Helmut Weitze

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Honor Clasps of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS

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    Almost two years have passed since this thread started but I hope the time has not been wasted and we can now update this thread with some new findings.

    After reviewing this thread, I think it has been going in the right direction from the very beginning as both variants (one-piece- and two-piece-construction) of the Army Honor clasp made by the "Unknown Maker" in this thread are original because the so-called "Unknown Maker" in this thread is IMO the very same maker that produced all Honor Clasps of Kriegsmarine and Honor Clasps of Luftwaffe.

    Pictured below are all clasps made by the so-called "Unknown Maker":
    1. Honor Clasp of Army : two-piece-construction variant
    2. Honor Clasp of Army : one-piece-construction variant
    3. Honor Clasp of Luftwaffe
    4. Honor Clasp of Kriegsmarine


    Comment


      I will start from stating what we know for certain about these clasps (as of today):
      1. There is only one accepted original type of the Kriegsmarine Honor Clasp.
      2. There is only one accepted original type of the Luftwaffe Honor Clasp.
      3. Their maker(s) is/are unknown.
      They are pictured below.


      Comment


        Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe Honor claps were presented in (similar to each other) black (simulated leather) presentation cases (pictured below).
        And that is about all what we know about these clasps.


        Comment


          Although visually the same, these presentation cases (as it can be seen in the picture above in the previous post) are slightly different.

          The more obvious differences would be the hinge assembly and the small blue strip (in a form of loop) attached to the cardboard insert (made it possible to withdraw it of the box). One type of case has one-piece hinge; the other type has a double-hinge assembly.
          The small ribbon loop (attached to the cardboard insert) can be either of dark-blue color or light-blue color with two white strips running along edges of the ribbon.
          I have never owned/examined these cases in hands but from what I have learned, these cases can also be found with different types of liner paper (on the inside bottom of the case), slightly different shades of blue interior flocking, and (sometimes) case dimensional variances.

          Some collectors believe that the case with the double-hinge assembly was designated for Krigsmarine and comes with the dark-blue ribbon loop inside, while the one-piece hinge case was designated for Luftwaffe Honor Clasp and has the light-blue-with-white-stripes ribbon-loop inside.
          (source: http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/foru...?t=3790&page=2)

          I believe this statement is only partially right as in reality there was no distinction ever made between cases themselves (one-hinged or two-hinged, etc. - all cases were considered the same). The distinction was only between the blue ribbon-loops, more exactly, the removable cardboard inserts with attached different ribbon-loops to it (the dark blue ribbon for Krigsmarine clasps and the light-blue-with-white-stripes ribbon for Luftwaffe). That is, when a new Honor Clasp was finished and ready to be “boxed”, they would pick up a cardboard with an appropriate ribbon-loop on it, attach the clasp to the cardboard and place it in any box that they would have on a shelf at that given moment. All the differences in the award cases themselves (paper, hinges, shades of flocking, dimensions) can be attributed to different periods (and materials availability) of time at which cases were made.

          Two different types of presentation cases for these awards are shown in the picture below. I am pretty sure that two-hinged cases exist with slightly different dimensions (and maybe one-hinged case as well) but these differences do not
          signify their different purposes, because in fact they all were just a case for the Honor Clasp and in my next post I will explain why I think so.


          Comment


            In the picture below I combined different Honor Claps found with the single-hinged case.
            As you can see in the picture, a half of them are Krigsmarine clasps and the other half are Luftwaffe clasps. Please note that all presentation cases are the same “single-hinged” type while the cardboard inserts have different ribbon-loops (dark-blue and blue-with-white-stripes).

            Clearly, they used the same type of case for both clasps (Krigsmarine and Luftwaffe), and these presentation cases were assembled from two parts: the case and different cardboard inserts (one with a blue ribbon-loop attached to it and the other one with a blue/white ribbon-loop). The cardboard insert with blue ribbon-loop would be for Krigsmarine and the blue/white ribbon-loop for Luftwaffe. I am not sure how strictly (and if always) they followed this rule because at least one Kriesnarine case (as you can see at the bottom of the picture) has the blue/white ribbon-loop “for Luftwaffe”. Of course, it could have been done by a collector or dealer after the war or by mistake at the factory. Nevertheless, the fact that Kriesmarine and Luftwaffe clasps are being found with same type of case is not a coincidence or anyone’s mistake, IMO there is no doubt that both these clasps (KM and LW) were put in the same type of case by their manufacturer.

