The Iron Cross was created in 1813 and awarded in all of Germany's conflicts through WWII. It was awarded for bravery or success in battle and could be earned by soldiers of all ranks and branches. The first grade was the Iron Cross 2nd Class- the medal itself was only worn on the day it was given. Afterwards, only the ribbon was worn on the field uniform. Winners of the Iron Cross 2nd Class were then eligible for the first class for further actions. The 1st Class was worn on the left breast of the uniform.
Troops who had won either grade in WWI were authorized to wear it on their uniform during the Second World War. For subsequent awards in WWII, the winners of the 2nd Class would add a "1939 Spange" to their buttonhole ribbon and for the 1st Class they received a modified cross with a Spange cast on top.
Further actions could be recognized with a Knight's Cross or the German Cross in Gold.