With West Germany's entry into NATO, the German government began to slowly introduce a small number of new awards for service to the German nation. Most of these were for meritorious service rather than combat related exploits. By the 1970s German forces were also approved for presentation and awarding of NATO, United Nations and foreign awards and decorations most commonly those awarded by the United States Armed Forces.
German personnel are eligible for awarding of not only military medals and orders but also the wear of a number of civil service awards, sports and fitness awards and marksmanship awards.
|An assortment of awards presented to German Armed Forces personnel|
The standard design of the Bundesverdienstkreuz is a gold cross enameled in red with a central disc bearing a black German federal eagle in the center. The ribbon presented along with the medal is red with gold, black & gold stripes. The design of the Federal Merit Cross bears influences of the Imperial Pour le Mérite award also known as the Blue Max, the highest military award presented by the Kingdom of Prussia.
The Order is presented in four groups with eight classes:
Großkreuz (Grand Cross)
- Sonderstufe des Großkreuzes (Grand Cross Special Class)
This award is typically awarded to the President of the Federal Republic upon service in the office of President. The only other persons who can hold this decoration are foreign heads of state. It is the highest class of the order. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom was presented the award in 1992.
- Großkreuz (Grand Cross 1st Class)
The Großkreuz is sometimes presented with laurel wreath which is a special design known as Großkreuz besonderer Ausführung. This award has only been presented twice in German history, both to former German Chancellors: Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.
Großes Verdienstkreuz (Grand Merit Cross)
- Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern und Schulterband (Grand Cross 2nd Class, or Grand Merit Cross with Star and Sash)
- Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern (Grand Officer's Cross, or Grand Merit Cross with Star)
- Großes Verdienstkreuz (Grand Merit Cross)
Also commonly referred to as the Commander's Cross
Verdienstkreuz (Merit Cross)
- Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse (Merit Cross 1st Class)
Also commonly referred to as the Officer's Cross
- Verdienstkreuz am Bande (Merit Cross on Ribbon)
Also commonly called the Knight's Cross
Verdienstmedaille (Merit Medal)
An example of the Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz (Commander's Cross variant). Note it's strong influences from the Prussian Pour le Mérite and the Third Reich's Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross)
|The Pour le Mérite (Order for Merit) award of the Kingdom of Prussia awarded from 1740 - 1918.|
|The Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross) award presented by Nazi Germany from 1939 - 1945|
The neck ribbon of the Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz
The body of the award bearing a gold cross enameled in red with a central disc bearing a black German federal eagle in the center.
An example of the Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse (Merit Cross First Class) also known as the Officer's Cross. It would be worn on the uniform breast pocket.
An example of the Verdienstkreuz am Bande award commonly referred to as the Knight's Cross grade of the Bundesverdienstorden.
An example of Verdienstmedaille (Medal of Merit) of the Federal Republic of Germany
A close up of the medal itself showing the red cross with black Federal Eagle against a gold round surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves.
These classes of awards are presented for valor and or meritorious service as well as outstanding achievements or heroic deeds.
The Ehrenzeichen der Bundeswehr comes in seven grades:
- Ehrenmedaille der Bundeswehr (Medal of Honor)
Presented for exemplary service and meritorious service over 7 months or exemplary achievements
- Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Bronze (Bronze Cross of Honor)
Presented for exemplary and meritious service over 5 years or exemplary achievements
- Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Silber (Silver Cross of Honor)
Presented for exemplary and meritious service over 10 years or exemplary achievements
- Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Silber für besonders herausragende Taten (Silver Cross of Honor for Outstanding Deeds)
Presented for outstanding deeds and extraordinary achievements
- Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Gold (Gold Cross of Honor)
Presented for exemplary and meritorious service over 20 years or exemplary achievements
- Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Gold für besonders herausragende Taten (Gold Cross of Honor for Outstanding Deeds)
Presented for outstanding deeds at the risk of one's life
- Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr für Tapferkeit (Cross of Honor for Bravery)
Presented for valor beyond the call of duty
The Badges of Honor are awarded with a black-red-golden ribbon and a certificate of commendation. They are worn in full display on the day of the award or on special occasions. On regular duty they are worn as a ribbon bar.
The Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Silber (Silver Cross of Honor) grade of the Ehrenzeichen der Bundeswehr. This award was established as a response to requests to reinstate the Order of the Iron Cross in modern German military heraldry.
The Cross of Honor itself shows a Federal Eagle on a Cross pattée surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves. It is set against the design of the Iron Cross order.
|The original Iron Cross award as presented as an award of the Kingdom of Prussia during the First World War|
|The Iron Cross as awarded by Nazi Germany to soldiers of the Wehrmacht from 1939 - 1945. Following the end of the Second World War and the defeat of Germany the award was abolished.|
The ribbon is black with two red stripes beside it and golden stripes on the edges as the colors of the German flag. The red edges signify it's status as a valorous distinction.
It was initially instated for wear in July 1954 and is awarded in three grades gold, silver and bronze. The design of the award differs between Army and Air Forces and the Navy. The Army and Air Force version of the award is a silver colored rope with a round metal badge on a flat end near the top of the rope, on its center it displays the German eagle surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves. The Navy version of the award looks the same except the rope's color is navy blue.
Another equally famous award is the Abzeichen für Leistungen im Truppendienst (German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency). The decoration was created in October 1980 and is awarded in three grades: gold, silver and bronze. It may be awarded to any rank of personnel and all may wear the badge.
The badge is round on its center and displays the German eagle surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves. The badge can be in gold, silver or bronze.