Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub
By Stephen Sherman, Nov. 2008. Updated July 15, 2011.
The Oak Leaves was instituted in June, 1940, an enhancement to the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross. It was awarded to both officers and enlisted men in the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS or their service organizations.
To qualify, a candidate generally needed a previous award of the Knight's Cross, and "continued performance of outstanding actions of combat bravery above and beyond the call of duty." For the Luftwaffe, in addition there was a point system: 1 point for a single-engine aircraft, 2 points for a twin-engine aircraft, etc. For the Kriegsmarine, tons of shipping sunk by U-boots was an additional criteria. It was also awarded to officers, in recognition of the outstanding performance of their units.
The first award was made on July 19th, 1940, to Eduard Dietl. Overall, 890 "Oak Leaves" were awarded, 882 to Germans and 8 to other nationals. Of the 882 German holders of the Oak Leaves, 96 were known to be alive in 1999, and 234 were known to have been killed or missing in action during the war.
The Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves was worn in the same manner as the original Knight's Cross, the only difference being in the addition of oak leaves above the Knight's Cross itself.
Some of the top German fighter pilots who earned the Oak Leaves are shown below:
|Top German Aces||Kills||Comments||Medal||Unit||East||West||Plane|
|Heinrich Ehler||209||-||KCO||JG, 5, 7||209||-||Bf 109|
|Theodore Weissenburger||208||500+ sorties,
8 kills with Me 262
|KCO||JG 77, 5, 7||175||33||Bf 109|
|Walter Schuck||206||-||KCO||JG 5, 7||198||8||Bf 109|
|Anton Hafner||204||-||KCO||JG 51||184||20||-|
|Helmut Lipfert||203||-||KCO||JG 52, 53||199||4||Bf 109|
|Walter Krupinksi||197||-||KCO||JG 52||177||20||Bf 109|
|Joachim Brendel||189||-||KCO||JG 51||189||-||Fw 190|
|Max Stotz||189||-||KCO||JG 54||173||16||Fw 190|
|Joachim Kirschner||188||-||KCO||JG 3||167||21||Bf 109|
|Kurt Brändle||180||-||KCO||JG 53, 3||160||20||Bf 109|
|Gunther Josten||178||-||KCO||JG 51||178||-||-|
|Günther Schack||174||-||KCO||JG 51||174||-||-|
|Heinz Schmidt||173||-||KCO||JG 52||173||-||Bf 109|
|Emil "Bully" Lang||173||18 in one day||KCO||JG 54||148||25||Fw 190|
|Knights Cross (KC) with Oak Leaves (O)|