Third Reich Era War Medals and Decorations – Wehrmacht (Combined Armed Forces) – A thru N

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1939 Clasp to the Iron Cross

The Clasp to the Iron Cross (Spange zum Eisernen Kreuz) was a metal medal clasp displayed on the uniforms of German Wehrmacht personnel who had been awarded the Iron Cross in World War I. It was displayed on the uniforms of many high-ranking officers during World War II as most had also served in World War I.

As it was possible for a holder of the 1914 Iron Cross to be awarded a second or higher grade of the 1939 Iron Cross. A “1939 Clasp” (Spange) would be worn on the original 1914 Iron Cross. It depicted an eagle clutching an oak leaf wreath surrounding a swastika above a trapezoid including the year 1939. It was attached to the 1914 Iron Cross medal ribbon beneath a tunic button. (A similar award was made in 1914 but was quite rare, since there were few in service who held the 1870 Iron Cross.)

For the First Class award the clasp was pinned directly above the Iron Cross on the breast of the wearer. Although two separate awards, in some cases the holders soldered them together.

Anschluss Medal

The Anschluss Commemorative Medal (German: Die Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 13. März 1938) was a decoration of Nazi Germany awarded in the interwar period. Instituted on May 1, 1938, the medal commemorated the annexation of Austria to the German Reich, the so called Anschluss. The move was the first in Hitler’s quest for Lebensraum, and it strengthened German flanks while weakening those of Czechoslovakia. German troops crossed the border on March 12, 1938, without meeting any resistance. The stage had been set by a series of “incidents” provoked by members of the Nazi Party in Austria, and diplomatic pressure and ultimatums set forth by the German government. This first action, while perhaps raising suspicions, did not cause general alarm in the world community, as it seemed to be done by choice of the Austrian people who spoke German. The medal, known as the “Anschluss medal”, was awarded to all those Austrians who contributed to or participated in the annexation as well as the members of the Austrian National Socialism movement. It was also awarded to German State officials and members of the German Wehrmacht and SS who marched into Austria. It was awarded until December 13, 1940. In all 318,689 medals were awarded. The round, highly detailed, die-struck medal was based on the 1938 Party Day Badge and designed by Professor Richard Klein. On the obverse of the medal, symbolic of Austrian adhesion to the German realm, a man holding the Nazi flag stands on a dais bearing the emblem of the “Third Reich”; he assists onto the dais a second man, on whose right hand a broken shackle still may be seen. On the reverse is the inscription “13. März 1938” (March 13, 1938), the date of the Anschluss; the date is surrounded by the words, “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer” (“One People, One Empire, One Leader”). The edges of the medal are smooth. It is suspended from a red ribbon with white-black-white stripes at the edges of the ribbon and is made of brass or tombak bronze with a silvered matte finish.

Anti-Partisan Guerrilla Warfare Badge

The Anti-Partisan Guerrilla Warfare Badge (German Bandenkampfabzeichen) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to members of the Heer, Luftwaffe, and Waffen-SS for service against partisan activity behind German lines. The badge was instituted on 30 January, 1944 by Adolf Hitler. In German, it was called the “Bandenkampf-Abzeichen”, as Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler decided to use the term Banden instead of partisans, not wishing to give credence to the guerrillas. Himmler also reserved the right to award himself the gold badge.

Partisans or guerrilla fighters were active in almost every country occupied by Germany during World War II, and while many of these movements were initially small and disorganized, in many cases, they coalesced into larger, more powerful bands of fighters. In some countries, notably Greece, Russia and the Yugoslavian states, the partisans became large and dangerous movements, requiring increasing German manpower and resources to resist them. The anti-partisan guerrilla warfare badge was created in recognition of the Axis soldiers involved in these behind-the-lines battles.

Balloon Observer’s Badge

The Balloon Observer’s Badge (German: Ballonbeobachterabzeichen) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to recognize the service of officers and men who risked their lives, flying 300 ft (91 m)-500 ft (152 m) above the ground in a gas balloon, which were easy targets for Allied pilots. Due to its late introduction, only a very small number were awarded. The badge was designed by Elmar Lang who claimed he had the prototype but that the badge was never put into official production. His claim forms the basis of doubt about the originality of badges which have appeared on the collector’s market since the 1960s as no original World War II photographic evidence has come to light of either the award being presented or worn.

Cholm Shield

The Cholm Shield (German: Cholmschild) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to those who fought in the Cholm Pocket between 21 January and 5 May 1942. It was instituted on 1 July 1942 and is the rarest of the German combat shields with the fewest recipients of approximately 5,500.

Close Combat Clasp

The Close Combat Clasp (German: Nahkampfspange) is a German military award instituted on 25 November 1942 for achievement in hand to hand fighting in close quarters. The Close Combat Clasp was worn above the upper left uniform pocket. The clasp was die-cast and made of either tombac or later zinc, with a slightly curved centerpiece consisting of the national emblem surmounting a crossed bayonet and hand grenade.

