Third Reich Era War Medals and Decorations – Wehrmacht (Combined Armed Forces) – O thru Z

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Ostvolk Medal

The Ostvolk Medal (German: Ostvolkmedaille) or Medal for Gallantry and Merit for Members of the Eastern Peoples – (German: Tapferkeits und Verdienst Auszeichnung für Ostvölker)) was a military award in Nazi Germany, bestowed to the personnel from the former Soviet Union (Ostvolk in German, literally ‘the East people’).

Panzer Badge

The Panzer Badge (German: Panzerkampfabzeichen) was a World War II German military decoration awarded troops in armoured divisions. It was instituted 20 December 1939 (although a version had been introduced during the World War I and a variation during the Spanish Civil War).

Sniper’s Badge

The Sniper’s Badge (German: Scharfschützenabzeichen) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to snipers. It was instituted on 20 August, 1944.

Spanish Cross

The Spanish Cross (German: Spanienkreuz) was a distinguished award of Germany given to Germans troops who participated in the Spanish Civil War, fighting for nationalist general, later Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco.

Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross

The Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Stern zum Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) was the highest military decoration of the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire. It was considered a senior decoration to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross.

The Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to the most outstanding of generals who performed feats of leadership to the extreme benefit of the German state. It was awarded only twice, over a century apart, to Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher in 1813 and to Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg in 1918. Von Blücher’s award was referred to as the Blücherstern while Hindenburg’s was known as the Hindenburgstern.

During the reign of Nazi Germany, it was intended to present the Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross as an award to the most successful German General of the Second World War, once Germany had achieved victory. As Germany was defeated in 1945, the decoration was never bestowed under Nazi authority and has not been awarded since.

The only known prototype example of this decoration is today located at the Museum of the United States Military Academy in West Point NY.

Sudetenland Medal

The October 1. 1938 Commemorative Medal (German: Die Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 1. Oktober 1938), commonly known as the Sudetenland Medal was a decoration of Nazi Germany awarded in the interwar period.

Instituted on October 18, 1938, the medal commemorated the union of the Sudetenland to Germany. Once again Hitler employed skillful diplomacy, using brinkmanship as a tool to bring the Sudetenland under German control and paving the road for the annexation of Czechoslovakia.

The medal was awarded to all German (and as well Sudeten) State officials and members of the German Wehrmacht and SS who marched into Sudetenland. Later it was awarded to military personnel participating in the occupation of the remnants of Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939.

It was awarded until December 31, 1940. In all 1,162,617 medals and 134,563 bars were awarded.

Tank Destruction Badge

The Tank Destruction Badge (German: Sonderabzeichen für das Niederkämpfen von Panzerkampfwagen durch Einzelkämpfer) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to individuals of the Wehrmacht who had single-handedly destroyed an enemy tank using a hand-held weapon. Anti-tank units were ineligible for this award. It was established by Adolf Hitler on 9 March, 1942, but could be awarded for actions dating back to June 22, 1941 (the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union).

On 18 December, 1943, a gold class was introduced that recognised the single-handed destruction of five tanks. A soldier could therefore have four silver badges which would all be replaced by a gold version upon the destruction of a fifth tank (to which separate silver could be added thereafter).

War Merit Cross

The War Merit Cross (German: Kriegsverdienstkreuz) was a decoration of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, which could be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel. It was reissued in 1957 by the Bundeswehr in a De-Nazified version for veterans.

Wehrmacht Long Service Award

The Wehrmacht Long Service Award (German: Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung) was a military service decoration of Nazi Germany issued for satisfactory completion of a number of years in military service. On 16 March, 1936, Adolf Hitler ordered the institution of service awards for the first four classes. Thereafter, on 10 March, 1939, the 40 years service award was introduced. Each branch of the Wehrmacht (army, navy, and air force) maintained their own version of the Long Service Award and the decoration was issued for four years (fourth class), 12 years (third class), 18 years (second class), 25 years (first class), and 40 years (1939 special class). Professor Dr Richard Klein designed the awards. Recipients of lower year awards would wear the decoration simultaneously with higher level decorations. The manner they could be worn was: 3rd Class with 4th Class 2nd Class with 4th Class 1st Class with 3rd Class The Long Service Award was retroactive throughout a service member’s career, encompassing Reichswehr service as well as service dating during and before World War I. As such, there were a handful of 40 year awards presented, even though the Third Reich itself existed for only 12 years (since 1933).

