Medal of Honor

From Wikipedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Template:Other uses Template:Infobox military award

The Medal of Honor is United States of America's highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of Congress. Although the medal is sometimes referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor, the original and official title is the "Medal of Honor".<ref name="regulations"/><ref>DoD Award Manual, Nov. 23, 2010, 1348. 33, P. 31, 8. c. (1) (a)</ref><ref name="TuckerArnold2011">Template:Cite book</ref><ref name=CMOHS_name>The Congressional Medal of Honor Society is so designated because that was the name it was given in an act of Congress that was signed into law by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 5, 1958 as Title 36, Chapter 33 of the U.S. Code (see Template:Cite web). The law authorizing the society has since been transferred to Title 36, Chapter 405 of the U.S. Code. [1]</ref> There are three versions of the medal, one for the Army, one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force. Members of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version.

The Medal of Honor is usually presented by the President at the White House in a formal ceremony intended to represent the gratitude of the American people. Posthumous presentations of the medal to the primary next of kin are held in Washington, D.C.<ref name="posthumousQuantification">Template:Cite book</ref><ref>SECNAVINST 1650.1H, P. 2-20, 224. 2., Aug 22, 2006</ref> In 1990, Congress designated March 25th annually as "National Medal of Honor Day".<ref>Public Law 101-564, Nov. 15, 1990</ref> Due to its prestige and status, the Medal of Honor is afforded special protection under U.S. law.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>



File:Ortega meda of Honor.jpg
Medal of Honor (without the suspension ribbon) awarded to Seaman John Ortega in 1864 (back view of medal).
  • 1782: Badge of Military Merit: The first formal system for rewarding acts of individual gallantry by American soldiers was established by George Washington when he issued a field order on August 7, 1782, for a Badge of Military Merit to recognize those members of the Continental Army who performed "any singular meritorious action". This decoration is America's first combat decoration and was preceded only by the Fidelity Medallion, the Congressional medal for Henry Lee awarded in September 1779 in recognition of his attack on the British at Paulus Hook, the Congressional medal for General Horatio Gates awarded in November 1777 in recognition of his victory over the British at Saratoga, and the Congressional medal for George Washington awarded in March 1776.<ref name="regulations"/><ref name="merit">Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Dept. of the Army Public Information Division, The Medal of Honor of the United States Army (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1948), 10-11. </ref> Although the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the American Revolutionary War, the concept of a military award for individual gallantry by members of the U.S. Armed Forces had been established.
  • 1861: There were no military awards or medals at the beginning of the Civil War (1861--1865) except for the Certificate of Merit which was awarded for the Mexican-American War. In the fall of 1861, a proposal for a battlefield decoration for valor was memorandumed to Winfield Scott, the general-in-chief of the army, by Lt. Colonel Edward D. Townsend, an assistant adjutant at the War Department and Scott's chief of staff. Scott however, was strictly against medals being awarded which was the European tradition. After Scott retired in October 1861, the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, adopted the idea of a decoration to recognize and honor distinguished naval service. On October 9, U.S. Senator (Iowa) James W. Grimes, Chairman on the Committee on Naval Affairs, proposed Public Resolution Number 82,<ref> "Above and Beyond", P. 5, 1985, Boston Publishing Company</ref> "to promote the efficiency of the Navy" which included a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor<ref>"Stealing the General", P. 308, by Russell S. Bonds, 2006</ref> which was signed into law (12Stat329) by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861, "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamen-like qualities during the present war".<ref>'Stealing the General: Great Locomotive Chase and The First Medal of Honor", P. 308, ISBN 10:I-59416-033-3, 2006, by Russell S. Bonds</ref> Secretary Wells directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new military decoration.<ref name="valorhonor">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="MWxviii">Template:Harvnb</ref><ref name="typessecnav">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • 1862: On May 15, the Navy Department ordered 175 medals with the words "Personal Valor" on the back from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.<ref> "Above and Beyond": A History of the Medal of Honor and the Civil War, P. 5, These medals were made of copper and coated with bronze, ISBN 0-939526-19-0, by the editors of Boston Publishing Company in cooperation with the CMOH Society, 1985.</ref> Senator Henry Wilson, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, introduced a resolution on February 15 for an Army Medal of Honor. The resolution was approved by Congress and signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a medal of honor "to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection". During the war, Townsend would have some medals delivered to some recipients with a letter requesting acknowledgement of the "Medal of Honor". The letter written and signed by Townsend on behalf of the Secretary of War, stated that the resolution was "to provide for the presentation of medals of honor to the enlisted men of the army and volunteer forces who have distinguished or may distinguish themselves in battle during the present rebellion".<ref>"Above and Beyond", by Boston Publishing Company, 2006</ref><ref>Quote is from what is written on War Dept. return receipt letter dated March 1865 signed by asst. adjutant Edward Townsend that accompanied the Medal of Honor delivered to Private Franklin Johndro for his act on Sept. 30, 1864, capturing 49 armed Confederate soldiers.</ref> By mid-November the War Department contracted with Philadelphia silversmith William Wilson and Son, who had been responsible for the Navy design, to prepare 2,000 Army medals to be cast at the mint.<ref>"Above and Beyond", by Boston Publishing Company, P. 5, 2nd paragraph, 1985</ref> The Army version had "The Congress to" written on the back of the medal. Both versions were made of made of copper and coated with bronze, which "gave them a reddish tint."<ref>"Stealing the General, The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor, by Russell S. Bonds, 2006, ISBN IO: I-59416-003 - ISBN 13: 978-i-59416-003-2, P. 309: "The medal of honor is bronze, of neat device, and is highly prized by those of whom it has been bestowed," "Townsend wrote in a 1864 report. Its original design, embodied first in the Navy Medal, was an inverted, five-pointed star...."</ref><ref>"Above and Beyond: A History of the Medal of Honor from the Civil War to Vietnam", P. 5, The medals were made of copper and coated with bronze, which gave them a reddish tint. ISBN 0-939526-19-0, 1985, by the editors of the Boston Publishing Company in cooperation with the CMOH Society</ref>
  • 1863: Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration. On March 3, Army officers became eligible for the Medal of Honor.<ref>"Above and Beyond", 1985, p. 5</ref> The Secretary of War presents the Medal of Honor first to six Union Army volunteers on March 25, 1863 in his office.<ref>"Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor", 2006, by Russell S. Bonds</ref>
  • 1890: On April 23, the Medal of Honor Legion is established in Washington, D.C.
  • 1915: On March 3, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers became eligible for the Medal of Honor.
  • 1963: A separate Coast Guard medal was authorized in 1963, but not yet designed or awarded.<ref name=navyfaq>Template:Cite web</ref>


