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The Iron Cross (German: About this sound Eisernes Kreuz (help·info)) was a military decoration of the Kingdom of Prussia, and later of Germany, which was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and first awarded on 10 March 1813 in Breslau, during the Napoleonic Wars. The Iron Cross was also awarded during the Franco-German War, the First World War, and the Second World War.
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 the civilian pilot Hanna Reitsch, who was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for her bravery as a test pilot during the Second World War, and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg (also a German female test pilot), who was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class.
The Iron Cross was also used as the symbol of the German Army from 1871 to 1918, when it was replaced by a simpler Greek cross. In 1956, the Iron Cross became the symbol of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces. The traditional design is black and this design is used on armored vehicles and aircraft. A newer design in blue and silver is used as the emblem in other contexts.