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Médaille militaire
Medaille Militaire 5e Republique France.jpg
Badge of the Médaille Militaire (obverse)
Awarded by Flag of France.svg France
Type Military decoration
Eligibility Privates, NCOs, Commanders-in-chief generals and admirals
Awarded for Valour in combat or long service
Status Currently awarded
Established January 22, 1852
Next (higher) Order of Liberation
Next (lower) National Order of Merit
Medaille militaire ribbon.svg
Ribbon of the Military Medal

The Médaille militaire (English: Military Medal) is a military decoration of the French Republic first established in 1852 by Emperor Napoleon III for award to privates and non-commissioned officers who distinguished themselves by acts of bravery in action against an enemy force. He may have taken his inspiration from a medal established and awarded by his father, Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland. An interesting feature of the médaille is that it is also the supreme award for leadership, being awarded to generals and admirals who had been commanders-in-chief. This particular médaille is considered superior even to the grand cross of the Légion d'honneur. Soon after the First World War, the Military Medal was also temporarily awarded for wounds received in combat.[1]


Like many other French awards, the médaille can be awarded for different reasons. It can be awarded to foreign nationals serving with or alongside the French armed forces.[1]

  • To members of the military other than commissioned officers (including enlisted ranks, non-commissioned officers and aspirants or Officer Designate).[1]
    • As an award for valour, it is the second highest award ranking immediately after the Légion d'honneur.
    • As an in between medal for enlisted members, NCO and O(D) awarded the Légion d'honneur for "combat actions", nowadays mostly done posthumously.
    • As a service medal, for long-serving to NCOs.
  • To generals and admirals who have been commanders-in-chief, as a supreme award for leadership. These general officers must already have been awarded the grand cross of the Légion d'honneur.[1]

Award description

The Médaille militaire is a silver laurel wreath, 28 mm (1.1 in) in diameter, wrapped around a central gold medallion bearing the left profile of Marianne, effigy of the French Republic, the original 2nd Empire variant bore the left profile of Emperor Napoleon III. The central gold medallion is surrounded by a blue enamelled ring bearing the gilt inscription "RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE" (English: "FRENCH REPUBLIC") with a small gilt five-pointed star at the bottom for a 4th Republic award, three stars for a 5th Republic variant, the 3rd Republic variant bore the date 1870, the 2nd Empire variant bore the gilt inscription "LOUIS-NAPOLEON" in lieu of "RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE" and had flowers on both sides of the small star at the bottom. The original variant was topped by a silver imperial eagle with a loop through which the suspension ring passed, all other variants were and are topped by a device composed of a breastplate superimposed over crossed cannons, a naval anchor, sabres, swords and battle axes, to which the suspension ring passes through a loop for attachment to a ribbon. The reverse of the medallion is common to all variants since inception of the award, it bears the relief inscription on three lines "VALEUR ET DISPLINE" (English: "VALOUR AND DISCIPLINE) and is surrounded by a blue enamelled ring.[1]

The ribbon of the Médaille militaire is 37 mm (1.5 in) wide, yellow in color with 6 mm-wide (0.24 in) green stripes on each edge. This ribbon was borrowed from the Order of the Iron Crown which it effectively replaced in France.

2nd Empire
3rd Republic
4th Republic
5th Republic
Reverse common
to all variants
Medaille Militaire 2e Empire France.jpg Medaille Militaire 3e Republique France.jpg Medaille Militaire 4e Republique France.jpg Medaille Militaire 5e Republique France.jpg Medaille Militaire 3e Republique France REVERS.jpg


Field Marshal Montgomery, a recipient of the Médaille militaire

WW1 African American fighter pilot Eugene Bullard, a recipient of the Médaille militaire

Marshal of France, Great Britain and Poland, Ferdinand Foch, a recipient of the Médaille militaire

The Médaille militaire was awarded in some number to British and allied forces (allies of the French Empire) during the Crimean War of 1854-56 and in reasonably large numbers to allied forces in the 1914-18 war. During the Second World War, the Médaille reached its highest numbers of foreign bestowals, most often to members of the British Army as well as to the United States military. The general's médaille was awarded to Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Josip Broz Tito, as supreme commanders of the UK, US and Yugoslav military forces, but to also effective military leaders, such as General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, and to Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope.

Unit award

In addition to the individual medal, the Médaille militaire is also authorized as a unit award to those military commands who display the same criteria of bravery as would be required for the individual medal. The médaille is displayed on the flag of these units. It is one of the rarest unit awards in the French military.[1]

This unit award should not be confused with the fourragère de la médaille militaire, which is a cord suspended from the shoulder of a military uniform worn by members of units which had been mentioned in despatches. A fourragère aux couleurs du ruban de la médaille militaire (fourragère in the colours of the ribbon of the médaille militaire) is worn by units which had been mentioned four times, a fourragère aux couleurs de la légion d'honneur et de la médaille militaire (fourragère in the colours of the ribbons of the légion d'honneur and the médaille militaire) for units mentioned twelve times. Ten American units can wear the fourragère de la médaille militaire.

Notable recipients (partial list)

The individuals listed below were recipients of the "Médaille Militaire:[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Battini, Jean; Zaniewicki, Witold (2003). Guide pratique des décorations françaises actuelles. Paris: LAVAUZELLE. pp. 51–58. ISBN 2-7025-1030-2. 
  2. "List of recipients of the Médaille militaire compiled from en.Wikipedia". English Wikipedia. Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  3. "Bluethenthal, Arthur "Bluey"". Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  4. Joseph Siegman (2000). Jewish sports legends: the International Jewish Hall of Fame. Brassey's. ISBN 1-57488-284-8. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  5. Also awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor, the British Distinguished Conduct Medal, and the Croix de guerre for bravery displayed in Hamel, France.

External links

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