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Axis Awards


The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (RK in the Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes, or simply the Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz), and its variants were the highest awards in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.

The Knight's Cross was awarded for a wide range of reasons and across all ranks, from a senior commander for skilled leadership of his troops in battle to a low-ranking soldier for a single act of military valour. Presentations were made to members of the three military branches of the Wehrmacht (the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe), as well as the Waffen-SS, the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD—Reich Labour Service) and the Volkssturm (German national militia), along with personnel from other Axis powers.

The award was instituted on 1 September 1939, at the onset of the German invasion of Poland. A higher grade, the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross, was instituted in 1940. In 1941, two higher grades of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves were instituted: the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds). At the end of 1944 the final grade, the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, was created. Over 7,000 awards were made during the course of the war.

Grades

The legal grounds for this decree had been established in 1937 with the German law of Titles, Orders and Honorary Signs (Gesetz über Titel, Orden und Ehrenzeichen) that made the Führer and Reich president the only person who was allowed to award orders or honorary signs. The re-institution of the Iron Cross was therefore a Führer decree, which had political implication since the Treaty of Versailles had explicitly prohibited the creation of a military decoration, order or medal. The renewal for the first time had created an honorary sign of the entire German state.

As the war progressed four additional years, leaders had to distinguish those who had already won the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross or one of the higher grades and who continued to show merit in combat bravery or military success. The Knight's Cross was eventually awarded in five grades:

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (RK in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (EL in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (S in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Br in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. (GEL in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes)

The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross instituted on 1 September 1939. Its appearance was very similar to the Iron Cross. Its shape was that of a cross pattée, a cross that has arms which are narrow at the center and broader at the perimeter. The most common Knight's Crosses were produced by the manufacturer Steinhauer & Lück in Lüdenscheid. The Steinhauer & Lück crosses are stamped with the digits "800", indicating 800 grade silver, on the reverse side. Qualification for the Luftwaffe: The previous award of the EK1 and the accumulation of (initially) 20 points total, 1 point for downing a single-engine aircraft, 2 points for a twin-engine aircraft and 3 points for a four-engine aircraft. All points were x2 at night. This total was continuously raised as the war went on.

Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves (mit Eichenlaub)

The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) was instituted on 3 June 1940. Before the introduction of the Oak Leaves only 124 members of the Wehrmacht had received the Knight's Cross. Prior to Case Yellow (Fall Gelb), the attack on the Netherlands, Belgium and France, just 52 Knight's Crosses had been awarded. In May 1940 the number of presentations peaked. The timing for the introduction of the Oak Leaves is closely linked to Case Red (Fall Rot), the second and decisive phase of the Battle of France. Qualification for the Luftwaffe: previous award of the Knight's Cross, and the continued accumulation of points, 1 point for downing a single-engine aircraft, 2 points for a twin-engine aircraft and 3 points for a four-engine aircraft. All points were x2 at night. This total was continuously raised as the war went on.

Like the Knight's Cross to which it was added, the Oak Leaves clasp could be awarded for leadership, distinguished service or personal gallantry. The Oak Leaves, just like the 1813 Iron Cross and Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, was not a National Socialist invention. They originally appeared in conjunction with the Golden Oak Leaves of the Red Eagle Order, which was the second highest Prussian order after the Black Eagle Order. The king also awarded the Oak Leaves together with the Pour le Mérite since 9 October 1813 for gallantry.

Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern)

The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern) was instituted one of 28 September 1941.The Oak Leaves with Swords clasp was similar in appearance to the Oak Leaves clasp with the exception that a pair of crossed swords were soldered to the base of the Oak Leaves. Qualification for the Luftwaffe: The previous award of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, and the continued accumulation of points, 1 point for downing a single-engine aircraft, 2 points for a twin-engine aircraft and 3 points for a four-engine aircraft. All points were x2 at night. This total was continuously raised as the war went on.

Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten)

The Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten) was instituted on 28 September 1941. The clasp was drilled out to accept the diamonds. The first recipients were Werner Mölders and Adolf Galland. Presentation of the Diamonds came as a set and included the more elaborate A-piece and a second clasp with rhinestones for everyday wear, the B-piece.The Diamonds were awarded 27 times during World War II. However three individuals never received a set of Diamonds. Hans-Joachim Marseille, the fourth recipient, was killed in an aircraft crash prior to its presentation. The deteriorating situation and the end of the war prevented its presentation to Karl Mauss, the 26th recipient and Dietrich von Saucken, the 27th and final recipient. Qualification for the Luftwaffe: previous award of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, and the continued accumulation of points, 1 point for downing a single-engine aircraft, 2 points for a twin-engine aircraft and 3 points for a four-engine aircraft. All points were x2 at night. This total was continuously raised as the war went on.

Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (mit Goldenem Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten)

The Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Goldenem Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten) was instituted on 29 December 1944. This medal was the highest level, originally intended for 12 of the most distinguished servicemen in the entire German armed forces after the war ended. Six sets of Golden Oak Leaves were manufactured, each consisting of an A-piece, made of 18 Carat gold with 58 real diamonds and a B-piece, made of 14 Carat with 68 real sapphires. One of these sets was presented to Hans-Ulrich Rudel on 1 January 1945, the remaining five sets were taken to Schloss Klessheim, where they were taken by the US forces. Qualification: The previous award of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, and the continued performance of outstanding actions of combat bravery above and beyond the call of duty.


The German Cross (German: Deutsches Kreuz) (DK-G in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

This was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 28 September 1941. It was awarded in two divisions: gold for repeated acts of bravery or achievement in combat; and silver for distinguished non-combat war service. The German Cross in Gold ranked higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, while the German Cross in Silver ranked higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords.

Divisions

DeutschesKreuzinGold.jpgThe German Cross was issued in two divisions: gold (top) and silver (bottom) (the color of the laurel wreath around the swastika), the former being an award for repeated acts of bravery or repeated outstanding achievements in combat, the latter being for multiple distinguished services in war efforts and was considered a continuation of the War Merit Cross with swords. The German Cross was unique in that the gold and silver divisions were considered as separate awards but were not to be worn simultaneously. However, pictures of recipients wearing both grades exist (see Odilo Globocnik and Dr. Paul Meixner).

GermanCrossInSilver.jpgArticle three of the law governing the German Cross states that a prerequisite for the presentation of the German Cross in Gold or Silver is the ownership of the Iron Cross (1939) 1st Class or Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939) 1st Class, or the War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords.



1957 version

In 1957 alternative de-nazified replacement versions of the German Cross were authorized for wear by the Federal Republic of Germany. This replaced the swastika with a representation of the Iron Cross for the gold division, and the War Merit Cross with Swords for the silver division. Wearing Nazi-era decorations was banned in Germany after the war, as was any display of the swastika. The 1957 replacement of the World War II decorations consequently enabled recipients to wear the German Cross again but only in the new version of the insignia.


Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (EP in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

The Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (Honor Goblet of the Luftwaffe) was a Luftwaffe award established on 27 February 1940 by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, the Reich Minister of Aviation and Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe. It was officially known as the Ehrenpokal "für Besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg", or Honor Goblet "For Special Achievement in the Air War". The award was given only to flying personnel (pilots and aircrew). Recipients' named were published in the periodical Ehrenliste der Deutschen Luftwaffe (Honor List of the German Air Force). German archives indicate that approximately 58,000 were given "on paper", but only 13-15,000 goblets were actually awarded according to the records. The first airman to receive the goblet was Johann Schalk on 21 August 1940.

The award was made to aircrew who had already been awarded the Iron Cross First Class but whose performance was not considered to merit the German Cross or Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. It was replaced by the Luftwaffe Honour Roll Clasp in January 1944.

