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The Man in the High Castle - How to Build John Smith's Impression.

Updated: Apr 30

Click here for the Krause Papierwerke product page dedicated to "The Man in High Castle"


About the series and the character

Many of you have watched the Amazon Prime series "The Man in the High Castle". For those who didn't, it's a series based on a novel that takes place in the alternative reality where Axis Powers won the war. The east of the USA is under German control, while the west under Japanese. The undisputed master of the western part is Obergruppenführer John Smith. An American officer who, after Nazis nuked the Washington and government capitulated, sided with Germans in the civil war that followed. Within 2 years (by1947) the Nazis won and the peace returned to the American continent.

John Smith is portrayed as a very shrewd, convinced Nazi, father of family and master of intrigue.


About John's uniform


As in every movie about Nazis, the creators chose to put him in a version of a stunning M32, black SS uniform. There were some modifications to it though:

  1. American Nazi Armband on the left arm. Half red, half striped with blue swastika in the middle. Clearly referring to the flag of the USA.

  2. Shoulder boards on both, not just the right shoulder.

  3. "New York Corps" cuff-title on left sleeve.

  4. Unique medals along with some historical ones.

  5. Medal ribbon bar with historical and fictional ribbons.

  6. M32 black SS general visor cap is standard, but instead of typical SS skull (Totankopf), there's a bizarre combination of regular army metal wreath with SS pin (rather than army cockade) inside of it.

Where to get the items you will need to recreate John Smith's impression

Most of the items you will need (the historical ones) are readily available from numerous sources. Below I will describe what you need and where to find it. Some unique items, I could not find anywhere else, are now available from Krause Papierwerke. Browse the products on the page devoted to "The Man in the High Castle" or check items below.


Main uniform elements (top to bottom)

Item

Photo

Source

Notes

Est. cost

M32 SS General visor cap



Numerous, just google it.

Make sure to get general's. Officer's will be very similar, but have white piping instead of silver. Pick one with late insignia (eagle). Best don't go for "saddle" form.

$70-200

Cap insignia



Get a perfect set from Krause, or google for "metal heer visor cap wreath" and"SS-pin" not larger than 20mm in diameter.

Krause offers (limited stock) actual wreath from the movie set!

~$30-$35

M32 SS tunic (wool)



Google M32 SS tunic. Many sources. Hessen Antique presumably supplied them to the series.

There will be 2 version available - Gabardine and Wool. John wore Wool. Make sure breast pockets aren't slanted!

$100-150

Black tie & white shirt



Get tie from Krause, or any source. For necktie, best look for wool/cotton, not synthetic.

$20-50

Suspenders



Google for black suspenders.

Any black suspenders will do.

$20

SS officer leather belt



Nice buckle at militaria-net.co.uk, though many other sources

$40-60

​SS Black Pants (Jodhpurs)



Google M32 SS pants. Lots of sources.

I recommend to buy from the same source as tunic, so they match.

$80-100

Black leather riding boots



Hessen Antique, SM Wholesale, google for leather riding boots.

Don't get typical reenacting boots with hobnails. You need sleeker officer's look.

$100-350

Collar tabs



Google for "Obergruppenführer collar tabs".

Look for quality acorns

$20-30

Shoulder boards



Google for "SS General Shoulder Boards", or better try "Admiral shoulder boards" - with very dark blue backing they go better with black tunic.

Need to be gold with white threads (not 100% gold). You need 2.

$20

Rank pips for shoulder boards



Epic Militaria (Large Rank Pip), Hessen Antique (General Officer Rank Stars) and many more.

Get 4 silver ones, not gold. Size 16-21mm.

$5

Button for left shoulder board



Epic Militaria & more

As M32 had only right board, you'll need to attach 2nd - on the left shoulder. Size: 16-17mm

$20

Medals and other insignia

That's where things get more difficult, as many of these elements are fiction created for the series specifically. The image below shows his decorations and their location. Luckily I can help a great deal. Sections below describe what they are and you can get them.


