Also known as “The Blue Max”, it was an Order of Merit originally establish in 1740 by King Frederick II of Prussia. Awarded for personal and extraordinary achievements, it was primarily awarded to Nobility. It could be revoked or renounced. Constructed as a “Tapered Cross” surrounded by a series of Gold wreaths”- by World War I, mostly Aristocratic young men (hereditary Counts, Barons, etc.) - joined the “elite” Imperial Air Corps. Considered “Knights of The Air”, they followed an almost “Medieval” Code of Chivalry and ethics. The “Blue Max” was seen as the highest achievement a German Pilot of the Era could be awarded. Identifying one as a “Max Ace” was the crowing achievement (expected).
Debates regarding “kill number” to achieve the Award are well known. Originally it was set at 20 confirmed kills (with it being lowered to 15 later in the War). Although often seen as a “Flyer's Award” - The Blue Max was also awarded to Infantry Officers in The Imperial German Army. Erwin Rommel was award one in 1917 as was Paul Von Hindenburg in 1914. After the fall of Kaiser William II Government (1918), The Blue Max was never issued again in it's military version. A Civil version is still awarded.