There are three versions of the Medal of Honor, one for each of the military departments of the Department of Defense: Army, Navy, and Air Force. Members of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard are eligible to receive the Navy version. Each is constructed differently and the components are made from gilding metals and red brass alloys with some gold plating, enamel, and bronze pieces. The United States Congress considered a bill in 2004 which would require the Medal of Honor to be made with 90% gold, the same composition as the lesser-known Congressional Gold Medal, but the measure was dropped.<ref name=ABC-GoldorBrass>Template:Cite news</ref>

Army recipients

The Army version is described by the Institute of Heraldry as "a gold five pointed star, each point tipped with trefoils, 1 1/2 inches wide, surrounded by a green laurel wreath and suspended from a gold bar inscribed VALOR, surmounted by an eagle. In the center of the star, Minerva’s head surrounded by the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. On each ray of the star is a green oak leaf. On the reverse is a bar engraved THE CONGRESS TO with a space for engraving the name of the recipient."<ref name=TIOH-MOH>Template:Cite web</ref> The pendant and suspension bar are made of gilding metal, with the eye, jump rings, and suspension ring made of red brass.<ref name="MIL-DTL-3943/1F">Template:Cite web</ref> The finish on the pendant and suspension bar is hard enameled, gold plated, and rose gold plated, with polished highlights.<ref name="MIL-DTL-3943/1F" />

Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard recipients

The Navy version is described as "a five-pointed bronze star, tipped with trefoils containing a crown of laurel and oak. In the center is Minerva, personifying the United States, standing with left hand resting of fasces and right hand holding a shield blazoned with the shield from the coat of arms of the United States. She repulses Discord, represented by snakes. The medal is suspended from the flukes of an anchor."<ref name=TIOH-MOH /> It is made of solid red brass, oxidized and buffed.<ref name="MIL-DTL-3943/2H">Template:Cite web</ref>

Air Force recipients

The Air Force version is described as "within a wreath of green laurel, a gold five-pointed star, one point down, tipped with trefoils and each point containing a crown of laurel and oak on a green background. Centered on the star, an annulet of 34 stars is a representation of the head of the Statue of Liberty. The star is suspended from a bar inscribed with the word VALOR above an adaptation of the thunderbolt from the Air Force Coat of Arms."<ref name=TIOH-MOH /> The pendant is made of gilding metal.<ref name="MIL-DTL-3943/3G">Template:Cite web</ref> The connecting bar, hinge, and pin are made of bronze.<ref name="MIL-DTL-3943/3G" /> The finish on the pendant and suspension bar is hard enameled, gold plated, and rose gold plated, with buffed relief.<ref name="MIL-DTL-3943/3G" />

Ribbons, lapel button, and "V" device

  • Service ribbon and lapel button: On May 2, 1896, Congress authorized a "ribbon to be worn with the medal and [a] rosette or knot to be worn in lieu of the medal".<ref> Congressional Medal of Honor site, History of the Medal of Honor, May 2, 1896 ("20 Stat. 473")</ref><ref name=TIOH-MOH /><ref name="typessecnav"/> The service ribbon is light blue with five white stars in the form of an "M".<ref name=TIOH-MOH /> It is placed first in the top position in the order of precedence and is worn for situations other than full-dress military uniform.<ref name=TIOH-MOH /> The lapel button is a 1/2 inch, six-sided light blue bowknot rosette with thirteen white stars and may be worn on appropriate civilian clothing on the left lapel.<ref name=TIOH-MOH />
  • "V" Device: Currently, no more than one Medal of Honor may be awarded to an individual.<ref name="DODM1348.33V1P34" /> However, as of 2010, "for each succeeding act that would otherwise justify award of the Medal of Honor, the individual receiving the subsequent award is authorized to wear an additional Medal of Honor ribbon and/or a "V" device on the Medal of Honor suspension ribbon."<ref name="DODM1348.33V1P34">DoD Awards Manual 1348.33, dated 23 November 2010, Volume 1, page 34, paragraph 8, h. "Subsequent Awards".</ref> The "V" device is a 1/4 inch high bronze miniature letter "V" with serifs. The Medal of Honor is the only decoration to use the "V" device to designate subsequent awards in such fashion. Nineteen individuals, now deceased, were double Medal of Honor recipients.<ref name="double">Template:Cite web</ref>

Historical versions

The Medal of Honor has evolved in appearance over time. The upside-down star design of the Navy version's pendant adopted in early 1862 has not changed since its inception. The Army 1862 version followed and was identical to the Navy version except an eagle perched atop cannons was used instead of an anchor to connect the pendant to the suspension ribbon. In 1896, the Army version changed the ribbon's design and colors due to misuse and imitation by nonmilitary organizations.<ref name=TIOH-MOH /> In 1904, the Army "Gillespie" version introduced a smaller redesigned star and the ribbon was changed to the light blue pattern with white stars seen today.<ref name=TIOH-MOH /> In 1913, the Navy version adopted the same ribbon pattern.

