January 12, 2017

Today in History: Pour le Mérite, Germany’s highest military honour, bestowed on two aviators (1916)

John RobsonResident Historian John Robson
 

On Jan. 12 1916 fighter pilots Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke became the first aviators to win the Pour le Mérite, obviously Germany’s highest military honour. 

And if it’s not obvious that even in World War One the Germans could salute bravery in the language of their foe, giving a medal dating back to 1740 and a more cosmopolitan and Christian Europe, it illustrates the depth of the moral abyss into which the Great War plunged Western Civilization.

On the plus side, the award reappeared in 1923 for civilians in a mixture of French and German (Pour le mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste) and following its debasement in the Nazi period was renewed in 1952 to symbolize an aspiration to reach back toward a more civilized age.

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commented 2017-01-12 16:55:56 -0500
I checked Wikipedia, this medal was informally known as the “Blue Max” and was awarded to the “Red Baron”. George Peppard stated in the movie “The Blue Max” Great flick.