The U-Boat War Badge was instituted by the German Emperor Wilhelm II on February 01, 1918 “as a token of appreciation of war merits by U-boot crews”. Decoration was initially awarded to officers, NCOs and other ranks who had completed at least three successful war patrols or were wounded during combat. Award criteria were soon simplified, and those who participated in two patrols provided they had at least 150 days of active open sea service were also eligible for a badge. It’s worth mentioning though that stationing on the coast while waiting for combat operations wasn’t counted as open sea service. U-Boot Kriegsabzeichen was kept by its holder after his discharge from the Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine).
The badge had a shape of a wide horizontal oval wreath made of laurel leaves, topped with an Imperial crown and tied by ribbon. A German U-boat facing towards right side was situated in the center of the badge.
The U-Boat War Badge was initially manufactured of gilt bronze or gold plated fine silver, but by the end of the war gilt zinc alloy, so-called “Kriegsmetall”, was widely used for economic reasons. U-Boot Kriegsabzeichen that measured 49x47-
After the Great War the U-Boat War Badge was manufactured by various companies of gilt or gold plated fine silver, German silver and brass and was available for private purchase by former U-boot crew personnel upon presentation of award documents. Slightly smaller and highly popular at the beginning of the XXth century “Prinzengröße” versions of the badge and miniatures were produced as well.
Approximately 5,000 U-Boot Kriegsabzeichen were issued.
On October 13, 1939 shortly after the WWII broke out the U-boat War Badge (U-Boot-Kriegsabzeichen) was reinstituted and designed after the 1918 badge but with some changes. Overall it was quite similar to the original badge with the exception of the Prussian crown that was replaced with a German Eagle, swastika was added as well. 1939 type had also a modernized submarine facing towards the left.