Military Medals & Decorations

The U.S. military has created a large number of awards, decorations, and campaign ribbons that are given to awardees as a result of their notable actions or service. The most rare and significant award is the Medal of Honor while one of the most common is the Purple Heart, awarded for a service related injury. There are many medals of lower precedence than the Purple Heart, awarded for specific service or accomplishments.

For the U.S. military, the Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, VA, an arm of the office of the Secretary of the Army, furnishes services related to official symbolic items to the Armed Forces and other United States government organizations, including the Executive Office of the President. The activities of the Institute encompass research, design, development, standardization, quality control, and other services relating to seals, decorations, medals, insignia, badges, flags, and other items awarded to or authorized for official wear or display by government personnel and agencies. Limited research and information services concerning official symbolic items are also provided to the general public.

Silver Star and Purple Heart Medals
Silver Star and Purple Heart Medals.

Today in WW II: 18 Oct 1941 General Hideki Tojo becomes the 40th Prime Minister of Japan, serving until 22 July 1944 when he was forced out by the loss of Saipan.  More 
18 Oct 1943 Third Moscow Conference: US Britain, and the Soviets discuss the progress of the war against Germany and post-war methods to ensure peace [18 Oct-11 Nov].
18 Oct 1944 Volkssturm founded by Hitler, mobilizing all German civilian males between sixteen and sixty for a suicidal final defense of the Third Reich.
Visit the World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

Medals and Awards

Awards to individuals serving in the U.S. Military are given for distinguished heroism, valor and service. The highest ranking medals, in order of precedence, are:

1. Medal of Honor (Army)
2. Distinguished Service Cross
3. Defense Distinguished Service Medal
4. Distinguished Service Medal (Army)
5. Silver Star
6. Defense Superior Service Medal
7. Legion of Merit
8. Distinguished Flying Cross
9. Soldier's Medal
10. Bronze Star Medal
11. Purple Heart
12. Defense Meritorious Service Medal
13. Meritorious Service Medal
14. Air Medal
15. Joint Service Commendation Medal

16. Army Commendation Medal
17. Joint Service Achievement Medal
18. Army Achievement Medal
19. POW Medal
20. Good Conduct Medal (Army)
21. Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal
22. American Defense Service Medal
23. Women's Army Corps Service Medal
24. American Campaign Medal
25. Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
26. European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
27. World War II Victory Medal
28. Army of Occupation Medal
29. Medal for Humane Action
30. National Defense Service Medal

31. Korean Service Medal
32. Antartica Service Medal
33. Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
34. Vietnam Service Medal
35. Southwest Asia Service Medal
36. Armed Forces Service Medal
37. Humanitarian Service Medal
38. Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal
39. Armed Forces Reserve Medal
40. NCO Professional Development Ribbon
41. Army Service Ribbon
42. Overseas Service Ribbon
43. Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon

Private Andrew Shestock receiving the Soldiers Medal from Lieutenant Colonel E.E. Reid of the Newfoundland Command for saving a Newfoundland citizen from drowning.  1942 photo
Private Andrew Shestock receiving the Soldiers Medal from Lieutenant Colonel E.E. Reid of the Newfoundland Command for saving a Newfoundland citizen from drowning. 1942 photo.

In addition to individual awards, units of the U.S. Military may be collectively recognized by one of these awards:

  1. Presidential Unit Citation (Army)
  2. Joint Meritorious Unit Award
  3. Valorous Unit Award (Army)
  4. Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army)
  5. Army Superior Unit Award

These lists of awards are not exhaustive and may change from time to time. The requirements for awards and how they are to be worn are governed by regulations, according to the written documents issued and updated. For the U.S. Army these include:

  • AR 600-8-22: Military Awards
  • AR 670-1: Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia
  • AR 840-10: Flags, Guidons, Streamers, Tabards, and Automobile and Aircraft Plates

Books About Medals and Awards

For more comprehensive information on this subject, the following books are recommended:

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: military medals. Then click the Search button.

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