Military Wiki
Bronze Star Medal
Bronze Star medal
Awarded by the United States of America
Type Military medal (Decoration)
Awarded for "Heroic or meritorious achievement or service"
Status Currently awarded
Clasps Army – "V" Device
Navy and Marine Corps – Combat "V"
Air Force – "V" Device
Coast Guard – Combat "V"
Established Executive Order 9419, 4 February 1944 (Superseded by E.O. 11046, 24 August 1962).
First awarded 4 February 1944 (Retroactive through 7 December 1941).
Last awarded Currently awarded
Next (higher) Army – Soldier's Medal
Navy-Marine Corps – Navy and Marine Corps Medal
Air Force – Airman's Medal
Coast Guard – Coast Guard Medal
Next (lower) Purple Heart
Bronze Star ribbon

Bronze Star Medal Reverse
Service ribbon (above) – Reverse side of star (below)

The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest individual military award and the ninth-highest by order of precedence in the US Military. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. When awarded for acts of heroism, the medal is awarded with the "V" device.

The medal is sometimes referred to as the Bronze Star. Foreign soldiers,[1] as well as officers from the other federal uniformed services are also eligible to receive the decoration when serving with or alongside a service branch of the United States Armed Forces.[2]

General information[]

The Bronze Star Medal was established by Executive Order 9419, 4 February 1944 (superseded by Executive Order 11046, 24 August 1962, as amended by Executive Order 13286, 28 February 2003).[3]

The Bronze Star Medal may be awarded by the Secretary of a military department or the Secretary of Homeland Security with regard to the Coast Guard when not operating as a service in the Navy, or by such military commanders, or other appropriate officers as the Secretary concerned may designate, to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard of the United States, after 6 December 1941, distinguishes, or has distinguished, herself or himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight—

(a) while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
(b) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
(c) 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 acts of heroism are of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Silver Star. The acts of merit or acts of valor must be less than that required for the Legion of Merit but must nevertheless have been meritorious and accomplished with distinction. The Bronze Star Medal is awarded only to service members in combat who are receiving imminent danger pay.

The Bronze Star Medal (without the "V" device) may be awarded to each member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, after 6 December 1941, was cited in orders or awarded a certificate for exemplary conduct in ground combat against an armed enemy between 7 December 1941 and 2 September 1945. For this purpose, the US Army's Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge award is considered as a citation in orders. Documents executed since 4 August 1944 in connection with recommendations for the award of decorations of higher degree than the Bronze Star Medal cannot be used as the basis for an award under this paragraph.

Effective 11 September 2001, the Meritorious Service Medal may also be bestowed in lieu of the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement in a designated combat theatre.[4]


The Bronze Star Medal was conceived by Colonel Russell P. "Red" Reeder in 1943, who believed it would aid morale if there was a medal which could be awarded by captains of companies or batteries to deserving people serving under them. Reeder felt another medal was needed to be a ground equivalent of the Air Medal, and proposed that the new award be called the "Ground Medal".[5]

The idea eventually rose through the military bureaucracy and gained supporters. General George C. Marshall, in a memorandum to President Franklin D. Roosevelt dated 3 February 1944, wrote

The fact that the ground troops, Infantry in particular, lead miserable lives of extreme discomfort and are the ones who must close in personal combat with the enemy, makes the maintenance of their morale of great importance. The award of the Air Medal has had an adverse reaction on the ground troops, particularly the Infantry Riflemen who are now suffering the heaviest losses, air or ground, in the Army, and enduring the greatest hardships.

The Air Medal had been adopted two years earlier to raise airmen's morale. President Roosevelt authorised the Bronze Star Medal by Executive Order 9419 dated 4 February 1944, retroactive to 7 December 1941. This authorisation was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 3, dated 10 February 1944.

The Executive Order was amended by President John F. Kennedy, per Executive Order 11046 dated 24 August 1962, to expand the authorisation to include those serving with friendly forces. This allowed for awards where US service members might be involved in an armed conflict where the United States was not a belligerent. At the time of the Executive Order, for example, the US was not a belligerent in Vietnam, so US advisers serving with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces would not have been eligible for the award.

Since the award criteria state that the Bronze Star Medal may be awarded to "any person...while serving in any capacity in or with" the US Armed Forces, awards to members of foreign armed services serving with the United States are permitted. Thus, a number of Allied soldiers received the Bronze Star Medal in World War II, as well as U.N. soldiers in the Korean War, Vietnamese and allied forces in the Vietnam War, and coalition forces in recent military operations such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom and the Iraq War. A number of Bronze Star Medals with the "V" device were awarded to veterans of the Battle of Mogadishu.

