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Awards and decorations of the United States Armed Forces

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Service ribbons, ribbon devices, and badge awards displayed on a U.S. Navy service uniform

The United States Armed Forces awards and decorations are primarily the medals, service ribbons, and specific badges which recognize military service and personal accomplishments while a member of the U.S. military. Such awards are a means to outwardly display the highlights of a service member's career.

Contents

Order of precedenceEdit

While each service has its own order of precedence, the following general rules typically apply to all services:

  1. U.S. military personal decorations
  2. U.S. military unit awards [1]
  3. U.S. non-military personal decorations (in order of receipt; if from the same agency, the applicable agency precedence listing should be consulted)
  4. U.S. non-military unit awards[1]
  5. U.S. military campaign and service medals
  6. U.S. military service and training awards (ribbon-only awards)[2][3a]
  7. U.S. Merchant Marine awards and non-military service awards
  8. Foreign military personal decorations
  9. Foreign military unit awards[1]
  10. International decorations & service medals (e.g., United Nations, NATO, etc.)[5]
  11. Foreign military service awards[4]
  12. Marksmanship awards (Air Force,[3a] Navy & Coast Guard)[3b]
  13. State awards of the National Guard (Army & Air Force only)

Notes on branch-specific exceptions to the above:

U.S. military, awards currently issued to service membersEdit

Order of precedenceEdit

Notes: Precedence of particular awards will vary slightly among the different branches of service. All awards and decorations may be awarded to any service member unless otherwise designated by name or notation.[2]

Ribbon/award name[3]
Personal decorations
Awarded for "gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty"

   Medal of Honor

Service cross medals - Awarded for "extraordinary heroism"

   Distinguished Service Cross (Army)

   Navy Cross

   Air Force Cross

   Coast Guard Cross

Distinguished service medals - Awarded for "distinguished service"

   Defense Distinguished Service Medal

   Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal

   Distinguished Service Medal (U.S. Army)

   Navy Distinguished Service Medal

   Air Force Distinguished Service Medal

   Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal

Awarded for "gallantry in action"

   Silver Star

Awarded for "superior or exceptionally meritorious service"

   Defense Superior Service Medal

   Legion of Merit

Awarded for "heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight"

   Distinguished Flying Cross

Medals for non-combat heroism

   Soldier's Medal

   Navy and Marine Corps Medal

   Airman's Medal

   Coast Guard Medal

Awarded for heroism in combat zone or Meritorious service

   Bronze Star Medal

Awarded for wounds suffered in combatPH

   Purple Heart

Meritorious Service and Aviation medals

   Defense Meritorious Service Medal

   Meritorious Service Medal

   Air Medal
   Aerial Achievement Medal
Commendation medals

   Joint Service Commendation Medal

   Army Commendation Medal

   Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal

   Air Force Commendation Medal

   Coast Guard Commendation Medal

Achievement medals

   Joint Service Achievement Medal

   Army Achievement Medal

   Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal

   Air Force Achievement Medal

   Coast Guard Achievement Medal

   Commandant's Letter of Commendation
Combat Action awards

   Navy Combat Action Ribbon

   Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon

   Air Force Combat Action Medal

Unit awards
Presidential Unit Citations

   Army and Air Force Presidential Unit Citation

   Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation

   Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation

   Joint Meritorious Unit Award

   Army Valorous Unit Award

   Navy Unit Commendation

   Air Force Gallant Unit Citation

   Coast Guard Unit Commendation

Meritorious Unit Commendations

   Army Meritorious Unit Commendation

   Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation

   Air Force Meritorious Unit Award

   Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation

   Army Superior Unit Award

   Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

   Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation

Efficiency Awards

   Navy "E" Ribbon

   Air Force Organizational Excellence Award

   Coast Guard "E" Ribbon

Service awards
   Prisoner of War Medal
Good conduct medals

   Army Good Conduct Medal

   Navy Good Conduct Medal

   Air Force Good Conduct Medal

   Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal

   Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal

   Combat Readiness Medal (Air Force)
   Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon

