THE ARMY BALLOON OBSERVERíS BADGE
(Ballonbeobachterabzeichen des Heeres)
A Comprehensive Study
Text © Copyright W. C. Stump 2002
The Army Balloon Observerís Badge has proved to be one of the most interesting badges of all the military badges in the Third Reich era of Germany. It has been equally challenging to produce factual evidences to prove if the badge was produced for the troops in finished form during WW II or if it was never produced at all. From the very first reference book published on the topic of German military awards of the Third Reich era the coverage of this badge has been sparse at the very least. All succeeding reference books to date have added little new information about this badge. This is due to little or no factual information being available and each new author relying on the same information used from the pervious authors to make his presentation. All authors relied primarily on information supplied by one pioneer researcher of the last century, namely, Dr. Phil. Kurt-Gerhard Kleitmann. His lifetime work resulted in the formation of his "Institute for the Scientific Research Study of Orders and Awards". The Institute housed a vast amount of information dealing with orders, medals and decorations of the world. His worldwide recognition came from his many books, articles and opinions he wrote during a span of over 45 years. He was an honorary member of numerous collecting associations to include the prestigious Orders and Medals Society of America. He was even bestowed the honor of the German government Service Cross of the Bundesrepublic of Germany. Sadly, despite all the accolades he received, he was not factual about the information he authored concerning the Army Balloon Observerís Badge. History will judge his errors and have the final word as to weather his errors were a mistake or a deliberate act of misrepresentation of the facts. In any event, the now accepted record should be corrected and hopefully I can show the errors of the past have caused a gross distortion of the truth concerning the possible production and awarding of this badge. Much discussion and investigation has been exerted by this author, as well as a great many other researchers and collectors, in an effort to produce conclusive evidence that will paint a true crystal clear picture showing the true facts at the conclusion of this investigate report.
SOLVING THE MYSTERY
In many cases speculative rumors, fabrications, and fairy tales, over an extended period of time, tend to be accepted as facts. That is true unless someone brings the true facts together and challenges the established accepted truth about a subject. The history of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge, and itís place in the history of Third Reich military awards, is just one example where no factual proof exists to support the belief that this late war military award was ever produced or was issued to the troops during WWII. This lack of factual information has caused this badge to be the subject of continued debate ever since the late 1960ís. Various examples of the badge have been produced over the years and all in very small numbers. One of the more prolific manufactures of post war badges was the firm of Rudolf Souval, Vienna, Austria. They produced an early reproduction that was a cast solid back version of the Balloon badge. To date, of all badges I have seen, three distinctly different variations have been listed as original badges produced during the last few months of WWII. I hope to put to rest the ongoing controversy surrounding these badges by taking all factual evidence known and let it stand as the basis for the acceptance or non acceptance of this badge in the history of WWII German military decorations and awards.
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE ARMY BALLOON OBSRVERíS
In the late 1960ís, I first encountered examples of Army Balloon Observerís badge on my first trip to Europe. Up until this trip and after having collected Third Reich orders, medals and other decorations for near twenty years, I had never heard of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge much less seen one. However, I purchased a total of six sets of each class of this badge from two separate dealers on this trip. I found them in England and they were bronze die struck badges and had the "beard or hump" on the left side of the wing of the eagle. At my first meeting with K. G. Klietmann, noted German researcher and historian, I first learned about this badge and its history. He told me explicitly that the badge never reached the production stage, but the Reichís Orders Chancellery had approved an accepted design for the badge. He gave me a photograph of the design matrix and said that only one example had survived the war and it was in the hands of the original designer of the badge. I later learned that the designer was Ellmar Lang. Dr. Klietmannís statement was printed in one of his books and in magazine articles he wrote, which I will cover later. His information was enough to convince me not to add these badges to my collection as original period badges. On other trips I was again offered these badges, but declined to purchase them due what I found out about them from Dr. Klietmann. At that time, I had examples of all but a few of the known Third Reich military and political orders, medals, badges and decorations. (See Exhibit No. 1)
THE FIRST ENGLISH REFERENCE ON THIRD REICH ORDERS AND MEDALS
It was also in late 1968 that I added the first modern detailed reference book, printed in the English language and dealing with the subject of Third Reich orders and medals, to my reference library. It was a book entitled ORDERS, DECORATIONS, MEDALS AND BADGES OF THE THIRD REICH, (Including the Free City of Danzig). Two pioneer authors, David Littlejohn and COL. C. M. Dodkins, both from England, authored the book. The book was produced by another pioneer collector and publisher, R. James Bender, San Jose, California. Mr. Bender had produced three other books by that time, both dealing with Third Reich collectibles. They were AIR ORGANIZATIONS OF THE THIRD REICH, THE WAFFEN-SS and DAGGERS, BAYONETS & FIGHTING KNIVES OF HITLERíS GERMANY. A man who would continue writing reference books into the next century authored the latter. His name was Major John R. Angolia. I will cover his contribution to our subject later in my report.
Collectors in American, and the throughout the collecting world, welcomed the
book by Dodkins and Littlejohn. Up until their book, the only guidebook on the
subject available here in America was a paper backed book published in 1958,
NAZI DECORATIONS AND MEDALS Ė 1933 -1945, by James A. Sawicki. Mr. Sawicki was
one of the pioneer American collectors of the day. No mention was made about
a "Army Balloon Observerís Badge" by Sawiski in his book. It was in Dodkins
and Littlejohnís book that the Army Balloon Observerís Badge was first featured.
