The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. The medal is normally awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress. Because the medal is presented “in the name of Congress”, it is often referred to informally as the “Congressional Medal of Honor”. However, the official name of the current award is “Medal of Honor”. Within the United States Code the medal is referred to as the “Medal of Honor”, and less frequently as “Congressional Medal of Honor”. U.S. awards, including the Medal of Honor, do not have post-nominal titles, and while there is no official abbreviation, the most common abbreviations are “MOH” and “MH”.[
There are three versions of the medal, one each for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Personnel of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version. The Medal of Honor was introduced for the Navy in 1861, soon followed by an Army version in 1862. The Medal of Honor is the oldest continuously issued combat decoration of the United States armed forces.
The President typically presents the Medal at a formal ceremony intended to represent the gratitude of the U.S. people, with posthumous presentations made to the primary next of kin. According to the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States, there have been 3,524 Medals of Honor awarded to 3,505 individuals since the decoration’s creation, with over 40% awarded for actions during the American Civil War.
In 1990, Congress designated March 25 annually as “National Medal of Honor Day”. Since 1948, the Medal of Honor and all service decorations awarded to members of the armed forces by any of the armed services have been afforded special protection under U.S. law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture, which includes any associated ribbon or badge.
Army Medal of Honor
The Army version is described by the Institute of Heraldry as “a gold five pointed star, each point tipped with trefoils, 1 1⁄2 inches [3.8 cm] wide, surrounded by a green laurel wreath and suspended from a gold bar inscribed VALOR, surmounted by an eagle. In the center of the star, Minerva’s head surrounded by the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. On each ray of the star is a green oak leaf. On the reverse is a bar engraved THE CONGRESS TO with a space for engraving the name of the recipient.” The pendant and suspension bar are made of gilding metal, with the eye, jump rings, and suspension ring made of red brass. The finish on the pendant and suspension bar is hard enameled, gold plated, and rose gold plated, with polished highlights.
The Navy version is described as “a five-pointed bronze star, tipped with trefoils containing a crown of laurel and oak. In the center is Minerva, personifying the United States, standing with left hand resting on fasces and right hand holding a shield blazoned with the shield from the coat of arms of the United States. She repulses Discord, represented by snakes (originally, she was repulsing the snakes of secession). The medal is suspended from the flukes of an anchor.” It is made of solid red brass, oxidized and buffed.
Air Force Medal of Honor
The Air Force version is described as “within a wreath of green laurel, a gold five-pointed star, one point down, tipped with trefoils and each point containing a crown of laurel and oak on a green background. Centered on the star, an annulet of 34 stars is a representation of the head of the Statue of Liberty. The star is suspended from a bar inscribed with the word VALOR above an adaptation of the thunderbolt from the Air Force Coat of Arms.” The pendant is made of gilding metal. The connecting bar, hinge, and pin are made of bronze. The finish on the pendant and suspension bar is hard enameled, gold plated, and rose gold plated, with buffed relief.
The Medal of Honor has evolved in appearance over time. The upside-down star design of the Navy version’s pendant adopted in early 1862 has not changed since its inception. The Army 1862 version followed and was identical to the Navy version except an eagle perched atop cannons was used instead of an anchor to connect the pendant to the suspension ribbon. The medals featured a female allegory of the Union, with a shield in her right hand that she used to fend off a crouching attacker and serpents. In her left hand, she held a fasces. There are 34 stars surrounding the scene, representing the number of states in the union at the time.
In 1896, the Army version changed the ribbon’s design and colors due to misuse and imitation by nonmilitary organizations. In 1904, the Army “Gillespie” version introduced a smaller redesigned star and the ribbon was changed to the light blue pattern with white stars seen today. The 1904 Army version also introduced a bar with the word “Valor” above the star. In 1913, the Navy version adopted the same ribbon pattern.
After World War I, the Navy decided to separate the Medal of Honor into two versions, one for combat and one for non-combat. This was an attempt to circumvent the requirement enacted in 1919 that recipients participate “in action involving actual conflict with the enemy,” which would have foreclosed non-combat awards. By treating the 1919 Medal of Honor as a separate award from its Civil War counterpart, this allowed the Navy to claim that it was not literally in violation of the 1919 law.
