Military Wiki
American Defense Service Medal
Awarded by United States Department of Defense
Type Medal
Eligibility Military personnel only
Awarded 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” (from the medal’s reverse)
Status Inactive
Established Executive Order 8808, June 28, 1941 (retroactive)
First awarded September 8, 1939
Last awarded December 7, 1941
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
all others: American Campaign Medal
American Defense Service ribbon.svg

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Ribbon & Streamer

The American Defense Service Medal is a decoration of the United States Armed Forces, recognizing service before American entry into World War II, but during the initial years of the European conflict.


The medal is authorized to military members who performed active duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941. Members of the United States Army 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 Reservists who were on active duty for less than ten days, 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 (provided they passed their initial physical examinations).[2]


To denote foreign and pre-war battle service, 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • Service star: Worn in lieu of clasps when wearing the American Defense Service Medal as a ribbon on a military uniform.


The medal was established June 28, 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt, in United States Executive order 8808.

A similar decoration, known as the American Campaign Medal was created in 1942 for wartime service within the borders of the United States of America.

For various periods since 1953, retroactive to 1950, the National Defense Service Medal has been awarded with criteria similar to that of the American Defense Service Medal.


  • 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. 
  • Kerrigan, Evans E. (1971). American war medals and decorations. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-12101-0. OCLC 128058. 
  • Kerrigan, Evans E. (1990). American medals and decorations. Noroton Heights, CT: Medallic. ISBN 0-792-45082-5. OCLC 21467942. 
  • Robles, Philip K. (1971). United States military medals and ribbons. Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle. ISBN 0-804-80048-0. OCLC 199721. 


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