German Wehrmacht Vehicle Designation of World War Two, 1939–1945

Kfz.1/20 (l.schwf.Pkw.) VW K2s Type 166, Schwimmwagen and Kradschützen-Ersatzwagen

Kfz.1/20 (l.schwf.Pkw.) VW K2s Type 166, Schwimmwagen and Kradschützen-Ersatzwagen, a light amphibious car used primarily by recon units. This particular vehicle is currently owned and operated by a British unit who captured it. Standard vehicle designations are required to keep track of the enormous number and variety of vehicles used by the armed forces of any nation. When many different manufacturers produce vehicles for the military, it is important that they follow military specifications exactly or that any commercially available vehicles can be classified accordingly.

Contrary to popular belief, the Wehrmacht was not a highly mechanized army. Of the 162 German and Rumanian divisions which participated in the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, only 17 were Panzer Divisions. In the course of the Second World War, the German Wehrmacht increasingly had to rely on confiscated civilian vehicles and equipment captured from the enemy. Not surprisingly, the resulting mix of vehicles reached chaotic proportions and the practise of classifying new types was discontinued in 1943. Elite units continued to receive highly sophisticated military equipment as quickly as the hard-pressed German economy was able to produce it, but many of the second-line formations had to rely on whatever was handed down, captured or could be procured locally.

The Vehicles

  • Kfz. 1-10 l.Pkw.
  • Kfz. 11-20 m.Pkw.
  • Kfz. 21-30 s.Pkw.
  • Kfz. 31-40 l.Lkw. or s.Pkw.
  • Kfz. 41-50 m.Lkw.
  • Kfz. 51-60 s.Lkw.
  • Kfz. 61-70 l.gl.Lkw or s.Pkw.
  • Kfz. 71-80 m.gl.Lkw or l.gl.Lkw.
  • Kfz. 81-90 l.gl.Lkw or s.Pkw.
  • Sd.Kfz. 1-100 Special Vehicles
  • Sd.Kfz. 101+ Special Vehicles, armoured

Vehicle Types

  • Ah. – Anhänger – Trailer
  • Aufkl. – Aufklärer – Reconnaissance Vehicle
  • ARW – Achtradwagen – 8-wheeled Vehicle
  • Krad - Kraftrad – Motorcycle
  • K.Krad - Kettenkraftrad – Tracked Motorcycle
  • Kfz - Kraftfahrzeug – Motor Vehicle
  • Kw - Kraftwagen – Automobile
  • Pkw.(o) – Personenkraftwagen – Car
  • gl.Pkw. - Personenkraftwagen, geländegängig – Car, off-road
  • E.Pkw. – einheits Personenkraftwagen – Standard (military) Car
  • KrKw. - Krankenkraftwagen – Ambulance
  • Sankra - Sanitätskraftwagen – Ambulance
  • Lkw.(o) – Lastkraftwagen – Truck
  • gl.Lkw. - Lastkraftwagen, geländegängig – Truck, off-road
  • E.Lkw. – einheits Lastkraftwagen – Standard (military) Truck
  • Gef.Wg. - Gefechtswagen – Combat Supply Carrier
  • MTW - Mannschafts-Transportwagen – Personnel Carrier
  • Kommandeurwagen – Command Vehicle
  • K.Flak - Kraftwagen-Flugabwehrkanone – Motorized Anti-Aircraft Gun
  • Kom. - Kraftomnibus – Bus
  • KP - Kraftprotze – Artillery Tractor
  • DR - Drehleiter – Rotating Ladder
  • LF - Löschfahrzeug – Fire Truck
  • KS - Kraftspritze – Fire Engine
  • TLF - Tanklöschfahrzeug – Fire Truck with internal Water Tank
  • Zgkw. – Zugkraftwagen – Prime Mover
  • Schlp. - Schlepper – Tractor
  • Rd.Schlp.(o) – Radschlepper (handelsüblich) – commercial Wheeled Tractor
  • RS - Raupenschlepper – Caterpillar Tractor
  • RSG - Gebirgsraupenschlepper – Caterpillar Tractor for Mountain Troops
  • RSO - Raupenschlepper Ost/Radschlepper Ost – Tractor, tracked or wheeled
  • Kett.Schlp.(o) – Kettenschlepper (handelsüblich) – commercial Caterpillar Tractor
  • LWS - leichter Wehrmachtsschlepper – Light (military) Tractor
  • SWS - Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper – Heavy (military) Tractor
  • Sfl. or Sf. - Selbstfahrlafette – Self-propelled Gun Mounting
  • Gw. - Geschützwagen – Self-propelled Gun Mounting
  • Pz.A. - Panzerartillerie – Armoured Self-propelled Artillery
  • Pz.F. - Panzerfähre – Armoured Amphibious Ferry
  • Pz.FlaK. - Panzerflak – Armoured Self-propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun
  • Jgd.Pz. - Jagdpanzer – Tank Destroyer
  • Pz.Jg. or Pz.Jäg. - Panzerjäger – Tank Hunter
  • Pz.Kpfw. - Panzerkampfwagen – Armoured Fighting Vehicle
  • Pz.Spähwg. or Pz.Sp.Wg. - Panzer-Spähwagen – Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle
  • Pz.Beob.Wg. - Panzer-Beobachtungswagen – Armoured Observation Vehicle
  • Pz.Bef.Wg. or Pz.Bflswg. - Panzer-Befehlswagen – Armoured Command Vehicle
  • Mun.Pz - Munitions-Panzerwagen – Armoured Ammunition Carrier
  • Schtz.Pz.Wg. or SPW - Schützenpanzerwagen – Armoured Personnel Carrier
  • Sd.Kfz. - Sonderkraftfahrzeug – Special Motor Vehicle
  • Stu.Gesch. or StuG. - Sturmgeschütz – Assault Gun
  • StuH. - Sturmhaubitze – Assault Howitzer
  • StuK. - Sturmkanone – Assault Gun
  • StIG - Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz – Assault Infantry Gun
  • StuPz. - Sturmpanzer – Assault Tank
  • Vs.Kfz. - Versuchskraftfahrzeug – Experimental Vehicle