Oddly, the photograph they presented was not the photograph of the badge Dr.
Kleitmann has shown me earlier in the year, but was of a completely different
badge that I immediately recognized as being one of the reproductions then on
the market. They listed the date of institution of July 8th, 1944, and stated
that it came in three classes, bronze, silver and gold. In their acknowledgments
and credits they dedicated their book to none other than Dr. K. G. Klietmann.
It was in this book that the false information, the photograph of a badge other
than the original matrix, which fostered the mystery surrounding this badge
to this day. The seed of false information planted in this book only grew with
each new reference book that followed. (See Exhibit No. 2 and 2-A.)
THE BOOK THAT NEVER WAS DID NOT LIST THE ARMY BALLOON OBSERVER'S BADGE
On my first trip to England in 1968, I met an old gentleman in a military relic shop, in the antique district of Islington, who was selling a British Commando knife to the owner of the shop. I waited until he had sold his knife and followed him out to the street. I asked him if he had any other war relics and he said that he had once owned most of all the medals that was awarded by Nazi Germany, but had sold all of them long ago. He informed me that he was a former officer in the British Intelligence Service and all he had left of his collection was a scrapbook that he had compiled during the war. He said that he had made detailed hand-drawn sketches, which he colored with watercolors, of all the medals and badges that he had encountered up to and through 1945. He further stated that he lived only a few blocks from the shop and agreed to let me look at his book. We walked the few blocks to his apartment and he produced the most fascinating manuscript I had ever seen. He agreed to sell me the book, which I still have today, and it is a one of a kind masterpiece of hand-drawn art. He had sketched, to actual size, every medal and badge he had in his collection. He, however, did not have a drawing or any mention of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge in his book, although he had listed every other known badge from the Third Reich era. Of the total number of badges and medals he had sketched and colored the last few drawings were never colored, and tend to lend to the nostalgia of this most unusual record of the medals his enemy produced during WWII. When the war ended for him so did his work on his project.
THE MYTH GROWS
In 1976 the next step in the evolution of modern reference books, recording the history of orders, medals, badges and other decorations produced during the Third Reich era, came when LTC. John R. Angolia produced the first of his two-volume set of books, FOR FUHRER AND FATHERLAND. The first volume covered all the military awards of the Third Reich. Volume 2 was published in 1978 and covered the civil and political awards. I was personally involved with his project in that I contributed extensively by providing information, photographs and other information to Mr. Angolia.
From the middle 1960ís I had been compiling information and photographs
for a planned book project of my own. I had traveled extensively throughout
the United States and Europe gathering information, visiting museums, conducting
interviews with not only knowledgeable fellow collectors, but with living participants
of World War II, both allied and former enemies alike. However, due to personal
priorities taking precedence over producing a book, I sold my personal collection
that had been a major part of my life for so many years and abandoned my book
project. Not to see all my years of work go to waste, I turned over all my information
and photographs to John R. Angolia when I found out that he was planning to
produced his own reference on the subject. He incorporated my research with
his to produce the FOR FUHRER AND FATHERLAND series.
ANGOLIA CONTINUES TO EXPAND THE MYTH
The mystery is further perpetuated with Angoliaís coverage of the badge. As I knew the badge as pictured by Dodkins and Littlejohn was not the same badge that Kr. Klietmann had in his files in 1968, I never added that particular badge to my collection. I had also seen reproductions of the badge being sold as early as 1965, but they were crude cast badges that I later found out were made by the firm of Rudolf Souval, Vienna, Austria, under the direction of Ludwig Umlauf. Angolia most likely acquired one of the reproduction badges or a photograph of the one he featured in his book from Dr. Klietmann or Christopher Farlowe. His photographs depicted the same version of the Army Balloon Observers Badge as was featured by Dodkins and Littlehohn. Klietmann was also given credit for assisting Angolia with his book, as was my old English friend, Christopher Farlowe. I had purchase copies of the Army Balloon Observerís Badges from Chris as well as the notorious Luftwaffe Sea Battle Badge, Luftwaffe Tank Battle Badge, and the Luftwaffe Close Combat Badge. Angolia featured all these badges as being original WWII produced badges. I never knew that Angolia was planning on featuring these as originals until after his book was published. The majority of all experienced collectors and researchers are aware that these badges featured in FOR FUHRER AND FATHERLAND, are reproductions and regard them as such.
DR. KLEITMAN ADDS MORE CONTROVERSY THAN FACTS
In 1981, Dr. Klietmann published a book, AUSZEICHNUNGEN DES DEUTSCHEN REICHES, 1936-1945. On page 123 he wrote that he had only seen one badge that was owned by the designer. He took or obtained a photograph of that badge. I never had a copy of this book at the time; thus having no knowledge of the "new" information Dr. Klietmann had presented to the collecting world. I was now concentrating on collecting United States aviation wings and Soviet Russian orders and medals of WWII. It was also during this time that I was involved and concentrating on a new business venture and having serious health problems. All this prevented me from keeping up with the happening in the field of Third Reich medals. (See Exhibit No. 3.)
