Golden Military Merit Cross (Prussia)

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Militär-Ehrenzeichen I. Klasse von 1848 und 1864 sowie das Goldene Militär-Verdienst-Kreuz und das Militär-Ehrenzeichen II. Klasse von 1864.jpg

The Military Merit Cross (German: Militär-Verdienstkreuz; MVK) was the highest bravery award of the Kingdom of Prussia for non-commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers. It was also known as the Golden Military Merit Cross (German: Goldenes Militär-Verdienst-Kreuz des Königreichs Preußen; GMVK) to distinguish it from the Military Decoration 1st Class (Militär-Ehrenzeichen I. Klasse), a lesser Prussian enlisted bravery decoration which was an identical cross but in silver (awarded 1848 and 1864).

The Golden Military Merit Cross (GMMC) came to also be known as the "Pour le Mérite for non-commissioned officers and enlisted men" (Orden Pour le Mérite für Unteroffiziere und Mannschaften), after the "Blue Max", Prussia's highest military decoration for officers.


Königlich Preußisches Goldenes Militär-Verdienst-Kreuz.gif

Although established on 27 February 1864 by the King of Prussia, the later Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first Golden Military Merit Crosses were first awarded in 1866 during the War of Brothers for capturing enemy regimental flags. These awards were independent of the possession of the military decoration or any other award. In the First World War, the requirement was possession of the 2nd and 1st classes of the Iron Cross. If crimes were committed, the award could be subsequently revoked (StGB §33).

Deeds (examples)

  • Capture of an enemy troop flag or Truppenfahne (before the First World War)
  • Leading a successful shock troop operation (Stoßtruppunternehmen) against a superior enemy (usually as a group or platoon leader, less often as a NCO company leader)
  • Defense against attacks by a superior enemy force
  • Successful exploration or reconnaissance behind enemy lines
  • Rescuing comrades or valuable equipment from enemy fire
  • Elimination of enemy tanks or important machine gun positions
  • 9 to 20 aerial victories as a NCO fighter pilot and flying ace
  • At least 150 enemy flights as reconnaissance aircraft, artillery observers, infantry pilots or fighter pilots


During the First World War, the medal was awarded a total of 1,773 times (only one soldier among around 7,200 non-commissioned officers and men received this medal). First awarded on 15 October 1916, the second Military Merit Cross was not awarded until 14 June 1917. In 1917, there would be a total of 53. In 1918, 1,715 awards were finally made, most recently on 8 November 1918. Only five of the holders received the GMVK as non-commissioned officers and, after their promotion to lieutenant in the German Air Force in 1918, the officer medal “Pour le Mérite”:

Entitled awardees

Only members of Prussian Army units as well as the Imperial German Navy and the Fliegertruppe were awarded the Golden Military Merit Cross. For members of the armies of the kingdoms of Bavaria (Bavarian Army), Saxony and Württemberg and the Grand Duchy of Baden there were separate awards for bravery, namely the Bavarian Military Merit Medal, the Military Order of St. Henry, the Württemberg Golden Military Merit Medal and the Military Karl-Friedrich Merit Order.

Recipients received a monthly stipend, which was maintained even after the end of the Prussian monarchy in November 1918 through the Third Reich era, and was reestablished in West Germany in 1957.