            I have to say that Luftwaffe Honor clasps (cased or not) are much rarer (fewer of them exist today) than Krigsmarine claps. So in reality, the rate LW-to-KM is not 50/50 like in the picture but more like 4-5 Luftwaffe clasps per 8-9 Krigsmarine clasps found with the single-hinged case.


            Comment


              Pretty much the same thing is with the double-hinged type of case, except the rate of Luftwaffe clasps to Kriegsmarine clasps found with the double-hinged case is about 2-3 LW per 6-9 KM.

              Please note that although all presentation cases are the “double-hinged” type in the picture below, the cardboard inserts still have different ribbon-loops (dark-blue for KM and blue-with-white-stripes for LW).

              Obviously, the maker did not differentiate the cases (single-hinged or double-hinged, etc.), but only small ribbon-loops (on cardboard inserts) because as we just saw, the both types of presentation case have been used for both variants of clasp (LW and KM).

              iMO the fact that both these clasps have been packaged in the same cases suggests that they might have been cased at the same place, and possibly made at the same place by the same maker.


              Comment


                I have to admitt(to clarify) that originally this research was unfolding in my mind in a completely different order. I first noticed many similarities in all these clasps (including one-piece- and two-piece construction) : details, construction, etc. and found out about the cases much later. But I chose this way of presentation (the findings order) only to make it easy to follow, although to be honest, IMO it does not really matter very much in what specific order it is presented here as all these small findings work together and make “the picture” about these clasps in any order (=well at least in my mind). Anyway, coming to the assumption that “all these clasps might have been made by the same maker” is the key factor here because no matter where you are coming from, once you assumed that, you start to see a lot of evidences that it is true (and presentation cases would be just one of them, just like it was in my case=). Now back to cases.

                Remember(?) WAF member Stepdale’s Army Honor clasp that we extensively studied earlier in this thread (post#33 - http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/foru...=699185&page=3). It is the CupAl one-piece construction clasp (identical to Bob Hritz' clasp) that was found (about 16 years ago) in the old house basement among other original German insignia, medals, badges, and field gear. To quote Stepdale: "All in all, it looked exactly like things a WW2 US veteran would mail or bring home and everything was original pre-1945. (original thread: http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/foru...d.php?t=353038)
                Back then (many years ago) his clasp was deemed fake by collectors and until now most of us were not very sure about its authenticity (even though it has been published as an original variant in the Nimmergut book) but today I can say with 100% confidence - his clasp is 100% original (more on this later).
                What interests us the most about this clasp today is the presentation case that it was found with (pictured below). Yes, it is the same case as the cases that we just saw with Krigsmarine and Luftwaffe Honor clasps. Jumping ahead a bit, there will be a good explanation to it later in this thread (yes, “the same maker”) but as of now we would only take it as a hint to assume “what if this clasp has been made by the same maker together with Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine Honor clasps” and continue our investigation with that.


                Comment


                  Once we start to compare these three clasps, we find a lot of similarities and characteristics that they share (besides the same presentation boxes that they come with ;-).

                  First of all, of course, that simple fact that all these clasps represent essentially the same award – the Honor Clasp (just different branches), all three had similar design, dimensions, and construction. All three were to be mounted and worn on the ribbon of the Iron Cross. In this wise, if you were a Medal-authority in Germany in 1944, you would, most logically, send your order to manufacture all three clasps to the same (one) maker (makes sense, right?)


                  Comment


                    All these clasps have one-piece construction; all three are die-struck and made from one single strike. What sets these clasps a bit apart is a method used by a manufacturer for trimming them, which was done by hand. Although this is not an unique method at all but it was not very popular either IMO because normally, the die-striking was a two part process and went as follows:
                    1. Blank sheet of metal was placed between the first set of engraved dies and got stamped. The pattern was forced into the metal but all the excess areas (inside and around the stamped shape) were not punched out and the stamped plate after the first strike remained solid.
                    2. This sheet metal was then placed on additional finishing dies, which cropped off all the excess inside and around the stamped shape.

