War Merit Cross

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Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords
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Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords

The War Merit Cross was a decoration of 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-fied version for veterans.

This award was created by Adolf Hitler in 1939 as a successor to the non-combatant Iron Cross which was used in earlier wars (same medal but with a different ribbon). The award was graded the same as the Iron Cross: War Merit Cross Second Class, War Merit Cross First Class, and Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross. There was also another version below the 2nd class simply called the War Merit Medal, setup in April of 1940 for civilians in order to offset the large number of 2nd class without swords being awarded. Recipients had to have the lower grade of the award before getting the next level. The award had two variants: with swords given to soldiers for exceptional service in battle above and beyond the call of duty (but not worthy of an Iron Cross which was more a bravery award), and without swords for meritorious service behind the lines which could also be awarded to civilians.

One notable winner of the War Merit Cross was William Joyce (aka Lord Haw-Haw). A tradition was set up that winners of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross would be awarded the medal by winners of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, symbolizing the link between the combat soldier and their supporters who helped keep the war effort going.

There was one extra grade of the War Merit Cross, which was created at the suggestion of Albert Speer: The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold, but this was never officially placed on the list of national awards as it came about in 1945 and there was no time to officially promugate the award before the war ended. The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold (without swords) was awarded to two recipients on 20 April 1945: Franz Hahne and Karl Saur.

The ribbon of the War Merit Cross was in red-white-black-white-red; that was, the red and black colors being reversed from the ribbon of the World War II version of the Iron Cross.

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