The original upside-down star was designated as the non-combat version and a new pattern of the medal pendant, in cross form, was designed by the Tiffany Company in 1919. Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels selected Tiffany after snubbing the Commission of Fine Arts, which had submitted drawings that Daniels criticized as “un-American.” The “Tiffany Cross” was to be presented to a sailor or marine who “in action involving actual conflict with the enemy, distinguish[es] himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” Despite the “actual conflict” guidelines—the Tiffany Cross was awarded to Navy CDR (later RADM) Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett for arctic exploration.
The decision was controversial within the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation, and officials considered asking the Attorney General of the United States for an advisory opinion on the matter. Byrd himself apparently disliked the “Tiffany Cross,” and eventually requested the alternate version of the medal from President Herbert Hoover in 1930. The Tiffany Cross itself was not popular among recipients– one author reflected that it was “the most short-lived, legally contentious, and unpopular version of the Medal of Honor in American history.” In 1942, in response to a lawsuit, the Navy requested an amendment to expressly allow noncombat awards of the Medal of Honor. When the amendment passed, the Navy returned to using only the original 1862 inverted 5-point star design.
In 1944, the suspension ribbons for both the Army and Navy version were replaced with the now familiar neck ribbon. When the Air Force version was designed in 1956, it incorporated similar elements and design from the Army version. However, the Air Force disliked the fact that the organization responsible for designing the medal, the Institute of Heraldry, fell under the Army, which led the Air Force leadership to reject four design proposals before settling on the “heraldically confusing” Statue of Liberty. At the Air Force leadership’s insistence, the new medal depicted the Statue of Liberty’s image in place of Minerva on the medal and changed the connecting device from an eagle to an heraldic thunderbolt flanked with wings as found on the service seal.
Post 1942 Navy version
Since 1944, the Medal of Honor has been attached to a light blue colored moiré silk neck ribbon that is 1 3⁄16 in (30 mm) in width and 21 3⁄4 in (550 mm) in length. The center of the ribbon displays thirteen white stars in the form of three chevron. Both the top and middle chevrons are made up of 5 stars, with the bottom chevron made of 3 stars. The Medal of Honor is one of only two United States military awards suspended from a neck ribbon, The other is the Commander’s Degree of the Legion of Merit, and is usually awarded to individuals serving foreign governments.
On May 2, 1896, Congress authorized a “ribbon to be worn with the medal and [a] rosette or knot to be worn in lieu of the medal.” The service ribbon is light blue with five white stars in the form of an “M” It is placed first in the top position in the order of precedence and is worn for situations other than full-dress military uniform. The lapel button is a 1⁄2-inch (13 mm), six-sided light blue bowknot rosette with thirteen white stars and may be worn on appropriate civilian clothing on the left lapel.
In 2011, Department of Defense instructions in regard to the Medal of Honor were amended to read “for each succeeding act that would otherwise justify award of the Medal of Honor, the individual receiving the subsequent award is authorized to wear an additional Medal of Honor ribbon and/or a ‘V’ device on the Medal of Honor suspension ribbon” (the “V” device is a 1⁄4-inch-high (6.4 mm) bronze miniature letter “V” with serifs that denotes valor). The Medal of Honor was the only decoration authorized the use of the “V” device (none were ever issued) to designate subsequent awards in such fashion. Nineteen individuals, all now deceased, were double Medal of Honor recipients. In July 2014, DoD instructions were changed to read, “A separate MOH is presented to an individual for each succeeding act that justified award.” As of 2014, no attachments are authorized for the Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor flag
On October 23, 2002, Pub.L. 107–248 was enacted, modifying 36 U.S.C. § 903, authorizing a Medal of Honor flag to be presented to each person to whom a Medal of Honor is awarded. In the case of a posthumous award, the flag will be presented to whomever the Medal of Honor is presented to, which in most cases will be the primary next of kin of the deceased awardee.