                    For the second part of this process (cropping off the excess material) a manufacturer of these clasps chose the less-efficient and very time-consuming “by-hand” method. Again, this method of course does not make a manufacturer unique because surely there was more than just one manufacturer that employed this old-fashioned method, but at the same time, it narrows the search as not that many manufacturers used it. The vast majority of die-struck products (awards, metal insignia, etc.) in Germany during the war were manufactured using the more-efficient fully-mechanized two-part die-striking process (as described above): a first strike to form the shape, and the second strike to trim it (crop off the excess metal). So if we assume that these clasps had been made by different makers, it is somehow unlikely that each of them chose the same “by-hand” method (to crop off the excess material).





                    For example, the picture below shows two die-struck products which are very similar (in terms of construction, material, and size) to one-piece construction Honor clasps. Unlike Honor clasps, these were finished with a cutting-die (cropping off the excess material). On the first picture (Gau Munich Commemorative badge) you can tell that by looking at razor-sharp edges (reverse of the badge). On the second picture (totenkopf) it is very evident that during the finishing-strike process the badge got misplaced in a cutting-die, and as a result, eyes with nose were punched a bit off place.





                    Comment


                      The trimming of these one-piece construction clasps was done by hand and often not very accurately, to say at least. Many of these one-piece construction clasps exhibit the same style of low quality work at that (hand-sawing).

                      In the picture below with four examples (two KM and two Army Honor clasps) one can almost detect “the same hand” just by looking at them.


                      Comment


                        After painstakingly comparing many of these clasps, I believe that there were at least two men working at that shop / performing the trimming part (cropping off the excess material by hand) because they(guys) were consistent with how they did it. Both of them obviously were not very good at hand-sawing but one of them often left his “signature” on many clasps – recognizable marks from a hand-finishing tool/jewelry saw (in the picture below in green circles). Good half of Army and Krigsmarine clasps have these marks though I did notice any on Luftwaffe clasps. Perhaps because the Luftwaffe clasp was much easier to trim as it has a simpler shape than KM and Army clasps or they finally fired that guy before they started making Luftwaffe clasps.

                        Comment


                          Another characteristic that these clasps share is a visual similarity in the design, shape and details of some of their elements. Some of these similarities are quite apparent while other similarities are less obvious(or subtle) to a naked eye and really hard to demonstrate in a picture. So we won’t go into all of them but one. Below is a picture with a side-by-side comparison of the swastika of the Krigsmarine Honor clasp and the swastika of the Army Honor clasp. Please note how similarly they (swastikas of different clasps) shaped on sides and on the reverse.


                          Comment


                            One more common peculiarity of these one-piece construction clasps is the “soft”/flattened details (and partially even a complete lack of details) found on different Honor clasps. The picture below shows Army and Luftwaffe claps both with this characteristic. Please note that the clasps at front have sharp details, and clasps behind them have flattened details and it is not the wear of the awards as it can be found on absolutely mint examples (and I don’t really think it’s the die wear either). I am not sure what the exact cause for this anomaly was, and it is not very important in this context anyway. What is more important here is that these flattened spots are on different clasps (of the same kind).

                            Once again, this characteristic is not unique and on its own/alone cannot be used as a reason strong enough to identify the same maker. However, in combination with other similarities, these characteristics become more significant and could then be considered as solid reasons IMO especially, when all these similarities found together within just a few awards.

                            Comment


                              Another "hallmark" of this maker is the fact and the way he changed some design/shape of their clasps. The picture below with Army Honor clasp (one-piece construction) examples illustrates this point. Some clasps (on the right : “cut-design version”) have been cut out differently from its originally designed shape (“full-design version” on the left). As can be seen in the picture, “cut-design-version” clasps (the wreath and ribbons) are thinner than “full-design version” clasps. This being said, all clasps (of both “design-versions”) were struck with the same die and cut out from identical (stamped) plates because all the die-flaws are in place on every clasp.
                              In the picture below are also shown the “cut-design-version” clasp on top of the “full-design version” clasp (in blue color) so that it is easy to see how much of the original design has been (intentionally) cropped off.


                              Comment


                                The “cut-design-version” Army clasps have been cut out “thinner” not by mistake, but rather by purpose because a half of Army Honor Clasp examples (known today) are the “thinner / cut-design-version” clasps.

                                All examples of the one-piece construction Army Honor clasp (total of six) known today are pictured below.
                                Top row: Three “full-design version” clasps (from 1. Gregory D., 2. Christopher 3. Nimmergut)
                                Bottom row: Three “cut-design version” clasps (from 1. Stepdale, 2. JAndrew, 3. Bob Hritz).


                                Comment

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