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1939 Iron Cross and the Clasps to the Iron Cross of World War 1914/1918

(DOS Eiserne Kreus (1939) und die Spangen zum Eisernen Kreuz des Weltkrieges)

German Iron Cross Origin, History and use.

Iron Cross Statutes Renewal

On 1 September 1939, the memorial day of the battle of Sedan,* the statutes of the Iron Cross, first established on 1 March 1813 by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III in Breslau, were renewed. The Iron Cross statutes were also renewed during the wars of 1870 and 1914.

The renewal statute begins:

"After my decision to call the German people to arms because of threatening attacks, I renew the Iron Cross, in memory of the heroic battles fought by the sons of Germany to protect the homeland in the earlier Great War."

The renewal statutes of 1 September 1939 were supplemented on 3 June 1940. The 1813, 1870 and 1914 Iron Cross was a Prussian award; however, the 1939 Iron Cross is a German award. Deviating from prior classification, the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class and Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (the Bliicher Star was not in the establishing document).

The 1939 Iron Cross will be awarded in seven grades, as follows:

  • Iron Cross 2nd Class
  • Iron Cross 1st Class
  • Knights Cross of the Iron Cross
  • Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves
  • Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves and Swords
  • Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves and Swords and Diamonds
  • Grand Cross of the Iron Cross

Original Iron Cross Design

The original Iron Cross was designed by Karl Frederich Schinkel and retains its original form. The obverse shows in the center of the cross a swastika and in the lower arm the year 1939. The reverse shows in the bottom arm the year 1813. The suspension ribbon is black-white-red. The Knights Cross is a little larger than the 2nd Class and is worn at the throat. The Oakleaves to the Knights Cross is composed of three silver oak leaves added to the top arm of the cross and through which the suspension ribbon is threaded. The Grand Cross is twice the size of the Iron Cross 2nd Class and is worn at the throat on a wide black-white-red ribbon.

1914-18 World War Iron Cross

During the 1914-18 World War the Iron Cross was awarded in recognition of meritorious service in the front area on a black ribbon with white edge stripes, or on the home front mostly on the white ribbon with black edge stripes.

During the 1914-18 World War the total number of awards were:

  • 1 The Iron Cross on a golden breast star faiso called the Blucher Star") awarded to General Field Marshal von Hindenburg.
  • 5 Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (awarded to Wilhelm II, Field Marshals von Hindenburg, von Mackensen and Prince Leopold of Bavaria, and General of Infantry Ludendorff).
  • 218,000 Iron Cross 1st Class
  • 5,196,000 Iron Cross 2nd Class on the black-white (combat) ribbon 13,000 Iron Cross 2nd Class on the white-black (non-combat) ribbon.

1939 Iron Cross

The 1939 Iron Cross is awarded only for bravery in combat action and for meritorious troop leadership. In the awarding of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, Hitler reserved the right to award this Grand Cross only for the most outstanding results of decisions affecting the outcome of the war. Hitler presented the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross to the commander-in chief of the Air Force, Hermann Goring, on 19 July 1940 at the Reichstag and at the same time promoted Goring to Reichs Marshal of the Third Reich. On 15 July 1941 the Oakleaves with Swords and Diamonds, the highest German bravery decoration, was presented by Hitler for the first time to Colonel Werner Molders for downing 101 enemy aircraft during this war and making a total of 115 including the victories during the Spanish Civil War.

Awards made through 1 January 1943 to Armed Forces Personnel:

  • 5 - Oakleaves with Swords and Diamonds
  • 23 - Oakleaves with Swords
  • 168 - Oakleaves
  • 2,237 - Nights Cross of the Iron Cross

Eligibiity for a Silver Clasp

If the recipient of the 1939 Iron Cross has been decorated with one or both classes of the Iron Cross of World War 1914/1918, he will then receive a silver clasp showing the National Eagle with the year 1939. The clasp to the Iron Cross 2nd Class will be worn attached to a ribbon in the buttonhole. The 1939 1st Class clasp will be worn attached to the tunic above the 1914 Iron Cross 1st Class.

The 1st and 2nd Class and the clasps will be awarded in the name of Hitler through the commanders of the three branches of the Armed Forces or by the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The commanders-in-chief are permitted to delegate award authority to division commanders and commanders of smaller units.

Presentation of Knights Cross

The presentation of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, the Oakleaves and the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross will be done only by Hitler. The awarding of the Iron Cross and the Clasps are at the discretion of the Chancellery of the Fuhrer and through requests of the High Command of the armed forces.

The award documents for the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Classes are given in the name of Hitler and the Chief of the Supreme High Command of the armed forces and are written at the place of presentation. The presentation document for the Knights Cross, for the Oakleaves to the Knights Cross, for the Oakleaves with Swords to the Knights Cross, Oakleaves with Swords and Diamonds to the Knights Cross, as well as the Grand Cross of the Knights Cross is made of parchment in a special leather cover (designed by Mrs. Troost, Munich) and each is signed by Hitler.

Elligibility of Foreigners & Other Armed Forces

In general, foreigners will not be awarded the Iron Cross. Members of the armed forces of allied countries can receive the Iron Cross for exceptional bravery and outstanding leadership while under the command of the German armed forces. This is considered as cooperation with the German armed forces. The Iron Cross can also be awarded to foreign volunteers under oath to the Fuhrer and who fought in the German armed forces against the Soviet Union. They can also be awarded the War Merit Cross (see page 25) otherwise the decoration for members of the armed forces of allied countries is the Merit medal of the German Eagle Order with or without swords (see page 45). On several special occasions the Fuhrer awarded the Iron Cross to statesmen and high officers of countries allied to Germany.

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