   Coast Guard Enlisted Person of the Year Ribbon

   Air Force Recognition Ribbon
Reserve medals

   Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal

   Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal

   Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal

   Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct Medal

   Armed Forces Reserve Medal

Expeditionary medals

   Navy Expeditionary Medal

   Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal

Continued on right column
Ribbon/award name[3]
Campaign and service medals (cont.)
General service medals
   National Defense Service Medal
   Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
   Korea Defense Service Medal
   Armed Forces Service Medal
   Humanitarian Service Medal
   Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal
Special service medals
   Antarctica Service Medal
   Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal
   Air and Space Campaign Medal
   Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal
Campaign and Expeditionary / Conflict Service Medals
   Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
   Afghanistan Campaign Medal
   Iraq Campaign Medal
   Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal
   Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Service and training awards
   Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

   Coast Guard Sea Service Ribbon

   Army Sea Duty Ribbon

   Naval Reserve Sea Service Ribbon

   Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon

   Navy Arctic Service Ribbon

   Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon

   Coast Guard Overseas Service Ribbon

   Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon

   Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon

   Army Overseas Service Ribbon

   Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon

   Coast Guard Restricted Duty Ribbon

   Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon

   Air Force Longevity Service Award
Recruiting service and Training service ribbons

   Navy Recruiting Service Ribbon

   Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon

   Coast Guard Recruiting Service Ribbon

   Navy Recruit Training Service Ribbon

   Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon

   Marine Corps Combat Instructor Ribbon

   Air Force Special Duty Ribbon

Guard ribbons

   Navy Ceremonial Guard Ribbon

   Marine Corps Security Guard Ribbon

Professional development Ribbons

   Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon

   Air Force NCO PME Graduate Ribbon

   Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon

   Coast Guard Basic Training Honor Graduate Ribbon

   Navy Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon

   Army Service Ribbon

   Air Force Training Ribbon

Marksmanship awards [4][5][6]
   Air Force Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Rifle

   Coast Guard Distinguished Marksman Award

   Coast Guard Silver Rifle Excellence-in-Competition Award

   Coast Guard Bronze Rifle Excellence-in-Competition Award

   Navy Expert Rifleman Medal

   Coast Guard Expert Rifleman Medal

   Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

   Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

   Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon

   Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon

Pistol

   Coast Guard Distinguished Pistol Shot Award

   Coast Guard Silver Pistol Excellence-in-Competition Award

   Coast Guard Bronze Pistol Excellence-in-Competition Award

   Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal

   Coast Guard Expert Pistol Shot Medal

   Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

   Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

   Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon

   Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon

Note: ^ The precedence of the Purple Heart was immediately before the Good Conduct Medals until changed to its current precedence in 1985.

Military departmentsEdit

To denote additional achievements or multiple awards of the same decoration, the United States military maintains a number of award devices which are pinned to service ribbons and medals.

National Guard and State defense forcesEdit

U.S. military, inactive and obsolete awardsEdit

U.S. military personnel having received these awards have either been discharged or retired for a substantial length of time and/or are deceased (with the exception of the Fleet Marine Force Ribbon and the military awards of the DoT).

Ribbon/award name
Personal decorations
   Certificate of Merit Medal
   Marine Corps Brevet Medal
   Specially Meritorious Service Medal
   Reserve Special Commendation Ribbon
   Army Wound Ribbon
Department of Transportation military awards
   Transportation Distinguished Service Medal
   Secretary of Transportation Outstanding Unit Award
   Coast Guard Bicentennial Unit Commendation
19th and early 20th century Commemorative Medals
   West Indies Naval Campaign Medal (Sampson Medal)
   Battle of Manila Bay Medal (Dewey Medal)
   United States Antarctic Expedition Medal
19th and early 20th century Campaign Medals
   Civil War Campaign Medal
   Indian Campaign Medal
   China Campaign Medal (Army)
   China Relief Expedition Medal (Navy)
Spanish–American War campaign and occupation medals
   Spanish Campaign Medal
   West Indies Campaign Medal
   Spanish War Service Medal
   Army of Cuban Occupation Medal
   Army of Cuban Pacification Medal
   Army of Puerto Rican Occupation Medal
Philippine–American War campaign medals
   Philippine Campaign Medal
   Philippine Congressional Medal
Ribbon/award name
Navy & Marine Corps expedition medals
   Nicaraguan Campaign Medal (1912)
   Dominican Campaign Medal (1916)
   Haitian Campaign Medal (1915 & 1920-1921)
   Nicaraguan Campaign Medal (1926-1930)
   Yangtze Service Medal
World War I and Pre-World War I service medals
   Mexican Service Medal (1911-1917)
   Mexican Border Service Medal
   World War I Victory Medal
   Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
World War II and Pre-World War II service medals
   China Service Medal
   American Defense Service Medal
   Women's Army Corps Service Medal
   American Campaign Medal
   European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
   Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
   World War II Victory Medal
Post World War II, Cold War Service, Occupation Medals
   Medal for Humane Action
   Army of Occupation Medal

