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A worn zinc Close Combat Clasp in bronze. Unmarked. Magnetic back-plate.
Close Combat Clasp (Nahkampfspange)
DATE OF INSTITUTION
November 25th, 1942. At the height of the battle for Stalingrad, this new award was instituted for front-line soldiers engaged in combat close enough to see the “whites of the enemy’s eyes”, using close combat weapons to assault the enemy in hand-to-hand combat and be victorious.
The Close Combat Clasp was awarded to soldiers after they obtained the necessary combat “days”, making it a separate and unique award compared with existing badges like the Infantry or Panzer Assault Badge which kept track of single engagements. The clasp could be awarded to officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted men alike once the prescribed number of combat “days” were obtained and confirmed. The counting of combat days started on December 1st, 1942.
Grade I = Bronze Class awarded after 15 days of close combat Grade II = Silver Class awarded after 30 days of close combat Grade III = Gold Class awarded after 50 days of close combat
For severely wounded soldiers who had no further opportunity to complete the necessary combat days, the Close Combat Clasp could be awarded at the discretion of the Division Commander using the following reduced rate:
Grade I = Bronze Class awarded after 10 days of close combat Grade II = Silver Class awarded after 20 days of close combat Grade III = Gold Class awarded after 40 days of close combat
Retroactive Combat Days
The counting of combat days officially started on December 1st, 1942, however special consideration was made for the beleaguered soldiers fighting in Russia on the Eastern Front. Soldiers that had served continuously in Russian since the beginning of the invasion on June 22nd, 1941 would be given credit for close combat days at the following rate:
8 months of deployment = 5 close combat days
12 months of deployment = 10 close combat days
15 months of deployment = 15 close combat days
On March 29th, 1943 the retroactive counting of combat days was extended to soldiers fighting in North Africa since June 22nd, 1941 as well.
The Close Combat Clasp was to be worn 1 centimeter above the left breast pocket, or 1 cm above the ribbon bar if one was worn. This is a prestigious location on the uniform, high and above all other combat and qualification badges with the exception of perhaps the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross worn around the neck.
The recipient would receive an official award document; the earliest documents were typically in the DIN A4 format (8” x 12”) or later and more commonly in the DIN A5 format (6” x 8”).
Clasps typically arrived from the manufacturer in simple cardboard cartons, or paper packets and were either handed to or pinned on the soldier by the Division Commander.
Being a mid-to-late war combat award established in late 1942 almost all original Close Combat Clasps were manufactured in Zinc, the material of choice during this period of the war. Only 2 exceptions are known; a very rare clasp made from lightweight Aluminum by the Gebrüder Wegerhoff firm of Lüdenscheid (GWL) and a special Presentation Close Combat Clasp in Gold made from brass/tombak by the renowned C.E. Juncker firm of Berlin.
In mid-1944 Hitler reserved the right to personally hand out the Close Combat Clasp in Gold (III Class) to soldiers at official award ceremonies. A special Presentation Close Combat Clasp in Gold was produced for these ceremonies along with a special presentation case by the Juncker firm. On August 27th, 1944 Hitler presided over the first of 5 group award ceremonies where he would personally bestow a total of 57 Close Combat Clasps in Gold to the recipients. Himmler conducted 2 additional ceremonies where he bestowed a further 99 Gold clasps, with Lt. General Guderian
conducted the last group ceremony, awarding 13 more of the special presentation clasps.
There were at least 12 makers of the Close Combat Clasp, including Juncker who made both regular Zinc-based clasps in all grades as well as the special Presentation Close Combat Clasp in Gold. Most makers made all 3 grades of the Close Combat Clasp and gold-grade clasps were certainly produced in zinc and bestowed to recipients prior to mid-1944 when the special brass/tombak version of the Presentation Close Combat Clasp in Gold was produced.
It is estimated that the Close Combat Clasp was awarded in the following rough numbers:
Bronze = 36,000 Silver = 9,500 Gold = 647
For more information on the Close Combat Clasp, we gladly refer the interested collector to the book “The German Close Combat Clasp of WW2” written by Thomas M. Durante (ISBN: 978-0-9600753-0-0)