A unique German phenomenon that blossomed during Word War II, War Badges (“Kriegsabzeichen”), allowed an observer to determine the level of experience of a particular soldier at first glance. The War Badge differs from Qualification badges in that Qualification Badges were conferred automatically upon the completion of a predetermined training or specialization, while the War Badge reflected active duty service which was almost always in the face of enemy forces. Though they were in existence before 1918, the number of German War Badges dramatically increased during the war; by 1945 there were over 40 different patterns. These were often subdivided into classes, distinguished by the metal type (Gold, Silver, and Bronze), or by having a boxed number on the obverse of the Badge.
All three branches of the Wehrmacht had War Badges. They were generally composed of a wreath of Oak or Laurel leaves surrounding a symbol that represented the branch and service, with a German Eagle clutching a swastika surmounting the award. They were constructed in a variety of methods, and could be die struck or cast, solid or hollow back. War Badge construction methods are discussed in detail in this article; Badges Construction Techniques.
Most badges were worn permanently on the left pocket of the tunic, though a few, such as the Close Combat Clasp, were worn above the pocket and all badges were to be accompanied by an award document. Regulations for the presentation of Badges varied greatly, and a certain badge could be awarded for a single act of bravery where another may require years of fighting experience. Some badges were awarded instantaneously if wounds were inflicted during the action.
The badges of the different Wehrmacht branches may be reached through the links below.
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