The actual goblet was produced in two materials, fine silver (German: Feinsilber) or also in German Silver (German: Alpaka) or Nickel silver. The size is about 200 mm tall x 100 mm in diameter. The goblet was produced in two pieces which were fitted together into one unit. The obverse depicts two eagles in mortal combat. while the reverse bears an Iron Cross in high relief. Oak leaves and acorns adorn the stem. The legend "Für Besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg" are formed into the base.


The Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz) (EK1 and EK2 in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

The Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz (abbreviated EK) was a military decoration in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later in the German Empire (1871–1918) and Nazi Germany (1933–1945). It was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in March 1813 backdated to the birthday of his late wife Queen Louise on 10 March 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars (EK 1813). Louise was the first person to receive this decoration (posthumous). The recommissioned Iron Cross was also awarded during the Franco-Prussian War (EK 1870), World War I (EK 1914), and World War II (EK 1939, re-introduced with a swastika added in the center). The Iron Cross was normally a military decoration only, though there were instances of it being awarded to civilians for performing military functions. Two examples of this were civilian test pilots Hanna Reitsch who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for their actions as pilots during World War II.

The design of the cross symbol was black with a white or silver outline, was ultimately derived from the cross pattée of the Teutonic Order, used by knights on occasions from the 13th century.

World War I

Emperor Wilhelm II reauthorized the Iron Cross on 5 August 1914, at the start of World War I. During these three periods, the Iron Cross was an award of the Kingdom of Prussia, although—given Prussia's pre-eminent place in the German Empire formed in 1871—it tended to be treated as a generic German decoration. The 1813, 1870, and 1914 Iron Crosses had three grades:

Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse, or EKII) (shown below). This is the lower award

Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse, or EKI). This is the higher award

Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes, often simply Großkreuz)

Although the medals of each class were identical, the manner in which each was worn differed. Employing a pin or screw posts on the back of the medal, the Iron Cross 1st Class was worn on the left side of the recipient's uniform. The Grand Cross and the Iron Cross 2nd Class were suspended from different ribbons. The Grand Cross from a neck ribbon, the 2nd Class from a ribbon on the chest. The usual display of the 2nd Class version was as a ribbon through one of the button holes in the recipient's tunic.

The Grand Cross was intended for senior generals of the Prussian or (later) the German Army. An even higher decoration, the Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (also called the Blücher Star), was awarded only twice, to Generalfeldmarschall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher in 1813 and to Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Hindenburg in 1918. A third award was planned for the most successful German general during World War II, but was not made after the defeat of Germany in 1945.

The Iron Cross 1st Class and the Iron Cross 2nd Class were awarded without regard to rank. One had to possess the 2nd Class already in order to receive the 1st Class (though in some cases both could be awarded simultaneously). The egalitarian nature of this award contrasted with those of most other German states (and indeed of many other European monarchies), where military decorations were awarded based on the rank of the recipient. For example, Bavarian officers received various grades of that Kingdom's Military Merit Order (Militär-Verdienstorden), while enlisted men received various grades of the Military Merit Cross (Militär-Verdienstkreuz). Prussia did have other orders and medals which it awarded on the basis of rank, and even though the Iron Cross was intended to be awarded without regard to rank, officers and NCOs were more likely to receive it than junior enlisted soldiers.

During World War I, approximately 218,000 EKIs, 5,196,000 EKIIs and 13,000 non-combatant EKIIs were awarded. Exact numbers of awards are not known, since the Prussian military archives were destroyed during World War II. The multitude of awards reduced the status and reputation of the decoration. Among the holders of the 1914 Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class was Adolf Hitler, who served as an Austrian citizen in the Bavarian Army with the rank of Gefreiter (lance-corporal), he received these medals for showing bravery on the field of battle.Most photographs of Hitler show him wearing his EKI in standard fashion on his left breast.