The flag was based on a concept by retired U.S. Army Special Forces First Sergeant Bill Kendall of Jefferson, Iowa, who in 2001, designed a flag to honor Medal of Honor recipient Captain Darrell Lindsey, a B-26 pilot from Jefferson who was killed in action during World War II. Kendall’s design of a light blue field emblazoned with 13 white five-pointed stars was nearly identical to that of Sarah LeClerc’s of the Institute of Heraldry. LeClerc’s gold fringed flag, ultimately accepted as the official flag, does not include the words “Medal of Honor” as written on Kendall’s flag. The color of the field and the 13 white stars, arranged in the form of a three-bar chevron, consisting of two chevrons of five stars and one chevron of three stars, emulate the suspension ribbon of the Medal of Honor. The flag has no defined proportions.
The first Medal of Honor flag recipient was U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, who was presented the flag posthumously. President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor and flag to the family of Smith during the award ceremony for him in the White House on April 4, 2005.
A special Medal of Honor Flag presentation ceremony was held for over 60 living Medal of Honor recipients on board USS Constitution in September 2006.
There are two distinct protocols for awarding the Medal of Honor. The first and most common is nomination and approval through the chain of command of the service member. The second method is nomination by a member of the U.S.
- Congress, generally at the request of a constituent. In both cases, if the proposal is outside the time limits for the recommendation, approval to waive the time limit requires a special Act of Congress. The Medal of Honor is presented by the President on behalf of, and in the name of, the Congress.
- Since 1980, nearly all Medal of Honor recipients—or in the case of posthumous awards, the next of kin—have been personally decorated by the Commander-in-Chief. Since 1941, more than half of the Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously.
With this simple and rather obscure act Congress created a unique award that would achieve prominence in American history like few others. The table below will acquaint you with a chronological time line of key events in the history of the Medal of Honor.
|3 MAR 1847||Congress authorizes a “certificate of merit” be presented by the President when a “private soldier distinguishes himself in the service”, along with additional pay of $2 per month.|
|13 FEB 1861||Army Assistant Surgeon Bernard J.D. Irwin rescues the 60 soldiers of 2d Lt. George Bascom’s unit at Apache Pass, Arizona. Though the Medal of Honor had not yet been proposed in Congress (and actually wouldn’t even be presented to Irwin until 1894), it was the first heroic act for which the Medal of Honor would be awarded.|
|24 MAY 1861||In Alexandria, VA Army Private Francis Edwin Brownell performs the first action of the Civil War to merit the Medal of Honor|
|26 JUN 1861||Aboard the U.S.S. Pawnee, John Williams courage despite his wounds, his refusal to leave any man behind, and his love for the flag became the first act by a member of the U.S. Navy to merit the Medal of Honor.|
|21 JUL 1861||Eleven soldiers at the Battle of Bull Run perform actions that eventually will make them recipients of the Medal of Honor. The number includes Dr. Mary Walker who was involved in three major battles and became the ONLY woman to get the Medal.|
|In all, 25 soldiers and 5 sailors would perform Medal of Honor actions in the months from Bernard Irwin’s first heroic act to the establishment of the Navy Medal in December.|
|9 DEC 1861||Iowa Senator James W. Grimes, chairman of the Senate Naval Committee, introduces S. No.82 in Congress to create a medal of honor to promote the efficiency of the Navy.|
|21 DEC 1861||President Abraham Lincoln approves the Congressional action to provide for 200 Navy Medals of Honor.|
|17 FEB 1862||Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson introduces a bill in Congress to provide for an Army Medal of Honor for “privates in the Army of the United States who shall distinguish themselves in battle.”|
|12 APR 1862||Civilian spy James J. Andrews and 19 volunteers begin their “Great Locomotive Chase” behind enemy lines in Georgia.|
|12 MAY 1862||At Drewry’s Bluff, VA aboard the U.S.S. Galena, Corporal John Mackie became the first Marine to earn the Medal of Honor. When he received the award aboard the U.S.S. Seminole on 10 July 1863 he became the first Marine to also receive the award.|
