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Home » U-Boat Medals and Awards » The Iron Cross

The Iron Cross

Although Germany gave many different awards for valor, the Iron Cross in its various grades was the primary and most famous award recognizing valor. It was first instituted on March 10, 1813 by King Frederick William III of Prussia, who was at then at war against the French under Napolean. Since then the Iron Cross has gone through many evolutions and on 1st September 1939, Adolf Hitler reinstituted it again in readiness for the Second World War. The Iron Cross awarded during the second world war was imprinted with 1939 in the center, indicating the year of its reintroduction.

The Iron Cross was a standard issue medal given by all ranks of the armed forces (Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine). Despite the prestige of this medal, it was very widely awarded having about six million recipients throughout wartime.

Iron Cross Knight's Cross
The Iron Cross and Knight's Cross were very similar in appearance. The difference was easily identified by which part of the uniform it was worn.

The Iron Cross itself comes in two classes, Second Class and First Class. The Iron Cross First Class could only be awarded to one who had previously received the Iron Cross Second Class. Hence, the First Class was more restricted and more highly prized. Both the medals looked very similar and were worn on the same position on the lower left side of the uniform. When the Iron Cross First Class was awarded, the Iron Cross Second Class was signified with a small ribbon attached to a button.

The first recipients of the Iron Cross during the second world war was the entire crew of U-29. They were awarded the Second Class medal on 18 September 1939, the day after U-29 sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous. The commander Kapitanleutnant Otto Schuhart had received both the crosses during that event. Some commanders were awarded with both the First and Second Class together, after completing a particularly successful mission. Otto Schuhart

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