The wearing of Field Caps ("Crushers")
by Waffen-SS or Army NCOs.
by Ed Walton
Here's a bit of a clarification on the use of "crushers" by noncoms in the Heer and SS:
Actually, in the Heer, only commissioned officers and officer candidates were allowed to wear the M34 officer's field cap with the dark green band.
The early Reichsheer cap with the wool covered leather visor was indeed for all enlisted ranks, but it's use was exclusively limited to Ersatz units and Lehr units, according to Schlicht/Angola, and then it completely vanished in 1936. It's easily identified in photos by the medium gray badge cloth band that matches the gray badge cloth collars on the pre-1935 uniforms. That cap doesn't show up in wartime photos. Usually, write ups on this cap, Schlicht for one, claim it's not stiffened at all, but it does have the front stiffener like in an M43 cap or a Bergmütze, just no spring in the crown.
The M34 field cap with the leather visor, was strictly for commissioned officers and began to be called "Old Style Officer's" (alter art) after the introduction of the "New Style Officer's" (neuer art) field cap in 1938. This New Style M38 cap was essentially the same as the M34 enlisted cap (overseas type; "Schiffchen") but with officer trim. Old style caps continued to be acquired over the course of the war, they did not cease production in 1938. Somewhere out there is probably a photo of a wartime Heer noncom who's not an officer candidate wearing one of these or the prewar crushers, but I've never seen it.
The confusion about Heer noncoms wearing a "crusher" comes about because of the Reichsheer era Ersatz/Lehr crusher and the differing practices of headgear, both authorized and unauthorized, in the SS and the Heer. Heer noncoms were allowed to wear the Schirmmütze when the rest of the men were wearing field caps as the uniform of the day. In the fashion of the day, the spring was almost universally removed and the crown was worked into the shape of the old Reichsheer crushers. So while the Heer noncoms were looking dashing and noncommish in their Schirms, SS noncoms had to wear the cap that was the uniform of the day for the troops, meaning usually the Schiffchen. The SS-VT adopted field-gray as the color of their field uniform in 1936, replacing the old and short-lived earth-gray color. At the same time, they adopted a version of the Heer M34 officer field cap for noncoms, and only noncoms, to wear in the field, and only in the field. This cap differed from the Army "old style officer's" cap in that it had a wool covered visor and not the leather visor of the Army officer's cap. Photos show this cap in wide use during 1936, but collectors have been calling it the "M37" for eons. Same for the M37 SS field blouse, but I digress.
Anyway, as soon as the "M37" field cap came out in 1936, SS noncoms were putting leather Schirmmütze chin straps on their field caps and wearing them around the Kaserne and around town as if they were Heer sergeants exercising their prerogative to wear the Schirmmütze. Reichsheinie considered this to be a reactionary army-style division between the noncoms and the men and issued an order, which later had to be repeated, instructing the removal of the chin straps from the field caps and reiterating that these caps were only for field wear and not to be worn away from the field. These repeated directives were ignored. Not only that, but SS noncoms who were promoted to commissioned officer rank continued to wear their noncom field caps. And to top it off, SS officers started wearing leather visored Heer "Old Style Officer's" caps with the Totenkopf insignia replacing the cockade on the green band, but with the Army eagle often retained. With all that said, SS officers soon were having SS versions of the Heer "Old Style" cap made up with black bands and SS Schirmmütze skulls and birds applied. But soon SS noncoms were wearing this officially unauthorized leather visored caps as well. To top it all off, even Himmler himself got in on the act. If there were any authorization orders for these leather visored army-style caps, I've not seen them referenced anywhere. That's kind of odd considering the SS penchant for micromanaging uniforms.
It's interesting how many standard uniform practices the Germans engaged in were specifically against the regulations. In the case of Heer noncoms wearing "crushers" though, I really haven't seen it in any photos, so that seems to have actually been enforced as an officer's prerogative.