Helmet decals printed "face down" were applied
using lacquer as the transfer medium. A thin coat of lacquer was applied
on the backside of a decal and it was then pressed against the side of the
helmet so that it would bond with the paint surface. Decals were allowed
to dry for about one hour after which the protective transfer paper was removed.
The decal was then typically coated with another layer of lacquer that was
either hand brushed or spray painted over the surface. This protective
layer of lacquer was not always applied.
Many surviving examples show that even without
the additional protective coating these decals were very durable and resistant
to wear. Unlike original decals, modern reproductions are applied using
techniques which do not replicate the original application procedure. As a
result, most reproduction decals scrape off the surface of a helmet quite easily
even if coated with a protective layer of lacquer. Some collectors submit
observations that indicate some decals were applied using a "brownish glue" for
adhesion to the helmet surface. However this application technique was not
readily utilized for durability reasons. It is likely that the "brownish
glue" that is being seen along the edges of the decal is actually the transfer
medium used on the backside of the wartime manufactured water-transfer decals.
A wide variety of decal designs can be found on World
War II German helmets. This
includes not only combat helmets, but also political and civil organizations as
well. The Germany Military utilized several different helmet decals to distinguish
branch of service. The German Army (Heer), Navy (Kriegsmarine), Air Force
(Luftwaffe), and Armed-SS (Waffen-SS) all utilized
helmet decals to distinguish the men of their organizations. Police units,
both civilian and military also used decals as did those who served with fire
fighting (Feuerwehr) brigades.
However, as the war
progressed factory application of helmet decals was eventually eliminated. By the later years
of the war few combat helmets had decals applied. The only military
formations that continued to use double decal helmets were combat police
units and men associated with the very small number of foreign volunteer (Freiwillige) units
serving with the Army, Luftwaffe, and Waffen-SS. This accounts for the many reasons
why period photos show troops with a variety of helmets with some having decals and others
Shields on Transfer Paper.