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Awards and decorations

The Spanish Cross
Spanien Kreuz

The Spanish Cross (Spanienkreuz) was instituted on April 14th, 1939, to recognize those German Forces who served in the Spanish Civil War (July 1936- March 1939). The "Condor Legion" who fought on the side of General Franco against communism in Spain was composed, at least publicly, of volunteers. Because of their semi-official status no awards were instituted prior to or during the war, and therefore there was no method to recognize German bravery and accomplishment until 1939. The purpose of the Spanish Cross therefore was two fold; It was not only to be a campaign medal, but also an award recognizing achievements.

The Kondor Legion

The Legion Condor was compromised of over 25,000 troops who pioneered the now famous concepts of blitzkrieg in the field of Spain. In addition to the Spanish Republican Army, the Condor Legion and their allies would come up against Communist forces sent from Russia and "International Legions" (French, Canadian, U.S.). This aid began to arrive and supply the Republican side almost immediately after the War began.

The Condor Legion ranks were mostly composed of Luftwaffe personnel, who would further develop and test air war tactics and equipment later used with much success throughout World War II. They would participate in critical battles, such as the Aragon Offensive, the Battle of Ebro, and the final assault on Catalonia. They would also be involved in controversial civilian bombing, such as the bombing of the towns of Bilbo and Guernica in 1937. Overall, the War in Spain lasted three years, there were many hard fought battles and 600,000 total lives lost from all causes.

With German and Italian help, General Franco and the Nationalist forces prevailed. Upon the return of the Condor Legion to the Reich, awards were presented in ceremonies with much flair. On June 6th, 1939, all the recipients paraded through the streets of Berlin in front of Hitler and a rapturous public.

The Spanish Cross

The Spanish Cross was awarded in four classes, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold with Diamonds. The bronzed and silver classes came in two categories, with swords (combatant) and without swords (non-combatant), while the Gold and Gold with Diamonds classes were awarded only with swords.

Award Criteria, Statistics and Wear

Eligible for the award were personnel from all military branches and civilians who volunteered and participated in the conflict. The criteria for the Cross without swords was three months of service on Spanish soil or waters. It was presented to Military personnel who did not experience any combat, which included auxiliary units such as Luftwaffe field units and medical units. There were 7869 Bronzed Crosses without Swords presented. Those non-combatants who distinguished themselves above and beyond the call of duty were presented with the Spanish Cross in Silver, and there were 327 Crosses of that grade awarded. There were no Spanish Crosses in Gold without Swords presented, whether or not they were manufactured is a debated topic.

spanishcross.jpg (50410 bytes) To obtain the Cross with Swords an individual had to be involved in front line combat, and the degree of experience and rank determined whether the Cross was bestowed in Bronze, Silver or Gold. The lowest grade, Bronzed, required action with the enemy in any degree, and 8462 were presented.

The silver grade with Swords was normally reserved for those who had at least moderate combat experience, having participate in decisive battles. Of this grade 8304 were awarded. The Gold Cross with Swords was restricted to those who not only engaged the enemy, but had also excelled in the form of personal bravery or achievement. There were 1,126 individuals who received this grade. The highest grade, Gold with Diamonds, was strictly presented to those with the highest achievements or leadership in action. It was only awarded 28 times, with the majority going to Luftwaffe pilots. These aces of the time include Molders (14 kills), Oesau (8 kills), Balthasar (7 kills) and Lutzow (5 kills).

The Spanish Cross was worn permanently on the right pocket of the uniform below the later instituted German Cross if that was held. When presented, each class had a different color case. Bronze Crosses came in a green case, Silver and Gold in a blue case, and Gold with Diamonds in a red case. A document authorizing the award was also presented.

Pilot Badge
Flugzeugführer abzeichen

The Pilot’s Qualification badge was originally introduced on January 19TH 1935 for award to personnel of the DLV, Deutscher Luftsportsverband Fliegerschaft, (German Air Sports Association, Pilot Base), the secret forerunner of the Luftwaffe, who achieved their pilots licence. The badge was officially adopted by the Luftwaffe on March 26TH 1936, by order of Hermann Göring. The pilot’s badge was awarded on an individual basis to personnel who had successfully completed the appropriate theory and flight training and had achieved their pilots licence. As with other flyer’s specialty badges a cloth version of the Pilot’s Badge was authorized for wear on the flight blouse with a machine embroidered pattern for EM/NCO’s and a hand embroidered pattern for Officer’s Pilot-badge.jpg (21197 bytes)

The badge was worn on the upper left uniform pocket, below the Iron Cross 1st Class. This badge was given to pilots who were on front duty.