After World War I, the Navy decided to separate the Medal of Honor into two versions, one for combat and one for non-combat. The original upside-down star was designated as the non-combat version and a new pattern of the medal pendant, in cross form, was designed by the Tiffany Company in 1919. It was to be presented to a sailor or Marine who "in action involving actual conflict with the enemy, distinguish[es] himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty"<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Despite the "actual conflict" guidelines, the Tiffany Cross was awarded to Floyd Bennett and Richard E. Byrd for arctic exploration. The Tiffany Cross was not popular. In 1942, the Navy returned to using only the original 1862 inverted 5-point star design, and ceased issuing the award for non-combat action. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

In 1944, the suspension ribbons for both the Army and Navy version were replaced with the now familiar neck ribbon.<ref name=TIOH-MOH /> When the Air Force version was designed in 1956, it incorporated similar elements and design from the Army version. It used a larger star with the Statue of Liberty image in place of Minerva on the medal and changed the connecting device from an eagle to a pair of wings with thunderbolts.


On October 23, 2002, Template:USPL was enacted, modifying Template:UnitedStatesCode, authorizing a Medal of Honor flag to be presented to recipients of the decoration.<ref name="flaglaw">Template:Cite web</ref>

The flag was based on a concept by retired Army Special Forces First Sergeant Bill Kendall of Jefferson, Iowa,<ref name="Kendall">Template:Cite web</ref> who designed a flag to honor Medal of Honor recipient Captain Darrell Lindsey, a B-26 pilot from Jefferson who was killed in World War II. Kendall's design of a light blue field emblazoned with 13 white five-pointed stars was nearly identical to that of Sarah LeClerc's of the Institute of Heraldry. LeClerc's design, ultimately accepted as the official flag, does not include the words "Medal of Honor" and is fringed in gold. The color of the field and the 13 white stars, arranged in the form of a three bar chevron, consisting of two chevrons of five stars and one chevron of three stars,<ref name="regulations"/> replicate the suspension ribbon of the Medal of Honor. The flag has no set proportions.<ref name="flag">Template:Cite web</ref>

A special Medal of Honor Flag presentation ceremony was held for over 60 living Medal of Honor recipients on board the Template:USS, Old Ironsides, on September 30, 2006.<ref name="flagpresent">Template:Cite web</ref>


File:Henry Breault2.jpg
President Calvin Coolidge bestowing the Medal of Honor upon Henry Breault, March 8, 1924

There are two distinct protocols for awarding the Medal of Honor. The first and most common is nomination and approval through the chain of command of the service member. The second method is nomination by a member of the U.S. Congress, generally at the request of a constituent, and the subsequent approval via a special Act of Congress. In both cases, the Medal of Honor is presented by the President on behalf of, and in the name of, the Congress.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Since 1941, more than half of the Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously. Medal of Honor recipients are usually personally decorated by the President in the White House and the next of kin are personally presented a Medal of Honor set, enclosed in a wood and glass case with a brass nameplate of the recipient, by the President or his representative in the White House or at the Pentagon.Template:Citation needed

