In 1929 the
Geneva Convention was
signed by 47 governments which included Germany. The new agreement
included provisions for the treatment of prisoners as well as the
introduction of a common insignia to identify those involved in
providing humanitarian care for the sick, wounded, and incapacitated,
The agreement included specific regulations regarding the use of the
Red Cross brassard for military and medical personnel
involved in the care of wounded both armed and civilian. German
Army (Heer) Medical Attendants (Sanitšter) were authorized to wear the
red and white insignia of the Red Cross on uniforms to include combat
helmets. Insignia of this type had also been used on helmets
worn during World War I. Among the nations that did not adhere
to the Geneva Convention of 1929 were Japan and the USSR. In
1942 Japan gave a qualified promise to abide by the Geneva rules.
In 1941 the USSR announced that it would observe the terms of the
Hague Convention of 1907, which did not provide (as does the Geneva
Convention) for neutral inspection of prison camps, for the exchange
of prisoners' names, and for correspondence with prisoners.
According to the Geneva Convention
of 1929 ( Article 21, International Red
Cross Convention, Geneva), the Red Cross emblem was to be worn
in a fashion so that it was clearly identifiable to enemy troops.
It was the convention's intention that the Red Cross brassard was to
help prevent the enemy from
attacking or harming anyone (to include military personnel) involved
in providing care for the sick and wounded. In most cases, this
was accomplished through the wearing of an armband bearing the Red Cross brassard.
steel helmets (for combatants) also bore the insignia.
During World War II, the German Army fielded more medical personnel
than any of the other branches of the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht).
As such, the Army authorized medical personnel serving in combat
situations to paint their helmets white and to include the use of the
Red Cross brassard. No specific configuration was authorized by
regulation, and as a result a variety of styles evolved for those men
who cared to paint their helmets. Medical personnel serving with
the German Army were issued the standard combat helmet in the M1935,
M1940, and M1942 models. Lightweight civilian helmets, like
those used by the civilian Red Cross, were also used but only in rear
areas well behind the front lines.
When combat helmets were painted, they
were generally sprayed or hand brushed in white paint. This was
done directly over the standard combat finish of the helmet. In
some cases the paint was ivory or tan colored based on what was
available. The Red Cross brassard was generally hand painted
(sometimes spray painted although infrequent) in several positions on
the steel helmet. Few original examples exist with decal
insignia in the branch service of wearer,
although it is possible that
some were worn. In almost all cases, helmets configured in this
manner were M1940 and M1942 models bearing no decal insignia.
Examples worn by the Armed-SS (Waffen-SS) are few in number and most
are in fact elaborate reproductions.
The potential for all combat helmets used
by Army Medical Attendants to be configured in this fashion was possible, although it appears from period photographs (as well as
surviving examples of original helmets) that this was rarely done.
In many cases, medical personnel simply wore standard combat helmets
in order to better blend with their fighting comrades. This was
due, in part, to the fact that many Medical Attendants became the
victims of enemy gunfire despite the Geneva Conventions.
The white and red configured helmet became an easy target to snipers
as well as infantry who cared little for the suffering of their enemy.
The diagrams at right depict the most
as seen in wartime photographs as well as from the inspection of
original helmet examples. Most original photographs showing men
wearing these helmets are from the 1944-45 time period following the
Allied invasion of Normandy. In addition, some photographs have
also been observed depicting helmets of this type worn in the Italian
Theater of Combat in 1943-44. Suffice to say, that reproductions
of these helmets abound. In fact, so many counterfeits exist
that most encountered are in fact postwar modified original combat
helmets made to look as those worn by Sanitšter.
See a Photo of an Original
Medical Combat Helmet
The vast majority of
helmets configured in this manner are in fact well crafted counterfeits
both new and old. Being relatively scarce overall, those helmets
configured with the Red Cross emblem should be thoroughly examined to
determine if they are original.