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WWI Balkenkreuz national insignia, adopted by German aviation units in early April 1918
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WWII Balkenkreuz

The straight-armed Balkenkreuz, which is a stylized version of the Iron Cross, was the emblem of World War II Wehrmacht- Heer, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine. The Iron Cross used by today's German Bundeswehr unified defense forces inherits the four white, or lighter-colored, "flanks" of the older Balkenkreuz, but with the "flanks" following the flared arms of the Iron Cross instead.

It was first adopted in mid-April 1918 by the Luftstreitkräfte of World War I Germany, only about a week before the death of Manfred von Richthofen, and used from that time to the end of World War I,[1] and its use resumed from the beginning of the Third Reich's Luftwaffe in 1935, to the end of World War II in Europe.


  1. In the IdFlieg directive of 20 March 1918 to all manufacturers state in the first sentence, translated to English: "To improve the recognition of our aircraft, the following is ordered:"-... IN PARAGRAPH 2., second sentence: "This alteration is to be carried out by 15 April 1918." The closing sentence reads: "Order 41390 is to be speedily executed."