Evolution of criteria

  • 1800s: Several months after President Abraham Lincoln signed Public Resolution 82 into law on December 21, 1861 for a Navy medal of honor, a similar resolution was passed in July 1862 for an Army version of the medal. Six Union Army soldiers who hijacked a Confederate locomotive named the General in 1862, were the first Medal of Honor recipients;<ref name="MWxvii">Template:Harvnb</ref> James J. Andrews, a civilian, led the raid. He was caught and hanged as a Union spy, but was not awarded the medal. Many Medals of Honor awarded in the 19th century were associated with, "saving the flag" (and country), not just for patriotic reasons, but because the U.S. flag was a primary means of battlefield communication at the time. Because no other military decoration was authorized during the Civil War, some seemingly less exceptional and notable actions were recognized by a Medal of Honor during that conflict.
  • 1900s: Early in the 20th century, the Navy awarded many Medals of Honor for peacetime bravery. For instance, in 1901, John Henry Helms aboard the Template:USS was awarded the medal for saving the ship's cook from drowning. Seven sailors aboard the Template:USS were awarded the medal after the ship's boiler exploded on January 25, 1904. Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett were awarded the medal after World War I for the exploration of the North Pole.<ref name="HargisSinton2003">Template:Cite book</ref> And, Admiral Thomas J. Ryan was awarded the medal for saving a woman from the burning Grand Hotel in Yokohama, Japan, following the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake.<ref name="ryan">Template:Cite web</ref> Between 1919 and 1942, the Navy issued two separate versions of the Medal of Honor, one for acts related to combat and one for non-combat bravery. The criteria for the award tightened during World War I for the Army version of the Medal of Honor, while the Navy version retained a non-combat provision until 1963. In an Act of Congress of July 9, 1918, the War Department version of the medal required that the recipient "distinguish himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," and also required that the act of valor be performed "in action involving actual conflict with an enemy."<ref>Act of July 9, 1918, 40 Stat. 870.</ref> This was in reaction to the results of the Army Medal of Honor Review Board, which struck 911 names from the Medal of Honor Roll in February 1917 for lack of basic prerequisites. These included the members of the 27th Maine erroneously awarded the medal for reenlisting to guard the capital during the Civil War, 29 members of Abraham Lincoln's funeral detail, and six civilians including Buffalo Bill Cody and Mary Walker.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • World War II: Starting in 1942, the Medal would only be awarded for action in combat, although the Navy version of the Medal of Honor technically allowed non-combat awards until 1963.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Official accounts vary, but generally, the Medal of Honor for combat was known as the "Tiffany Cross", after the company that designed the medal. The Tiffany Cross was first awarded in 1919, but was unpopular partly because of its design.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The Tiffany Cross Medal of Honor was awarded twice for non-combat. By a special authorized Act of Congress, the medal was presented to Commander (later Rear Admiral) Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett for their flight over the North Pole in 1926.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> In 1942, the United States Navy reverted back to a single Medal of Honor, although the statute still contained a loophole allowing the award for both "action involving actual conflict with the enemy" or "in the line of his profession."<ref>"An Act to Amend the Act Approved February 4, 1919 (40 Stat. 1056)," August 7, 1942, Public Law 702, 56 Stat. 743-45."</ref>Arising from these criteria, approximately 60 percent of the medals earned during and after World War II have been awarded posthumously.<ref name="mohstats">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Public Law 88-77, July 25, 1963: The requirements for the Medal of Honor were standardized among all the services, requiring that a recipient had "distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty."<ref>"An Act to Amend Titles 10, 14, and 38, United States Code, with Respect to the Award of Certain Medals and the Medal of Honor Roll," July 25, 1956, HR 2998, Public Law 88-77, 77 Stat. 93.</ref> Thus, the act removed the loophole allowing non-combat awards to Navy personnel. The act also clarified that the act of valor must occur during one of three circumstances:<ref>DoD Awards Manual 1348.33, V1, Oct. 12, 2011 (Nov. 23, 2010). p. 31--32, 8. Medal of Honor (1) (a) 1., 2., 3. (k), p. 10, Title 10 US Code sections 3741, 6241, and 8741 (Titles 14 & 38 not referenced by DoD)</ref>

1. While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States
2. While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.
3. While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.<ref>"An Act to Amend Titles 10, 14, and 38, United States Code, with Respect to the Award of Certain Medals and the Medal of Honor Roll," July 25, 1963, HR 2998, Public Law 88-77, 77 Stat. 93.</ref><ref>DoD Manual 1348.33, V1, Oct. 12. 2011 (Nov. 23, 2010), p. 31 & 32, 8. Medal of Honor (1) (a) 3. (k), p.10, Title 10 US Code sections 3741, 6241, and 8741 (Title 14 & 38 not referenced By DoD).</ref>

Congress drew the three permutations of combat from President Kennedy's executive order of April 25, 1962, which previously added the same criteria to the Purple Heart. On August 24, Kennedy added similar criteria for the Bronze Star Medal.<ref>"Subcommittee No.2 Consideration of HR2998, A Bill to Amend Titles 10, 14, and 38, United States Code, with Respect to the Award of Certain Medals and the Medal of Honor Roll," House of Representatives, Committee of Armed Services, June 6, 1963.</ref><ref>Executive order 11046 - DoD Awards Manual 1348.33, V3, Oct. 12, 2011 (Nov. 23, 2010), p. 19--21, 4. Bronze Star Medal (Title 10 & 37 is referenced by DoD, Titles 14 & 38 is not referenced by DoD)</ref> The amendment was necessary because Cold War armed conflicts did not qualify for consideration under previous statutes such as the 1918 Army Medal of Honor Statute that required valor "in action involving actual conflict with an enemy," since the United States has not formally declared war since World War II as a result of the provisions of the United Nations Charter.<ref>"An Act Making Appropriations for the Support of the Army for the Fiscal Year Ending June Thirtieth, Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen," July 9, 1918, HR12281, Public Law 193, 40 Stat. 870.</ref> According to congressional testimony by the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, the services were seeking authority to award the Medal of Honor and other valor awards retroactive to July 1, 1958, in areas such as Berlin, Lebanon, Quemoy and Matsu Islands, Taiwan Straits, Congo, Laos, Vietnam, and Cuba.<ref>"Subcommittee No.2 Consideration of HR2998, A Bill to Amend Titles 10, 14, and 38, United States Code, with Respect to the Award of Certain Medals and the Medal of Honor Roll," House of Representatives, Committee of Armed Services, June 6, 1963.</ref>

Note: In 1968, Navy Captain William McGonagle (1925--1999) was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the USS Liberty incident on June 8--9, 1967. The friendly fire incident during the Six Day War (June 5--10, 1967), which took place during the much longer Vietnam War.<ref name="Liberty1">Template:Cite web audio and transcripts</ref><ref name="Liberty2">Template:Cite web audio and transcripts</ref>

Authority and privileges

File:C-Chatanooga Cemetery2.jpg
Medal of Honor monument and Medal of Honor headstones of the Civil War recipients of "Andrews Raid" at the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
File:James H Robinson grave.jpg
Medal of Honor headstone of a recipient at the Memphis National Cemetery

