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U-Boot Frontspange in Silver - Highly valued - Maybe not.


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From a collectors point of view the Silver Clasp is pretty highly rated, certainly very expensive and not that easy to find.

But what about the U-Boat men for whom it was created.

Horst Bredow recounted to me how, when the Bronze Clasp came out, it was awarded strictly in accordance with the rules, and sparingly given. Those who were awarded one could feel they had really earned it, and took great pride in it.

Not being instituted until late 1944, it was well into 1945 before supplies of the Silver Clasp reached front line combat flotillas. By this time in the war, almost any boat that set out on a war patrol had very little chance of ever returning. It seems many of the Flotilla commanders decided to go ahead and issue the Clasps to virtually anyone who was still left alive so that just about anyone who was in port when supplies arrived , got a Silver Clasp whether they had correctly "earned" it or not.

So, many U-Boat men have very little regard for the Silver Clasp which they see as one of these awards which seemed to be virtually given out with the rations.

Another example of how collector perception of an award today might not gel with the ideas of the people who were there at the time.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Gordon,

That is interesting and I can fully understand the thoughts behind it. I would imagine at that point in time, many knew their chances were slim of surviving an already unpopular war and that they would suffer a fate so many of their comrades have already, they cared less for a piece of metal and just hoped they survived to the end. I think the pride of the average U-boat man was diminished greatly after mid-'43 and he was more concerned with survival and seeing his family again than medals.

Though not a combat-related award, in the early 80's, the US Navy finally decided to come out with some enlisted warfare qualification badges (breast type badges) as they were pretty much the only service that didn't have these devices for enlisted members other than aircrew and submarine personnel. Surface sailors and Seabees really didn't have devices that showed qualifications, expertise, or just to show off their branch of service like you saw for Army or Airforce personnel. A lot of resentment existed because of it.

Initial qualifications were rather hard to attain due to a lack of Navy-wide standards and each ship or afloat command modified their programs according to what they thought applied locally and in most cases there was resitance to help those interested in attaining the badge as most didn't have it themselves. Add to this, the award initially applied only to mid-grade to senior enlisted personnel E-5 and above and though you could start the qualification process as an E-4, most didn't give you the time of day plus much of the information was considered classified and you didn't get the information needed to pass the different departmental qualification boards. Eventually, the program gained importance and standardization and today is generally required for all personnel.

My point is... back in the day, it was a real chore to get and often required you to chase down people in different areas after hours on your own time (evenings and weekends in port) and try to get the required information. When you finally passed the final board with the Commanding Officer and were awarded the "pin", it really meant something and was a sign to everyone of the dedication it took to attain it. They even came out with a special ESWS (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) sweater (Wolly-Pully) that could only be worn by personnel ESWS qualified. It definately set you apart from your peers.

A few years later, the sweater was allowed for wear by everybody and the program became much easier to get through. Like any award based system, the easier it is to attain something, the less value or meaning it holds for those who have it. I see veterans of WWII/Korea/Vietnam that are questioning the seemingly easy award of the Bronze Star these days for service members assigned to Iraq/Afghanistan. Seems many automatically get it if wounded or killed, despite actual acts of gallantry. Still, its only a piece of metal and like any award system, its in place to provide incentive to those that want/need it.

NOT TO TAKE AWAY ANY AWARD EARNED BY THOSE THAT EARNED IT!!

Tim

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Very good topic so far! Thank you to both of you. As Gordon knows, there is lots of KM stuff in France so I can add that for the three bronze clasps I have seen, I have seen five silver ones...which always had me wondering. On the other hand, I have never seen any documents for the silver clasp although I have seen several docs for the bronze, plus at least nine paybooks containing the mention. I'm not a KM collector, mind you, but the subject certainly interests me enough to pay attention to KM stuff when I see it.

