Page © 1998 Micheal Shackelford
Images and data courtesy of Ray Mentzer
The Medal of Honor
The highest United States award for valor, the Medal of Honor is awarded to "any officer or enlisted man who shall, in action involving actual combat with the enemy, distinguish himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty". Although created specifically for the the American Civil War, it was instituted as a permanent decoration by Congress in 1863. During the First World War, a Navy and an Army version were awarded (an Air Force version has since been authorized). As well as the breast decorations shown below, either version could be worn suspended on a ribbon around the neck.
Medal of Honor Created by an Act of Congress of December 21, 1861, and
designed by Christian Schussel, this medal was awarded to Navy and Marine
Corps personnel. Unlike the Army Medal of Honor, it was originally given
for noncombat, as well as combat, heroism; many early awards were for lifesaving.
After World War I, a new version
of the medal was designed by Tiffany & Co as a combat-only decoration.
On February 4, 1919, this version was authorized by Congress, primarily
for personnel who had distinguished themselves in combat during WWI. The
older form of the medal was awarded for noncombat heroism until 1942.
Medal of Honor. The original version of this medal was authorized by
Congress on July 12, 1862, and was the same as the Navy medal of the time,
with a different suspension. In 1904, due to the design being copied by
various veteran's organizations, a new version (left) was designed and the
patent was transferred to the Secretary of War to prevent this practice.
Unlike the Navy medal, the Army version was only awarded for combat action.
The award of only four Army Medals of Honor was approved during the actual
fighting of World War I. Five days after the Armistice, General John J.
Pershing, commander of the American forces, directed that all cases in which
a Distinguished Service Cross had been awarded should be investigated to
see if a Medal of Honor should be conferred instead. Following this review,
an additional ninety-four Medals were awarded. Twenty-five of the Medals
of Honor awarded for action in World War I were given posthumously.
The Distinguished Service
Cross Second only to the Medal of Honor for Army personnel, this decoration
was created by executive order on January 2 1918 and authorized by Congress
on July 9, 1918. It is awarded to "a person who while serving in any
capacity with the Army, distinguished himself or herself by extraordinary
heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor; while engaged in an
action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military
operations involving conflict with an opposing or foreign force; or 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. The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved
risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or
her comrades." During World War I, approximately 100 awards of an early
variation of this medal known as the "French" or "first"
style were also given. In this form, the arms of the cross were ornamented
with oak leaves, the eagle was mounted on a diamond-shaped plaque, and the
scroll bore the words "E Pluribus Unum", rather than the present-day
Citation Star (Silver Star) On July 9, 1918, an Act of Congress
authorized the wearing of a small (3/16") silver star upon the ribbon
of a campaign medal by Army personnel. This was to indicate "a citation
for gallantry in action, published in orders issued from the headquarters
of a general officer, not warranting the award of a Medal of Honor or Distinguished
Service Cross". World War I veterans who had received this award wore
the device on the WWI Victory Medal. This was originally known in the Army
as the "citation star", but was established as the Silver Star Medal in 1932. At this time, holders
of a citation star were issued the new medal.
The Navy Distinguished
Service Medal Once the Navy's second highest award, this medal was authorized
by Congress on February 4, 1919 and was awarded to any person who while
serving in any capacity with the U.S. Navy, distinguished himself by "exceptionally
meritorious service to the government in a duty of great responsibility",
after April 6, 1917. The Distinguished Service Medal was designed by Paul
Manship and was awarded for combat or noncombat service. An earlier design,
featuring an anchor with a setting sun in the background, and suspended
by an eagle and a scroll with the dates: "1917-1918", was sometimes
worn, but was never authorized for award. In 1942, The Navy Cross was given
precedence over this medal.
Cross This decoration was originally awarded for combat and noncombat
heroism. Although most of the early awards were issued for World War I service,
others were presented for heroism in rescue opertions involving submarine
disasters. The medal was designed by James E. Fraser and was authorized
by Congress on February 4, 1919. It was made a combat-only award in 1942
and was also given precedence over the Distinguished Service Medal at this
time, making it the Navy's second highest decoration.
Distinguished Service Medal Designed by Captain Aymar Embury, the designer
of the Distinguished Service Cross, this medal was confirmed by an Act of
Congress dated July 9, 1918. It was awarded to persons who distinguished
themselves by "exceptionally meritorious service to the government
in a duty of great responsibility" after April 6, 1917, in a combat
or noncombat role. The first awards of this medal for service in World War
I were to the commanders of the Allied armies. At the direction of the President
of the United States, the medal was conferred upon Marshals Foch and Joffre
and General Petain of France, Field Marshal Haig of Great Britain, General
Diaz of Italy, and General Gillian of Belgium. It was also awarded to US
General John J. Pershing "as a token of gratitude of the American people
to the commander of our armies in the field for his distinguished service."