Origin

  • (a) – Amerikanisch – American equipment captured 1942-45
  • (e) – englisch – British equipment captured 1940-45
  • (f) – französisch – French equipment captured, confiscated, and procured 1940-44
  • (h) – holländisch – Dutch equipment captured in 1940
  • (i) – italienisch – Italian equipment confiscated, captured, and procured Sept. 1943-45
  • (o) – handelsüblich – commercial equipment, i.e. militarized civilian vehicles
  • (p) – polnisch – Polish equipment captured in 1939
  • (r) – russisch – Russian equipment captured 1941-45, probably including Latvian and Estonian 4.7 cm Böhler infantry guns captured in 1941.
  • (t) – tschechisch – Czech equipment confiscated, and procured 1939-45

Specifications

  • kl. - klein – small
  • l. or le. - leicht – light
  • m. or mittl. - mittel – medium
  • s. or schw. - schwer – heavy
  • gr. - groß – large
  • A – Allrad – all-wheel drive
  • Ausf. – Ausführung – Type/Model
  • E. or Einh. – einheits – Standard
  • FA - Feldartillerie – Field Artillery
  • Fgst. - Fahrgestell – Chassis
  • Fe - Fernsprech – Telephone
  • FF-Kabel - Feldfernkabel – Field Telegraph Line
  • Fu - Funk – Radio
  • FuGer - Funkgerät – Radio Equipment
  • FuSprGer - Funksprechgerät – Walky Talky
  • F.T. - Funk/Telegraph – Radio/Telegraph
  • R.V. - Richtverbindung – Directional Beam Wireless
  • T.F. - Trägerfrequenz – Carrier Frequency
  • ve. - vollentstört – interference-free
  • gp. or gep. - gepanzert – armoured
  • gl. - geländegängig – off-road
  • gf. - geländefähig – suitable for off-road
  • (H) – Heckmotor – Rear Engine
  • Hk - Halbkette – Half-Track
  • K - Kofferaufbau – House Body
  • Kleinfunk Kw. – small Radio Vehicle
  • mot. - motorisiert – motorized
  • Nachr.Kw. - Nachrichten Kraftwagen – Signal Vehicle
  • n/A - neue Art, neue Ausführung – New Variant
  • Messtrupp Kw. (Artillerie) – Registration Vehicle (Artillery)
  • off. - offen – flatbed, with canvas tilt
  • Pf. - Pionierfahrzeug – Engineer Vehicle
  • Pi. - Pionier – Engineer
  • (R) – Raupen – Tracks
  • R/R - Räder/Raupenantrieb – Wheeled/Tracked
  • S - Standard – Standard
  • schg. - schienengängig – can be driven on railroads
  • schwf. or schf. - schwimmfähig – amphibious
  • Tr. - Truppe – Arm of Service
  • Tp. - Tropenausführung – Desert Variant
  • Vw.Kw. - Vorwarner Kw. (Artillerie) – Forward Observer Vehicle (Artillery)
  • wg. - wassergängig – suitable for water crossing