FORMAN AND AILSBY ADD TO THE CONFUSION
The next two reference books on Third Reich orders and medals to gain my attention were Christopher Ailsbyís COMBAT MEDALS OF THE THIRD REICH, published in 1987. The other was Adrian Formanís first book in his now three volume series, FORMANíS GUIDE TO THIRD REICH GERMAN AWARDS...AND THIER VALUES published in 1988. I always tried to add all new books to my reference library, as they become available. However, with these two new books, I little more than gazed through them before placing them on the bookshelf in my library, never reading either seriously until 1997. It was in the spring of 1997, while home-bound after undergoing a heart transplant and looking at months of recuperation that I had more than enough time to catch up on my reading. I also resumed my research and upgrading my files to wile away the hours being forced to remain at home to recuperate from my many months of surgery and hospital care.
THE INTERNET AND THE WEHRMACHT
AWARDS AND DECORATION FORUMS
I became involved with the wonderful medium of the Internet during my retirement and recuperation and became an active member of the Wehrmacht Awards and Decoration Forum. One of the most interesting topics to be discussed was the Army Balloon Observerís Badge. Recalling my experiences with this badge and the early reproduction badges produced over 30 years ago, which are now cherished by many collectors today as original, I turned to my research files and memory to enable me to interject my thoughts on the forum about this badge. My memories were not enough to factually present and interject my views and opinions into the discussion. Fortunately, I had my reference library and photographic files to rely on to make my case. So I began to review what the various authors had written about the Army Balloon Observerís badge over the past 30 years. After reviewing the material I had, I quickly realized that a major problem faced me. I had to overcome the many jumbled and twisted facts, intertwined with false information and speculation, to show that what many thought were original items of the war years or were nothing but post-war reproductions or "wolves in sheepís clothing". Despite countless debates occurring over a period of nearly a year, the debates yielded little or no progress in determining what was original or reproduction or what was fact or fantasy. I decided to try to reach an acceptable conclusion based on documented facts alone. If this could be done, I knew it would erase a 30-year or older mystery. I knew the task would be a monumental one and no matter what conclusion I reached at the end of the investigation, not everyone would agree with. Yet, by using only documented facts, logic and conducting an unbiased investigation, I could then hope to achieve an acceptable conclusion. I have my opinions, and others will have theirs, but opinions are not allowed anymore than hearsay evidence in a court of law. The forum isnít a court of law and this report wonít be binding ordnance. I am sure that at the conclusion of my investigation the mystery will be solved. At the very least, everyone can better understand the true history of this award and decided for themselves if the badge was produced or not during the war years.
THE INSTITUTION OF THE ARMY BALLOON OBSERVERíS BADGE
On July the 8th, 1944, the High Command of the German Army, OKW, authorized the introduction of the Army Balloon Observers Badge to award officers and men of the field artillery balloon observer units while on active front-line duty. Together with the procedural instructions this authorization was published in the "Allgemeine Herrresmitteilungen" (General Army Commutations) with date of August 7th, 1944. The badge was to acknowledge the extremely hazardous duty of directing artillery fire and observation while observing from a two to three man gondola hanging from a gas filled balloon. Cables suspended the balloons on the ground to heights from 300 to 1000 meters. Although the German artillery units had been using balloon observation units throughout the war, the troops did not have a distinctive qualification badge to indicate their proficiency and specialized duty. Up until the date of institution of a special badge in recognition of their service the War Merit Cross was awarded for their bravery. The criteria for the bestowal of the Iron Cross did not apply to the balloon observers. The majority of the Army Balloon Observer units were stationed on the Eastern Front especially in the later years of the war until 1945.
For the Officers and men serving in the Armyís Balloon Observer
Battalions during World War II it was a very dangerous duty in the best of conditions.
These observers perched in gondolas hanging from gas filled balloons in heights
sometimes ranging as high as 1500 feet in the air. Their primary duty was to
act as artillery spotters for the artillery units. In the early days of the
war the Luftwaffe provided adequate protection for the observer units. However,
as the war progressed, and the Luftwaffe no longer ruled the skies over the
battlefields of Europe, the danger increased and the observer units became prime
targets from not only ground fire, but from enemy aircraft. This duty subjected
the officers and men to ever increasing danger.
DUTIES OF THE ARMY BALLOON OBSERVER AND CRITERIA FOR ITS AWARD AS DESCRIBED BY THE FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE ARMYíS RECONNAISANCE/OBSERVATION STAFF OF THE GENERAL OF ARTILLEY.
A member of this daring unit best describes the duty of an Army Balloon Observer. He was a former artillery officer and regimental commander, Oberst and Kdr. Of Pz. A. R. 93, and a German Cross in Gold winner. His name was Oberst A. D. Hans Joachim Froben. The following is the translation of the text as it was published in the Deutsches Soldatenjahrbuch (The German Soldiers Yearbook), in the early 1980ís. Oberst Froben also described his service to Dr. Klietmann for his 1981 book, AUSZEICHNUNGEN DES DEUTSCHEN REICHES, 1936-1945. This translation does not make a claim to professional accuracy, but faithfully reflects the contents of the article. The following is just as it was published and was translated for me by my friend and fellow researcher, Bernhard H. Holst, who is also an expert translator.
