May 17, 2010:
The German Army has awarded fourteen American soldiers the revived Iron Cross medal, for risking their lives, on April 2nd, to save eleven German soldiers who had come under heavy fire while searching for roadside bombs. Most of the German troops were wounded, and three died. Some American media described those U.S. troops, who received the Iron Cross First Class, as receiving the German equivalent of the American Medal of Honor. That was not quite accurate. While the Germans recently revived their combat action Iron Cross, they have not revived the higher awards (like the Pour le Merit or other Iron Cross medals above the First Class Iron Cross) that were given out in World War I and II for the kind of deeds that the Medal of Honor were meant for.
It was only last year that the German Army 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, for bravery in combat, 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 were 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, the first Iron Cross you get is the Iron Cross 2nd class, and if you got another one, it was the Iron Cross 1st class. The Honor Cross also has several degrees, but none of them in recognition for bravery in combat.
It's not unusual for American troops to receive foreign military awards for bravery, or for foreigners to receive similar American awards. If troops from different nations are operating together, there will be cases where troops do what comes naturally, help each other out in desperate situations.