The Balkenkreuz (lit. "beam cross" or "bar cross")[1] is a straight-armed cross that was first introduced in 1916-18 and later became the emblem of the Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces) and its branches from 1935 until the end of World War II. It was used by the Heer (Army), Luftwaffe (Air Force), and Kriegsmarine (Navy).

Balkenkreuz variants
Different WWII styles of the Balkenkreuz - also see Luftwaffe for official specification versions


Germany's Luftstreitkräfte (the army air service of the German Imperial Army) first officially adopted the Balkenkreuz in mid-April 1918 (about a week before the death of Manfred von Richthofen), and used it from that time until World War I ended in November 1918. The IdFlieg directive of 20 March 1918 to all manufacturers states in the first sentence (translated to English): "To improve the recognition of our aircraft, the following is ordered: [...]". In paragraph 2, the second sentence specifies: "This alteration is to be carried out by 15 April 1918." The closing sentence reads: "Order 41390 is to be speedily executed."

Its use resumed, with new standardized dimensions, from the beginning of the Nazi Germany's air force (the Luftwaffe) in 1935, as part of the new Wehrmacht unified German military forces founded in mid-March 1935. German armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) during the invasion of Poland (September-October 1939) used a plain white cross, but before the onset of Operation Weserübung (April 1940), the black core cross with white "flanks" that the Luftwaffe used had become the basic German AFV national insignia, as used for the rest of the war (to 1945).

The Luftwaffe would use two specifications for the Balkenkreuz:[2]

  • one with narrower white "flanks" on upper wing surfaces - before July 1939, it was used in all six regular positions on an airframe
  • one with wider white "flanks" surrounding the same width (25% wide as long from end to end for both versions) central black cross beneath the wings and on the fuselage sides of German military aircraft during the war years

Late in World War II it became increasingly common for the Balkenkreuz national insignia to be painted on without the black-color "core cross", using only the quartet of right-angled "flanks" for its form to reduce its visibility - this could be done in either white or black, and with both the narrow and wide-flank forms of the cross.

Later use

The Iron Cross used by today's German Bundeswehr unified defense forces inherits the four white, or lighter-colored, "flanks" of the older Balkenkreuz that do not "cap" the ends of the cross in either case, but with the "flanks" following the flared arms of the earlier German Empire's cross pattée instead from the 1916-March 1918 era.

World War I Fokker aircraft-bi-plane in knowlton quebec
The "Knowlton" Fokker D.VII with late-1918 Balkenkreuz on fuselage.
FW 190 F
The Smithsonian's faithfully-restored Fw 190F, showing both forms of Balkenkreuz in "low-visibility" (flanks-only) form
Panzer I tank in a museum, with Polish-campaign "white cross" German insignia


  1. ^ "Dictionary of Vexillology: B (Banner Roll - Bauceant)". Dictionary of Vexillology. FOTW Flags Of The World. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2012.; etymologizing "balk cross" in "Dictionary of Vexillology: B (Backing - Banner of Victory)". Dictionary of Vexillology. FOTW Flags Of The World. Retrieved 19 August 2012.. C.f. th erroneous rendition as "Balkan Cross" in John Cochrane, Stuart Elliott, Military Aircraft Insignia of the World, Naval Institute Press, 1998, p. 50.
  2. ^ Bert Hartmann. " - Kennzeichen - Allgemein, Abb.4". Retrieved November 21, 2012.
Armenian Cross

An Armenian cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a floral postament or elements. In the Armenian Christianity it was combined with the Christian cross and this design was often used for high crosses (khachkar) – a free-standing cross made of stone and often richly decorated.

Baton (military)

The ceremonial baton is a short, thick stick-like object, typically in wood or metal, that is traditionally the sign of a field marshal or a similar very high-ranking military officer, and carried as a piece of their uniform. The baton is distinguished from the swagger stick in being thicker and effectively without any practical function. Unlike a staff of office, a baton is not rested on the ground. Unlike a royal sceptre, a baton is typically flat-ended, not crowned on one end with an eagle or globe.

Carolingian cross

The Carolingian cross, or Cross of triquetras, is a Christian cross symbol formed by triquetras, associated with Emperor Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire.

Cross fleury

A cross fleury (or flory) is a cross adorned at the ends with flowers in heraldry. It generally contains the fleur-de-lis, trefoils, etc. Synonyms or minor variants include fleuretty, fleuronny, floriated and flourished.

In early armory it is not consistently distinguished from the cross patonce.