"Alone at a height of 900 Ė1,500 feet was the balloon observer in a wicker basket with a strapped on parachute. The basket hung just below a balloon, which was first charged with 1,500 cubic meters then 600 cbm of highly flammable gas with the valve release cord and the parachute ripcord fastened in close proximity to the edge of the basket. The observer surveyed a large area by day and by night, in windy and cold conditions for many hours. He himself was visible from afar and practically invited enemy fighter attacks and artillery file. Evan though friendly antiaircraft gave protection; sudden enemy action was to be anticipated. In extreme cases the observer was perhaps able to use the parachute, but some observers were wounded while descending or were caught by his crashing and burning balloon.
Of course the balloon filled with flammable gas was not a modern reconnaissance means, but had the advantage over a fast moving plane to be able to survey a larger area from one point and was practically unnoticeable during the night. It is noted here that the western allies used balloons in 1939/40 and the eastern enemy until 1945.
The importance was the observations on strength and direction of the enemy; road and rail traffic; troop, armor and material concentrations and more. The shortest route to higher command transmitted these observations. The observer directly supported friendly forces by: continuous reports of movements on the battlefield, occasionally in operations against partisans, ranging shots by own artillery on recognized enemy artillery and mortar positions, armor concentrations and others. Observers could not even see many of these targets on the ground.
During the first years of WW II there were no special recognition for these performances which were equally appreciated by higher command and the troops in the field. Because the criteria for the bestowal of the Iron Cross did not apply to the balloon observers, only the War Merit Cross, introduced for less exciting war service, could be received. Thoughts about the introduction of a special distinctive badge were made early on but did not proceed further because no one thought of a long duration of the war and the number of possible recipients was also very small. I relinquished command of Pz.A.R. 93 in September of 1943 to assume a position on the staff of the "General der Artillerie" (general in charge of all artillery matters) namely that of Director of Group III (Reconnaissance/Observation Branch of the several branches making up the artillery arm). My Predecessor, Oberst Meredikes, among other matters asked me to pursue a distinctive badge for the balloon observers. The growing air superiority of the enemy caused more dangers to the observers and it was high time to do something for them.
Once I understood the many chores of my assignment within such a large staff I sought out the applicable office for the creation of new distinctions and found it in the Group P 5 of the Herrespersonalamt (army personnel office). Soon I had the opportunity for personal contact with the director of that group. During the conversations he suggested that a respective formulation be worked up. He believed that a performance badge (Leistungsabzeichen) would be authorized even for only the small group, of eligible personnel.
Now I had to envision what bestowal criteria for the performance evaluation of balloon observers on active front line duty were to be. Because I myself had no experience as an observer I effected the detachment to my staff of an experienced officer, Oberleutnant Uhde who was soon presented. As a result of out consultations and calculations we established criteria based on a point system. Thereby the importance of the observer reports and the targets engaged for the high command, and for the troops directly supported as well as the personal effort of the observer, were evaluated. Duration of the observation mission and the exposure to enemy planes or artillery played a role also. For example, every enemy target engaged and every four hours observation duration recorded were valued at one point. The first evacuation by parachute during a combat mission for compelling reason, brought ten points and every subsequent one five points were received. Three grades of the badge were established: Grade I in Bronze for twenty points, Grade II in Silver forty-five points and Grade III in gold seventy-five points. Only the highest grade awarded was to be worn on the left breast, if applicable to the left of the Assault badge. All this was brought into agreement with the awards section and it was able to judge this aspect: artillery commanders (division/corps level), commander of the observation battalion or the battery commander. Basis for the evaluation was to be the Balloon diaries kept up at platoon level. The applications for the award were to be made to the "General der Artillerie" in the OKH. From there the award document and the badges were then to be sent directly to the applying formation.
On July 8th, 1944, the OKH authorized the introduction of the Balloon Observer Badge in recognition of the performance by the observers while on active front-line duty. Together with the procedural instructions this authorization was published in the "Allgemeine Herrresmitteilungen" (General Army Commutations) with date of 7. August, 1944. The efforts to establish a visible recognition of the commitment of the observers in the balloon baskets were thereby concluded.
The manufacture of the badge was entrusted by orders and awards group to a jeweler in Dresden. Of two samples presented to me I selected one for the final manufacturer, twenty to forty of each grade was to be made. Repeatedly badges were bestowed by the "General der Artillery" and the respective documents were sent out. If actual badges were delivered, I do not know because I was reassigned to the command of an artillery regiment in early 1945."
At this point in the investigation, one must ask themselves some serious questions. Is the award document pictured in Dr. Klietmannís book and Adrian Foremanís books the same document, stamped with the unit seal in the same place and position, and signed by the same person? The small number of badges apparently ordered to be manufactured was so small was the likelihood of any substantial number of them to have survived the war, if actually produced possible? All evidence seems to indicate that no badges were sent to recipients by the time of the officer in charge of ordering the badges, Oberest Hans Joachim Froben, was reassigned to combat duty in early 1945, but only award documents were issued. Therefore, was it possible for the "jeweler in Dresden" that he said was commissioned to produce the small quantity of badges to have geared up to produce the badges, go through the required steps leading to the production of the badges in the time of 44 days? From the information supplied by former Oberst Hans J. Froben, he seems to indicate that no badges were sent to recipients by the time of his reassignment to combat duty in early 1945, but only documents were issued. If his time schedule is correct, and we take January 1, 1945 as the date of his departure for combat duty, it gives a maximum of 44 days for the "jeweler in Dresden" to complete production of the badges. Could all this be accomplished in 44 days to have the badges ready to be shipped to the OKH for distribution to the troops?