Crimea Shield

The Crimea Shield (German: Krimschild) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to military personnel under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein who fought against Soviet Russian forces and captured the Crimea region (Krim in German) between 21 September 1941 and 4 July 1942. It was instituted on 25 July, 1942 and was the most widely distributed of the various German shields with approximately 250,000 being awarded.

Demyansk Shield

Demyansk Shield (German: Ärmelschild Demjansk) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to military personnel who fought in the Demyansk pocket. It was instituted on 25 April, 1943 by Adolf Hitler.

Driver Proficiency Badge

On October 23, 1942 Adolf Hitler introduced a series of three Motor Vehicle Driver’s Proficiency Badges in the grades of bronze, silver and gold with qualifications for bestowal of the badges being retroactive to December 1ST 1940. The badges were awarded to both Wehrmacht, (Armed Forces), personnel and civilian personnel, including Foreign volunteers and auxiliary personnel, under Wehrmacht command, who had fulfilled the required criteria. The criteria for bestowal of one of the badges varied with exceptional driving ability and vehicle maintenance being the main considerations and also included a prescribed amount of days under difficult weather or combat conditions. When awarded the badge was accompanied by an award certificate and was to be worn on the lower left sleeve of the field blouse and service tunic. The badges were mounted on cloth bases which were to match the uniform it was to be worn on. The badges were in Gold, Silver, and Bronze which is the lowest of the three grades. Interestingly bestowal of the badges was not extended to military personnel of nations allied with the Germans.

 Eastern Front Medal

Over three million German and axis personnel were awarded the Eastern Front Medal for service during 15 November 1941 – 15 April 1942 from its creation on 26 May 1942 until 4 September 1944. Soon it was nicknamed as the Gefrierfleischorden – “badge of the frozen flesh”.

Eastern Winter 1941/1942 Campaign Medal

The Eastern Winter 1941/1942 Campaign Medal (Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/1942 medaille/East Front Medal) is instituted on 26-05-1942, to reward those who had taken part in the first winter campaign in Russia between 15-11-1941 and 15-04-1942. This medal is designed by SS-Unterscharfführer Ernst Kraus and could be awarded to military personal as well as to civilians who were working for the Army, as long as they qualified for one the criteria. Because of this the Eastern Winter 1941/1942 Campaign Medal is one of the most awarded German awards. By the order of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) the awarding of this medal ceased on 04-09-1944.

The Eastern Winter 1941/1942 Campaign Medal is made from bunt metal or out of zinc. The medal has a round shape with a diameter of 36mm. The obverse is slightly concave and the reverse convex. At the outer edge of the medal, is a 1,5mm width flat rim, with at the inside a 1mm high lip. At the top of the medal is a stick grenade horizontally placed, with on top of that a steel German Wehrmacht helm. On the top of the helm is a small eyelet placed to accommodate the ring for the ribbon. The height measures from the top of the eyelet to the bottom of the medal 44,5mm. The image on the obverse shows a typical Wehrmacht eagle with folded wings, that in clutching a swastika in its claws. Behind the swastika is a branch of laurel leaves placed. This branch is placed diagonally and only half visible. The image on the reverse exists of the text: WINTERSCHLACHT IM OSTEN 1941/1942 with underneath another branch of laurel leaves, which is crossed by a broad sword. The medal has a gunmetal colour with the outer rim and helm being bright silver. The medal is suspended by a broad red ribbon, with in the centre a black stripe, which is flanked by two smaller white one’s. Its foundation decree stated that the red represented the bloodshed, the white stood for snow and the black for those who had fallen. The most of these medal are not marked, those who are have the maker mark stamped in the ring of the ribbon.

The Eastern Winter 1941/1942 Campaign Medal was awarded in a blue, red or buff coloured paper bag, with the name of the award printed on it. It was awarded with a standard award document and conferment of the award was entered in the Soldbuch.

On official occasions or military parades the medal was worn suspended from its ribbon or as part of a group. During active duty only the ribbon was worn through the second buttonhole or as part of a ribbon bar. When it was worn through the buttonhole, it was put behind the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2 (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) or The War Merit Cross second class (Kriegsverdienstkreuz 2. Klasse) but among combat troops it is often seen after the last because of the higher prestige of the Eastern Winter 1941/1942 Campaign Medal.

The criteria for receiving this award were:

That the recipient had been engaged in combat for at least 2 weeks.
That the recipient spent at least 60 days in the operation area.
That the recipient inflicted a wound during combat.
When the recipient suffered serious frostbite for which the Wounded Badge 1939 in Black (Verwundetenabzeichen 1939 in Schwarz) was awarded. Because of this the Eastern Winter 1941/1942 Campaign Medal was also know as the “Frozen Meat Order.” (Gefreierfleischorden)

For Luftwaffe personal was the criteria, that they had flown at least 30 days above enemy territory.