World War II infantry award

As a result of a study conducted in 1947, the policy was implemented that authorised the retroactive award of the Bronze Star Medal (without the "V" device) to all soldiers who had received the Combat Infantryman Badge or the Combat Medical Badge during World War II. The basis for doing this was that the badges were awarded only to soldiers who had borne the hardships which resulted in General Marshall's support of the Bronze Star Medal. Both badges required a recommendation by the commander and a citation in orders.[6]


In 2012, the US Air Force alleged that two of its female airmen were subjected to cyber-bullying after receiving Bronze Star Medals for meritorious non-combat service. The two airmen had been finance NCOICs in medical units deployed to the War in Afghanistan and received the medals in March 2012. The awards sparked a debate as to whether or not the Air Force was awarding too many medals to its members, and whether the Bronze Star should be awarded for non-combat service.[7] This prompted the Air Force to take down stories of the two posted to the internet, and to clarify its criteria for awarding medals. The Air Force contended that meritorious service awards of the Bronze Star outnumber valor awards, and that it views awards on a case-by-case basis to maintain the integrity of the award.[8]

However, this is not the first time that the USAF has come under fire in the past for offering this award. The Department of Defense investigated the award of the Bronze Star Medal (BSM) by the USAF to some 185 individuals after operations in Kosovo in 1999. All but 25 were awarded to officers, and only 1 in 10 of those awarded were actually in the combat zone. Five were awarded to officers that never left Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. During this campaign, the Navy had awarded 69 BSMs, and the Army with 5,000 troops in neighbouring Albania (considered part of the combat zone) awarded none.[9] In the end, there was a Pentagon review and decision by Congress to stop the awarding of Bronze Stars to personnel outside the combat zone.


The Bronze Star Medal was designed by Rudolf Freund (1878–1960) of jewellery firm Bailey, Banks & Biddle.[10] (Freund also designed the Silver Star.[11])

The Bronze Star Medal is a bronze star 1 12 inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter. In the center thereof is a 316 inch (4.8 mm) diameter superimposed bronze star, the center line of all rays of both stars coinciding. The reverse has the inscription "HEROIC OR MERITORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT" and a space for the name of the recipient to be engraved. The star is suspended from the suspension ribbon by a rectangular shaped metal loop with the corners rounded. The suspension ribbon is 1 38 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 132 inch (0.79 mm) white 67101; 916 inch (14 mm) scarlet 67111; 132 inch (0.79 mm) white; center stripe 18 inch (3.2 mm) ultramarine blue 67118; 132 inch (0.79 mm) white; 916 inch (14 mm) scarlet; and 132 inch (0.79 mm) white.[6]


Additional awards of the Bronze Star Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force and 5/16 inch stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.[12]

The "V" device may be authorised for wear on specific decorations awarded to any service member. In the Army and Air Force the device denotes that a specific individual decoration resulted from an act of combat heroism. In the Navy and Marine Corps, the Combat "V" may be authorised for wear to denote valor or being exposed to personal hazard involving direct participation in combat operations. Only one "V" device may be worn on the suspension and service ribbon of specific medals and or specific unit award ribbons depending on each service branches regulations for use of the device.[12]

The Bronze Star Medal with "V" device is the United States military's fourth highest decoration for valor.

Notable recipients[]

See alsoJerry Wayne Joseph United States Army Ranger[]


  1. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (16 March 2005). "Australian officer awarded US Bronze Star". Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  2. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (22 July 2009). "PHS Officer Awarded Bronze Star for Year Long Deployment in Afghanistan". Commissioned Officers Association of the USPHS Inc.. Retrieved 12 December 2009. [dead link]
  3. 32 CFR Ch. V (7–1–08 Edition) 578.16 Bronze Star Medal
  5. Reeder, Colonel Red. Born at Reveille. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce (1966), page 218.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Institute of Heraldry: Bronze Star Medal
  7. Schogol, Jeff (16 April 2012). "Tech. sgts. take heat after receiving medals". Air Force Times. 
  8. Lyle, Amaani (24 April 2012). "Air Force officials clarify Bronze Star approval process". US Air Force. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  10. Air Force Personnel Center information on the Bronze Star
  12. 12.0 12.1 Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (23 November 2010). "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33 Volume 3" (pdf). Department of Defense. pp. 51–53. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  13. Lake Charles American Press, 7 April 1990
  14. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£. loos&pid=1538830166 "John L. Loos". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, 1 October 2011. loos&pid=1538830166. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  15. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£. "Greg Hilburn, State honors the late Rep. Smith with bridge renaming, September 12, 2013". Monroe News-Star. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 

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