|18 JUN 1862||Seven of Andrew’s Raiders are hanged as spies in Atlanta. Four of them will eventually be awarded Medals of Honor…the first to die in their moment of heroism.|
|12 JUL 1862||President Lincoln approves the legislation authorizing the preparation of 2,000 Medals of Honor to “be presented, in the name of the Congress, to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities.” Already 88 soldiers have performed heroic actions that will be ultimately awarded Medals of Honor.|
|17 SEP 1862||Twenty U.S. Army soldiers perform heroic acts at Antietam that would eventually become recognized by Medal of Honor presentations.|
|13 DEC 1862||At Fredericksburg, VA, Nineteen soldiers perform Medal of Honor actions.|
|3 MAR 1863||The Act of 3 March 1863 extended the presentations of the Army Medal of Honor to officers, as well as non-commissioned officers and privates. (The Navy medal continued to be reserved for enlisted personnel ONLY.)|
|25 MAR 1863||Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presents the first Medals of Honor to six of the surviving members of Andrew’s Raiders. They are the first Medals ever presented.|
|15 May 1863||Signal Quartermaster Robert Williams receives the Medal of Honor for his actions on board the USS Benton on 27 Dec 1862. He becomes the first member of the Navy to be presented the Medal of Honor.|
|22 May 1863||Ninety-six soldiers perform Medal of Honor actions at Vicksburg, Mississippi….the highest one day total in the Medal’s entire history. In all, 123 Medals of Honor were earned at Vicksburg.|
|30 JUN 1863||Approximately 300 of the 864 members of the 27th Maine agree to remain to guard Washington, DC after their enlistment had expired. In return Secretary of War Edwin Stanton submitted the entire group of volunteers for Medals of Honor. A typographical error resulted in all 864 of the 27th Maine’s soldiers being awarded Medals of Honor for their extra 4 days of service. (All were revoked in the purge of 1917).|
|1 JUL 1863||Four days of battle at Gettysburg added 58 Medals of Honor to the war total.|
|18 JUL 1863||At Fort Wagner, SC the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry faced their first major test of combat. Former slave William Harvey Carney became the first African-American to earn the Medal of Honor.|
|5 AUG 1864||Ninety-eight service members receive Medals of Honor for actions this day at Mobile Bay, Alabama. A total of 115 Medals of Honor are eventually awarded for this battle.|
|1 DEC 1864||Corporal Joseph Decastro becomes the first person of Hispanic descent to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He captured a flag at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on 3 July 1863.|
|1 MAR 1865||Private Benjamin Levy is awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions at Glendale, Virginia, on 30 Jun 1862. He is the first Jewish person to be presented with the Medal.|
|2 APR 1865||Fifty-two soldiers earn Medals on Honor on this day at Petersburg, Virginia.|
|6 APR 1865||Fifty-nine soldiers earn Medals of Honor at Deatonsville (Sailor’s Creek), VA. Among them on this day was 2d Lt. Thomas Custer (yes, he was the brother of the famous General Custer) who earned his SECOND Medal of Honor, becoming the ONLY ARMY MAN in the Civil War to receive TWO.|
|9 APR 1865||General Lee surrenders at Appomattox Courthouse and the Civil War ends.|
|19 APR 1865||In the weeks following Lee’s surrender, 10 more Medals of Honor were earned, seven of them at Columbus, Georgia. The 10th and last Medal of Honor for the Civil War was earned on April 19th at Greensboro, North Carolina by Charles M. Betts.|
|12 May 1865||In Nebraska Army Private Frank W. Lohnes becomes the first official Medal of Honor recipient of the Indian Campaigns, his action preceded only by Bernard Irwin’s 4 years earlier. His award is presented just two months after his action.|
|11 NOV 1865||Rather than grant Dr. Mary Walker’s request for a commission in the U.S. Army, President Johnson orders that she be given the Medal of Honor. (The award was revoked in the purge of 1917, then restored in 1977).|
|31 DEC 1865||680 of the eventual 1520 total Medals awarded for Civil War actions (not counting those of the 27th Maine), have been presented. From 1866 to 1890 a total of 105 more will be awarded. From 1890 to 1899 more Medals will be awarded for Civil War action than were awarded during the war…a total of 683 in the last decade of the century.|
|1865 – 1891||During the period from the end of the Civil War to New Years Day, 1891 all but two of the 242 Medals of Honor awarded for the Indian Campaigns were earned. The exceptions were the earlier award to Irwin, and the last action which occurred on 5 OCT 1898.|
