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What About This Ghoulish Medal Makes it Unique?

by Enochadmin

My father, Robert W. Wicks, was a B-24 bombardier with the 763rd Bomb Squadron of the 460th Bomb Group, fifteenth Air Power, based mostly in Spinazzola, Italy. He was shot down on his twenty fourth fight mission in December 1944 and saved by a Slovak household who hid him on their farm for nearly 5 months.

Shortly after my father handed away in 1996, I got here throughout this German medal I’ve not been capable of determine. Are you able to inform me its significance? 
—David E. Wicks, Dansville, N.Y.

Because the struggle entered its ultimate 12 months, hundreds of American servicemen snatched up Third Reich medals and pins by the handful. They have been good souvenirs—small and plentiful, however nonetheless bearing the fearsome iconography of the Nazi regime.

Whereas The Nationwide World Warfare II Museum focuses on the American wartime expertise, this establishment additionally holds an enormous and different assortment of German army and civilian ephemera, most of which got here residence within the sea luggage and rucksacks of exhausted U.S. servicemen returning residence in 1945 and 1946. A dive into our assortment reveals no fewer than 15 examples of this medal, the Kriegsverdienstkreuz, orWar Advantage Cross, which was awarded to each troopers and civilians for distinctive service unrelated to fight. Whereas greater than a dozen of those silver or bronze state decorations reside in our assortment, I’ve by no means seen one with a ribbon apparently poached from one other German army award.

The blood-red ribbon connected to this Warfare Advantage Cross, with skinny black and white strains at its heart, comes from an Ostmedaille, identified in Western circles because the Japanese Medal, or extra formally, the Winter Battle within the East 1941–42 Medal. It was awarded to German servicemen who fought within the invasion of the Soviet Union throughout that first horrible winter. The commendation was additionally given to the households of those that died, inspiring some to ghoulishly name it the “Order of the Frozen Meat.” 

The proprietor of this uncommon conglomeration of wartime memorabilia tumbles into our story from war-torn skies. First Lieutenant Robert W. Wicks bailed out of his stricken B-24 on December 11, 1944. He wasn’t presupposed to be there, however on the final second had switched to the ill-fated Liberator to provide the brand new crew a extra skilled bombardier. He parachuted into Slovakia, the place he was hidden by the Pavol Macina household on their farm for months.

On the conclusion of combating in Europe, Wicks got here residence. On his lengthy street again, did he encounter a savvy entrepreneur promoting sou-venirs from the cast-off fragments of the now-defunct totalitarian state? Or did he assemble this distinctive struggle memento on his personal? We might by no means know for positive. Whereas the origin of the bizarre piece is murky, the psychology of grabbing a trophy checks out. Many troopers, sailors, and fliers, when given the prospect, snatched a small fragment of the vanquished to take residence.   

this text first appeared in world struggle II journal

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This text initially appeared within the Winter 2023 concern of World Warfare II.

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