July 9, 2009:
The German army has awarded the first Iron Cross medals, for bravery in a combat zone, since 1945. From 1813 to 1945, nearly five million Iron Cross medals were awarded to German military personnel (and a few civilians who were performing military functions.) The Iron Cross medal ceased to exist between 1945 and last year. But popular demand caused the German government to create an "Honor Cross for Bravery" which is, to all appearances, a continuation of the Iron Cross medals that have been awarded for over two centuries. The first recipients are four army sergeants, who performed heroically during a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.
After World War II, the government designed an Iron Cross for World War II veterans to wear, one that did not include a swastika (which has been illegal to display in Germany since World War II.) Until 1918, there were several higher (than the Iron Cross) order decorations for distinguished service in combat, but these were replaced during World War II by more elaborate versions of the Iron Cross. At the moment, all the German armed forces have is Honor Cross for Bravery. But, as in World War I, where the first Iron Cross you got was the Iron Cross 2nd class, and if you got another one, it was the Iron Cross 1st class, the Honor Cross may also morph a bit.