The Bronze Star does seem to have become a Cornflakes goodie. Mind you, as you suggest. there are still those who richly earn it! With awards, I think it was always thus, wasn't it? The CMoH was "easier" to win in the Indian Wars, for instance, just as the Victoria Cross was liberally awarded at certain times from the mid- to late-19th century. As for the MC in WW1, my grandfather was offered one because he didn't happen to have it but he politely refused. He fought at Gallipoli, on the Somme and in Mesopotamia. And yet, many MCs were hard-won.

Nothing new under the sun...

PK

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Hello Prosper! Happy New Year; boy its been a long time hasn't it?

I agree, spending 23 years in the service, I seen a great disparity in the award system and talking to others think it was always there and always will be. It really comes down to a few things:

- Who you are.

- Who you work for and if they like you or not.

- Was your action really mentionable or not and did somebody take notice.

- Is there someone thats willing to get off their ass and take the time to write up the recommendation.

- How much is the command willing to push the award up the chain of command and ensure the award is not downgraded or rejected outright.

- Add the resentment factor by those in the chain of command that don't have the award themselves and refuse to let anyone else get it first!

You get my point.

On the other side, there are actual quotas for some medals and commands can go an entire year without making a single recommendation or recognize individuals for superior performance and then, when the C.O. sits down with the department heads and says, Okay we have XX awards to give out and so many go to this department, so many to that department, you begin to see the faults more plainly. Different services also have different criteria for awards. It's much harder for an enlisted person in the Navy or Marine Corps to get a Commendation Medal than it is for Army or Air Force personnel; just the way the award criteria is set up in their respective awards manuals.

Anyway, I would have loved to qualify for a silver or bronze U-boat spange--prior to 1943!! :cheers:

Tim

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So... Now that your thread got hijacked, sidetracked and off track :rolleyes: sorry about that Gordon, it was not my intent.

Back to the topic:

If the silver clasp is more prevalent (availability) on the market when comparing it to the bronze clasp, then why is more expensive?

Several years ago, I picked up a very nice unmarked early tombak bomber clasp in gold. Decided why not get the higher level award as the prices were not much higher than the bronze or silver versions at the time. Then I ran into a friend locally who had a bronze and he commented that the bronze were actually harder to find as most qualified quickly for the gold level award. That got me thinking about what happened to all those bronze pieces that were actually produced and awarded prior to a decrease in demand for a lower level badge as the war progressed.

Today, I still a perponderance of gold and to a lessor degree, silver bomber clasps, but bronze are far and in between, yet prices are still fairly close to each other.

I don't own any U-boat clasps, always wanted the ones with the solid (non-fluted) pins. I understand those are the nicer ones.

Back on track hopefully!

Tim

Edited by Tim B
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Not really off-track Tim, just indicative of the same issue happening with other awards, other nations.

Good point from Prosper though about the rarity of the award docs for the silver clasp. I've had several Bronze clasp docs but only two for the Silver clasp.

I think the silver clasp is actually still quite rare. The point Horst Bredow was making was about its "status" in the eyes of the recipients rather than the number that have survived through to today. I'm sure that there are many other awards that are more highy regarded (or lusted over) by collectors than by the soldiers who were eligible.

Not related to KM stuff but in a similar manner, Panzer "Ace" Ernst Barkmann once showed me his "25" Panzer Assault Badge, and when I asked why he never wore it in any wartime photos, he said that the badge he really valued was his Infantry Assault Badge. It was his first combat badge, the one that proved he had "won his spurs" in battle and meant more to him than his Panzer Assault Badge.

Compare that to the "value" that a collector would put on each of these awards.

Too many collectors become focused on the monetary value of these awards and I suspect if they sat down with a combat vet and discussed which ones were most highly "rated" they might get a few surprises.

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I honestly think that will always be the valid point here with all vets.

In the old film "The Blue Max", when George Peppard was commenting on Richthofen's Pour Le Merit, Jeremy Kemp's character asks the simple question, "Which do you respect, the man or the medal?"

I think the person and their deed is what was important, not the fact that if they got recognized for it, or with what, but the fact they did their duty. Too many were never recognized for valourous acts in all wars. Some were at the right place at the right time being witnessed by the right person.

Cheers!

Tim

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