Army close combat clasp by Rolf Michaelis
Although the German generals guaranteed Hitler to beat the Soviet Union within four to six weeks in 1941, the battles lasted for nearly four years and ended with the defeat of the German Reich. In those four years the Wehrmacht had to face extremes like never before. The geographic as well as demographic characteristics of the USSR made it impossible to lead a blitzkrieg. Moreover most soldiers were physically and emotionally exhausted.
Two of these extremes were the soviet strategy „infantry mass assault“ and the the fact that the warriors often had to fight in close combats. These fights were normally turf battles in which the enemies ran towards the trench, jumped into it and started to fight the warriors hidden there, face to face with bayonets,
Introducing the close combat clasp
As this type of warfare wasn't very common on the western front, but widely used during the Russian campaign, Hitler created the close combat clasp on the 25th November 1942 as „a visible sign and appreciation of heroic fighting in close contact with the enemy as well as incentive for the fulfilment of their duty“.
From the 1st December 1942, every soldier had the possibility to count „close combat days“, which were days on which the soldiers saw „the white in the enemy's eyes“. It didn't matter whether this happened during an attack or while defending themselves. After the creation of the anti-partisan war badge on the 30th January 1944, only soldiers who fought against regular troops received the close combat clasp.
There were three levels
- Level (bronze) for 15 close combat days, for severely injured soldiers 10 close combat days
- Level (silver) for 30 close combat days, for severely injured soldiers 20 close combat days
- Level (gold) for 50 close combat days, for severely injured soldiers 40 close combat days
For 15 months at the eastern front soldiers could get up to 15 close combat days
For 12 months at the eastern front soldiers could get up to 10 close combat days
First, the medal (97 x 27mm) was produced from non-ferrous metal, later from refined zinc and coloured according to the level. In the center of the clasp there were the two typical close combat weapons -bayonet and stick hand grenade- surrounded by oak leaves, beneath the Reichs-eagle. Behind the center there was a dark or slightly blue piece of metal. At either side four bigger oak leaves and rays were added. On the backside there was a needle, which could be closed at the left side to fix the clasp to the uniform.