|9 JUN 1871||Three sailors earn Medals of Honor for action in Korea. These were the first Medals of Honor earned on foreign soil. Over the following two days twelve more Americans earn Medals of honor…9 sailors and 6 Marines in all.|
|1876||Due to the large number of men submitted for Medals of Honor after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, a review board of officers was assembled to consider the requests. The number was pared down to 24 men, and a “new standard” was applied that “the conduct which deserves such recognition should not be the simple discharge of duty, but such acts beyond this that if omitted or refused to be done, should not justly subject the person to censure as a shortcoming or failure.”|
|23 APR 1890||The MEDAL OF HONOR LEGION is established to protect the integrity of the Medal.|
|2 MAY 1896||Congress approved legislation authorizing “a rosette or knot to be worn in lieu of the medal, and a ribbon to be worn with the medal.” (20 Stat. 473)|
|10 NOV 1896||For the first time a change is made in the DESIGN of the Medal of Honor. The change is only in the suspension ribbon and affects only the Army’s Medal of Honor.|
|26 JUN 1897||With more than 700 Civil War soldiers applying for Medals of Honor since 1890, President William McKinley had directed the Army to establish new policies regarding Medal of Honor applications and awards. Published on this date the new regulations:
…Established that Medals of Honor could only be awarded for “gallantry and intrepidity” above and beyond that of one’s fellow soldiers,
…Required that a submission for the Medal of Honor be made by a person other than the veteran who had performed the heroic deed,
…Required the testimony, under oath, of one or more eyewitnesses to the heroic deed.
…Set a time limit of one year for any person to be submitted for the Medal of Honor for an act occurring after 26 June 1897.
|1 FEB 1898||The Army issues proper instruction for display of the Medal of Honor suspended from a ribbon hung around the neck of the recipient. (For the next half century Army Medals of Honor were sometimes displayed in this fashion, at other times pinned to the tunic of a soldier’s uniform.)|
|15 FEB 1898||The U.S.S. Maine mysteriously explodes in Havana Harbor killing 258 American soldiers and launching the Spanish-American War. From 1 May to 26 July, 109 soldiers, sailors and Marines earned Medals of Honor. All but 12 were awarded within a year of the war’s end.|
|1 APR 1899||Three Marines and one Sailor earn Medals of Honor in Samoa.|
|20 JUN 1900||Twenty-nine service members earn Medals of Honor in China (the Boxer Rebellion) in a campaign that will see 30 more awards for heroism by August 14th.|
|21 SEP 1901||Secretary of War Eli Root appoints a board headed by Civil War medal recipient Major General Arthur MacArthur to review Medal of Honor submissions from the Spanish American War and the continuing conflict in the Philippine Islands.|
|19 APR 1902||U.S. War Department Special Orders No. 93, Paragraph 14 continues the board appointed by Eli Root “for the purpose of examining applications and recommendations for Medals of Honor and Certificates of Merit.|
|23 APR 1904||Congress authorizes a distinctive new design for the Army Medal of Honor, the brainchild of General George Gillespie who had received the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. The new “Gillespie Medal” retains the star shape but surrounds it with a green laurel. The Medal is suspended from a newly designed blue ribbon bearing 13 stars from a bar on which is printed the word “VALOR”. Upon authorizing the new Medal of Honor design, Congress requires Medal recipients to return their original Medals to be replaced with the new.|
|10 JAN 1906||In ceremonies at the White House, President Theodore Roosevelt presents the Medal of Honor to Spanish-American war hero James R. Church in keeping with his earlier Executive Order:
“The presentation of a Medal of Honor to an officer or enlisted man in the military service, awarded under the Joint Resolution of Congress approved July 12, 1863, will always be made with formal and impressive ceremony.
“The recipient will, when practicable, be ordered to Washington, D.C., and the presentation will be made by the President, as Commander-in-Chief, or by such representative as the President may designate.
“When not practicable to have the presentation at Washington, the details of time, place, and ceremony will be prescribed by the Chief of Staff for each case.