Cross of Salem

The Cross of Salem, also known as a pontifical cross because it is carried before the Pope, is similar to a patriarchal cross, but with an additional crossbar below the main crossbar, equal in length to the upper crossbar. It is also similar to the Eastern Cross. Also used by the supreme leadership of Freemasonry.

Gefell, Rhineland-Palatinate

Gefell is an Ortsgemeinde – a municipality belonging to a Verbandsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality – in the Vulkaneifel district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It belongs to the Verbandsgemeinde of Daun, whose seat is in the eponymous town.


Horperath is an Ortsgemeinde – a municipality belonging to a Verbandsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality – in the Vulkaneifel district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It belongs to the Verbandsgemeinde of Kelberg, whose seat is in the like-named municipality.

Iron Cross

The Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz , abbreviated EK) is a former military decoration in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later in the German Empire (1871–1918) and Nazi Germany (1933–1945). It was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia on 17 March 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars (EK 1813). The award was backdated to the birthday (10 March) of his late wife Queen Louise. Louise was the first person to receive this decoration (posthumously). The recommissioned Iron Cross was also awarded during the Franco-Prussian War (EK 1870), World War I (EK 1914), and World War II (EK 1939). The Iron Cross that was awarded during World War II has a swastika in the center. The Iron Cross was normally a military decoration only, though there were instances of it being awarded to civilians for performing military functions. Two examples of this were civilian test pilots Hanna Reitsch who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for their actions as pilots during World War II.

The design of the cross symbol was black with a white or silver outline, was ultimately derived from the cross pattée of the Teutonic Order, used by knights on occasions from the 13th century.The Prussian Army black cross pattée was also used as the symbol of the succeeding German Army from 1871 to March/April 1918, when it was replaced by the Balkenkreuz. In 1956, it was re-introduced as the symbol of the Bundeswehr, the modern German armed forces.

Latin cross

A Latin cross or Crux immissa is a type of cross in which the vertical beam sticks above the crossbeam. This is the main representation of the cross by which Jesus Christ was crucified. The Latin cross began as a Roman Catholic emblem but later became a universal symbol of Christianity. If displayed upside down it is called St. Peter's Cross because he was reputedly executed on this type of cross. When displayed sideways it is called St. Philip's cross for the same reason.Believers began using small crosses after St. Helena reported discovering the true cross in Jerusalem in 327.

A Latin cross plan is a floor plan found in many cathedrals and churches. When looked at from above or in plan view it takes the shape of a Latin cross (crux immissa). The Latin cross plans have a nave with aisles or chapels, or both and a transept that forms the arms of the cross. It also has at least one apse that traditionally faces east. Many also have a narthex at the entry.

Lozenge camouflage

Lozenge camouflage was a military camouflage scheme in the form of patterned cloth or painted designs used by some aircraft of the Central Powers in the last two years of World War I, primarily those of the Imperial German Luftstreitkräfte. It takes its name from the repeated polygon shapes incorporated in the designs, many of which resembled lozenges. In Germany it was called Buntfarbenaufdruck (multi-colored print) but this designation includes other camouflage designs such as Splittermuster and Leibermuster, and does not include hand-painted camouflage.


Lückenburg is an Ortsgemeinde – a municipality belonging to a Verbandsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality – in the Bernkastel-Wittlich district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

Military aircraft insignia

Military aircraft insignia are insignia applied to military aircraft to identify the nation or branch of military service to which the aircraft belongs. Many insignia are in the form of a circular roundel or modified roundel; other shapes such as stars, crosses, squares, or triangles are also used.

Insignia are often displayed on the sides of the fuselage, the upper and lower surfaces of the wings, as well as on the fin or rudder of an aircraft, although considerable variation can be found amongst different air arms and within specific air arms over time.

Organization of the Luftwaffe (1933–45)

Between 1933 and 1945, the organization of the Luftwaffe underwent several changes. Originally, the German military high command, for their air warfare forces, decided to use an organizational structure similar to the army and navy, treating the aviation branch as a strategic weapon of war. Later on, during the period of rapid rearmament, the Luftwaffe was organized more in a geographical fashion.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), Germany was prohibited from having an air force, with the former German Empire's Luftstreitkräfte disbandment in 1920. German pilots were secretly trained for military aviation, first in the Soviet Union during the late 1920s, and then in Germany in the early 1930s. In Germany, the training was done under the guise of the German Air Sports Association (German: Deutscher Luftsportverband (DLV)) at the Central Commercial Pilots School (German: Zentrale der Verkehrs Fliegerschule (ZVF)).

