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|The Medal of Honor
|Although most people are familiar with the
Medal of Honor as shown below, The Medal of Honor has not always appeared as it
does today. Shown on this page are images of the actual medals as they have
appeared throughout history as well as background information about the medal
Washington had created the Badge of Military Merit on 7 August 1792 but it had
fallen into disuse after the Revolutionary War. Decorations, as such, were
still too closely related to European royalty to be of concern to the American
people. However, the fierce fighting and deeds of valor during the Civil War
brought into focus the realization that such valor must be recognized.
Legislation was introduced in the Senate on 17 February 1862, which authorized
the medal for the Army and followed the pattern of a similar award approved for
Naval personnel in December 1861. The Resolution provided that: "The President
of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause two thousand
"medals of honor" to be prepared with suitable emblematic devices, and to
direct that the same be presented, in the name of Congress, to such
noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by
their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present
insurrection, and the sum of ten thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby
appropriated out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, for
the purpose of carrying this resolution into effect."
|The original design for the Army was created
by Christian Schussel and engraved by Anthony C. Pacquot. The pendant was
identical to the design approved by the Navy, with the exception of the
suspension and clasp. It consisted of a five-pointed star, tipped with trefoils
containing a crown of laurel and oak. In the middle, a band of 34 stars
represented the number of States in 1862. Minerva, personifying the United
States, stands with a left hand resting on fasces and right hand holding a
shield blazoned with the United States arms. She repulses Discord, represented
1896, misuse of the medal led to a change in the design of the ribbon because
the original had been imitated by nonmilitary organizations. This change was
authorized by Joint Resolution of Congress, Fifty-Fourth Congress, Sess. I, 2
May 1896. At this time a bowknot (rosette) was adopted to be worn in lieu of
the medal. The ribbon and bowknot (rosette), established and prescribed by the
President, was promulgated in War Department Orders dated 10 November
World War I
|Army - On 23 April 1904,
Congress authorized a new design of the medal. The design adopted at that time
was designed by Major General George L. Gillespie and is the one currently in
use. The medal was worn either suspended from the neck or pinned over the left
breast in precedence to other military decorations.
| Navy - Since its birth
the Navy's Medal of Honor, presented also to members of the Marine Corps and
Coast Guard, has not changed. In 1913 the anchor that connected it to the
suspension ribbon was changed slightly when the rope was removed. At the time
of that change the ribbon too changed to the same blue silk ribbon bearing 13
stars that was used with the Army Medal of Honor.
|Since the Navy awarded Medals of Honor for
both COMBAT and NON-COMBAT heroism, in 1919 the Department of the Navy decided
to distinguish between the two acts by presenting a different Medal of Honor
for each. The Original Medal would be presented for COMBAT heroism and the new
MALTESE CROSS would signify NON-COMBAT heroism meriting the Medal of Honor.
Designed by New York's TIFFANY & COMPANY, it became known as the "Tiffany
The "Tiffany Cross" (1919)) was not a popular award and is the
rarest of all Medals of Honor in existence. In 1942 it was dropped from the
Medal of Honor profile and the Navy returned to its original Medal of Honor as
the only design awarded.
|Air Force - Authorized
in 1956, the Air Force unveiled its own design for the Medal of Honor in 1965.
About 50% larger than the other services' Medals of Honor, it retained the
laurel wreath and oak leaves of the Army Medal which had previously been
presented to members of the Army Air Service and Air Corps. It also retained
the bar bearing the word "VALOR". Inside the circle of stars the helmeted
profile of Minerva from the Army's medal is replaced by the head of the Statue
of Liberty. Replacing the Army's eagle is the Air Force Coat of
|The present neck ribbon was adopted in 1944.
It is worn outside the shirt collar and inside the coat, hanging above all
When the patent on the Medal of Honor first
obtained by General Gillespie expired in 1918 Congress intervened to protect
the Medal's integrity. In 1923 legislation was enacted to prohibit the
unauthorized manufacture of medals awarded by the military services. Additional
legislation since then has taken steps to further protect the awards presented
to our military heroes, and the Medal of Honor in particular.
as our Nation has veterans of military service there will be "war stories" and
embellished tales of battlefield heroics. Such is the nature of military men.
Sadly, some have stooped to the lowest levels by claiming or displaying medals
they are not authorized. Misrepresentation of ones' self as a Medal of Honor
recipient is a CRIME punishable by imprisonment.
Army Institute of Heraldry
Congressional Medal of Honor
"The Call of Duty" by John E. Stranburg and Roger James