World War I Victory Medal Although it had been the custom of nations to award victory medals to allied troops, the number of belligerents involved in the First World War made this impractical. As a solution it was resolved that each nation would create it's own victory medal, suspended by a ribbon common to them all and featuring a winged Victory. The actual design of the medal itself would be left up to each individual country. The US Victory medal was authorized in 1919 for members of the US armed forces who served on active duty between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918; also included was Russian and Siberian service. Various clasps bearing the names of battles, countries, or duty stations were authorized for wear on the ribbon of this award:
|Cambrai||November 20 - December 4, 1917|
|Somme Offensive||March 21 - April 6, 1918|
|Lys||April 9-27, 1918|
|*Aisne||May 27 - June 5, 1918|
|Montdidier-Noyon||June 9-15, 1918|
|Champagne-Marne||July 15-18, 1918|
|*Aisne-Marne||July 18 - August 6, 1918|
|Somme Offensive||August 18 - November 11, 1918|
|Oise-Aisne||August 18 - November 11, 1918|
|*Ypres-Lys||August 19 - November 11, 1918|
|*St Mihiel||September 12-16, 1918|
|Vittorio-Veneto||October 24 - November 4, 1918|
|*Meuse-Argonne||September 20 - November 11, 1918|
Campaign names preceeded by an asterisk* indicate that
clasp may be worn by Navy and Marine Corps personnel.
|England||April 6, 1917 - November 11, 1918|
|*France||April 6, 1917 - November 11, 1918|
|Italy||April 6, 1917 - November 11, 1918|
|*Russia||November 12, 1918 - August 5, 1919|
|*Siberia||November 12, 1918 - April 1, 1920|
Clasps preceeded by an asterisk* indicate that the clasp
may be worn by Navy and Marine Corps personnel.
|Overseas||Armed Guard||Atlantic Fleet||Aviation|
|Destroyer||Escort||Grand Fleet||Mine Laying|
|Mine Sweeping||Mobile Base||Naval Battery||Salvage|
Above clasps are for service in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and
the Virgin Islands between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918
For service in Russia (November 12, 1918 - August 5,1919)
and Siberia (November 12, 1918 - April 1, 1918)
The Purple Heart was originally established by George Washington in 1782. The medal was reestablished in 1932 by the War Department for Army personnel and in 1943 by the Navy Department for the Navy and Marine Corps. It is awarded to military personnel who are wounded in action while serving with the armed forces of the United States. It is also awarded posthumously to the next of kin of persons killed or having died from wounds received in action after April 5, 1917.
- Good Conduct Medals were authorized for award to Navy and Marine Corps enlisted personnel. They were given for three years' service considered above average in conduct and proficiency. Marine Corps veterans of the First World War were eligible for this medal if they had enlisted for the duration of the war but had been invalided out due to injuries received in the line of duty. Marine Corps Reservists assigned to active duty between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918 were also eliglble for the award.
The Army of Occupation of Germany Medal was established on November 21, 1941 for members of the US military(or next of kin) who served in Germany or Austria-Hungary between November 12, 1918 and July 11, 1923. The obverse bears a profile of General Pershing with four stars overhead, and the inscription "General John J. Pershing". To the right of the portrait is a sheathed sword, pointing upward and surrounded by a laurel wreath, with the dates "1918" and "1923" on either side. The reverse (shown above) bears an American eagle standing on Castle Ehrenbreitstein with the inscription "U. S. Army of Occupation of Germany" and three stars. The ribbon is black, flanked on either side by blue, white and red.
- Mexican Service Medal. The US Army, Navy and Marines issued a medal for Mexican service. The Mexican Service Medal for Navy and Marine Corps personnel. While barely connected with WWI, the Zimmerman Telegram incident prompts including this medal, as well, it may show up among WWI vets' awards.
It was originally authorized 11 February 1918 for award to officers and enlisted men who served ashore during the Vera Cruz expedition between April 21 and 23, 1914. Eligibility was quickly expanded to include personnel serving aboard 121 specific ships during specified periods from 21 April to 26 November 1914 and from 14 March 1916 to 7 February 1917. Navy and Marine Corps personnel who served in engagements with hostile Mexican forces outside those specific time periods were also eligible for award of the Mexican Service Medal.
The Army medal had on its obverse, a yucca shrub in flower, with moutains
in the back ground. Around this, the text "MEXICAN SERVICE" --
The Navy and Marine Corps medal (shown above) depicted San Juan castle in Vera Cruz, with the same text surrounding it. The ribbons were the same for all branches. The reverses varied by branch, but were typical of their branch's medals. Reverse of Army medal.
In all, about 16,000 Navy personnel were awarded the Mexican Service
Medal with "United States Navy" on the reverse and about 2,500
Marines received the medal with the United States Marine Corps reverse.
Special thanks to Ray Mentzer for his efforts in locating images, and writing much of the text for this page.