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Home » U-Boat Medals and Awards » Knight's Cross

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a highly prized medal recognizing extreme acts of valor within the German armed forces. Originally instituted in 1813, the Knight’s Cross of the Second World War had 1939 imprinted in the center, which was the year of its reintroduction. The appearance closely resembled the Iron Cross, but was easily identified by the position it was worn on the uniform. The Knight’s Cross was worn on the neck with a striped black, white and red ribbon attached.

Few awards captured the respect and admiration of the German public as the Knight’s Cross. To the U-boat force, the Knight’s Cross was the greatest recognition one could achieve. Captains would often joke about having an “itchy neck” which could only be cured by the red, white and black ribbon of the Knight’s Cross. U-boat crews were very proud if their commander had been awarded a Knight’s Cross and usually painted it on the conning tower or incorporated it into the boat’s insignia.

Throughout the Second World War, a total of 7,318 awards of the Knight’s Cross were presented to all organizations of the armed forces. The U-boat force received 144 of those, of which the majority were U-boat captains. Knight's Cross

Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was introduced on June 3rd, 1940 to further recognize acts of courage. As with the preceding medals, the Oak Leaves could only be awarded to one who had earlier received the Knight's Cross. A fan of three silver oak leaves decorated the Knight's Cross, just above the clip on the medallion. In all, 853 had been awarded during the second world war. The U-boat force received 29 of those, including Admiral Karl Donitz. Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves

Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

An even higher grade of the Knight’s Cross was introduced on July 15, 1941 to further recognize Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves recipients for further acts of valor which was beyond the call of duty. A pair of swords crossed at 40 degrees was added below the oak leaves. Only 150 of these had been awarded, a further testament of the honor attached to this medal. In the U-boat force, only five captains received this award. Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds

Introduced the same time with the Oak Leaves and Swords, many consider this to be the highest award that can be earned during the war. A set of diamonds inlaid on the Oak Leaves and Swords was added. Awarded only to the most highly decorated and heroic figures of the armed forces, only 27 servicemen had received this award. General Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was one of the recipients. In the U-boat Force, only two received this award; Kapitan zur See Wolfgang Luth and Fregattenkapitan Albrecht Brandi, both U-boat captains. Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds

Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds

This war decoration was of the highest order that could be awarded to servicemen under the German military during the Nazi regime. Hitler intended to limit this award to 12 of the most distinguished servicemen in the entire German military after the war ended, assuming an axis victory. As the Third Reich collapsed, an exception was made and only one award was ever presented. Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
The only Golden Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds holder was an aviator, Hans Ulrich Rudel of the Luftwaffe. A Stuka dive bomber pilot, Rudel destroyed 518 Russian tanks (that's five Russian tank corps), 150 flak and artillery positions, 700 trucks, sunk the Russian battleship Marat, a Russian cruiser, a Russian Destroyer, 70 Russian landing craft, and hundreds of other targets (bridges, railways, bunkers). He also heavily damaged another Russian battleship, the October Revolution. Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions, of which 400 were in a Focke-Wulf 190, claimed 11 air victories and was shot down 32 times.

U-995 German Type VIIC U-Boat

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