Military Wiki
Silver Star
Silver Star medal.png
Awarded by United States Armed Forces
Type Military medal (Decoration)
Awarded for "Gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States"
Status Currently awarded
First awarded 1932
Next (higher) Army – Army Distinguished Service Medal[1]
Navy and Marine Corps – Navy Distinguished Service Medal[1]
Air Force - Air Force Distinguished Service Medal[1]
Coast Guard - Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
Next (lower) Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force – Defense Superior Service Medal[1]
Coast Guard - Secretary of Transportation Outstanding Achievement Medal[2]
Silver Star ribbon.svg
Silver Star Ribbon

Army Captain Gregory Ambrosia receiving the Silver Star from Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown receives the Silver Star from Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Silver Star, officially referred to as the Silver Star Medal by all of the United States Armed Forces, is the third highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to any person serving in any capacity with the United States Armed Forces. The medal is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.


The Silver Star medal is the successor award to the Citation Star which was established by an Act of Congress on July 9, 1918. On July 19, 1932, the Secretary of War approved the Silver Star to replace the Citation Star. The original Citation Star is incorporated into the center of the Silver Star, and the suspension and service ribbon for the Silver Star is based closely on the Certificate of Merit Medal.[3]

Authorization for the Silver Star was placed into law by an Act of Congress for the U.S. Navy on August 7, 1942 and an Act of Congress for the U.S. Army on December 15, 1942. The current statutory authorization for the Silver Star is Title 10 of the United States Code, 10 U.S.C. § 3746 for the Army, 10 U.S.C. § 8746 for the Air Force, and 10 U.S.C. § 6244 for the Naval Service.

Award criteria

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry not justifying the award of one of the next higher valor awards – the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross.[4] The gallantry displayed must have taken place while in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or 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.[1]

Air Force pilots, combat systems officers, Navy and Marine Corps Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers flying fighter aircraft are often considered eligible to receive a Silver Star upon becoming an ace (i.e., having five or more confirmed aerial kills), which entails the pilot and, in multi-seat fighters, the weapons system officer or radar intercept officer, intentionally and successfully risking his life multiple times under combat conditions and emerging victorious.[5] However, during the Vietnam War, the last conflict to produce U.S. fighter aces, the one USAF pilot, the two USAF navigators/weapon systems officers (who were later retrained as USAF pilots), the one USN Naval Aviator and the one USN Naval Flight Officer/radar intercept officer to achieve this distinction were eventually awarded the Air Force Cross and Navy Cross, respectively, in addition to Silver Stars previously awarded for earlier aerial kills.[citation needed]


The Silver Star is a gold five-pointed star, 1 12 inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays from the center and a 316 inch (4.8 mm) diameter silver star superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners. The reverse has the inscription FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION. The ribbon is 1 38 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 732 inch (5.6 mm) Old Glory red (center stripe); proceeding outward in pairs 732 inch (5.6 mm) white; 732 inch (5.6 mm) ultramarine blue; 364 inch (1.2 mm) white; and 332 inch (2.4 mm) ultramarine blue.[3]

Second and subsequent awards of the Silver Star medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force and by 5/16 inch stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard[1][6][7][8]


The Department of Defense does not keep extensive records of awards of the Silver Star. Independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established.[9] Colonel David Hackworth is likely to be the person who has been awarded the most Silver Stars. He earned ten Silver Stars for service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.[10]

Female recipients

An unknown number of women received the award in World War II. In 1944, four Army nurses serving in Italy – First Lieutenant Mary Roberts, Second Lieutenant Elaine Roe, Second Lieutenant Rita Virginia Rourke, and Second Lieutenant Ellen Ainsworth (posthumous) – became the first women recipients of the Silver Star, all cited for their bravery in successfully evacuating the 33rd Field Hospital at Anzio, Italy on February 10.[11] No record of additional female awardees since World War II has come to light, until Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star in 2005 for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq.[11] In 2007, it was discovered that three nurses who served in World War I were cited with Citation Stars for their service in July 1918. Having never been awarded their Citation Stars, they were awarded the Silver Star posthumously.[12] Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown was awarded the Silver Star in March 2008 for heroism in the War in Afghanistan.[11]

Notable recipients

Notable recipients include:

Unit award equivalent


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33 Volume 3" (pdf). Defense Technical Information Center. Department of Defense. 23 November 2010. pp. 13, 52. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  2. "Ribbon Order of Precedence". Medals and Awards Program. Personnel Managment, CG-12. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Silver Star". The Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  4. "Section 578.12 – Silver Star". Code of Federal Regulations. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  5. Korean War pilot receives Silver Star 56 years later. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  6. Coast Guards Medals and Awards, COMDTINSTM1650D, May 2008, P. 1-13 a, 2-3 5., 1-16 "a"
  7. Navy-Marine Awards manual, Aug. 22, 2006, SECNAVINST 1650.1H, P. 1-8, 123. 1., 1-22
  8. DOD Awards Manual, 1348.33, Oct. 12, 2011, P. 60, Order of Precedence, Silver Star Medal.
  9. Home of Heroes: Silver Star Medal. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
  10. Hackworth, Col David H., U.S. Army (retired) (December 2002). Look Truth Right in the Eye. Interview with Fred L. Schultz and Gordon Keiser. Naval Institute Proceedings.,13190,NI_Hackworth_1202,00.html. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Abrashi, Fisnik (March 9, 2008). "Medic Stationed in Afghanistan Becomes 2nd Woman to Be Awarded Silver Star". Associated Press.,2933,336259,00.html. 
  12. "Daughter Accepts Silver Star Her World War I Nurse Mother Earned". United States Army. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 

External links

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