   Navy Occupation Service Medal

   Korean Service Medal
   Vietnam Service Medal
Middle Eastern & Modern Conflicts / Wars
   Southwest Asia Service Medal
   Kosovo Campaign Medal
   Iraq Campaign Medal
Service and training awards
   Naval Reserve Medal
   Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon
   Fleet Marine Force Ribbon
   Naval Reserve Meritorious Service Medal
   Air Force Military Training Instructor Ribbon
   Air Force Recruiter Ribbon
Marksmanship
   Navy Distinguished Marksman and Pistol Shot Ribbon
   Navy Distinguished Marksman Ribbon
   Navy Distinguished Pistol Shot Ribbon

DiscontinuedEdit

The following decorations were designed for issuance with an approved medal, but were either never officially approved for presentation or were discontinued before a first award could be made.

Ribbon/award name
Personal decorations
   Distinguished Warfare Medal
Combat service decorations
   Combat Recognition Ribbon
Ribbon/award name
General service award
   Cold War Victory Medal

Single Service awardsEdit

Single service awards were official military decorations created as one time awards to recognize a single event. The first such single service award was issued during the Spanish–American War by the Revenue Cutter Service to honor the actions of the vessel USRC Hudson during the Battle of Cárdenas. The last single service award was issued in 1960 when Congress authorized the awarding of the Four Chaplains' Medal recognizing the Four Chaplains who died together during World War II.[7] There have been no single service awards issued since by the U.S. military, mainly due to the decline and complications of awarding commemorative service medals.

Ribbon/award name
Personal valor decorations
   Four Chaplains' Medal
Personal commemorative decorations
   Cardenas Medal of Honor
   NC-4 Medal
Ribbon/award name
Exploratory commemorative decorations
   Peary Polar Expedition Medal
   Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal
   Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal

Unofficial decorationsEdit

Unofficial decorations are those military awards created and issued by local commanders. In most cases, unofficial awards were designed to commemorate a specific battle or engagement of a commander's unit. The most well known unofficial awards were issued during the American Civil War.

Ribbon/award name
Civil War decorations
  Kearny Cross
Kearny Medal
  Butler Medal
  Gillmore Medal
Ribbon/award name
Research decorations
   Walter Reed Medal

After the Civil War, stricter military regulations prohibited local commanders from issuing awards and the practice had fallen into disuse by the 20th century. Even so, the Department of Defense has stated that large numbers of unofficial medals were privately issued to members of the Armed Forces of the United States for many years after the Civil War, mostly to commemorate specific battles, events, or as private veteran memorabilia.[8] One of the more well known is the Walter Reed Medal (recognized today as a Congressional Gold Medal), awarded for exploratory scientific achievement in the field of malaria treatment. While presented as a gold medallion, members of the military were reported to wear a red ribbon on their uniforms to denote the decoration.

Foreign and international awardsEdit

Foreign and international decorations are authorized for wear on United States military uniforms by the Department of Defense in accordence with established regulations for the receipt of such awards as outlined by the State Department. In the case of foreign decorations, the awards may be divided into senior service decorations (awarded only to high ranking U.S. officers), heroic decorations for valor, and foreign service decorations.

There are hundreds of foreign and international awards which have been approved for issuance to United States military personnel since World War I, the following being among the more common.

