Medals and Awards of the Finnish Army
Like all armies, the Finnish Army maintained a tradition of awarding bravery and initiative in combat with medals. These medals reflected the German influence within the Finnish Military and their issuance generally followed international standards with regards to requirements and procedure. While most of the medals listed here were issued in all three wars the Finns fought, the majority of the recipients did not receive the actual medal until after the war. Finnish officers and some senior NCOs were awarded ribbons in lieu of the actual medal and these are seen very commonly in photographs of the war.
The Medal of Liberty
The Medal of Liberty was awarded for merit and bravery in battle. It was awarded in 2nd and 1st classes, and over 1,000,000 of each were awarded to Finnish soldiers during world war 2, making it a very common award. It consisted of an either bronze (2nd class) or silver (1st class) medal depicting the Finnish lion on the obverse. It is also considered the lowest step of the Order of the Cross of Liberty. It was worn on the left breast as a ribbon or medal, after campaign medals and lower rung white rose medals, but before higher rung orders. It was not worn on the summer tunic.
The Cross of Liberty
The Cross of Liberty was awarded for great bravery in battle. It was awarded in 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st class, of which the 4th and 3rd could be won by all ranks, the 2nd by Captains or higher, and the 1st by only generals. It consisted of a Maltese cross with a Finnish swastika, and a rose in the center. The ribbon was red with white stripes, and had a laurel wreath surrounded two gauntlets with swords, and could also include an oak leaf device. It is considered the most distinguished of the Finnish orders, and was ranked below only the Mannerheim Cross. It was worn in front of all orders, and only on the winter tunic.
The Order of the White Rose
The Order of the White rose was awarded for bravery in combat. It was awarded in Knight, Officer, Commander, Grand Commander, and Grand Cross classes, all of which were suspended from blue ribbon. The only common place ones, however, were the Knight and Officer, with all others being awarded mainly to generals and the like. It consisted of a white cross with rose in the center, and Finnish lions in silver in between the cross’s arms.
The Order of the Lion
The Order of the Lion was created in 1942 as a way of replacing the Order of the White Rose, in order to keep the prestige of the Order. It consisted of a similar white cross, but the center was a Finnish lion in red enamel. It was also awarded for bravery in combat, and came in the classes of Knight, Officer, Commander, Grand Commander, and Grand Cross, much like the Order of the White Rose.
The Mannerheim Cross was awarded for extreme bravery in the face of the enemy. The equivalent of the Medal of Honor or Knights Cross, it was awarded in two classes, however only one was awarded regularly, the 2nd class, with only 2 1st class being awarded. It was a black Maltese cross with a golden swastika, and a laurel laurel wreath surrounded two gauntlets with swords. It was worn on the left breast pocket, much like the Iron Cross. It could be awarded a 2nd time, in which case a crossed batons pin was worn over the original award.
Tank Destruction Badge
The Finnish tank destruction badge is similar to the German tank destruction badge in design. It consisted of white cloth with the image of a Russian T-34 being hit in the side by a projectile drawn on. It was worn on the right upper sleeve, just like the German tank destruction badge, and could be added two with further thin, plain white stripes. One extra stripe denoted 3 or more kills, two denote 5 or more kills, 3 denoted 10 or more kills, and 4 denoted 15 or more kills, however, the highest ever awarded was 3 stripes, and the highest for infantry was 2 stripes. It could be awarded not only to infantry men, but also to anti tank gunners, and assault gunners. It could be worn both on summer and winter tunic. The improvised Tank Destroyer Badge is also the only decoration to be seen commonly on all ranks uniform from the Summer of 1944 onwards.
The Finnish Wound badge came in a couple different varieties. The first style was proclaimed during the Winter War and issued immediately afterwards to all "debilitated" veterans. The second badge was designed in 1941 and replaced the "Winter War" Wound Badge moving forward. The requirements for issuing of the Continuation War badge were the same as for the Winter War badge. The Continuation War Badge, while proclaimed and planned to be issued from 1941 on, was never issued during the war (with a few minor exceptions). As such, these badges were postwar issued to all "debilitated" wounded veterans and have the years "1939-1945" stamped on their backs.
Winter War Badge
The Winter War badge was awarded for service in the Winter War from 1939-1940. It was awarded with swords devices if won for combat arms, and with bars for certain battles (Summa, Suomussalmi, Koivisto, etc….), along with a bar for branch of service (Army, Air force, etc..). It consisted of a black ribbon with 2 red stripes down the center, and a black medal, with the engraving of a Finnish soldier in winter smock.