World War II

Adolf Hitler restored the Iron Cross in 1939 as a German decoration (rather than Prussian), and continued the tradition of issuing it in various classes. Legally, it is based on the "Enactment for the re-introduction of the Iron Cross" (Verordnung über die Erneuerung des Eisernen Kreuzes) of 1 September 1939. The Iron Cross of World War II was divided into three main series of decorations with an intermediate category, the Knight's Cross, instituted between the lowest, the Iron Cross, and the highest, the Grand Cross. The Knight's Cross replaced the Prussian Pour le Mérite or 'Blue Max'. Hitler did not care for the Pour le Mérite, as it was a Prussian order that could be awarded only to officers. The ribbon of the medal (2nd class and Knight's Cross) was different from the earlier Iron Crosses in that the color red was used in addition to the traditional black and white (black and white were the colors of Prussia, while black, white, and red were the colors of Germany). Hitler also created the War Merit Cross as a replacement for the non-combatant version of the Iron Cross. It also appeared on certain Nazi flags in the upper left corner. The edges were curved, like most original iron crosses.

The standard 1939 Iron Cross was issued in the following two grades:

Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse: EK2 in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive). This is the lower award.

Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse: EK1 in Kracker Luftwaffe Archive). This is the higher award.

The Iron Cross was awarded for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions in a battlefield environment.

WW2 German Iron Cross 2nd ClassThe Iron Cross 2nd Class (left) was awarded for single act of outstanding combat bravery above and beyond the call of duty. The cross itself was worn in one of two different ways: (1) From the second button in the tunic for the first day after award. (2)When in formal dress, the entire cross was worn mounted alone or as part of a medal bar. Note that for everyday wear, only the ribbon itself was worn from the second buttonhole in the tunic.




The Iron Cross 1st ClassThe Iron Cross 1st Class (left) was a pin-on medal with no ribbon and was worn centered on a uniform breast pocket, either on dress uniforms or everyday outfit. It was a progressive award, with the second class having to be earned before the first class and so on for the higher degrees. Recipients must already have been awarded the EK2 and achieved 3-5 outstanding actions of combat bravery above and beyond the call of duty. The Luftwaffe worked on a points system. The accumulation of 5 points was required in total, 1 point for downing a single-engine aircraft, 2 points for a twin-engine aircraft and 3 points for a four-engine aircraft. All points were x2 at night.

It is estimated that some four and a half million 2nd Class Iron Crosses were awarded during World War II, and 300,000 of the 1st Class. Two Iron Cross 1st Class recipients were women, one of whom was test pilot Hanna Reitsch. One of the Muslim SS members to receive the award, SS Obersturmführer Imam Halim Malkoć, was granted the Iron Cross (2nd Class) in October 1943 for his role in suppressing the Villefranche-de-Rouergue mutiny. He, together with several other Bosnian Muslims, was decorated with the EK. II personally by Himmler in the days after the mutiny. Because of his Muslim faith, he only wore the ribbon, and not the cross. Two Jewish officers of the Finnish Army and one female Lotta Svärd member were awarded Iron Crosses, but they would not accept them. The Spanish double-agent Juan Pujol García, known to the Germans as Arabel and the British as Garbo received the 2nd Class Iron Cross, and an MBE from King George VI four months later.William Manley is possibly the only recipient of both the Iron Cross and the Victoria Cross. He was awarded the Iron Cross for service with an ambulance unit in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71.


Wound Badge

The Wound Badge, 1939 was awarded in three grades, Black, Silver and Gold. The version awarded depended on the number of wounds received via hostile action or due to the seriousness of any single wound.

WW2 German Wound Badge in SilverWound Badge: Wounded 1 or 2x by hostile action or air raid, or wounded from frost-bite in the line of duty.

Wound Badge in Silver: Wounded 3 or 4x by hostile action or air raid, or Loss of a hand or foot via hostile action, or Loss of an eye via hostile action, or Loss or partial loss of hearing via hostile action, or Brain damage via hostile action, or Facial disfigurement via hostile action.

Wound Badge in Gold: Wounded 5 times or more by hostile action, or Total blindness via hostile action, or Severe brain damage via hostile action, or As a result of being killed in action.

On a personal level the Wound Badge was for obvious reasons not a popular award, as one would have to endure some amount of pain and suffering to be awarded one. In general though, the wound badge was looked upon highly, as it was a sign that one suffered for his country, especially so in the case of the Silver and Gold versions of the badge. Civilians were awarded the Wound Badge after March of 1943 due to the increasing number of people killed or wounded as a result of the Allied bombing campaign.


