Awards and decorations of the United States Armed Forces are the military decorations including decorations which recognize service and personal accomplishments while a member of the U.S. military. Together with military badges, such awards are a means to outwardly display the highlights of a service member's career.
Order of precedence
While each service has its own order of precedence, the following general rules apply to all services:
- U.S. military personal decorations
- U.S. military unit awards
- U.S. non-military personal decorations (after unit awards in order of receipt; if from the same agency, the applicable agency precedence listing should be consulted)
- U.S. non-military unit awards
- U.S. military campaign awards
- U.S. military service and training awards
- U.S. Merchant Marine awards and non-military service awards
- Foreign military personal decorations
- Foreign military unit awards
- Non-U.S. service awards (e.g., United Nations, NATO, etc.)
- Foreign military service awards
- Marksmanship awards (Air Force, Navy, & Coast Guard)
- State awards of the National Guard (Army & Air Force)
Unit awards are worn on the right side in the U.S. Army.
Active United States
By order of precedence
Note: Precedence of particular awards will vary slightly among the different branches of service.
By military department
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 forces
Other award types
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.
Single service awards
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 heroic actions of the vessel USRC Hudson during the Battle of Cárdenas. The last single service 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. 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.
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. These include the Butler and Gillmore Medals as well as two awards issued by Philip Kearny, known respectively as the Kearny Medal and Kearny Cross.
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.
Foreign and international
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 miltiary personnel since World War I, the following being among the more common.
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.
- To display devices on this wiki's pages, use Template:Ribbon devices.
- 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.
- Awards and decorations of the United States government
- Awards and decorations of the Public Health Service
- Awards and decorations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Awards and decorations of the National Guard
- Awards and decorations of the State Defense Forces
- Military decorations of the Cold War
- Military badges of the United States
- Unofficial combat badges of the United States Army
- List of military decorations
- State decoration
- Army-Navy "E" Award
- OPNAVINST 3591.1F, SMALL ARMS TRAINING AND QUALIFICATION, Chief of Naval Operations, dated 12 August 2009, last accessed 5 May 2013
- COMDTINST M1650.25D, Medals and Awards Manual, U.S. Coast Guard, dated May 2008, last accessed 5 May 2013
- U.S. Coast Guard Uniform Regulations, dated March 2012, last accessed 5 May 2013
- http://www.homeofheroes.com/medals/1_precedence.html Retrieved 24 February 2008.
- The Institute of Heraldry – Army Chaplain Medal of Valor
- 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.
- Decorations and Medals - Ribbons - Order of Precedence at the Institute of Heraldry website
- U.S. Army Symbols and Insignia
- The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army
- U.S. Navy Service and Campaign Medals
- Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia (in PDF format)
- Military Awards (U.S. Army) (in PDF format)
- Search Awards & Decorations for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, & Coast Guard
- Americal Division Veterans Association
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