THE DIFFERENT DESIGN FLAWS OF THE BADGES
FEATURED IN VARIOUS REFERENCE BOOKS
Ė 1968 - 2001
There is no dispute that the Army Balloon Observerís Badge was instituted on July 8th, 1944. There is no dispute that awards of the badge were made during the weeks and months after the badge had been officially instituted. Known presentation documents (Urkundeís) and entries in the service manís identification and personal record books, "Soldbuchs", attest that the awards had been made. The major disputes arose over when the awards were made and did the recipient receive a badge as outlined in the criteria for awarding the badges. When was the badge designed, approved and awarded during WWII and what does the design look like? When were the recipients officially awarded their citation? Were all three classes of badges, as outlined in the statues, awarded and produced? Opinions and speculation canít be allowed to influence the investigation, but only rational factual evidence is to be considered. I have been opinionated from the beginning due to my first hand knowledge gained over 30 years ago, but I will discount it first and not show anything except documented facts. I know that I will be accused of being bias, and truthfully and guess down deep I am. However, I will try my utmost to only show factual and documented evidence. I always say that facts and good hard evidence canít be biased. I ask no more from anyone and if I accomplish my goal, everyone can understand the true factual story of one of the most controversial awards instituted and awarded by the German Army during WWII.
As stated earlier, and as Exhibit No. 1 shows, Dr. Klietmann said that this badge was the original design approved by the Reichís Orders Chancellery prior to the end of the war. Note the design of the eagle and how the head rises well above the neck and wings. However, the left wing is slightly wider than the right wing. (See Exhibits No. 1, close up of the eagle.) In Dodkins and Littlejohnís book the design of the eagleís head changes to appear that the eagleís left wing is the same heights as the right and the beak appears to be looking at the "beard or hump" on the top of its left wing. (See Exhibits No. 3 and 3-A) John R. Angolia used the same photographs in his 1976, 1985 and 1987 revisions. (See Exhibits No. 2 and 2-A)
Another change can be observed with Formanís presentation in his 1988 2nd Edition book. The "beard or hump" is just beginning to develop and the eagleís head appears to be looking at the flaw. Also, the left wing is beginning to look underdeveloped as compared to the right wing. In 1981, Dr. Kleitmann presents yet another photograph of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge that is the possible key to understand the "beards or humps" on some of the other badges. It appears that when the photograph of this badge was taken, the camera was held at an angle that allow the shadow of the badge to be captured giving an illusion of a "beard or hump" on the left wing of the eagle. Furthermore, this photograph is not the same photograph that he said was than taken of the original matrix. I did not see this photograph when visiting Dr. Klietmann in 1968, nor did he mention that it existed. Finally, when John Ormsby and I wrote the text for the Clay Publication Group series MEDALS & DECORATIONS OF HITLERíS GERMANY, 1981, we used a photograph of a Army Balloon Observer's Badge of the "bearded badge" used by Angolia. It was the only photograph of a badge we had and it was, after all, the badge we featured was thought to be original at this point in time. (See Exhibit No. 2 and 2-A.) Finally, to really understand the mystery of the different badge designs one must look at the 1988 1st edition of Adrians Formanís book. FORMANíS GUIDE TO THIRD REICH GERMAN AWARDS.AND THEIR VALUES. Here the first red flag was raised that would be a high water mark in the study of the various design differences used over a 33 year span of covering the Army Balloon Observerís Badge. Forman used the original Klietmann photograph that in the beginning Klietmann said was the only known example of the badge to survive the war. If this was the case, why did Dr. Klietmann provide photographs of different badges and why did Forman suddenly change in his next two updates of his book to the later Klietmann supplied badge designs? It appears that Forman wasnít aware of the photograph of the second badge that Dr. Klietmann displays first in a German publication in 1955 and again his book published in 1981. He probably didnít have the photograph of the new badge until after Klietmann introduced it to the world in 1981. I am just speculating as to Formanís reasons for changing photographs and I canít use it in the final determination of the facts. It does, however, give us something to think about. Klietmann changed his original story of only one badge surviving the war to a small number of badges having been made. He knew about the second badge in 1968, but neglected to tell me. He as much told the collecting world, "Here a second badge is with its new design." All he accomplished was to throw more doubt on all the existing reproductions with the "beard or hump" on a deformed left wing. That new photograph was really the second red flag, but it was wrapped around the flagpole until we seriously began to look at the history of the badge. It was Mr. Otto Spronk who unfurled the flag and now we can see things that was camouflaged and right under out nose all along.
As I said in the beginning, I would not introduce speculation, but would allow creditable circumstantial evidence to be entered as creditable evidence to this report. Since I am not a professional photographer, I consulted Mr. Otto Spronk, noted collector and researcher in the field of Third Reich history. He is also a professional photographer of many yearsí experience and his input into this investigation is that of a professional "expert" witness. I donít think anyone in our hobby can impeach his credentials. Mr. Spronk and I have looked closely at the photograph of the second badge Dr. Klietmann introduced as an original period badge or designing original. I have no doubt that this second badge was exactly as Dr. Klietmann propertied the badge to be in 1981. If you will look closely at the photographs of this badge, especially the enlarged photograph, you will see a perfectly proportioned German National eagle. The wings are correctly designed with no "beard or hump" on the left wing. Most importantly, it does not have a deformed left wing. What is seen is that the photograph is of the original design matrix that was approved by Dr. Doehle sometime in late 1944 or early 1945. The photograph that Dr. Klietmann first said was the original designed matrix that was in the hands of the designer probably was the original design reject by Hitler. It was sent back to the designer, Ellmar Lang as proved in the letter to Lang from the OKW on July 26, 1944. (See Exhibit 5.) The second designing matrix would be the only original badge Dr. Klietmann ever seen and he was probably was right again and the man who had it was most likely Ellmar Lang, the designer whose original design was not approved by Hitler.