Armament

  • FH - Feldhaubitze – Field Howitzer
  • Fl - Flammenwerfer – Flamethrower
  • FlaK - Fliegerabwehrkanone – Anti-Aircraft Gun
  • FK - Feldkanone – Field Gun
  • Gew - Gewehr – Rifle
  • FG42 - Fallschirmjägergewehr – Paratroop Automatic Rifle
  • Gr - Granate – Shell/Grenade
  • GrW - Granatwerfer – Mortar
  • lGrW - leichter Granatwerfer
  • mGrW – mittlerer Granatwerfer
  • sGrW - schwerer Granatwerfer
  • IG - Infanteriegeschütz – Infantry Gun
  • K - Kanone – Cannon
  • KwK - Kraftwagenkanone – Tank Gun
  • LG - Leichtgeschütz – Recoilless Gun
  • sWG - schweres Wurfgerät – Heavy Rocket Launcher
  • Kar - Karabiner – Carbine
  • MG - Maschinengewehr – Machine Gun
  • FlaMG - Flugabwehr-Maschinengewehr – Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun
  • lMG - leichtes Maschinengewehr – Light Machine Gun
  • sMG - schweres Maschinengewehr – Heavy Machine Gun
  • SmK - Spitzgeschoss mit Kern – Pointed Bullet with (Steel) Core
  • MP - Maschinenpistole – Machine Pistol
  • MW - Minenwerfer – Mortar
  • NbW - Nebelwerfer – Multiple Rocket Launcher
  • PaK - Panzerabwehrkanone – Anti-Tank Gun
  • Tak - Tankabwehrkanone – Anti-Tank Gun (pre-war designation)
  • PWK - Panzerabwehrwurfkanone PWK 8H63 – Anti-Tank Launcher
  • PzB - Panzerbüchse – Anti-Tank Rifle
  • PzSprgrPatr - Panzer-Sprenggranat-Patrone Armour Piercing High-Explosive Ammo
  • PzGr - Panzergranate – Armour Piercing Shell
  • PzGrPatr - Panzergranatpatrone – Armour Piercing Ammunition
  • RaW - Raketenwerfer – Rocket Launcher
  • SprgrPatr - Sprenggranat-Patrone High-Explosive Ammunition
  • StG - Sturmgewehr – Assault Rifle
  • ZF – Zielfernrohr – Telescopic Sight
  • ZG – Zielgerät – Infrared Sight