“On campaign, the presentation will be made by the Division or higher commander.” (September 20, 1905)
|27 FEB 1907||Recipients of the earlier designs for the Medal of Honor have shown reluctance to return their “old” medals for the new “Gillespie” medals because of the sentimental value their original award holds for them. In response Congress authorizes them to be issued the new design without turning in their original Medals and instructs that those who had previously turned in their Medals have them returned to them. The legislation specifies, however, that both Medals (original and Gillespie) can not be worn at the same time.|
|1913||The Navy changes the ribbon from which their Medal of Honor is suspended to a blue ribbon with 13 white stars, similar to the design of the ribbon patented with Gillespie’s Medal of Honor for the Army. Other slight changes in design are also made.|
|3 MAR 1915||Authorized the President to present “a suitable Medal of Honor to be awarded to any officer of the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard who shall have distinguished himself in battle or displayed extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession.” Previously the award was reserved for enlisted personnel ONLY, but this act made it available to officers as well. (38 Stat. 928, 931)|
|24 Oct 1915||Three Marines earn Medals of Honor in Haiti. On the 17th of the following month three more Marines earn Medals of Honor in Haiti.|
|27 APR 1916||Congress passes legislation to establish “The Army and Navy Medal of Honor Roll” and authorizes a $10 monthly pension for Medal recipients over age 65.|
|3 JUN 1916||“A board to consist of five general officers on the retired list of the Army shall be convened…for the purpose of investigating and reporting upon past awards or issue of the so-called congressional medal of honor.”|
|16 OCT 1916||The BOARD OF GENERALS authorized in the previous legislation convened under Lt. General Nelson Miles, a Medal recipient from the Civil War. General Miles had taken an active role in promoting legislation to protect the Medal as commander of the Medal of Honor Legion and approached the work of his committee with determination and dedication. Every award of the Army Medal of Honor since the Civil War was reviewed. The recipients were anonymous to the board, represented only by a number.|
|5 FEB 1917||The Medal of Honor review board released its findings, striking the names of 911 medal recipients from the honor roll. The stricken names included all the medals awarded to the 27th Maine, 29 members of President Lincoln’s funeral guard, and six civilians (whose courage the board did not deny, but who were ruled ineligible for the Medal due their civilian status). Five of the civilians were scouts from the Indian Campaigns including Buffalo Bill Cody. The sixth was Civil War Assistant Surgeon Mary Walker. Though she had participated in major campaigns from Bull Run to Chickamauga, even endured three months as a Confederate prisoner of war, her civilian status denied her continued recognition as a Medal of Honor recipient.|
|17 APR 1917||The last Medals of Honor awarded for Civil War action are presented to Henry Lewis and Henry Peters, bringing to a close the controversial and divisive scramble of Civil War vets for the coveted award, and opening the way for new legislative protections.|
|23 JUN 1917||Commander Willis Winter Bradley, Jr. aboard the U.S.S. Pittsburgh becomes the first Medal of Honor recipient of World War I. In all 119 soldiers, sailors, marines, and for the first time AIRMEN performed heroism meriting their Nation’s highest award over the following two years. Only 4 such awards were actually presented during the period of the war, the remainder came as a result of a review of World War I awards of the Distinguished Service Cross at the request of General John J. Pershing. The last presentation of a World War I Medal of Honor would not occur until the closing decade of the century.|
|9 JUL 1918||The Medal of Honor was born in 1862, but it was the act of 9 July 1918 that defined the future of the award, while further eliminated the Certificate of Merit while establishing the new “Pyramid of Honor” providing for lesser awards (The Distinguished Service Cross, The Distinguished Service Medal, and the Silver Star). A key difference between the levels of awards was spelled out, “That the President is authorized to present, in the name of the Congress, a medal of honor only to each person who, while an officer or enlisted man of the Army, shall hereafter, in action involving actual conflict with an enemy, distinguish himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” The lesser awards were authorized for presentation by the President, “BUT NOT IN THE NAME OF CONGRESS.”
The act of July 9th further established time limits to avoid problems like those encountered with Civil War veterans seeking the award. Recommendations for Medals of Honor had to be made within 2 years of the act of heroism for which it was to be awarded, and the Medal was to be presented within 3 years.