Ground assault badge
Erdkampfabzeichen der luftwaffe

In late 1941 the first Luftwaffe ground combat units were hastily formed to help replace the massive lose of men on the Eastern front followed by the formation of the Brigade Meindl consisting of five Luftwaffe Field Battalions in February 1942. As a result of the formation of these new ground combat units Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring established the Luftwaffe Ground Combat Badge on March 31ST 1942, for award to all Luftwaffe personnel who had distinguished themselves in ground combat. Certain criteria had to be met for award of the badge with the main criteria being three separate ground combat actions. Of Note: Since the Luftwaffe had excess personnel on September 17TH 1942 Göring announced the formation of new Luftwaffe field divisions also to replace the massive lose of men on the Eastern front. Due to the lack of training and poor performance in the field, of the twenty-two divisions formed, seventeen were either destroyed or disbanded before the end of the war. Also Of Note: On introduction of the Ground Combat Badge, Luftwaffe personnel who had been awarded the Infantry, Panzer or General Assault badges previously, were required to exchange them for this badge. Prior to the introduction of this Ground Combat Badge, Flak personnel who had utilized their Flak guns against land or sea based targets three times were awarded the Flak War Badge. These personnel also exchanged their Flak War Badge for the Ground Combat Badge. 

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In order to receive the Ground Combat Badge, the following criteria needed to meet:

Involvement in three separate engagements on separate days:

Being wounded in an engagement

Being awarded a decoration in an engagement.

A member killed in an action was automatically awarded the badge


Marksmanship Lanyard
Luftwaffe Schützenschnur

luft_lanyard.jpg (44562 bytes) On the 30th September 1936, an order (LV36, No 1447) was issued for a new system of marksmanship awards, these to replace the existing army pattern awards which were in the form of 8cm long aluminium Tresse stripes that were placed on the lower left sleeve.
The new lanyards (Schützenschnur) came in twelve grades.

Grade 1: A blue-grey silk cord, interwoven with aluminium threads and dark oxidized shield.

Grades 2-4: as above, with the addition of 1-3 dark oxidised acorns.

Grade 5: Cord with aluminium threads interwoven with blue-grey silk and bright aluminium shield.

Grades 6-8: as above, with the addition of 1-3 bright acorns.

Grade 9: Cord of blue-grey silk, interwoven with dark gold coloured thread and gold shield.

Grades 10-12: As above, with the addition of 1-3 gold acorns.

c. Kriegsmarine

High seas fleet war badge

At the direction of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, commander in chief of the navy, the Fleet War badge was instituted on April 30 1941 to recognize the sea actions of the German Navy, mainly in actions against England. The designer as well as the principal maker was, Adolf Bock of Berlin. Even though the badge was instituted in 1941, it was awarded for actions prior to that date. Some known makers of this badge are Adolf Bock, Schwerin and Friedrich Orth. 


The Fleet War Badge was awarded to crews of battleships, cruisers and other naval ships serving in combat areas, including those killed in action. For personnel serving on battleships or cruisers, the award came through the commander of the task force. For other naval personnel the award came through naval headquarters. The criteria for receiving the award is as follows:

12 weeks service on a battleship or cruiser, with proof of distinction and good conduct.
(The number of weeks could be reduced if the following conditions were met)
If the recipient was wounded or killed during the voyage.
If the cruise was successful.

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d. Foreign volunteers

Walloon Bergundy Cross

Throughout World War II, Germany counted on official Allies and volunteers from nations and individuals that sympathized with its goals. The difference between them was that while Allies fought independently under their own flag on the Axis side, Foreign volunteers joined the Wehrmacht and fought under the German flag.

