American Defense Service Medal

The American Defense Service Medal was a military award of the United States Armed Forces, established by Executive Order 8808, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on June 28, 1941.[1][2] The medal was intended to recognize those military service members who had served on active duty between September 8, 1939, and December 7, 1941.

American Defense Service Medal
TypeService Medal
Awarded forService between 8 September 1939 and 7 December 1941
Presented byDepartment of War and Department of the Navy
EligibilityMilitary personnel only
EstablishedExecutive Order 8808, June 28, 1941
First awardedSeptember 8, 1939 (retroactive)
Last awardedDecember 7, 1941 (retroactive)
Total recipientsabout 2,000,000
American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg

Streamer ADS.PNG
Service ribbon and Streamer
Next (higher)Army: Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
Air Force: Air Force Recognition Ribbon
Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard: China Service Medal
Next (lower)Army – Women's Army Corps Service Medal
Navy & Marine Corps – American Campaign Medal
Air Force – American Campaign Medal

A similar medal, known as the American Campaign Medal, was established in 1942, for service in the American Theater during the World War II era.


The American Defense Service Medal was established by Executive Order 8808, on 28 June 1941, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and announced in War Department Bulletin 17, 1941. The criteria for the medal was announced in Department of the Army Circular 44, on 13 February 1942. The service ribbon design was approved by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy on January 7, 1942. The medal was designed by Mr. Lee Lawrie, a civilian sculptor from Easton, Maryland. The model was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts on May 5, 1942.[2][3]


The medal is authorized to military members who served on active duty between President Roosevelt's declaration of a limited national emergency on September 8, 1939, and the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Members of the United States Army, to include those in the Organized Reserve and National Guard, received this medal for any length of service during the eligibility period, provided that they were on orders to active duty for a period of twelve months or longer.[1] The United States Navy excluded those reservists who were on active duty for less than ten days during the eligibility period, but otherwise the Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard awarded the medal to all personnel who served on active duty at any time during the eligibility period, Regular or Reservist, provided they passed their initial physical examinations, such as in the case of those Reservists called back to extended active duty prior to the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, or enlisted recruits or officer candidates who entered the Navy or Marine Corps during the same period.[4]


The bronze medal is 1+14 inches (32 mm) in diameter. On the obverse is a female Grecian figure symbolic of defense, holding in her sinister hand an ancient war shield in reverse and her dexter hand brandishing a sword above her head, and standing upon a conventionalized oak branch with four leaves. Around the top is the lettering "AMERICAN DEFENSE". The reverse is the wording "FOR SERVICE DURING THE LIMITED EMERGENCY PROCLAIMED BY THE PRESIDENT ON SEPTEMBER 8, 1939 OR DURING THE UNLIMITED EMERGENCY PROCLAIMED BY THE PRESIDENT ON MAY 27, 1941" above a seven-leafed spray of laurel.[2][3]

The suspension and service ribbon of the medal is 1+38 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 316 in (4.8 mm) Golden Yellow 67104; 18 in (3.2 mm) triparted Old Glory Blue 67178; White 67101; and Scarlet 67111; center 34 in (19 mm) Golden Yellow; 18 in (3.2 mm) triparted Scarlet; White; and Old Glory Blue 67178; and 316 in (4.8 mm) Golden yellow. The golden yellow color was symbolic of the golden opportunity of the youth of the United States to serve the National colors, represented by the blue, white and red pin stripes on each side.[2][3]


The American Defense Service Medal was authorized with the following devices:

  • Foreign Service Clasp: Issued by the United States Army for military service outside the continental limits of the United States, including service in Alaska. The foreign service clasp is a bronze bar 18 inch (3.2 mm) in width and 1+12 in (38 mm) in length with the words FOREIGN SERVICE, with a star at each end of the inscription.[1]
  • Base Clasp: Issued by the U.S. Navy and United States Marine Corps for service outside the continental limits of the United States (service in either Alaska or Hawaii qualified).[4]
  • Fleet Clasp: Issued by the Navy, Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard for service on the high seas while regularly attached to any vessels of the Atlantic, Pacific, or Asiatic fleets as well as vessels of the Naval Transport Service and vessels operating directly under the Chief of Naval Operations.[4] The Fleet clasp is a bronze bar 18 inch (3.2 mm) in width and 1+12 in (38 mm) in length with the words FLEET inscribed.
  • Sea Clasp: Issued by the Coast Guard for all other vessels and aircraft, not qualifying for the Fleet Clasp, which regularly conducted patrols at sea.[4]
  • "A" Device: Awarded to any member of the Navy who served duty in actual or potential belligerent contact with Axis Powers in the Atlantic Ocean between June 22 and December 7, 1941.[4] The "A" Device was also worn on the medal's uniform ribbon.
  • Service star: Worn in lieu of clasps when wearing the American Defense Service Medal as a ribbon on a military uniform.[1][3][4]

See alsoEdit


  • Foster, Frank C. (2002). A complete guide to all United States military medals, 1939 to present. Fountain Inn, S.C.: MOA Press. ISBN 978-1-884-45218-5. OCLC 54755134.


  1. ^ a b c d Army Regulation 600–8–22 Military Awards (PDF). Washington, DC: Headquarters Department of the Army. 24 June 2013. p. 70. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-10. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
  2. ^ a b c d "American Defense Service Medal". The Institute of Heraldry. Archived from the original on 2014-01-10. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "American Defense Service Medal". Air Force Personnel Center. 2 August 2010. Archived from the original on 6 November 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (PDF). Washington, DC: Department of the Navy. 1953. pp. 57–59. NavPers 15,790. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2014-01-10.

External linksEdit

External linksEdit