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

Updated: Sep 22

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)

$70-100

Cap insignia



Googe: "SS-pin" and "heer visor cap wreath". Hessen Antique has a nice one.

Right size SS-pin (22.5mm) on Landser Outfitters. Hessen seems to have one too.

Replace skull that came with cap with wreath-pin configuration. SS-pin should have a simple safety pin in the back, so it doesn't turn around.

$30

M32 SS tunic (wool)



Google M32 SS tunic. Lots of sources.

There will be 2 version available - Gabardine and Wool. John wore Wool.

$100-150

Black tie & white shirt



You will find all you need here on Amazon

$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

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. 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:

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

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

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

  • Golden Party Badge (left pocket, top)

  • Amerika Shield (right arm)

  • American Blood Order (buttonhole of the right breast pocket)

His ribbon-bar (over the left pocket) is a tough challenge to complete for any prospective cos-player. 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.


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

  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