General Assault Badge

The General Assault Badge (German: Allgemeines Sturmabzeichen) was a military decoration awarded during World War II to personnel of the German Army, Waffen-SS and Ordnungspolizei who participated in infantry attacks but were not part of specific infantry units and therefore did not qualify for the Infantry Assault Badge. It was instituted by General Walther von Brauchitsch on 1 June 1940.

German Cross

The German Cross ( German : Deutsches Kreuz ) what Instituted by Adolf Hitler on 28 September 1941. It was Awarded in two divisions: gold for repeated acts of bravery or achievement in combat; and silver for distinguished non-combat service was. The German Cross in Gold ranked higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross , while the German Cross in Silver ranked higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight’s Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords.

Grand Cross of the Iron Cross – 1939

Adolf Hitler reinstituted the Iron Cross as a German decoration in September 1939, with the Grand Cross again as the highest grade (above the various classes of the Knight’s Cross).

Hermann Göring became the only recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II when it was awarded to him on July 19, 1940.

The Grand Cross – when Hitler originally re-instituted it – was supposed to have been outlined in gold, but this was changed to silver before Göring was awarded his. Göring – who loved amassing medals – felt that the Grand Cross he received from Hitler was not really grand enough, so he had copies made – one with platinum edges – which he wore. The original awarded Grand Cross was destroyed in an air raid in 1943. Göring was wearing his platinum-edged one at the time of his surrender in 1945. Shortly before his suicide, Hitler deprived Göring of the Grand Cross because he felt betrayed by him. Also, Göring had the curious habit of not wearing the Grand Cross at times (generally whenever the Luftwaffe was not performing well). The award case for the 1939 Grand Cross had a red leather exterior, which was embossed with a gold Reich Eagle. The bottom interior of the case was lined in black velvet.

The even higher decoration, the Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, was also re-instituted by Hitler, but never bestowed under Nazi authority and has not been awarded since.

Hindenburg Cross

1914-1918 Medal given in 1933 to all veterans for serving in WW1.

Infantry Assault Badge

The Infantry Assault Badge (German: Infanterie Sturmabzeichen) was a German war badge awarded to Waffen SS and Wehrmacht Heer soldiers during World War II. This decoration was instituted on December 20, 1939 by the Oberstbefehlshaber des Heeres, Generalfeldmarschall von Brauchitsch. It could be awarded to members of non-motorized Infantry units and units of the Gebirgsjäger that had participated in Infantry assaults, with light Infantry weapons, on at least three days of battle in the front line as from January 1, 1940. When a counter offensive led to fighting at short distance, it could also apply. Award of the Infanterie Sturmabzeichen was authorized at regimental command level or above. The first two awards were given to an officer and an enlisted soldier on a special occasion on May 28, 1940, by von Brauchitsch himself.

1939 Grand Cross of the Iron Cross

Adolf Hitler reinstituted the Iron Cross as a German decoration in September 1939, with the Grand Cross again as the highest grade (above the various classes of the Knight’s Cross).

Hermann Göring became the only recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II when it was awarded to him on July 19, 1940.

The Grand Cross – when Hitler originally re-instituted it – was supposed to have been outlined in gold, but this was changed to silver before Göring was awarded his. Göring – who loved amassing medals – felt that the Grand Cross he received from Hitler was not really grand enough, so he had copies made – one with platinum edges – which he wore. The original awarded Grand Cross was destroyed in an air raid in 1943. Göring was wearing his platinum-edged one at the time of his surrender in 1945. Shortly before his suicide, Hitler deprived Göring of the Grand Cross because he felt betrayed by him. Also, Göring had the curious habit of not wearing the Grand Cross at times (generally whenever the Luftwaffe was not performing well). The award case for the 1939 Grand Cross had a red leather exterior, which was embossed with a gold Reich Eagle. The bottom interior of the case was lined in black velvet.

The even higher decoration, the Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, was also re-instituted by Hitler, but never bestowed under Nazi authority and has not been awarded since.

Kuban Shield

The Kuban Shield (German: Ärmelschild Kuban) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to those who fought to preserve the bridgeheads in the Kuban region from February 1943 until they were abandoned in October.

Lappland Shield

The Lappland Shield (German: Lapplandschild) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to those military personnel of General Franz Böhme’s 20th Mountain Army who had been fighting a two-front campaign against the advancing British and Soviet forces in Lapland between November 1944 and the war’s end in May 1945. Although created in February 1945, it was officially approved on 1 May, 1945 and was the last officially instituted German campaign shield of the war. It was not officially awarded until after the end of the war in unique circumstances.

Memel Medal

The Return of Memel Commemorative Medal (Die Medaille zur Erinnerung an die Heimkerhr des Memellandes 22. März 1939) was a decoration of Nazi Germany awarded in the interwar period, and the last of the series of Occupation Medals.

Narvik Shield

The Narvik Shield (German: Narvikschild) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to all German forces that took part in the battles of Narvik between 9 April and 8 June 1940. It was instituted on 19 August 1940 by Adolf Hitler with the decree published in Reichsgesetzblatt Number 154 on 28 August for the army followed on 12 and 13 September for the navy and air force respectively.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History