Ribbon/award name
World War I
   French Legion of Honor
   British Order of the Bath
   French Military Medal
   French Croix de guerre
   Belgian Croix de guerre
   Czechoslovak War Cross (1918)
Caribbean & Central America (1920s & 1930s)
   Order of Abdon Calderón (Ecuador)
   Military Merit Medal (Haiti)
   Medal of Merit (Nicaragua)
World War II (Europe)
   French Croix de guerre
   Belgian Croix de guerre
   Luxembourg War Cross
   Czechoslovak War Cross (1945)
   Luxembourg War Cross (Unit Citation)
World War II (Pacific)
   Philippine Defense Medal
   Philippine Liberation Medal
   Philippine Independence Medal
   Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
World War II (Senior Orders)
   Order of Adolphe of Nassau (Luxembourg)
   Order of the Aztec Eagle (Mexico)
   Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)
   Order of the Crown (Belgium)
   Order of Leopold (Belgium)
   Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
   Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco)
   Order of Pao Ting (China)
   Order of Virtuti Militari (Poland)
   Order of the White Eagle (Poland)
   Order of the White Eagle (Yugoslavia)
   Order of William (Netherlands)
Korean War - Republic of Korea (South Korea) / United Nations
   Republic of Korea War Service Medal
   United Nations Service Medal
   Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Ribbon/award name
Vietnam War - Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)
   RVN Army Distinguished Service Order
   RVN Navy Distinguished Service Order
   RVN Air Force Distinguished Service Order
   RVN Military Merit Medal
   RVN Gallantry Cross (with Palm)
   RVN Air Gallantry Cross
   RVN Navy Gallantry Cross
   RVN Armed Forces Honor Medal
   RVN Civil Actions Medal (1st class)
   RVN Staff Service Medal
   RVN Special Service Medal
   RVN Training Service Medal
   RVN Presidential Unit Citation
   RVN Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with palm and frame
   RVN Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation with palm and frame (1st class)
   RVN Campaign Medal with 1960- device
Persian Gulf War
   Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
   Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
International Awards (20th Century)
   United Nations Medal
   Multinational Force and Observers Medal
   Inter-American Defense Board Medal
   NATO Medal (Yugoslavia)
   NATO Medal (Kosovo)
   NATO Medal (Macedonia)
Senior Military Awards (21st Century)
   Aeronautical Merit Cross (Peru)
   Cross of Honor (Germany)
   Khalifiyyeh Order of Bahrain
   Military Merit Order (United Arab Emirates)
   Order of the Crown of Thailand
   Order of the Date Palm (Iraq)
   Order of May (Argentina)
   Order of Merit (Germany)
   Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
   Order of National Security Merit (Korea)
   Order of the Rising Sun (Japan)
   Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil)

During the First and Second World Wars, the Croix de Guerre medals of France and Belgium, as well as the French Military Medal and Luxembourg War Cross, were further issued as unit citation cords, known as Fourragère. Service members could receive both the individual award and the unit cord; in the case of the later, the unit citation could either be worn temporarily while a member of the unit or permanently if the service member was present during the actual battle which warranted the unit citation. A further unit citation cord of the Order of William of the Netherlands was also issued during World War II, and was far more commonly known as the "Orange Lanyard".

As of 2002, South Korea has again issued the Korean Presidential Unit Citation to certain units of the United States Marine Corps, thus placing this previously obsolete foreign award back on the active order of precedence for U.S. decorations. Apart from this one decoration, most 21st century foreign military awards are reserved for only the most senior flag and general officers and then only presented as "end of tour" decorations upon transfer from a major command.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Marine uniform regulations section 5103, subsection 12, page 5-9
  2. ^ "NUMBER 1348.33, Volume 3" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. United States Department of Defense. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b http://www.homeofheroes.com/medals/1_precedence.html Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  4. ^ OPNAVINST 3591.1F, SMALL ARMS TRAINING AND QUALIFICATION Archived 22 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Chief of Naval Operations, dated 12 August 2009, last accessed 5 May 2013
  5. ^ COMDTINST M1650.25D, Medals and Awards Manual, U.S. Coast Guard, dated May 2008, last accessed 5 May 2013[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ U.S. Coast Guard Uniform Regulations, dated March 2012, last accessed 5 May 2013
  7. ^ The Institute of Heraldry – Army Chaplain Medal of Valor
  8. ^ Price, James S. (2011). The Battle of New Market Heights: freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-60949-038-6. 

Further readingEdit

  • Foster, Frank C. (2002). A complete guide to all United States military medals, 1939 to present. Fountain Inn, S.C.: MOA Press. ISBN 1-884-45218-3. OCLC 54755134. 

External linksEdit