Here is the repro verison of the Pour le Mérite (German Blue Max).
History of the Pour le Mérite (German Blue Max):
The Pour le Mérite (Fr.: For Merit), known informally as the Blue Max (German: Blauer Max),was the German Kingdom of Prussia's highest order of merit (German: Verdienstorden). It was awarded strictly as a recognition of extraordinary personal achievement, rather than as a general marker of social status or a courtesy-honour, although certain restrictions of social class and military rank were applied. The award was given as both a military (1740–1918) and civil (1740–1810, after 1842 as a separate class) honour.
The award was founded in 1740 by Frederick the Great; it was intended primarily as a military honour, but was also sometimes given for civil accomplishments. New awards of the military class ceased with the end of the Prussian monarchy after World War I in November 1918.
A separate civil class of the Pour le Mérite, the Pour le mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste, was created in 1842 to honour accomplishments in the arts and sciences. This version of the order was revived as an independent organization in 1923, and again in 1952, with the President of Germany replacing the King of Prussia as head of the order. This version of the honour is still active.
The order is effectively secular, and membership endures for the remaining lifetime of the inductee, unless renounced or revoked.
|Pour le Mérite
|Awarded by the King of Prussia|
|Last awarded||2 September 1918|
Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves
In January 1810, during the Napoleonic wars, King Frederick William III decreed that the award could be presented only to serving military officers. In March 1813, the king added an additional distinction, a spray of gilt oak leaves attached above the cross. Award of the oak leaves originally indicated extraordinary achievement in battle, and was usually reserved for high-ranking officers.
The original regulations called for the capture or successful defense of a fortification, or victory in a battle. By World War I, the oak leaves often indicated a second or higher award of the Pour le Mérite, though in most cases the recipients were still high-ranking officers (usually distinguished field commanders fitting the criteria above; the few lower ranking recipients of the oak leaves were mainly general staff officers responsible for planning a victorious battle or campaign). In early 1918, it was proposed to award the oak leaves to Germany's top flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen, but he was deemed ineligible under a strict reading of the regulations. Instead, Prussia awarded von Richthofen a slightly less prestigious honor, the Order of the Red Eagle, 3rd Class with Crown and Swords. This was still a high honor, as the 3rd Class was normally awarded to colonels and lieutenant colonels, and von Richthofen's award was one of only two of the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords during World War I.
In 1866, a special military Grand Cross class of the award was established. This grade of the award was given to those who, through their actions, caused the retreat or destruction of an army. There were only five awards of the Grand Cross: to King Wilhelm I in 1866, to Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia (later Emperor Frederick III) and Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia in 1873, to Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1878, and to Helmuth Graf von Moltke in 1879.
The Pour le Mérite gained international fame during World War I. Although it could be awarded to any military officer, its most famous recipients were the pilots of the German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte), whose exploits were celebrated in wartime propaganda. In aerial warfare, a fighter pilot was initially entitled to the award upon downing eight enemy aircraft. Aces Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke were the first airmen to receive the award, on January 12, 1916. Although it has been reported[by whom?] that because of Immelmann's renown among his fellow pilots and the nation at large, the Pour le Mérite became known, due to its color and this early famous recipient, as the Blue Max, but it may be doubtful.[according to whom?]
The number of aerial victories necessary to receive the award continued to increase during the war; by early 1917, it generally required destroying 16 enemy airplanes, and by war's end the approximate figure was 30. However, other aviation recipients included zeppelin commanders, bomber and observation aircrews, and at least one balloon observer.
Although many of its famous recipients were junior officers, especially pilots, more than a third of all awards in World War I went to generals and admirals. Junior officers (army captains and lieutenants and their navy equivalents) accounted for only about 25% of all awards. Senior officer awards tended to be more for outstanding leadership in combat than for individual acts of bravery.
Recipients of the Blue Max were required to wear the award whenever in uniform.
The last new member admitted to this class of the order was flying ace Theo Osterkamp, on 2 September 1918.
The military class of the Pour le Mérite became extinct as a result of Kaiser William II's abdication as King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany on 9 November 1918. This marked the end of the Prussian monarchy and it was never awarded thereafter; however the honour continued to be recognized for, and worn by, previous recipients.