Military Merit Cross


Military Merit Cross

The Military Merit Cross (German: Militärverdienstkreuz) was a decoration of the Empire of Austria and, after the establishment of the Dual Monarchy in 1867, the Empire of Austria-Hungary. It was first established on October 22, 1849 and underwent several revisions to its design and award criteria over the years of its existence. It became obsolete in 1918 with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Military Merit Cross was established on October 22, 1849 by Emperor Franz Joseph I, based on the recommendation of Field Marshal Count Radetzky. It was to be awarded to officers who had performed especially praiseworthy service before the enemy in wartime, or outstanding service in peacetime, and was originally established in only one class.

The first awards were made to all officers who had served under Count Radetzky in the Italian campaigns of 1848-49, especially the Battle of Custoza in 1848 and the Battle of Novara in 1849. Just under 1,500 awards were made in 1849 and 1850, mainly to these officers. After this, the Military Merit Cross was awarded sparingly except during the Austro-Sardinian War of 1859, the German-Danish War of 1864, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 (when Austria occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina), and the Boxer Rebellion.

The first major revision of the Military Merit Cross came on January 12, 1860, when the War Decoration (Kriegsdekoration) was created. This was a green laurel wreath (Lorbeerkranz) between the arms of the cross, which was awarded for special deeds before the enemy ("für besondere Taten vor dem Feind"). Henceforth (and retroactively), wartime awards would be distinguished from peacetime awards by the presence of the wreath.

The next significant change occurred on September 23, 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. The Military Merit Cross was divided into three classes. The previous Military Merit Cross, a breast decoration worn on a trifold ribbon, became the 3rd Class. A neck badge was created as the 2nd Class and a pinback cross became the new 1st Class. This classification made the Military Merit Cross effectively an order, with the 3rd Class equivalent to a knight's badge, the 2nd Class equivalent to a commander's badge, and the 1st Class equivalent to the breast star of an order. A recipient of an earlier Military Merit Cross without the War Decoration, if awarded the Military Merit Cross with the War Decoration, could wear both, and a recipient of a higher class could continue to wear the lower class. The statutes allowed for all three classes to be awarded with or without the War Decoration, but given the wartime situation, most awards were with the War Decoration.

Another change occurred on December 13, 1916, when swords were authorized for awards for bravery. These were crossed swords on the ribbon for the 3rd Class, and between the arms of the cross for the 1st and 2nd Class. On August 1, 1917, second and third awards of the 3rd Class were authorized, signified by one or two 6-mm wide silver clasps on the ribbon. On February 8, 1918, a second award of the 2nd Class was also authorized.

Until World War I, awards to non-Austro-Hungarian officers were uncommon. During World War I, awards to officers of Austria-Hungary’s allies became far more common, especially to Germans serving alongside Austro-Hungarians or serving in regiments of which the Emperor was the honorary chief.

CommanderDate  Command
Kptlt. Adam, Hans1916  
Kptlt. Arnauld de la Perière, Lothar von   U 35

Kptlt. Canaris, Wilhelm1918  UB 128
Csicsery von Csicser, Ladislaus2 Jan 1918  

Oblt. Dönitz, Karl1 Jul 1918  UC 25

LSL. Eberhardt, Lüdwig2 Jan 1916  

Kptlt. Fischel, Hermann von1 Oct 1918  
LSL. Fähndrich, Friedrich2 Jan 1916  k.u.k. U15

LSL. Halavanja, Nikolaus2 Jan 1916  
LSL. Holub, Josef2 Jan 1916  
LSL. Hudecek, Zdenko2 Jan 1917  
LSL. Hübner, Eduard Ritter von2 Jan 1916  

LSL. Jüstel, Hermann2 Jan 1916  

LSL. Kasseroller, Otto1 Jan 1918  
Korparic, Andreas1 Jan 1916  
Kptlt. Krafft, Ernst2 Jan 1918  UB 51
LSL. Krsnjavi, Johann2 Jan 1917  k.u.k. U11
Oblt. Kümpel, Otto1 Jul 1918  UC 37

KrvKpt. Leschanowsky, Lothar1 Jan 1918  
Oblt. Loycke, Otto2 Jan 1918  

Marchetti, Egon1 Jan 1916  
Oblt. Marschall, Wilhelm   
Oblt. Mellenthin, Hans von   
LSL. Molitor, Otto1 Jan 1918  k.u.k. U47
Montecuccoli, Alfons Graf1 Jan 1918  
LSL. Müller, Ludwig1 Jan 1918  k.u.k. U15

LSL. Nejebsy, Franz1 Jan 1918  k.u.k. U31

KrvKpt. Passerar, Urban1 Jan 1918  
LSL. Pistel, Hugo1 Jan 1918  
LSL. Prásil, Leo3 Jan 1917  
Printz, Othmar2 Jan 1916  

Rigele, Hermann2 Jan 1916  
LSL. Rzemenowsky von Trautenegg, Franz1 Jan 1918  k.u.k. U4

LSL. Schlosser, Friedrich1 Jan 1916  k.u.k. U5
Kptlt. Schultze, Otto   
Kptlt. Schulz, Gerhard1 Jan 1918  UB 67
Sernetz, Alois2 Jan 1916  
LSL. Seyffertitz, Hugo von1 Jan 1918  k.u.k. U21
Singule, Rudolf3 Jan 1916  k.u.k. U4

LSL. Teufl von Fernland, Robert1 Jan 1916  k.u.k. U11
KrvKpt. Thun und Hohenstein, Emmerich Graf von1 Jan 1916  
LSL. Trapp, Georg Ritter von1 Jan 1916  k.u.k. U14

LSL. Unczowski, Karl Edler von1 Jan 1918  

LSL. Vio, Gaston1 Jan 1918  k.u.k. U32

Kptlt. Walther, Hans1 Jun 1917  U 52
Oblt. Weichold, Eberhard1 Jul 1918  UC 22
LSL. Wolf, Edgar2 Jan 1916  
Oblt. Wurmbach, Hans Heinrich1 Jul 1918  

LSL. Zopa, Orest Ritter von1 Jan 1916  k.u.k. U16

49 officers decorated with Military Merit Cross (Militärverdienstkreuz) located.

Note: This listing is still being compiled and some recipients might be missing.

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