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 caudillo, Francisco Franco.

Bronze: The non-combatant version was awarded to military personnel or civilians for three months of service in Spain without combat experience. 7869 bronze crosses were awarded.

Bronze with Swords: The Spanish Cross in Bronze with Swords was given to individuals involved in front line combat during the war. 8462 bronze crosses with swords were awarded.

Silver: The Silver Cross was a non-combatant version awarded for merit. 327 silver crosses were awarded.

Silver with Swords: The Spanish Cross in Silver was awarded to the soldiers who took part in decisive battles or had a considerable fighting experience. 8304 silver crosses with swords were awarded.

Gold: The Spanish Cross in Gold was awarded to a soldier who showed great merits in combat or achieved uncanny accomplishments. 1126 gold crosses were awarded.

Gold with Diamonds: The Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds was the highest rank of the decoration. It was awarded to those who showed great leadership skills in battle or great merits. 28 gold crosses with diamonds were awarded.


Finland Awards

Finland chose to align itself with Nazi Germany in WW2, most probably as a direct result of the attacks on them from the USSR. Finnish aviators scored some remarkable results against the Russian forces.

Mannerheim Cross of Liberty (Finnish: Mannerheim-risti, Swedish: Mannerheimkorset) is the most esteemed Finnish military decoration. The medal, inspired by the Old-Scandinavian Fylfot, was introduced after the Winter War and named after Field Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim. The decoration was awarded to soldiers for exceptional bravery, for the achievement of crucially important objectives by combat, or for especially successfully conducted operations.

Examples of awarded Knighthoods of Mannerheim Cross include the destruction of six main battle tanks with Panzerfaust during a single day. For pilots, the requirement was 25 downed planes.

History

The award was introduced into the Order of the Cross of Liberty and a bearer of the cross is called a Knight of the Mannerheim Cross. While the 1st class is the 5th and the 2nd class the 9th in the order of precedence of Finnish awards, the Mannerheim Cross 2nd class has become the most distinguished military award in Finland.

Mannerheimkruis der Eerste en Tweede Klasse.jpgThe Second Class of the award (shown at bottom)was instituted as the universal award for exceptional bravery, for the achievement of crucially important objectives by combat, or for especially successfully conducted operations. The Cross could be awarded to any soldier of the Finnish Defence Forces, regardless of rank. The lack of a rank requirement, the emphasis on individual bravery, and the prize of 50,000 marks to each recipient attracted considerable public attention to the award during the war. The first private to be awarded the cross was Vilho Rättö, for destroying four enemy tanks with an anti-tank gun taken from the enemy. In 1942, the prize sum was equivalent to a lieutenant's annual salary. As the Mannerheim Cross was awarded most often in the 2nd class, this is usually meant when referring to the Mannerheim Cross.

No special requirements differing from the Mannerheim Cross 2nd class were laid out for the Mannerheim Cross 1st class (shown at top). It has been awarded only twice, to its namesake, the Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim and General of Infantry Erik Heinrichs. Mannerheim thought it was somewhat odd for him to carry a decoration that was named after him, but decided to receive the Cross from President of the Republic Risto Ryti after all the previous awardees had requested him to accept it.

The Mannerheim Cross Second Class has been awarded to 191 persons, all during World War II. Four persons have been awarded it twice. De jure, the decoration is still active and can be awarded to any Finnish soldier, although it is highly unlikely that this would be done during peacetime or even in a minor conflict. (Decree 550/1946 on the Order of the Cross of Liberty)

Since the presidency of Martti Ahtisaari, all surviving recipients of the Mannerheim Cross have been invited to the Independence Day Reception, hosted by the president. By tradition they are also the first guests to enter.