Awards of Obergruppenführer John Smith
Awards of Obergruppenführer John Smith

Medals of Obergruppenführer John Smith (all but #4 available from here):

  1. Knight's Cross of German Order of Victory (neck order)

  2. German order of Victory 1st class (left pocket, bottom)

  3. German order of Victory 2nd class (ribbon under top button)

  4. Golden Party Badge (left pocket, top)

  5. Amerika Shield (right arm)

  6. American Blood Order (buttonhole of the right breast pocket) - only since promotion to Oberstgruppenführer

His ribbon-bar (over the left pocket) is a tough challenge to complete. It's made up of historical and fictional ribbons. If you want, you can get one ready-made from Krause, or assemble one yourself.

Below is the detailed view on Smith's bar with mapping to actually existing and available to purchase ribbons. Some of them may require slight modifications (with a black and blue permanent marker - be very careful doing it, as it's easy to mess it up). The top bar in the picture below is John's ribbon-bar, below it is my mapping to closest existing ribbons available on the market. Now the problem with available ribbons, is that removing devices leaves an ugly hole in the ribbon, so try to find ribbons with no devices attached. To help here, I made inexpensive ribbons available form my site - just remove the ribbon from purchased bar and replace with Krause Papierwerke / Man in the High Castle version. Easy. You can also get empty metal ribbon bar tabs (hard to find) and ribbon bar with fastener and then just order the full set of ribbons from me, or other sources.


Ribbon bar of Obergruppenführer John Smith with mapping to historical ribbons
Ribbon bar of Obergruppenführer John Smith with mapping to historical ribbons

Ribbons from left to right:

  1. War Merit Cross 2nd Class (historical)

  2. America Campaign Medal (fictional). Below it - Medal of German Social Services. Color edges blue, add star device. Maybe you can find Romanian Medal of Valor, then you won't need to color.

  3. Two SS 12years service ribbons (historical)

  4. Transitional Authority Medal (fictional). Below it - Sudetenland Medal Ribbon. Color white edges black.

  5. Liberation of Washington Medal (fictional). Below it Military Merit, or Medal for Bravery (Austria-Hungary). Color edges blue.

  6. Neutral Zone Observer Medal (fictional). Below it Life Saving Ribbon. Color edges black and add swords device. Some Sudetenland ribbons have also orange center rather than red.

  7. Who knows what that was?! (fictional). Below it Bulgarian WWI Commemorative Medal Ribbon with Swords. Remove swords and color white edges blue.

  8. Iron Cross 2nd Class (historical)

Item

Photo

Source

Notes

Est. cost

Knight's Cross of German Order of Victory



$34

German Order of Victory 1st Class



$34

German Order of Victory 2nd Class (ribbon)



Here, from Krause, or get "Iron Cross ribbon" anywhere and draw black line in the middle

6 inches / 15cm is more than you'll need

$10

Amerika Shield



Get one on felt backing for easy application on the right arm. The top of the shield should ~align with the top edge of breast pocket.

$39

American Blood Order



Here from Krause, along with the medal.

Didn't seem to appear until he made it to Oberstgruppenführer.

$34

Armband



$25

Cuff title



Golden Party Badge



Many sources. Google "Gold NSDAP Badge reproduction"

30m version for uniforms. If you can find one where "-" overlaps letter "L", it's a win.

$20-40

Medal Ribbon Bar



Here from Krause (lower cost, no work), or Epic Militaria, ebay seller tango44 and ww2-medals site for ribbons and 9-positions bar to mount them on (you will need re-work some ribbons and add metal devices). Ribbons suppliers: Hessen Antique, The Regalia Specialist, Military Tour and Kelley's Militaria. You can also order single ribbons from this site.

See section above the table for required modifications if building from historical ribbons. Keep in mind removing a device will leave a hole in the ribbon. See replacement ribbons from Krause.

$40 (from Krause), or $70-100 (self-made from existing elements).

Available from Krause Papierwerke:

Armband:

John Smith's medals:

Medal Ribbon Bar:

Spare Ribbons for Ribbon Bar:

Ribbon for German Order of Victory 2nd Class:

"New York Corps" cuff title

Necktie

Cap insignia (wreath and pin)

Sale: Imperfect SS pin for visor cap (16 instead of 20mm, single instead of double circle)

Greater Nazi Reich banknotes:

Award certificate for Golden Party Badge (see Himmler's, or get your own):

Award certificates for German Order of Victory (all 3 grades):

Award certificate for America Shield:


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