West Wall Medal

The West Wall Medal (German: Deutsches Schutzwall-Ehrenzeichen) was a military decoration of Nazi Germany. It was instituted on 2 August 1939 and was given to those who designed and built the fortifications on Germany’s western borders, known as the West Wall or, in English, the Siegfried Line, and to the troops who served there prior to May 1940. In 1944, as Germany was expecting the arrival of the allied invasion, it was again awarded to those who took part in the fortification of the western borders.  In all 622,064 medals were awarded until the end of the war.

Wound Badge

The Wound Badge (German: Verwundetenabzeichen) was a military decoration first promulgated by Kaiser Wilhelm II on 3 March 1918, which was awarded to wounded or frostbitten soldiers of the Imperial German Army, during World War I, the Reichswehr between the wars, and the Wehrmacht, SS and the auxiliary service organizations during the Second World War. After March 1943, due to the increasing number of Allied bombings, it was also awarded to injured civilians. It was ultimately one of the most common of all Third Reich decorations, yet also one of the most highly prized, since it was earned “as a mark of honour for all who have risked their lives for the Fatherland and have been wounded or maimed.”

Wound Badge of July 20 1944

The 20 July 1944 Wound Badge is by far the rarest of these awards, as it was only issued to those injured during the failed attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life at the Wolf’s Lair headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia. 24 men were present when the bomb detonated; one officer was killed and three succumbed to their wounds a short time later. Hitler, believing this to be a “moment of destiny” for him, personally directed the designing of a special badge commemorating the event.

The 20 July Wound Badge is based on the common Wound Badge, but the helmet is slightly higher and larger; it also bears the date “20 Juli 1944” and a facsimile of Hitler’s signature below the helmet and date.

The 20 July Wound Badges were made in all three grades of black, silver, and gold. All of these wound badges were made by the Junckner firm and were made out of solid hallmarked silver. Recipients who had already been previously awarded regulation Wound Badges were awarded the 20 July Wound Badge in a higher grade.

Unlike the Wound Badge in Black, the 20 July Wound Badge in Black was not all black. Only the helmet and wreath were black; the background was in silver so that the date and facsimile signature could be seen. The 20 July Wound Badge in gold also had a silver background with the helmet and wreath colored gold. The 20 July Wound Badge in silver has black highlights on the helmet swastika, the date, and the facsimile signature. Unlike the standard Wound Badges, these were of two-piece construction.

Hitler presented the survivors with the special wound badge as well as a unique award document in a ceremony on 2 September 1944. Although Hitler had been injured in the bombing, he did not give one of these badges to himself. Hitler had earned his own Wound Badge (in black) in World War I. He had awarded himself the Golden Party Badge number 1, but this was a political badge and not a military medal.

The four posthumous awards were sent to the recipients’ next-of-kin. These medals were all plated in gold, including the background.

The badge replaced the basic 1939 Wound Badge on those persons who were presented the 20 July Badge. It is important to note however that this badge was more a personal gift from Hitler to those involved, and was intended to be a treasured one-off souvenir of a momentous historical event, and thus was not expected to be worn. While Field Marshal Keitel and Colonel-General Jodl for example did wear their 20 July wound badges on their tunics, other recipients preferred to wear their regular wound badges.

Recipients of the 20 July wound badge could have their 20 July wound badges upgraded if they earned higher grades of the Wound Badge. Konteradmiral Hans-Erich Voss eventually had the 20 July Wound Badge in all three grades, earning it in black on 20 July 1944, and having it upgraded twice for subsequent battles.

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