The topic of Imperial Wound Badges is a subject to be studied in itself, and what follows is obviously a brief summary as it relates to the 1939 issue. Kaiser Wilhelm II established the German Military Wound badge (Verwundetenzbzeichen), on March 3rd, 1918 with the declaration stating that it would be presented in 3 grades as listed above. The Imperial Wound badge was oval with laurels, a ribbon at the base and in the center an Imperial helmet with a pair of swords behind it. On June 3rd, 1918, the Bavarian War Ministry declared that the Wound Badge was an “award”, not a “decoration” and on June 24th the Kaiser introduced the Naval Wound Badge, which was to be awarded in the same grades as the Army and under the same regulations. Due to the late nature of the creation of the award in relation to the war, many soldiers who were wounded never received their badges, a situation that was not fully remedied until after the collapse of the Weimar Republic.
On January 30th, 1936, with Hitler in power and the Army gaining full momentum in the German society, the Ministry of Interior issued a declaration stating that all those who were wounded during World War I and never received their Wound Badge could now do so through the proper channels. They would also receive the proper documents, which would in
turn allow them to wear the badge officially and in public. Still on April 20, 1939, after the annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland, and Memel, the Ministry of interior issued a declaration stating that all those who served in the Austro-Hungarian Army and were wounded in action during World War I would also be able to receive the award. In fact, these awards were
presented until late 1941.
Condor Legion Wound Badge
The Condor Legion who fought in Spain in 1936-1939 did not have a wound badge, or any other award during the conflict. Upon their return to Germany after the victory of the forces guided by Gen. Franco, however, Condor Legion, or Spanish Wound Badge, was established on May 22, 1939. Its regulation stated that it was created...
“..as a recognition badge to German Volunteers who had received wounds on action in the fight again Bolshevism during the 1936-1939 Spanish War of Liberation”.All three classes were renewed, but the gold wound badge was not presented, as there was apparently no one that qualified to receive it. The Condor Legion Wound Badges were exactly like to the World War I wound badges (these dies were readily available) with the addition of a swastika on the Imperial Helmet. They were always hollow backs with the swastika high on the helmet, sharply defined, and flushed with the helmet. The award was now all-inclusive so no separate Wound Badge was created for the Kriegsmarine. It was possible for members of the Wehrmacht who were later wounded in the Second World War to receive the higher class of the award based on the possession of the Spanish type. Only 182 black badges and 1 silver badge were awarded after the civil war.
Wound Badge 1939
Having closed the Condor Legion Wound Badge, Hitler reestablished the Wound Badges on the eve of World War II to recognize those individuals who were wounded in action with the enemy. The reinstitution decree stated that it was...
“..as a mark of honor for all risked their lives for the Fatherland and have been wounded or maimed."All members of the Armed Forces, Police units, and from 1943 on all civilians injured during allied air raids were eligible for the award. Those individuals killed in action were posthumously awarded the gold grade, which was presented to the next of kin. Because the World War I Wound Badges were still readily available at the time, these were initially once again modified by adding a swastika onto the helmet. There are some differences between these and the Condor Legion Wound Badge, however, as the swastika is not as high, has rounder, softer edges, and is not flushed with the helmet. These are referred to as “Spanish Type” or 1939 1st Type, but they are not to be confused with the Condor Legion Wound Badge. Though only used “temporarily” until the new version became available, this type was presented as late as 1942.
A few months after Operation Fall Weiss began the 1939 Wound Badge 2nd type was available and started to be presented. This version, very similar to its predecessors, was oval with pebbling on the background plate and featured an M35 helmet with a mobile swastika on it. Behind the helmet were the usual crossed swords, and a wreath of laurels surrounding the badge with a ribbon at the base. There are slight variations in the measurements of the badges, but the 24 authorized manufacturers were mostly consistent in size. The Wound badge was presented with a standard document.
|Black Wound Badge 1939|
|Wound Badge in Black||Wound Badge in Black Document|
The black grade was stamped from sheet brass, later steel, and was painted mat or semi-mat. It has a hollow back with a needle pin. They were rarely stamped (15-20%) with a makers mark, but if one was present it would be on the reverse. Because of the decline in materials late war badges of this grade often tended to rust.
|Silver Wound Badge 1939|
The Silver grade was produced initially from silver-plated brass, and later in the war (1942) from whitewashed zinc. The reverse was solid, with either a needle or fat bellied pin and the manufacturers and silver content marks, if present. Awarded for three or four wounds, it could also be awarded for more serious wounds if such wound included loss of hearing, a hand, a foot,
an eye, brain damage, or facial disfigurement.
|Gold Wound Badge 1939|
The gold grade was initially manufactured from gold plated or polished brass (as result of the polishing some of the badges lack pebbling and are almost flat). These were also later made from gilt-washed zinc and by 1945 as quality became less important and materials scarce some black badges were being painted the appropriate color and issued as both silver and gold grades. The reverse was again solid with the same pin characteristics and marks as the Silver grade. It was awarded for five or more wounds, and was also awarded for serious wounds in cases of total blindness or total disability.
The Wound Badge could be presented either in a presentation case or an envelope. The Silver and Gold grade were normally, though not always, presented in a case and the Black grade was commonly presented in an envelope. The cases, which were similar to the ones used by other awards such as the Iron Cross, were made of wood and covered in simulated leather. The LDO logo was sometimes stamped on the outside of the lid and the inside base was covered by flocked material while the inside of the lid was covered with white satin. The envelopes came with the name and class of the award written in gothic script. The recipient was also presented witha document bearing the proper official signatures and stamps. All badges were worn on the left pocked of the uniform below any other decorations.
20 July, 1944 Wound Badge
This is by far the most rare of wound badges as it was only issued to a handful of officers and aides that were injured on the famous (and failed) bomb attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair in Rastenburg, East Prussia. Twenty-four individuals were present when the bomb detonated and they were all injured to some degree. One Officer was killed immediately and three others succumbed to their wounds a short time later.
|Wound Badge 20 July, 1944|
The 20 July Badge was based on the common Wound Badge, but the helmet was slightly higher and larger, they also bore the date “20 Juli 1944” and a facsimile of Hitler’s signature below the helmet. Hitler presented all the survivors with the especial wound badge and a unique document in a ceremony on September 2nd, 1944.
1957 Wound Badge
On July 26 1957, the West German Ministry of the Interior included the Wound Badge in its revision of regulations regarding World War II awards and decorations. Recipients currently wear all grades of the Wound Badges, but the Third Reich swastika is removed from the helmet. The 1957 Wound Badges are of lower quality than its counterpart, and all are produced from die stamped white metal. The Silver and Gold grade are plated while the Black grade is painted flat black.
The following pages focus on one story; it is the military career and subsequent hospitalization of one soldier; Pioneer Wilhelm Haffner. Please follow the link below to those pages.
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