DIVISION ESPAÑOLA DE VOLUNTARIOS EN RUSIA, Medal
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Circular zinc alloy (Kriegsmetall) with laterally-pieced loop for ribbon suspension; the face with two escutcheons imposed on a lateral sword, the hilt to the left, that on the left bearing the arms of the German Wehrmacht, being an eagle with wings outstretched perched on a roundel bearing a cross gammée (swastika), that on the right bearing the Spanish Falangist arrows, a German M43 helmet above facing left and bearing the Wehrmacht arms, a cross gammée below, imposed on laurel leaves; the reverse inscribed ‘DIVISION ESPAÑOLA DE VOLUNTARIOS EN RUSIA’ (Division of Spanish Volunteers in Russia) above oak and laurel leaves, an Iron Cross at the base; some age oxidisation (see illustrations); on replaced correct ribbon. The medal was instituted on 3 January 1944 to be awarded to the Spanish volunteers who served with German forces in the Blue Division in Russia. Although Spain was neutral during World War II, its government wished to support the German invasion of Russia both in gratitude for German assistance during the Spanish Civil War and in order to combat Communism. The Blue Division was formed in late June 1941 of volunteers solely for use on the Eastern Front and fought from August 1941 until October 1943 when the high casualties from both enemy action and extreme cold, a deteriorating German strategic position and Allied pressure on Spain led Generalissimo Franco to order its withdrawal, though some Spanish remained active with German forces until the end of the war. The Blue Division members included a high proportion of regular army and others with battle experience from the Spanish Civil War and many with strong ideological commitment. As a result, their impact on the fighting was considerable. In all, approximately 45,000 Spanish served on the Eastern Front, of whom almost 5,000 were killed in action and 8,700 wounded. The Medal was made initially in Germany by Dreschler und Sohn and subsequently officially produced in Spain.
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