating which billets and specialist slots were to be filled with what ranks and specialists,
listing which billets had priority over others, which could alternatively be filled by a person
with specialized knowledge or skill, and which billets should by preference be filled with regular army personnel.
Although it was expected to have rank and billet corresponding to each other, this was
far from the case. Specialist personnel was rare and many units were raised in a hurry, not having
enough time to acquire all its correct personnel. And once a units entered combat, the chances of
acquiring the exact, highly-skilled soldier for the correct position often became merely a matter of luck.
Band Officers in the German Army ranked between NCOs and Officers, and formed a seperate rank class.
They did not have powers of command, though they were entitled to wear officers' uniforms and did
hold officer-equivalent rank.
Musikinspizienten (Music Directors) were considered staff officers.
The German Wehrmacht also had a unique category of personnel within its ranks, namely
the Wehrmachtbeamten, which can be loosely translated as Armed Forces Civil Servants or
as Government Service Officials. They were found in administrative, legal, and technical
service positions. They were civilians performing functions within the Armed Forces.
They were members of the Armed Forces according to the Law of Land Warfare, but were
not “soldiers” by the German definition. They wore uniforms identical with those of the
Service branch they were serving with, albeit with different insignia. As officials, their
authority extended only to their specialty field — unlike soldiers, whose authority extends
to anyone whom the individual outranks. Beamten could not hold command. They were entitled
to all the customs and courtesies associated with their rank/status, however. Their duties,
at least at field and company level, could lead to armed encounters with enemy forces, and
they were all armed with pistols.
Owing to the enormous casualties they suffered, the Germans incorporated a vast
amount of prisoners-of-war and civilians into their units, these being designated as Hilfwilligen
('Hiwi'). These more or less volunteers were not supposed to be armed, and were to carry
out the non-combat functions with the units, such as drivers, vehicle escorts, trailers, cobblers,
horse holders, grooms, etc,
Military Personnal Job Descriptions
Military Individual Figure Symbols
Military Personnel Promotions Discussed