The act of July 9th was further clarified in September, then again in February 1919, to stipulate that no person could receive more than one Medal of Honor. Previously there had been 19 double recipients of the Medal, but hereafter, while there were provisions for second and consecutive awards of lesser medals to be made and noted with appropriate ribbon devices, no more than one Medal of Honor could be awarded.
|1919||A new design for the Medal of Honor is introduced for the Navy. Called the “Tiffany Cross”, it is intended for naval heroism in combat situations.|
|3 MAY 1919||Six months after the end of World War I the Medal of Honor is presented in France to Sergeant Alvin C. York. It was a historic event for the Medal not so much at the time but for the legendary status its recipients would receive in the years to follow.|
|7 DEC 1941||Japanese Imperial forces attack United States naval bases at Kaneohe Bay and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the U.S. base at Midway Island. Sixteen men would later receive the Medal of Honor for their actions on this day, eleven of them posthumously. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. declared war on Japan.|
|7 AUG 1942||The Navy discontinues its two-medal system by eliminating the Tiffany Cross (introduced in 1919) and reverting to a single Medal of Honor design – the original five-pointed star.|
|27 SEP 1942||At Guadalcanal Canadian Born Douglas Munro becomes the first, and ONLY, member of the U.S. Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor. Munro was killed in action during his moment of valor.|
|23 MAY 1943||In the frozen Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Colorado’s Private Joseph P. Martinez becomes the first Hispanic-American to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II. His posthumous award was the first act for combat heroism on American soil (other than the 15 at Pearl Harbor) since the Indian Campaigns.|
|10 NOV 1943||In Italy, Arkansas football star and Detroit Lion Pro Captain Maurice “Footsie” Britt earns the Medal of Honor. Having already earned the DSC and the Silver Star, it is the first time in military history that a soldier earned all of the military’s top awards in a single war.|
|5 APR 1945||Japanese-American boys had struggled long to prove their loyalty to the United States despite paranoia and prejudice at home. The 442d Infantry Regiment built an impressive record of valor. On this day PFC Sadao S. Munemori distinguished himself in Italy. He became the only Japanese-American awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II until 21 June 2000. His Medal of Honor, presented posthumously to his mother, is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.|
|29 JUL 1945||In the Philippine Islands Army Corporal Melvin Mayfield earns the last Medal of Honor of World War II.|
16 SEPT 1948
|The CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR SOCIETY is formed.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society is incorporated.
|20 JUL 1950||General William F. Dean and George Dalton Libby earn the first Medals of Honor of the Korean War. Libby was killed in action and General Dean was taken as a Prisoner of War.|
|5 AUG 1950||The United States Air Force was born on July 26, 1947 when President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947. On this date in 1950 Louis Sebille became the first flier of the now separate AIR FORCE to earn the Medal of Honor. In all, FOUR Air Force officers received Medals of Honor for action in Korea…all of them posthumous awards. (These four men, as had members of the earlier Air Service and Army Air Corps, were awarded Army Medals of Honor.)|
|25 JUL 1953||Ambrosio Guillen performs the last action of the Korean War to receive the Medal of Honor. In total, 145 Medals of Honor have been awarded for the Korean War.|
|10 AUG 1956||Legislation is authorized providing members of the United States Air Force with their own, distinctive design for an Air Force Medal of Honor separate from that of the Navy and Army.|
|14 AUG 1958||The Medal of Honor Society is absorbed into the Congressionally Chartered CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA under Title 38, USC.|
|25 JUL 1963||Congress amended Titles 10 and 14 of the US Code establishing criteria and guidelines for award of the Medal of Honor:
…It would be awarded for 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 forces (such as was the case with the UN forces in Korea) in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
|13 OCT 1964||Changes in Medal of Honor legislation provided for a $100 per month pension for Medal of Honor recipients over the age of 50.|
|17 DEC 1964||Army Special Forces Captain Roger Donlon becomes the first Medal of Honor hero of the Vietnam war.|
|1965||The AIR FORCE introduces the design for their distinctive Air Force Medal of Honor, similar in design to that of the Army Medal of Honor only larger and displaying the head of the Statue of Liberty and other design changes. Each branch of service, Army, Navy/Marines/Coast Guard, and Air Force now has its own medal design. All three branches display the Medal suspended below a neck ribbon.|
|10 MAR 1966
||In Vietnam, Bernard Francis Fisher becomes the first airman to earn the Air Force’s newly designed Medal of Honor. In all, fourteen USAF servicemen received Medals of Honor for the Vietnam War, including John Levitow, the first enlisted USAF man to receive the award.|