The four specific authorizing statutes amended July 25, 1963:<ref>"An Act to Amend Titles 10, 14, and 38, United States Code, with Respect to the Award of Certain Medals and the Medal of Honor Roll," July 25, 1963, HR 2998, Public Law 88-77, 77 Stat. 93.</ref>

web|url=http:/ |title=Medal of Honor, Frequently Asked Questions | |date= |accessdate=May 12, 2012}}</ref>

The President may award, and present in the name of Congress, a medal of honor of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who while a member of the Army (naval service; Navy and Marine Corps) (Air Force) (Coast Guard), distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.<ref name="1998code">Template:Cite web</ref>

Privileges and courtesies

The Medal of Honor confers special privileges on its recipients. By law, recipients have several benefits:<ref name="benefits">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="benefits3">Template:Cite web</ref>

  • Enlisted recipients of the Medal of Honor are entitled to a supplemental uniform allowance.
  • Recipients receive special entitlements to air transportation under the provisions of DOD Regulation 4515.13-R.
  • Special identification cards and commissary and exchange privileges are provided for Medal of Honor recipients and their eligible dependents.
  • Recipients are granted eligibility for interment at Arlington National Cemetery, if not otherwise eligible.<ref>32 CFR 553.15(d)(1)</ref>
  • Those awarded the medal after October 23, 2002, receive a Medal of Honor Flag. The law specified that all 103 living prior recipients as of that date would receive a flag. (Template:UnitedStatesCode).
  • As with all medals, retired personnel may wear the Medal of Honor on "appropriate" civilian clothing. Regulations specify that recipients of the Medal of Honor are allowed to wear the uniform "at their pleasure" with standard restrictions on political, commercial, or extremist purposes (other former members of the armed forces may do so only at certain ceremonial occasions).<ref name="AR670">Template:Cite web</ref>


  • Although not required by law or military regulation,<ref>United States Army. The Soldier's Guide. 2003. Chapter 4.</ref> members of the uniformed services are encouraged to render salutes to recipients of the Medal of Honor as a matter of respect and courtesy regardless of rank or status.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Legal protection

  • 1904: The Army redesigned its Medal of Honor.<ref name="CMOHS">Types of Medals of Honor From the website of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Retrieved on July 1, 2012.</ref> To prevent the making of copies of the medal, Brigadier General George Gillespie, Jr., a Medal of Honor recipient from the Civil War, applied for and obtained a patent for the new design.<ref name="CMOHS"/><ref name="Design">Template:Cite web</ref> General Gillespie received the patent on November 22, 1904,<ref name="Design"/> and he transferred it the following month to the Secretary of War at the time, William Howard Taft.<ref name="CMOHS"/>
  • 1923: Congress enacted a statute (the year before the 20 year term of the patent would expire) — which would later be codified at 18 U.S.C. § 704 — prohibiting the unauthorized wearing, manufacturing, or sale of military medals or decorations.<ref>See Notes to 18 U.S.C. § 704, citing 42 Stat. 1286. Retrieved on June 30, 2012.</ref> In 1994, Congress amended the statute to permit an enhanced penalty if the offense involved the Medal of Honor.<ref>Pub.L. 103-322, The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, § 320109 (page 318 of the PDF version). Retrieved on June 30, 2012.</ref>
  • 2005: Congress enacted the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.<ref>Pub.L. 109-437, The Stolen Valor Act of 2005. Retrieved on June 30, 2012.</ref> (Section 1 of the Act provided that the law could be cited as the "Stolen Valor Act of 2005," but the bill received final passage and was signed into law in 2006.<ref>Id. at 1.</ref>) The law amended 18 U.S.C. § 704 to make it a federal criminal offense for a person to deliberately state falsely that he or she had been awarded a military decoration, service medal, or badge.<ref>Id..</ref><ref name="s1998track">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="usc18-704">Template:Usc</ref> The law also permitted an enhanced penalty for someone who falsely claimed to have been awarded the Medal of Honor.<ref name="usc18-704"/>
  • June 28, 2012: In the case of United States v. Alvarez, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005's criminalization of the making of false claims of having been awarded a military medal, decoration, or badge was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.<ref>United States v. Alvarez (slip opinion), 567 U.S. ___ (2012). Retrieved on June 30, 2012.</ref> The case involved an elected official in California, Xavier Alvarez, who had falsely stated at a public meeting that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, even though he had never served in any branch of the armed forces.<ref>See id.</ref>

The Supreme Court's decision did not specifically address the constitutionality of the older portion of the statute which prohibits the unauthorized wearing, manufacturing, or sale of military medals or decorations. Under the law, the unauthorized wearing, manufacturing, or sale of the Medal of Honor is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.<ref>18 U.S.C. § 704. See also 18 U.S.C. § 3571(b)(5) (specifying the permissible fine for a federal Class A misdemeanor not resulting in death), and 18 U.S.C. § 3559(a)(6) (defining a federal Class A misdemeanor). Retrieved on June 30, 2012.</ref>

U.S. Army Medal of Honor on display

A number of veteran support organizations and private companies devote themselves to exposing those who falsely claim to have received the Medal of Honor.<ref name="phony">Template:Cite news</ref>