Now we come to the beard, hump and deformed left wing that appears on all the other badges purported to be original issued badges. The next question is how did the deformity occur and why was it allowed to pass inspection by the inspectors of the Reich Orderís Chancellery?
I again bring in the expert testimony of Mr. Otto Spronk. His explanation of how the deformity became part of the "bearded" badge was because of the way the photographer who made the photograph took the picture of the second badge. Klietmann said in his 1981 book that the example of the badge he featured was an example of an original badge. By featuring this badge, there is no doubt that he had photographs of two of the designing matrixes. The "beard" on the badges I have as examples of original period badges, and the copies later made from them, were caused by a mistake in creating the die. If you will look at the enlarged photograph the original Klietmann photograph, you can see that this photograph was made by angling the camera to the left of the badge thus producing a shadow under the beak. This shadow was incorporated into the die when the producer of the die thought the shadow was part of either the oak leaf wreath or the way the eagle was designed. Granted, this is a hypothesis, but no other logical explanation has been introduced that can show a different cause for the deformed die. Using logic again, no producer of Third Reich medals or badges would make such a gross error in designing a die even at this late date of the war. As the firm producing the badge had to submit a final product to the Orders Chancellery for approval prior to production, it is also not logical to assume that the Orders Chancellery officials would have accepted such a monstrosity. Therefore, the other evidence will more than substantiate these hypotheses and let it be accepted as creditable circumstantial evidence to be considered in the final analysis of that total sum of evidence.
EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THAT THE ARMY BALLOON BADGE
WAS PRODUCED AND ISSUED
Unfortunately, I have not found any documented factual proof that the badge was produced. I have a lot of opinions and speculation, but I wonít use opinions and speculation and will not enter them into the report. I will allow the two distinctly different designed badges with the "beard or hump" deformed left wing be admitted into evidence on behalf of the proponents that these badges are original war time produced badges. The photographs will speak for the proponents of the badges. After all, one picture is worth a thousand words, or so the old saying goes. (See Exhibits 6 and 6-A and 7 and 7-A)
FACTUAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THAT THE ARMY BALLOON
BADGE WAS NOT PRODUCED AND ISSUED
What occurred in the months between the date of the institution of the Army Balloon Observerís badge of July 8th, 1944, until the end of the war in May of 1945, is crucial in establishing if the Army Balloon Observerís Badge was produced and awarded or not. The badge would have to go through the same process as any badge before production could be undertaken. Regulations first had to be written, instituted, and then distributed to all potential designers. Next, a design drawing, matrix proofs and samples were to be submitted to the Reichís Orders Chancellery for approval. After these steps had been taken, the proofs were submitted to the particular branch of service to which the badges were made for to receive their stamp of approval. Once this was done, mass-production by a firm or firms was undertaken. The final step came with the distribution of the badges to the troops. All these steps were required for a badge to make the long process from the drawing board to the recipientsí uniform.
With the Army Balloon Observerís Badge, some factual and documented information is available concerning the design and possible production. However, equally missing information must be found and pieced into the overall picture by using logical deductions to fill in the missing gaps. I will be the first to say that some of the actual facts may never be uncovered to produce a 100% factual report. We will have to rely in some cases on circumstantial evidence, a preponderance of such evidence, to fill in the missing parts of the story. However, in the end I am positive that a logical story will evolve.
Here is a chronological list of the documented facts that dealing with the design and possible production of the badge.
The Army Balloon Observerís Badge was officially instituted by the High Command of the German Army (OKH) on July 8th, 1944. Awards in certificate form, entries in Soldbuchs, including some awards with an official presentation documents (Urkundes) were reported to have been made. Also, a veteran report of former Oberleutnant Alfred Uhde, said that he received the document in late 1944, but no badge.
1. A case in point is the document awarded to Willibald Sellner, December 12, 1944. (See Exhibit No. 4. And 4-A) However, this is the only such documentation that I have seen and it is credited to Dr. K. G. Kleitmann. In the German text, by Nimmergut, "DEUTSCHE ORDEN UND EHRENZEICHEN BIS 1945, Volume 4, page 2329 - 2331, you can read additional information about this badge. A most interesting photograph of a blank Urkunde is featured on page 2230; top left of the page. If you will compare exhibit No. 4 and 4-A you will see that the documents are the same. They are the same except for the one Dr. Klietman presented in his 1981 book is filled out to Willibald Sellner. The swastika in the stamp has been obliterated in the Klietmann presentation. However, on the blank document, the stamp is placed in the exact and identical location on the document with no obliteration of the swastika. Finally, the signatures on both documents are signed EXACTLY the same way. Need I show more or say anything that any logical minded person needs to see to decide at this point concerning what we have with the two documents? They are one in the same with the name blocked out and the swastika obliterated to not violate German law regarding the display of the banned emblem of the Third Reich or a deliberate forgery.