|31 OCT 1972||Navy SEAL Michael Thornton performs the last Medal of Honor action of the Vietnam war, saving the life of his SEAL Team Leader Lt. Tommy Norris. Six months earlier Norris had been submitted for the Medal of Honor for heroic actions to rescue downed pilots.|
|10 JUN 1977||Army Secretary Clifford Alexander, Jr. orders the restoration of the Civil War award of the Medal of Honor to Dr. Mary E. Walker. She is the only woman ever awarded the Medal of Honor.|
|12 JUN 1989||The United States Army restores the Medals of Honor to 5 civilian scouts from the Indian Campaigns, including the award to William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. All 5 awards had been included in the purge of 1917.|
|24 APR 1991||World War I had yielded no African-America Medal of Honor recipients, not due to any lack of courage by America’s “soldiers of color” but instead to the unjust prejudices of the time. On this date President George H. W. Bush corrected this sad part of Medal of Honor history when he presented the Medal of Honor to the family of Corporal Freddie Stowers, who died in his moment of valor.|
|3 OCT 1993||Two Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta members, Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart are killed in action during a rescue mission in Somalia. When President Clinton presented Medals of Honor to their widows on 23 May 1994 their heroism was recorded as the only Medal of Honor actions to occur in the 1990s.|
|13 JAN 1997||As had been the case for African-American soldiers during World War I, racial prejudice had prevented the award of the Medal of Honor to any African-American soldiers during World War II. After a comprehensive review of military awards to that war’s African-American heroes, President Clinton presented Medals of Honor to the families of 6 deceased African-American World War II heroes and one living hero, Vernon Baker.|
|21 JUN 2000||In ceremonies at the White House, President Clinton presents the Medal of Honor to 22 World War II Veterans. Many are presented posthumously. All the medals went to Asian-Americans who were denied earlier recognition due to racism.|
|31 JAN 2001||In ceremonies at the White House, President William J. Clinton posthumously presents the Medal of Honor to Andrew Jackson Smith for actions during the Civil War.|
|5 APR 2005||Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith is posthumously presented the Medal of Honor for his actions near Baghdad International Airport, Iraq, on April 4, 2003. With disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Smith mans an exposed mounted machine gun, allowing for the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers and the death of as many 50 enemy soldiers. Sgt. Smith was mortally wounded at this time. This is the first Medal of Honor awarded for the War on Terrorism.|
|16 NOV 2010||Army Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta is the first living recipient for the War on Terror for his actions in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley on Oct. 25, 2007.|
|26 DEC 2013||Time limits for awarding the Medal of Honor are changed – now all recommendations for the Medal must be made within 3 years of the act of valor and the Medal must be presented within 5 years. Previous to this, the Navy’s time limits were different from the Army’s and Air Force’s.|
|18 MAR 2014||President Barack Obama presents 24 Medals of Honor for actions during WWII, Korea and the Vietnam Wars. Most are to Hispanic and Jewish soldiers who were denied earlier recognition due to racism. The medals are the result of a review of valor awards that began in 2001.|
|5 JUN 2015||In a White House ceremony, President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Henry Johnson and William Shemin for their actions during World War I. The awards are upgrades from the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross and represent thorough reviews of their actions.|
|31 JUL 2017||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to James C. McCloughan for his actions during the Vietnam Wars.|
|24 MAY 2018||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Britt K. Slabinski for his actions during Afghanistan.|
|26 JUN 2018||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Garlin M. Conner for his actions at Houssen, France on January 24, 1945 during WWII .|
|22 JUL 2018||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump posthumously presents the Medal of Honor to John A. Chapman for his actions at Takur Ghar mountain, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002|
|01 OCT 2018||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Ronald J Shurer,II for his actions at Shok Valley, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on April 6, 2008.|
|17 OCT 2018||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to John L. Canley for his actions in Hue, Vietnam, on February 6, 1968.|
|27 MAR 2019||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Travis W. Atkins for his actions in Abu Samak, Iraq, June 1, 2007|
|25 JUN 2019||In a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to David G. Bellavia for his actions in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq on November 10, 2004.|