  • 1996: HLI Lordship Industries Inc., a former Medal of Honor contractor, was fined for selling 300 medals for US $75 each.<ref name="hli2">Template:Cite news</ref>
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident Jackie Stern was convicted of wearing a Medal of Honor to which he was not entitled. A federal judge sentenced him to serve one year of probation and to write a letter of apology to each of the then-living 171 recipients of the medal. His letter was published in the local newspaper.<ref name="stern">Template:Cite news</ref>
  • 2003: Edward Fedora and Gisela Fedora were charged with violating Template:Uscsub, Unlawful Sale of a Medal of Honor, for selling medals awarded to U.S. Navy Sailor Robert Blume (for action in the Spanish-American War) and to U.S. Army First Sergeant George Washington Roosevelt (for action in the Civil War) to an FBI agent.<ref name="blume">Template:Cite web</ref> Edward Fedora pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison.<ref name="edward">Template:Cite web</ref>

Duplicate medals

Medal of Honor recipients may apply in writing to the headquarters of the service branch of the medal awarded for a replacement or display Medal of Honor, ribbon, and appurtenance (Medal of Honor flag) without charge. Primary next of kin may also do the same and have any questions answered in regard to the Medal of Honor that was awarded.<ref>DoD Manual 1348.33, Nov. 10, 2010, Vol. 1, P. 29, 6., a., (1), (2) & P. 35, i.</ref>


Template:Main The Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,459 persons.<ref name="currentstats"/><ref name="usmcmoh">Template:Cite web</ref>

A total of 19 men have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice, 14 of these received two separate medals for two separate actions, while 5 received both the Navy and Army Medals of Honor for the same action.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Since the beginning of World War II, 861 Medals of Honor have been awarded, 530 (62%) posthumously; 627 Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously.<ref name="mohstats"/>

  • The first Medals of Honor (Army) were awarded by and presented to six "Andrews Raiders" on March 25, 1863, by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, in his office in the War Department. Private Jacob Parrott, a Union Army volunteer from Ohio, became the first recipient of the medal, awarded to him for his volunteering for and participation in, a raid on a Confederate train in Big Shanty, Georgia on April 12, 1862 during the American Civil War. The six decorated raiders met privately afterwards with President Lincoln in his office in the White House.<ref name="MWxviii"/><ref>"Stealing the General: Great Locomotive Chase and The First Medal of Honor, ISBN 10-I-59416-033-3, 2006, by Russell S. Bonds</ref>
  • The first Medal of Honor (Navy) went to 41 sailors by Secretary of War Stanton on April 4, 1863 (17 for action during the Battle of Fort Jackson and St. Phillip on April 24, 1862) during the American Civil War.
  • The first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor (Navy) was John F. Mackie on July 10, 1863 for his rifle action aboard the USS Galena on May 15, 1862.
  • The first and only member of the Coast Guard to be awarded the Medal of Honor (Navy, posthumous) was Signalman First Class Douglas Munro on May 27, 1943 for evacuating 500 Marines under fire on September 27, 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal.<ref name=CD19>Template:Harvnb</ref>
  • 61 Canadians who served in the United States Armed Forces, mostly during the American Civil War. Since 1900, four Canadians have received the medal.<ref name="cbc">Template:Cite news</ref> The only Canadian born and U.S. citizen to receive the medal was Peter C. Lemon who received it for heroism during the Vietnam War.<ref name="vwam">Template:Cite news</ref>

While the governing statute for the Army Medal of Honor(Template:UnitedStatesCode), beginning in 1918, explicitly stated that a recipient must be "an officer or enlisted man of the Army," "distinguish himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," and perform an act of valor "in action involving actual conflict with an enemy,"<ref>Act of July 9, 1918, 40 Stat. 870.</ref> exceptions have been made:

