Awards and Medals of the German Armed Forces in WWII
Germany produced an extensive array of medals, badges, awards, and decorations between 1935 and 1945. In fact, the history of German awards and medals is very extensive, with hundreds of colorful awards being awarded since the early 1800s. Early in Germany’s history, before the individual German States were unified in 1872, and even after that time up to 1918, the majority of German awards were state-level awards designed and presented under the guise of the individual states, and not the German Nation as a whole. Under the Third Reich this was changed when Adolf Hitler declared that all German awards would be presented as National Awards henceforth. Many previously established awards were abolished, new awards were created, and traditional awards re-instituted in various forms. Hitler reserved the right to authorize all awards, but in time of war, the right to authorize military-related awards was often delegated down to various levels of command, depending on the award in question. Certain awards, like the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, were still bestowed through Hitler and the OKW, while others, like the Iron Cross IInd Class, were authorized by local unit commanders. All military awards were presented in the name of Adolf Hitler and the German people, and all were national-level awards. There were strict laws regulating who could design, produce, manufacture, distribute, and sell German awards, as well as how they could be worn and displayed. Penalties were often very strict for wearing or displaying awards incorrectly or illegally.
The entire breadth of awards instituted and presented before and during WWII is very great indeed, and this section of the site limits itself to strictly the military-related awards and medals of the German Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, and the auxiliary services. Nearly all the military medals listed here at right were instituted after September 1st, 1939. Most military and combat-related awards were not instituted prior to 1939, their existence coming into being as WWII took its course.
German awards, in general, drew upon deep foundations of German history, combining both traditional symbols and politically charged NSDAP imagery to create some of the most powerful awards of the 20th Century. Awards in general serve to reinforce concepts of what it is to be a citizen, to be a member of a social group, or to be a member of the armed forces. But they also serve more than just the needs of the nation, they are deeply meaningful in that they exist to represent the sacrifices and achievements of individuals above and beyond that which is expected. In general, statistics show that the distribution of German combat decorations was done in a largely unbiased manner – those that received combat awards deserved them, and unlike the political decorations of the time, former members of the German Wehrmacht are allowed to wear and display modified versions of their combat medals to this day – proof positive that these awards were in the highest degree honorable.
German Military Awards 1935-1945
Knights Cross of the Iron Cross:
Qualification Badges (Pilots):
Qualification Badges (Crew):
Qualification Badges (Support):
Operational Flying Clasps:
- Day Fighter Flying Clasp
- Heavy, Medium and Dive-Bomber Flying Clasp
- Reconnaissance, Air/Sea Rescue and MeteorlogicalFlying Clasp
- Transport and Glider Flying Clasp
- Long-Range Day Fighter and Air-to-Ground SupportFlying Clasp
- Long-Range Night Fighter and Night Intruder FlyingClasp
- Short-Range Night Fighter Flying Clasp
- Air-to-Ground Support Flying Clasp