The German Iron Cross

German Iron Cross

The German Iron Cross was the primary recognition awarded for valor


The German Iron Cross in its various grades was awarded to all ranks of the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine to recognize officers and men for acts of bravery, heroism and leadership. It was first introduced on March 10, 1813 by King Frederick William III of Prussia, who was then at war against the French under Napolean. Since then it has gone through many evolutions and was reinstitued again by Adolf Hitler on 1st September 1939, in readiness for the Second World War.

Knight's Cross The Knight's Cross and the Iron Cross are very similar in appearance. The difference was easily identified by which part of the uniform it was worn. Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds was considered the highest order of decoration awarded by the German armed forces.





 Decorations

The Various Medals
Germany gave many different types of awards to recognize acts of bravery, courage and valor. Among them are daggers, swords, war badges and even metal shields. These medals were not standard issue, instead different medals were used by the respective organizations of the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. They could be earned by various ways, from being involved in a successful mission, to having completed a certain number of mission, to acts of bravery, or to have been wounded or killed in action. In the event of death, the medal will be presented to the next of kin. A number of decorations were also designed to recognize service rather than valor.

The Iron Cross
The Iron Cross in its various classes was a standard medal awarded to all organizations of the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. Despite the prestige of this medal, it was very widely awarded having about 6 million recipients throughout wartime. The Iron Cross awarded during the second world war had 1939 imprinted in the center, which is the year of its reintroduction. The Iron Cross was awarded to recognize acts of bravery.

The Iron Cross comes in two grades, Second Class and First Class. The Iron Cross First Class could only be awarded to one who had previously receive the Iron Cross Second Class. Hence, the First Class was more restricted and more highly prized. Both the medals looked very similar and were worn on the same position on the lower left side of the uniform. When the Iron Cross First Class was awarded, the Iron Cross Second Class was signified with a small ribbon attached to a button.

To the right is Engelbert Endrass, skipper of U-46. On the lower left of his jacket is the war badge, with the Iron Cross First Class just above. The ribbon on the right side of his jacket signifies the Iron Cross Second Class. On his neck, he wears the Knight's Cross.
Engelbert Endrass


Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a highly distinguished medal recognizing acts of valor within the German armed forces. Unlike the Iron Cross, it was worn on the neck with a striped black, white and red ribbon attached. First awarded on September 30th, 1939, approximately 7361 of these awards were presented during the war, of which 43 were awarded to foreigners. Knight's Cross


Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was introduced on June 3rd, 1940 to further recognize acts of courage. As with the preceding medals, the Oak Leaves could only be awarded to one who had earlier receive the Knight's Cross. A fan of three silver oak leaves decorated the Knight's Cross, just above the clip on the medallion. In all, 890 had been awarded during the second world war. Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves


Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
A highly prestigious medal, it was introduced on July 15, 1941 to further recognize Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves recipients for further acts of valor which was beyond the call of duty. A pair of swords crossed at 40 degrees was added below the oak leaves. Only 160 of these had been awarded, a further testament of the honor attached to this medal. Panzer ace Michael Wittman was awarded with this medal. Oak Leaves and Swords


Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
Introduced the same time with the Oak Leaves and Swords, many consider this to be the highest award that can be earned during the war. A set of diamonds inlaid on the Oak Leaves and Swords was added. Awarded only to the most highly decorated and heroic figures of the armed forces, only 27 servicemen had receive this award, one of which was General Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds


Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds
This medal was of the highest recognition, Hitler intended to limit this award to 12 of the most distinguished servicemen in the entire German armed forces after the war ended, assuming an axis victory. As the Third Reich collapsed, an exception was made and only one award was ever presented.

The only Golden Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds holder was Hans Ulrich Rudel of the Luftwaffe. A Stuka dive bomber pilot, Rudel destroyed 518 Russian tanks (that's five Russian tank corps), 150 flak and artillery positions, 700 trucks, sunk the Russian battleship Marat, a Russian cruiser, a Russian Destroyer, 70 Russian landing craft, and hundreds of other targets (bridges, railways, bunkers). He also heavily damaged another Russian battleship, the October Revolution. Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions, of which 400 were in a Focke-Wulf 190, claimed 11 air victories and was shot down 32 times.
Hans Ulrich Rudel



 Resources

Recommended books in association with Amazon.com :-
 
Recommended links :-

  • Awards of the German Armed Forces in WWII - Learn about the history, meaning, medals awarded and recipients of the awards of the German armed forces from 1935 to 1945.

  • Iron Cross 1939 - Reference site which discusses in detail the various grades of the Iron Cross. Find illustrated pictures and photos of the medals and recipients.

  • Panzerfaust: Hans Rudel - Features the story of the most highly decorated combat pilot.




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