  • Charles Lindbergh, 1927, civilian pilot, and U.S. Army Air Corps reserve officer.<ref>"An Act Authorizing the President of the United States to present in the name of Congress a medal of honor to Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh," December 14, 1927, HR 3190, Public Law 1, 45 Stat. 1</ref> Lindbergh's medal was authorized by a special act of Congress that directly contradicted the July 1918 act of Congress that required that all Army recipients be "in action involving actual conflict with an enemy."<ref>Act of July 9, 1918, 40 Stat. 870.</ref> The award was based on the previous acts authorizing the medal to Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennet for their North Pole flight. Some congressmen objected to Lindbergh's award because it contradicted the 1918 statute, but Representative Snell reportedly quelled this dissent by explaining that "it was and it wasn't the Congressional Medal of Honor which Lindbergh would receive under his bill; that the Lindbergh medal would be entirely distinct from the valor award for war service."<ref>C.B. Allen, "Bravey vs. Ballyhoo: How America Honors Her Heroes of the Air," Outlook and Independent, January 7, 1931, 13.</ref>
  • Major General (Retired) Adolphus Greely, 1935, was awarded the medal "for his life of splendid public service" on his 91st birthday. The result of a special act of Congress similar to Lindbergh's, Greely's medal citation did not reference any acts of valor.<ref>William Putnam, Arctic Superstars: The Scientific Exploration and Study of High Mountain Elevations and of the Regions Lying Within or about the Arctic and Antarctic Circles (Boulder, CO: American Alpine Club, 2001), 171.</ref>
  • Foreign unknown recipients include the British Unknown Warrior, the French Unknown Soldier, the Romanian Unknown Soldier, the Italian Unknown Soldier, and the Belgian Unknown Soldier.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • U.S. unknown recipients include the Unknowns of World War I,<ref>War Department General orders, No. 59, 13 December 1921, Sec. I</ref> World War II,<ref>Approved March 9, 1948, Public Law 438, Eightieth Congress</ref> Korea,<ref>Approved August 31, 1957, Public Law 85-251 Eighty-fifth Congress</ref> and Vietnam.<ref>Approved May 25, 1984, Public Law 98-301, Ninety-eighth Congress</ref> The Vietnam Unknown was later identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie through the use of DNA identification. Blassie's family asked for his Medal of Honor, but the request was denied by the Department of Defense in 1998. According to Undersecretary of Defense Rudy de Leon, the medal was awarded symbolically to all Vietnam unknowns, not to Blassie specifically.<ref>"Medal Of Honor Won't Join Once-unknown Pilot," Chicago Tribune, August 23, 1998.</ref>
Conflict Date Medal Count list article
Civil War 1861–1865 1522 American Civil War Medal of Honor recipients
Indian Wars 1622–1924 426 Medal of Honor recipients for the Indian Wars
Korean Expedition 1871 15 Medal of Honor recipients in Korea
Spanish-American War 1898 110 Medal of Honor recipients for the Spanish–American War
Samoan Civil War 1886–1894 4 Medal of Honor recipients for the Samoan Civil War
Philippine-American War 1899–1902 86 Philippine–American War Medal of Honor recipients
Boxer Rebellion 1899–1901 59 Medal of Honor recipients for the Boxer Rebellion
Mexican Expedition 1916–1917 56 Medal of Honor recipients for Veracruz
United States occupation of Haiti 1915–1934 8 Medal of Honor recipients for Haiti
Dominican Republic Occupation 1916–1924 3 Medal of Honor recipients for the Occupation of the Dominican Republic
World War I 1914–1918 124 Medal of Honor recipients for World War I
Occupation of Nicaragua 1912–1933 2 Medal of Honor recipients for Occupation of Nicaragua
World War II 1939–1945 464 Medal of Honor recipients for World War II
Korean War 1950–1953 135 Korean War Medal of Honor recipients
Vietnam War 1955–1975 247 Medal of Honor recipients for the Vietnam War
USS Liberty incident 1967 1 Medal of Honor recipients for the USS Liberty incident
Battle of Mogadishu 1993 2 Medal of Honor recipients for the Battle of Mogadishu
Iraq War 2003–2011 4 Medal of Honor recipients for the Iraq War
Afghanistan War 2001–present 6 Medal of Honor recipients for the War in Afghanistan
Peacetime 193 Medal of Honor recipients during peacetime
Unknown soldiers 9 Medal of Honor recipients for Foreign
By branch of service
Service Awards
Army 2411
Navy 747
Marines 298
Air Force 18
Coast Guard 1

Double recipients

Nineteen men have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. Five of these men were awarded both the Army and Navy Medal of Honor for the same action.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Since February 1919, no single individual can be awarded more than one Medal of Honor for the same action, although a member of one branch of the armed forces can receive the Medal of Honor from another branch if the actions for which it was awarded occurred under the authority of the second branch.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref> To date, the maximum number of Medals of Honor earned by any service member has been two.<ref name=navyfaq/>

§ Rank refers to rank held at time of Medal of Honor action.

Post Vietnam

Somalia: The first two Medal of Honor recipients (posthumous) after the withdrawal of U.S. Military Forces from South Vietnam in 1973 were two Delta Force snipers who defended helicopter pilot Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant and his crew after their Black Hawk helicopter went down during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993:<ref name=CD28>Template:Harvnb</ref>

No living person had received the Medal of Honor for heroic actions in an ongoing conflict since the end of the Vietnam War until 2010. This decreased incidence in bestowing the Medal of Honor to the living has resulted in a considerable decline in the list of living holders of the Medal of Honor, with fewer than 100 living recipients in 2010. The Army Times published an article analyzing the lack of non-posthumous awards in its March 30, 2009 issue, some time before the Medal of Honor was presented to Army Sergeant Salvatore Giunta in September 2010. It was suggested that, because of the intense partisan politics in Washington, D.C. over the recent wars, the Bush Administration subjected potential Medal of Honor recipients to intense background checks so as to avoid scrutiny of both the recipient and the administration by political opponents.<ref name="DBTH">Template:Cite web</ref>

War in Iraq: Four servicemen were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for actions in the Iraq War:

In April 2003, Smith organized the defense of a newly set up enemy prisoner of war (POW) holding area that was attacked by a company-sized Iraqi force. He personally manned a machine gun under heavy fire until being killed. The remaining three Medals of Honor were awarded for falling on an enemy grenades in order to save others lives. Dunham threw himself on an enemy grenade during an April 2004 mission, Monsoor jumped on an enemy grenade which was thrown in the midst of his SEAL sniper team in September 2006, and McGinnis covered an enemy grenade which was tossed into his vehicle while on a mounted patrol in December 2006.<ref name="mohiraq">Template:Cite web</ref>

War in Afghanistan: Six servicemen were awarded the Medal of Honor (3 posthumous) for action in Afghanistan:

