Tuesday, May 04, 2010

All hail the Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr

We should all nod our heads to the Germans - thanks.
Fourteen members of the Army’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade on Thursday became the first non-Germans to receive Germany’s Gold Cross, one of that nation’s highest honors for valor.

The soldiers, based at U.S. Army Garrison-Ansbach, Germany, were honored for medevac flights they performed April 2 involving German troops who had been ambushed by some 200 Taliban fighters while on patrol north of the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan.

The firefight was still going on when the Black Hawk evacuation helicopters — two medical transport helicopters and one heavily armed “chase” helicopter — arrived, according to what Army Capt. Robert McDonough, who piloted one of the medical helicopters, told his father, Jack McDonough.

“The two Black Hawks did a combined seven landings into the middle of this battle. My son told me that he could see rounds hitting the blades of his helicopter and there were bullet holes in the Blackhawks,” Jack McDonough wrote in an e-mail message. “He said the incoming fire was so bad that at one point he banked the helicopter real hard to avoid the incoming rounds. He told me he saw the Taliban celebrating, thinking they had downed them.”
Lt. Col. Norbert Rahn, a spokesman for the German Federal Ministry of Defense, said in an e-mail message that this award to the 14 U.S. soldiers marks the first time that any citizen or soldier from outside Germany has been given The Gold Cross, or Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr, for “outstanding achievements under danger for life and limb.”

He wrote that at least 11 German soldiers were critically wounded when the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers arrived. Three did not survive due to the severity of their injuries, but the others were transported to safety.

He said that without the assistance from the U.S. helicopters, it would have been impossible to get the wounded to a field hospital and Germany would be lamenting the loss of additional soldiers. Even though the helicopters were under “steady, heavy fire. ... They completed their mission without hesitation, courageously and professionally,” Rahn wrote.
I did a backgrounder on the Gold Cross last year here. I would be remiss if I did not also recognize the efficiency of the German military's admin dept. Nice award timeline. Less than a month for an award of this level - from act to ceremony. I used to run one of the best Admin shops in the Navy, and we were lucky if we could do a FLOC in that time.

Oh, and the fact that almost a decade of war and no living MOH. Shame and pox on the senior leadership. Shame and pox.

Thanks Germany - we'll take it and will buy you a good beer some time.

Hat tip Argghhh!!!.


  1. ewok40k08:45

    the good news is Bundeswehr is better than many think of it, the bad news is German society  (and by extension politicians) want to quit the war NOW, or better yesterday...

  2. DeltaBravo09:43

    I second the Shame and Pox motion.

  3. AW1 Tim10:18

    WEll deserved awards. 

  4. AW1 Tim10:19


  5. Outlaw1310:27

    I know when I was in Iraq during the surge, our higher headquarters seemed to have an attitude that awards for valor were a bother, especially so for aviators and they required much more justification than (to us at least) seemed necessary.  One award submission was returned with the note attached that read, "standard TIC (troops in contact), no valor involved".  This was from a person who had never been in a TIC in his life, so I have a difficult time understanding how he could know what was standard and what was not.  But you get the idea.

    It seemed as though some of these guys thought they were having to pay for these awards out of their own pockets.

    The truth will come eventually, but it is still not right.

  6. WE will buy THEM a good beer?

    /head explodes

  7. Andrewdb11:10

    Ewok - I would have thought you, of all people, would not be upset about a pacifist Germany! 

  8. ewok40k11:15

    everything needs a measure, a balance of sorts, and too much pacisifsm sometimes leads to more warfare - look @ UK/France in tha 1930s

  9. ewok40k11:16

    and we need every good soldier in the AFG

  10. ShawnP11:23

    Is that a oxymoron a good admin shop :)

  11. XBradTC11:46

    <span>I'll second the good CDR on amazement with the German's S-1 shop. And I certainly hope the US has already given their approval for the wear of this foreign award. It took something like 4 years before the Saudi award of the Liberation of Kuwait medal was authorized. 
    And while I don't know that any of the actions in this incident were worthy of the MoH, I also agree that it is incredible that not one Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine has been deemed worthy of the MoH without having first died for the cause.</span>

  12. Anonymous13:31

    I know it's the people-and not the machine - but I must exclaim:

    Sikorsky H-60 series: Best aircraft EVAH.


  13. Casey Tompkins16:11

    Good on them!

    I am a touch confused, though. I did a little googling since I'm not familiar with German decorations; Wiki has a nice article explaining the various grades of the Badge of Honour. What actually puzzles me is that the linked Army Times article specifies 'The Gold Cross, or Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr, for “outstanding achievements under danger for life and limb.”' According to Wiki (and a translated page from the German armed forces) the Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Gold is for exemplary achievements, while the Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Gold für besonders herausragende Taten (Gold Cross of Honour for Outstanding Deeds) at the risk of one's life.

    It would make sense that they were awarded the latter, considering the risk involved. I'm not complaining -either way it's an honor- but I am wondering if the details got mucked up in translation?

  14. Outlaw1311:06

    It's the Army Times, I'm suprised they got the basic facts straight.  :)

  15. Outlaw1311:07

    I think it's still got a way to go before it lives up to the legend of the UH-1 series.

  16. The Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr has four grades: bronze, silver and gold as well as the recently added grade "gold with valor device". As the Ehrenkreuz is originally just the German version of a commendation medal for good to exemplary service (the gold grade used to be standard for every 25 year service first sergeant) there was no special medal in the Bundeswehr to recognise individual acts of courage, be they in combat or out of it. With the beginning practice to give the "old-style" Ehrenkreuze for individual acts of courage (such as the soldier jumping into a wintry river to rescue a child) even without any combat relation a kind of tension was being built up. Add to that the first Ehrenkreuze being given for combat related acts (such as moral courage in pushing the bounds of the ROE in a certain incident in Kosovo, the lieutenant in question got silver). On the one hand you had people who had done something extraordinary at the risk of their life and on the other people with meritorious but not overly special service. Both got the same medals. With the latest revision "individual act" Ehrenkreuze in the grades bronze to gold get red applications to signify the difference to the "normal commendation medals" and the "gold with valor device" is granted for combat related acts of valor (by the current (short) award practice I'd rate it as equivalent to the Bronze or Silver Star).

    The soldiers in the Bundeswehr are very ambivalent about this award system. On the one hand it's good to at least have any kind of award for combat related acts of courage. On the other hand the type of award chosen (new design/instance of a "meritorious service medal" whose award practice had long been ridiculed) was an act of moral cowardice on the part of our government party politicians. What the Bundeswehr wanted was the Iron Cross, this was averted under allegations of "historical taint", but why is it then approbriate as our sovereignity sign on Bundeswehr vehicles and aircraft? Our politicians just didn't want to raise another conflict point in a climate where the mission to Afghanistan is already controversial and got the discussion nevertheless when the Left attacked even this "spineless" version of a valor award. 

    So we got a "valor medal" that is tainted both by it's history as a "meritorious service award" with attendant historical award practice and the moral cowardice that birthed it.

    Nonetheless I'm glad that the US aircrews were recognised for their deeds and any controversy about the award is an internal German matter. Though I guess the aircrews would have been even more pleased with an EKII or EKI (i.e. Iron Cross)...