Units and Organisations

  • KG - Kampfgruppe – Combat Command
  • Abt. – Abteilung – Detachment
  • Aufkl.Abt. – Aufklärungsabteilung – Reconaissance Detachment
  • Pz.Abt.300 (FL) – Panzerabteilung 300 Fernlenktruppe – Remote Control Tank Unit
  • Artl.B.St. – Artillerie Beobachtungsstelle – Artillery Observation Position
  • Gef.St. - Gefechtsstand – Command Post
  • AR – Artillerie-Regiment – Artillery Regiment
  • Frw. - Freiwillige – Volunteer
  • Füs.Rgt. - Füsilier-Regiment – Light Infantry Regiment
  • FP - Feldposten – Picket
  • RFP - Reiter-Feldposten – Cavalry Picket
  • verst.FP - verstärkter Feldposten (mit MG) – Reinforced Picket (with MG)
  • FW - Feldwache (ca. Zugstärke) – Outpost (approx. Platoon)
  • Vorp.-Res. - Vorposten-Reserve – Outpost Reserve
  • Widerstandslinie – Line of Resistance
  • HKL - Hauptkampflinie – Main Defense Line
  • HWA - Heereswaffenamt – Army Ordnance Department
  • WaPrüf - Waffenprüfamt – Ordnance Testing Department
  • Reichspostforschungsanstalt – Postal Research Laboratory
  • RLM - Reichsluftfahrtministerium – Air Ministry
  • Nachr.Tr. - Nachrichtentruppe – Signal Troops
  • Gef.Vorp. - Gefechtsvorposten – Combat Outpost
  • Schw.MG - Schweige-MG – Silent Machine Gun (in ambush position)
  • Vw. - Vorwarner (Artillerie) – Artillery Forward Observer
  • Tr. - Trupp(e) – Squad (Truppe = Troop Type)
  • Sch.-Tr. - Schützentrupp – Rifle Squad
  • Gr. - Gruppe – Section
  • Zug – Platoon
  • Kp. or Komp. - Kompanie – Company
  • Kp.Tr. or Kp.Trupp - Kompanietrupp – Company HQ Section
  • Btl. or Batl. – Bataillon – Battalion
  • Rgt. or Regt. - Regiment – Regiment
  • Inf. - Infanterie – Infantry
  • Radf. - Radfahrer – Cyclist
  • LwFD - Luftwaffe-Feld-Division – Luftwaffe Infantry Division until November 1943
  • FD(L) – Felddivision (Luftwaffe) – Infantry Division (Luftwaffe) from November 1943
  • ID - Infanterie-Division – Infantry Division
  • GD - Gebirgs-Division – Mountain Division
  • JR - Jäger-Regiment – Light Infantry Regiment
  • Füs.Rgt. - Füsilier-Regiment – Light Infantry Regiment
  • Pz.Gren.Regt. - Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment – Armoured Infantry Regiment
  • Pz.Pi.Btl. - Panzer-Pionier-Bataillon – Armoured Engineer Battalion
  • GJR - Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment – Mountain Regiment
  • GArtR - Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment – Mountain Artillery Regiment
  • LwFK - Luftwaffe Feldkorps – Luftwaffe Infantry Corps
  • FJD - Fallschirm-Jäger-Division – Paratroop Division
  • FJR - Fallschirm-Jäger-Regiment – Paratroop Regiment
  • FJStR - Fallschirm-Jäger-Sturmregiment – Paratroop Assault Regiment (1940)
  • LLStR - Luftlande-Sturmregiment – Air-Landing Assault Regiment (1941)
  • LLD - Luftlande-Division – Air-Landing Division
  • FR der Lw. - Feld-Regiment der Luftwaffe – Luftwaffe Infantry Regiment
  • PD - Panzer-Division – Armoured Division
  • Späher (2 Mann) – Scouts
  • Spähtr. - Spähtrupp (Spähtrupp-Führer and 3-6 Men) – Patrol
  • verst. - verstärkt – reinforced
  • Res. - Reserve – Reserve
  • fdl. or feindl. - feindlich – hostile
  • zbV – Zur besonderen Verwendung – for special action/deployment
  • g. - geheim – Secret
  • g.Kdos - geheime Kommandosache – Top Secret
  • g.RS - geheime Reichssache – State Secret

Other

  • kg - Kilogramm
  • t or to - Tonne – ton
  • Verl.Kl. - Verladeklasse – Vehicle Load Class (for rail transport)
  • HM - Heeresmitteilung – Army Communiqué

License Plates

  • LC - Legion Condor (Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939)
  • Pol - Polizei – Police
  • RW - Reichswehr – German Army before 1935
  • WH - Wehrmacht Heer – Army
  • WL - Wehrmacht Lufwaffe – Airforce
  • WM - Wehrmacht Kriegsmarine – Navy
  • OT (later WT) – Organisation Todt
  • RAD - Reichsarbeitsdienst (1943-1945)

An enormous variety of foreign vehicles served in the Wehrmacht, many of them captured during the early campaigns, particularly in France, confiscated from civilians or produced in occupied Europe. American sedans and pick-up trucks made by Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Mercury and Opel (GM) were confiscated in large numbers, they served as troop transports, command, recon and radio vehicles in many theaters of operation. During the North African campaign, Rommel issued a directive that captured British and Canadian trucks were to be used on recon and patrol duty, because they had larger tires than equivalent Wehrmacht vehicles, and they did not get stuck in the sand as often.

Frequently Asked Questions

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