2. The badge was not ready in July to be presented to the troops. It has been verified, as of July 26th, 1944, that the Reichís Orders Chancellery had not approved the badge design. The High Command of the Army had notified the designer of the badge, Ellmar Lang, Acchen, that the design he had submitted had been rejected by Adolf Hitler. He was given suggestions on how to improve the design to meet Hitlerís requirements. Two samples had been submitted by the designer, Ellmar Lang to Oberst Froben, and Froben department rejected one design and choose the other and ordered "twenty to forty of each grade" to be produced by "a jeweler in Dresden". He left his position as Director of Group III (Reconnaissance/Observation Branch of the several branches making up the artillery arm) in "early 1945" and no badges had been received at that time. (See Exhibit No. 5.)
3. No additional documentation as of late December shows than an approved design had been sent to the designer, Ellmar Lang. Only the two documents dated December 12, 1944 indicates that the award, not the badge had been bestowed. However, the document to Willibald Sellner is in serious question as being an altered document. It must be seriously debated as to weather it can even be considered valid and creditable evidence. Another fact that is documented is when Dr. Heinrich Doehle, President of the Reichís Orders Chancellery was ready to go to press with his 1945 edition of his book DIE AUSZEICHNUNGEN DES GROSSDEUTSCHEN REICH Ė ORDEN, EHRENZEICHEN, ABZEICHEN. No approved design for the badge had been submitted at that time because he did not have a photograph or drawing of the badge in his manuscript. However, he lists all the criteria to be met for the awarding the badge.
4. Probably the most important piece of evidence that I enter is based on the preponderate of circumstantial evidence and logical deduction. Dr. Klietmann wrote in his 1981 book, AUSZEICHNUNGEN DES DEUTSCHEN REICHES, 1936-1945, that a firm in Dresden produced the badge. He obtained that information from Oberst A.D. Hans Joachim Froben. English author Christopher Ailsby, in his 1994 book, WORLD WAR 2 GERMAN MEDALS AND POLITICAL AWARDS, also wrote that a firm in Dresden produced the badges. During a conversation about this badge, according to Chris, the firm was supposed to have been Glaser and Sohne, Dresden, Borngass 5, Germany. However, a major problem arises with this story because the entire city of Dresden was completely destroyed on February 13th, 1945 by British bombers. The entire city was reduced to rubble as a result of the aerial bombing, which lasted without letup until February 16th, 1945. The firm of Glaser and Sohne was completely destroyed and was not rebuilt until 1945. It did revert back to private ownership in the 1990ís and is still producing orders and decorations to day. If Glaser produced the badges as reported by Christopher Ailsby or for that matter, any firm located in Dresden, then they had from January 1st, 1945 until February 13th, 1945 in which to go through all the required steps necessary to have a badge ready for production. Therefore, using simple logic it will show that the Army Balloon Observerís Badge never got to the production stage in the maximum of 44 days in which they had to accomplish the task if given January 1, 1945 as the date Oberst Froben left his position in the OKH.
5. The hidden truths and the speculations that still tend to cloud what the exact approved design of this badge looked like may be erased by looking at the design of the 1957 reissue of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge. Logic dictates that the Bundesrepublic of Germany had to have had access to the Orderís Chancellery archives to obtain the design of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge to reissue it in 1957. Todayís researchers trying to obtain these records are faced with a major obstacle. Otto Spronk stated the following during one of our discussions about this problem. He said, "I think without some extensive archive-research it would not be possible to find the date of approval and maybe the design drawing from which a die would have been made. In the years after the fall of the Wall the Germans reorganized their archives. All Nazi-time related archives are now it Potsdam, near Berlin, and not in Koblenz anymore. The Military-archives are still in Freiburg, but all archives are still suffering from the moves and many of the old archivists who knew their stuff did not move to Potsdam. Now no one can find anything anymore. It will take some 30 to 50 years, maybe more, before they will have an easy access again." It appears that most of the work they are doing involves rearranging all the archives from both the former Democratic Republic of Germany and the Bundesrepublic.
The lack of ability to obtain the original records of the approved design of the badge can be solved another way. If we take the designing matrix, the second Klietmann badge, and look at the design features found in it and look at the same features in the 1957 reissued badge, we can get a very clear picture of what the original design looked like. By simply looking at the design of the badge from a point below the national eagle and with the incorporated swastika, a much clearer picture is revealed. Therefore, look at the four pictures below and make note of the similarities of the badges. No. 1. The first picture is of a badge that is in the Bob Hritz collection. No. 2. This is a picture is of the badge in the R. F. Honts collection. No. 3. The third picture is of a 1957 re-issued badge. No. 4. This badge turned up in Russia this year and is the first of its kind I have encountered. The oak leaf wreath is basically the same design on all four Badges. The Gondola and support cables are basically of the same design. The number and location of the acorns on the wreath are just alike. Also, please observe the third acorn on the outer area of the wreath on each side of the wreath. These are extending lightly outward from the wreath more so than on the 1957 badge. Look at the stabilizing fins of the balloon in all three pictures. The design is the same.
No. 1. The first picture is of a badge that is in the Bob Hritz collection.
No. 2. This is a picture is of the badge in the R. F. Honts collection.
No. 3. The third picture is of a 1957 re-issued badge.
No. 4. This badge turned up in Russia this year and is the first of its kind I have encountered.