Following its 15 May 1933 formation in secret, the formation of the German air arm was openly announced in February 1935, with Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring as its Commander-in-Chief (German: Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe), in blatant defiance of the Versailles Treaty. Initial plans were for long-term growth of the Luftwaffe over a period of five years with the intention of using the Luftwaffe as a strategic force. These plans were changed several times, especially after the June 1936 death of Walter Wever and the succession of Ernst Udet. The focus and role of the Luftwaffe became one of ground support for the German Army during its Lightning War (German: Blitzkrieg) campaigns. Göring, using his political capital, was able to get significant resources allocated to the Luftwaffe, more so than the army (German: Heer) or the navy (German: Kriegsmarine); all three forces existing within the combined Wehrmacht German armed forces of the Reich. This made the Luftwaffe one of the most powerful air forces in Europe during its initial years. Partly due to its ground support role, the Luftwaffe was reorganized in a fashion similar to the army units, with one unit controlling a specific area. Each Luftwaffe unit was self-contained and had complete control over all aspects of Luftwaffe forces in that area.

Before becoming head of the Luftwaffe, Göring was Interior Minister of Prussia. In this position he had formed his own army, starting from a 400 men police department to regiment size. When Göring took over the Luftwaffe, he brought the regiment along with him to the Luftwaffe and created his own ground forces in the form of Luftwaffe Field Divisions and Paratrooper Regiments (German: Fallschirmjäger) under the Luftwaffe. He eventually included a tank regiment (Fallschirm-Panzer Division), Flak units and a signals regiment (German: Luftnachrichten Regiment) under the Luftwaffe umbrella.


A roundel is a circular disc used as a symbol. The term is used in heraldry, but also commonly used to refer to a type of national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of different colours. Other symbols also often use round shapes.

Sehlem, Rhineland-Palatinate

Sehlem is an Ortsgemeinde – a municipality belonging to a Verbandsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality – in the Bernkastel-Wittlich district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

Social Welfare Decoration

The Social Welfare Decoration (German: Ehrenzeichen für deutsche Volkspflege) was a German Civil Award created by Adolf Hitler on 1 May 1939 for services in the social sector. The decoration was issued in three classes and was awarded for a wide variety of service, in the social sector, to the German state. Qualifying service would have been with Winterhilfswerk, National Socialist People's Welfare, medical and rescue work, or care of foreign and ethnic Germans. As a replacement for the German Red Cross Decoration, it was conferred in four classes consisting of a white-enameled gold Balkenkreuz with Reich eagle and swastika. A "Medal of Social Welfare" was also issued for lesser degrees of service, not warranting the higher presentation of a class award.

The main requirement for the award was that the service rendered should be to the benefit of the civil population. Reinhard Heydrich was awarded the decoration for his running of the Gestapo in the 1930s and for providing "security" to the German people. The infamous Doctor Josef Mengele was also awarded the decoration in 1941, for providing medical services to wounded soldiers and civilians alike on the battlefields of the Eastern Front.

Stuka Jr.

Stuka Jr. (born July 17, 1979) is a Mexican second-generation luchador enmascarado, or masked professional wrestler, who works for the Mexican professional wrestling promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). Stuka Jr. is not, despite what the name indicates, the son of luchador Stuka but is Stuka's younger brother. Stuka Jr.'s real name is not a matter of public record, as is often the case with masked wrestlers in Mexico where their private lives are kept a secret from the wrestling fans. His mask is styled to look like aviator goggles and an early 20th-century pilot helmet and his tights include designs representing the Luftwaffe's Balkenkreuz insignia, reflecting the Stuka dive bomber from which his name is taken.

For years Stuka Jr. formed a team with Fuego, known as Los Bombadieros ("The Bombardiers"), who collectively he held the CMLL Arena Coliseo Tag Team Championship for a record four and a half years. He is the reigning NWA World Historic Light Heavyweight Champion, having won it on August 12, 2018. He is also a former holder of the Mexican National Trios Championship, with Metro and Máscara Dorada, a former Occidente Light Heavyweight Champion and the winner of the 2014 Reyes del Aire ("King of the air") tournament. Some sources list a "Stuka Jr." wrestling in the 1990s, which is believed to be a wrestler generally known as "Stuka II", who occasionally was billed as "Stuka Jr."


Trefoil (from Latin trifolium, "three-leaved plant") is a graphic form composed of the outline of three overlapping rings used in architecture and Christian symbolism. The term is also applied to other symbols of three-fold shape.

Walid (armored personnel carrier)

The Walid is a wheeled armored personnel carrier based on the BTR-152 and the BTR-40, built by the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI). It was used by Egypt during the 1967 war with Israel.

See also


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