German WWII Knight Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaf
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) was based on enactment (Reichsgesetzblatt I S. 849) of 3 June 1940 which augmented article 1 and 4 of the 1939 Ordinance re-establishing the Iron Cross. Before the introduction of the Oak Leaves only 124 members of the Wehrmacht had received the Knight's Cross. Prior to Case Yellow (Fall Gelb), the attack on the Netherlands, Belgium and France, just 52 Knight's Crosses had been awarded. In May 1940 the number of presentations peaked. The timing for the introduction of the Oak Leaves is closely linked to Case Red (Fall Rot), the second and decisive phase of the Battle of France.
Like the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross to which it was added, the Oak Leaves clasp could be awarded for leadership, distinguished service or personal gallantry. The Oak Leaves, just like the 1813 Iron Cross and Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, was not a National Socialist invention. The Oak Leaves originally appeared in conjunction with the Golden Oak Leaves of the Red Eagle Order (Roter Adlerorden), which was the second highest Prussian order after the Black Eagle Order (Schwarzer Adlerorden). The 1705 established Red Eagle Order had received the Oak Leaves with a cabinet of the king decree on 18 January 1811. Friedrich Wilhelm III had also ordered the Oak Leaves to be part of the Iron Cross design in commemoration of his 1810 deceased wife, Queen Louise of Prussia. The king also awarded the Oak Leaves together with the Pour le Mérite since 9 October 1813 to honour the soldierly merit before the enemy.
The decoration consisted of a cluster of three oak-leaves with the centre leaf superimposed on the two lower leaves. The middle of the Oak Leaves were decorated by a stylized letter "L" in memoriam of Louise of Prussia. The original clasp was die-struck from 900 grade silver and 2 centimetres (0.79 in) in diameter. The clasp had a pebbled matt finish, with the edges and central ribs of the leaves burnished. The official manufacturer of the Oak Leaves was exclusively the firm Gebrüder Godet & Co. (Godet Brothers & Co.) in Berlin.[Note 4] Godet & Co manufactured two variants of the Oak Leaves which mainly distinguished itself in the appearance of the Oak Leaves on the front right side. Additionally the second variant had a more massive appearance. The first variant was produced until mid 1943.