The Order of the Cross of Liberty (Finnish: Vapaudenristin ritarikunta; Swedish: Frihetskorsets orden) is one of three official orders in Finland, along with the Order of the White Rose of Finland and the Order of the Lion of Finland. The President of Finland is the Grand Master of the two orders, and usually of the Order of the Cross of Liberty as well, Grand Mastership of which is attached to the position of Commander-in-chief. In 1944, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951) was designated as Grand Master for life. The orders are administered by boards consisting of a chancellor, a vice-chancellor and at least four members. The orders of the White Rose of Finland and the Lion of Finland have a joint board.

Vapaudenristin 1lk rintatähti mk.pngThe Order of the Cross of Liberty (left) was founded on March 4, 1918, upon the initiative of General C. G. E. Mannerheim. The Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela was commissioned to design the Order's insignia with the swastika.

At its foundation there were seven classes: grand cross, cross of liberty (1st to 4th class) and the medal of liberty (1st and 2nd class). The decorations of the Order of the Cross of Liberty were initially conferred only in time of war. A decree was issued on 18 August 1944 enabling the decorations to be awarded in peacetime.

The Cross of Liberty has a red ribbon when it is granted in wartime and a yellow ribbon when it is awarded in peacetime.

Decorations of the order were awarded in great numbers during the World War II, partly due to Marshal Mannerheim having issued an order that wounded soldiers were to be awarded for their sacrifice, and Finland has no separate decoration for wounded. The Cross of Liberty is usually reserved for commissioned officers, with the Medal of Liberty being awarded for soldiers of junior rank and NCOs.


Italy Awards

Gold Medal of Military Valour

The Gold Medal of Military Valour (Italian: Medaglia d'oro al Valore Militare) is an Italian medal established on 21 May 1793 by King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia "....per bassi ufficiali e soldati che avevano fatto azioni di segnalato valore in guerra" (for deeds of outstanding gallantry in war by junior officers and soldiers).

The face of the medal displayed the profile of the king, and on its reverse was a flag decoration and the words "al valore" (for valour).

On 14 August 1815, Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia replaced it with the Military Order of Savoy ("l'Ordine militare di Savoia"), now known as the Military Order of Italy.

Charles Albert of Sardinia revived it on March 26, 1833, and added to it the Silver and Bronze medals. These had, on their faces, the coat of arms of Savoy with laurel branches, the royal crown, and the words "al valor militare" (for military valor). On the reverse were two laurel branches enclosing the name of the decorated soldier, and the place and date of the action.

With the proclamation of the Republic on June 2, 1946, the coat of arms of Savoy was replaced with the emblem of the Italian Republic.

For actions performed by individuals during World War I, the Gold Medal was awarded some 368 times, as well as 37 times to military units, and once to the Unknown Soldier. Only four of the individual awards went to foreigners, one of these being Czar Nicholas II of Russia. The other three were for acts of gallantry in which the recipient was killed in action or died from his injuries (the Frenchmen John O'Byrne and Roland Morillot, and the American Coleman deWitt). The Gold Medal of Military Valor was one of the most parsimoniously awarded medals of World War I, granted less frequently than even the Victoria Cross which was awarded 628 times.

During World War II the medal was awarded to soldiers of the Royal Italian Army; after these forces were reorganized following the Armistice with Italy in 1943, it was awarded to members of the Allies-supporting Italian Co-Belligerent forces. The Axis-affiliated Italian Social Republic created another design of the medal to give to members of the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano from 1943 to 1945. This version of the award was not given recognition by the postwar Italian government.

The Gold Medal for Military Valor is still awarded by the Italian state, and it, along with Silver and Bronze medals for Military Valor as well as the "Croce di Guerra al Valor Militare" (War Cross of Military Valour - which can only be awarded in time of war) is established by the Royal Decree of 4 November 1932, in which the purpose of these medals is defined as "To distinguish and publicly honor the authors of heroic military acts, even ones performed in time of peace, provided that the exploit is closely connected with the purposes for which the Armed Forces are constituted, whatever may be the condition or quality of the author."

SY 2018-01-25

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon

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Last Modified: 29 January 2018, 10:22