Murphy received the Medal of Honor for exposing himself to hostile fire in order to make a call for help after his SEAL team was attacked in June 2005. Monti's award was for braving intense fire in an attempt to rescue a wounded soldier in a June 2006 engagement.<ref name="mohafghan">Template:Cite web</ref> Miller's medal was for his actions during a January 2008 attack by a numerically superior force.<ref name="rjmiller">Template:Cite news</ref> Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta in 2010 became the third most recent living Medal of Honor recipient to receive the medal since the Vietnam War for his actions during a firefight in Afghanistan's Korangal Valley on October 25, 2007.<ref name=CD330>Template:Harvnb</ref> Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry on July 12, 2011, became the second most recent living Medal of Honor recipient to receive the medal for picking up a live enemy grenade on May 26, 2008.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref><ref>Template:Cite news</ref> Corporal Dakota Meyer, on September 15, 2011, became the most recent living Medal of Honor recipient to receive the medal for his actions in the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009. He is the first living Marine recipient to be awarded the medal in 41 years.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref><ref>Template:Cite news</ref>

Since 1979, 50 belated Medal of Honor decorations have been made to recognize actions from the Civil War to the Vietnam War<ref>Medal of Honor recipients 1979–2007. Julissa Gomez-Granger, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress</ref> The most recent of these occurred on May 16, 2012, when President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army Sergeant Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. for conspicuous gallantry in action on May 10, 1970, near Se San, Cambodia, during the Vietnam War<ref name=cbsnews5-16-12>Template:Cite web</ref> and on May 2, 2011, when he presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army Private First Class Henry Svehla and Army Private First Class Anthony T. Kahoʻohanohano for their heroic actions during the Korean War.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref>

27th Maine and other revoked awardings

During the Civil War, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton promised a Medal of Honor to every man in the 27th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment who extended his enlistment beyond the agreed-upon date. The Battle of Gettysburg was imminent, and 311 men of the regiment volunteered to serve until the battle was resolved. The remaining men returned to Maine, but with the Union victory at Gettysburg the 311 volunteers soon followed. The volunteers arrived back in Maine in time to be discharged with the men who had earlier returned. Since there seemed to be no official list of the 311 volunteers, the War Department exacerbated the situation by forwarding 864 medals to the commanding officer of the regiment. The commanding officer only issued the medals to the volunteers who stayed behind and retained the others on the grounds that, if he returned the remainder to the War Department, the War Department would try to reissue the medals.<ref name="MWxix">Template:Harvnb</ref>

In 1916, a board of five Army generals on the retired list convened under act of law to review every Army Medal of Honor awarded. The board was to report on any Medals of Honor awarded or issued for any cause other than distinguished service. The commission, led by Nelson A. Miles, identified 911 awards for causes other than distinguished service. This included the 864 medals awarded to members of the 27th Maine regiment, 29 who served as Abraham Lincoln's funeral guard, six civilians, including Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and Buffalo Bill Cody, and 12 others.<ref name="MWxxv">Template:Harvnb</ref><ref name=CD15>Template:Harvnb</ref> Dr. Walker's medal was restored by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.<ref name="walker"/> Cody and four other civilian scouts who rendered distinguished service in action, and who were therefore considered by the board to have fully earned their medals, had theirs restored in 1989.<ref name=CD16>Template:Harvnb</ref> The report was endorsed by the Judge Advocate General, who also advised that the War Department should not seek the return of the revoked medals from the recipients identified by the board. In the case of recipients who continued to wear the medal, the War Department was advised to take no action to enforce the statute.<ref>66th Congress 1st Session, Document 58, General Staff and Medals of Honor, ordered to be printed 23 July 1919.</ref>

Past racial discrimination

  • A 1993 study commissioned by the U.S. Army investigated racial discrimination in the awarding of medals.<ref name="African">Template:Cite web</ref> At the time, no Medals of Honor had been awarded to American soldiers of African descent who served in World War II. After an exhaustive review of files, the study recommended that ten of their Distinguished Service Cross recipients be awarded the Medal of Honor. On January 13, 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to seven of these World War II veterans, six of them posthumously. With the passing of Vernon Baker, a former U.S. Infantry Officer on July 13, 2010, all of these recipients are deceased.<ref name=CD25/>

Similar decorations within the United States

The following United States decorations, in one degree or another, bear similar names to the Medal of Honor, but are entirely separate awards with different criteria for issuance:

  • Congressional Gold Medal: the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States (along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom)

Several United States law enforcement decorations bear the name "Medal of Honor". The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, established by Congress in 2001, stated to be "the highest National award for valor by a public safety officer", is also awarded by the President of the US.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

See also









External links


Template:Highest Awards for gallantry Template:US interservice decorations Template:USArmy decorations Template:US navy department decorations Template:USAF decorations Template:USCG decorationsTemplate:Link FA Template:Link FA Template:Link FA Template:Link GA Template:Link GA ar:ميدالية الشرف bn:মেডাল অফ অনার bg:Медал на честта bs:Medal of Honor ca:Medalla d'Honor cs:Medaile cti da:Medal of Honor de:Medal of Honor es:Medalla de Honor eo:Medal of Honor fa:نشان افتخار fr:Medal of Honor ko:명예 훈장 hr:Medalja časti it:Medal of Honor he:מדליית הכבוד (ארצות הברית) lv:Goda medaļa hu:Medal of Honor nl:Medal of Honor (militair) ja:名誉勲章 no:Medal of Honor pnb:میڈل آف آنر pl:Medal Honoru (USA) pt:Medalha de Honra ro:Medal of Honor ru:Медаль Почёта (США) simple:Medal of Honor sl:Medalja časti sr:Медаља части sh:Medalja časti fi:Medal of Honor sv:Medal of Honor tr:Onur Madalyası uk:Медаль Пошани (США) zh:荣誉勋章

Personal tools