Bergundy_cross.jpg (11105 bytes) The Walloon Honor Rexist Badge: This award was also referred as the Blood Order badge. The bronze badge shown has the Walloon Bergundy Cross with a sword crossing it surrounded by a circle. The French inscription reads: Bravery, Honor and Loyalty. The back shows a "C" style hinge with a thin pin. It was awarded in four types: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold w/Diamonds. For members of the Rexist Party who were in military service, the bronze type was awarded. For those who provided services to the Rex Party, a silver type was awarded. The criteria for the Gold is unknown.

e. General

Wound Badge 1939

Having closed the Condor Legion Wound Badge, Hitler reestablished the Wound Badges on the eve of World War II to recognize those individuals who were wounded in action with the enemy. The reinstitution decree stated that it was...

" a mark of honor for all risked their lives for the Fatherland and have been wounded or maimed."

All members of the Armed Forces, Police units, and from 1943 on all civilians injured during allied air raids were eligible for the award. Those individuals killed in action were posthumously awarded the gold grade, which was presented to the next of kin. Because the World War I Wound Badges were still readily available at the time, these were initially once again modified by adding a swastika onto the helmet. There are some differences between these and the Condor Legion Wound Badge, however, as the swastika is not as high, has rounder, softer edges, and is not flushed with the helmet. These are referred to as "Spanish Type" or 1939 1st Type, but they are not to be confused with the Condor Legion Wound Badge. Though only used "temporarily" until the new version became available, this type was presented as late as 1942.

A few months after Operation Fall Weiss began the 1939 Wound Badge 2nd type was available and started to be presented. This version, very similar to its predecessors, was oval with pebbling on the background plate and featured an M35 helmet with a mobile swastika on it. Behind the helmet were the usual crossed swords, and a wreath of laurels surrounding the badge with a ribbon at the base. There are slight variations in the measurements of the badges, but the 24 authorized manufacturers were mostly consistent in size. The Wound badge was presented with a standard document.


The black grade was stamped from sheet brass, later steel, and was painted mat or semi-mat. It has a hollow back with a needle pin. They were rarely stamped (15-20%) with a makers mark, but if one was present it would be on the reverse. Because of the decline in materials late war badges of this grade often tended to rust. It was awarded for one or two wounds Wound_Zw.jpg (20599 bytes)
Wound_silver.jpg (20630 bytes) The Silver grade was produced initially from silver-plated brass, and later in the war (1942) from whitewashed zinc. The reverse was solid, with either a needle or fat bellied pin and the manufacturers and silver content marks, if present. Awarded for three or four wounds, it could also be awarded for more serious wounds if such wound included loss of hearing, a hand, a foot, an eye, brain damage, or facial disfigurement.

The gold grade was initially manufactured from gold plated or polished brass (as result of the polishing some of the badges lack pebbling and are almost flat). The reverse was again solid with the same pin characteristics and marks as the Silver grade. It was awarded for five or more wounds, and was also awarded for serious wounds in cases of total blindness or total disability. It should be noted that both Silver and Gold badges were also made from gilt-washed zinc as the war progressed. By 1945, as quality became less important and materials scarce, some black badges were being painted the appropriate color and issued as both silver and gold grades. In these cases the reverse is almost always hollow.

All badges were worn on the left pocked of the uniform below any other decorations.

Kleine Ordensschnalle

Almost every uniformed German wore one. Indeed, German ribbon bars are almost as distinctive in the popular imagination as icons like the Iron Cross These strips of ribbon and metal, now as then, reveal at a glance the story of a particular German's military and civilian career. In contrast to the flood of more than 50 different ribboned awards from the late 1930s, wartime Germany only created eleven new ribboned decorations for the new world war -- and the absolute maximum that any German might theoretically wear of all these was six. Devices were added to three more awards - the 2nd award bar to the 1914 Iron Cross 2nd Classes, and swords for frontline awards of the Volkspflege Decoration and Medal. All the other WW2 awards were pinbacks, neck Orders, or worn on uniform sleeves. Six of the eleven new ribboned decorations were intended for "Ostvolk volunteers," of which only four grades could have been awarded to the few Germans serving as command personnel with these formations. There was never any doubt about the preeminence of the 1939 Iron Cross 2nd Class.

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