Military Wiki
Certificate of Merit Medal
USA Certificate of Merit Medal.png
Obverse and reverse of the Certificate of Merit Medal
Awarded by United States Army
Type Military medal
Status Obsolete
Established March 3, 1847[1]
Total awarded 1,211[2]
Equivalent Distinguished Service Cross
Certificate of Merit Medal ribbon.svg
Certificate of Merit Medal ribbon

The Certificate of Merit Medal was a military decoration of the United States Army that was issued between the years of 1905 and 1918.[2] The Certificate of Merit Medal replaced the much older Certificate of Merit which was authorized by the United States Congress on March 3, 1847.[1]


The system of military awards and decorations presented to members of the United States Military can trace it's lineage to the Badge of Military Merit. This military award, established by George Washington, was given in recognition of soldiers who displayed unusual gallantry or extraordinary fidelity. Awarded three times during the Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit was not awarded again. Thus, for more than 50 years the United States Military had no official military decorations.[2]

Original Certificate of Merit[]

The original Certificate of Merit was authorized by an Act of Congress related to the expansion of the US Army during the Mexican-American War. The legislation authorized brevets to non-commissioned officers and for privates who distinguished themselves in service "the President may in like manner grant him a certificate of merit, which shall entitle him to additional pay at the rate of two dollars per month."[1] This was a step forward in the recognition of the individual contributions of soldiers.[2] The first certificates were only authorized for Privates and it was not until 1854 that the Certificate of Merit was awarded to NCOs the rank of Sergeant and above. The Certificate of Merit was never authorized for officers. It was issued to 545 soldiers during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848).[3] After the Mexican-American War the Certificate of Merit was discontinued.[4]

Reintroduced Certificate of Merit[]

Though the Army was of the position that it no longer had the authority to award the Certificate of Merit, commanders in the field continued to recommend soldiers for the award, but the Army did not act on the nominations. Following the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, the Certificate of Merit was reintroduced.[5]

In 1892, the criteria for the Certificate of Merit was changed and now was presented to:

"Any enlisted members of the Army for distinguished service whether in action or otherwise, of valuable character to the United States, as, for example, extraordinary exertion in the preservation of human life, or in the preservation of public property, or rescuing public property from destruction by fire or other-wise, or any hazardous service by which the Government is saved loss in men and material."

[citation needed]

Several changes in rules governing awards of the Certificate of Merit evolved from experience in handling the recommendations for the Spanish American War, the early period of the Philippine Insurrection, and the China Relief Expedition. Changes to the regulations announced in March 1903 required a second eyewitness statement to support each recommendation for the award when the first statement was not from a commissioned officer and stated no award would be made when the subsequent service of the individual recommended had not been honorable. This latter rule had been followed since the revival of the award in 1878, but was now explicitly stated. Other restrictions were announced in 1903—a Certificate could be granted only if it were recommended by the regimental of corps commander as of the date of the recommendation, and the regimental or corps commander had to specifically recommend the award. These requirements delayed or precluded numerous awards including some to men who had left the service or been commissioned before the date of the regimental commanders' recommendations, and men who had been originally recommended for Medals of Honor by regimental commanders.[citation needed]

Certificate of Merit Medal[]

In 1905, a medal was created for those holding a Certificate of Merit and called the Certificate of Merit Medal. This medal was authorized for wear on a United States military uniform. It was always worn following the Medal of Honor. The first recipient of the Certificate of Merit medal was First Lt. William Baker, who had received an original Certificate of Merit as a Corporal during the Spanish-American War (1898).[citation needed]


The Certificate of Merit Medal was declared obsolete on July 19, 1918. Those holding the Certificate of Merit Medal could exchange their medal for the newly created Distinguished Service Medal.[2] In 1934, Congress changed the regulation allowing the conversion of the medal to the Distinguished Service Cross, including those converted to the Distinguished Service Medal.[5]


The medal is bronze, 1.25 inches in diameter. The obverse depicts an eagle facing left, with its wings partially spread. The eagle is surrounded by the inscription VIRTUTIS ET AUDACIAE MONUMENTUM ET PRAEMIUM[6] (A memorial and reward of courage and boldness).[7] The reverse of the medal bears the word, FOR MERIT surrounded by an oak wreath of two branches, the stems joined at the bottom by a bow. Around the edge in relief are the words, UNITED STATES ARMY at the top and thirteen stars below.[6] The suspension and service ribbon of the Certificate of Merit Medal is red, white and blue. It has two stripes of blue at the edges with equal stripes of white. A wide central stripe of red is bisected by a thin stripe of white.[6]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wikisource link to Chapter LXI An Act making Provision for and additional Number of general Officers, and for other Purposes.. Wikisource. March 3, 1847.  Wikisource link [scan]
  3. Zabecki, David T. (1997). American Artillery and the Medal of Honor. Merriam Press. p. 5. ISBN 1576380793. 
  4. "U.S. Department of Defense Official Website - Medal of Honor". 1932-02-22. Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tucker, Spencer C. (2011). James Arnold, Roberta Wiener. ed. The encyclopedia of North American Indian wars, 1607-1890 : a political, social, and military history. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 879. ISBN 1851096973. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Certificate of Merit". Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  7. Loubat, Joseph Florimond (1881). The medallic history of the United States of America, 1776-1876, Volume 1. New York. p. 22. 

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).