A. The oak leaf wreath is basically the same design on all four Badges.
B. The Gondola and support cables are basically of the same design.
C. The number and location of the acorns on the wreath are just alike. Also, please observe the third acorn on the outer area of the wreath on each side of the wreath. These are extending lightly outward from the wreath more so than on the 1957 badge.
D. Look at the stabilizing fins of the balloon in all three pictures. The design is the same.
E. Observe the differences between the two badges pictured below.
Look at the height of the wings, the heads of the eagles, the width of the wings and the "hump or beard" that in or is not on the badge on the top. It is of the designing matrix, exhibit No. 3. Please observe the contour of the top of the eagleís wings and note which one has the most detail. Finally, observe the wreaths and determine if the wreath on the left differs from the badge on the bottom. That badge is the type found in the Christpoher Ailsby and Bob Hritz collections.
A major hidden truth for over 55 years can be found in Dr. Heinrich Doehleís, 1945 edition of DIE AUSZEICHNUNGEN DES GROSSDEUTSCHEN REICH Ė ORDEN, EHRENZEICHEN, AZEICHEN. No approved design for the badge had been made at that time because he does not have a picture or drawing of the badge in his book. One must ask why didnít he incorporate a photograph of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge in his coverage of this badge? The answer is simple. He didnít have one because the designer, Ellmar Lang had not produced an acceptable design as last as January 1945. However, he lists all the criteria to be met for the awarding the badge. This is probably the most important fact hidden for over 55 years until Klaus Patzwall published Doehleís 1945 book in 2000. The collectorís world must understand that up until Patzwall published Dr. Doehleís book, it was a book filled with important information unknown for over half a century. This hidden information made it possible for the fairy tales stories that were told years ago in the 60ís to be accepted as fact and the reproductions of the badges to be produced. Thanks to Otto Spronkís keen observation for pointing these truths out to me as they are the needle in the haystack used to puncture a hole in the last balloon of the Army Balloon Observer Unit. That balloon had been filled with hot air and launched by the fakers of fairyland over 40 years ago. The collecting community had no documented information to refute the false information until the information now found in Doehleís now published book. Add the information supplied by Oberest A. D. Hans Joachim Froben and a clear picture will remove all doubt that has surrounded this badge for over 50 years. The information in Frobenís book, AUFKLAERENDE ARTILLERIE (Reconnaissance Artillery), published in 1972 by Schild Verlag, Munich, and the detailed information published in its entirety in the German Soldiers Yearbook in the 1980ís, is invaluable in understanding this once complicated story.
I end this report with a feeling that I have presented much more factual information, condensed into this one report, than has been written before on this subject. Only the reader will be the final judge as to the creditability of my report. I know some will want to cling to the premise that their badge is like the master of illusions said it was in 1976 when he wrote, "The Army Balloon Observerís Badge ranks among the rarest of war-time decorations." I would agree if I owned either one of the badges Dr. Klietmann presented to the collecting world. However I donít know if either of the two are in any collection anywhere today. Were they designing matrix photographs from the archives of the Reichís Orders Chancellery? Was the second badge an issued badge? Did they survive the war? These are questions left unanswered in this report, but the haunting questions for those collectors owning examples of this badge should be, "Is mine real? Is that badge with the "bearded" eagle and a left wing, that looks like it was injured by flying shrapnel during the bombing of Dresden, a badge produced during WWII? I know some are asking themselves "Do I own a 40 year old illusion of what might have been?" For me, I have my opinions; speculations and my mind made up. I will keep them to myself and leave the questions anyone may he about this badge for them to answer. I only hope that the answer will be based on the factual preponderance of the evidence as presented in this report.
1. Klietmann photograph of the designing matrix from 1968. Personal files of Author.
2.-2A. The Clay Group, Volume 1, Number 1. R. Clay Teppenpaw,
Publisher, page 48, John Ormsby and W. C. "Bill" Stump Authors.
(NOTE: photographs of the badge depicted was used by Dodkins and Littlejohn for their book Orders, Decorations, Medals and Badgers of the Third Reich and John R. Angolia for his three editions of For Fuhrer and Fatherland.)
3. Auszeichnungen Des Deutschen Reichs, 1936-1945. Dr. Kurt G. Klietmann, Berlin, 1981, page 122, photograph of his second reported example of an original badge.
4. Auszeichnungen Des Deutschen Reichs, 1936-1945. Dr. Kurt G. Klietmann, Berlin, 1981, photograph of the presentation urkunde award to WILLIBALD SELLNER, 3/LE BEOB. (MOT) 2 for the 1. Class badge.
4.A Deutsche Orden und Ehrenzeichen Bis 1945. Volume 4, Page 2330, photograph of unissued urkunde for the Army Balloon Observerís Badge.
5. Letter from Oberkommando des Heeres to Ellmar Lang, dated July 26th, 1944. Compliment of the Otto Spronk Photographic Reference files Collection.
6. Type one of The Army Balloon Observerís Badge, Obverse photograph. RH Honts Collection.
7. Type two of The Army Balloon Observerís Badge. Bob Hritz Collection.
7.A Type two reverse photograph of the Bob Hritz Badge.
8. Type three of the Army Balloon Observerís Badge from Russia. Photograph credit Borgir, Russia.
8.A Type three reverse photograph of the badge from Russia. Photograph credit Borgir, Russia.
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