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Awards and decorations of the United States Army


Awards and decorations of the United States Army

Awards and decorations of the United States Army are those military awards including decorations which are issued to members of the United States Army under the authority of the Secretary of the Army. Together with military badges such awards provide an outward display of a service member's accomplishments.

The first recognized medals of the U.S. Army appeared during the American Civil War and were generally issued by local commanders on an unofficial basis. The Medal of Honor was the first award to be established in regulations as a permanent Army decoration, complete with benefits. The Medal of Honor is the only Civil War era award which has survived as a decoration into the modern age.

Furthermore, the U.S. Army mandates that all unit awards will be worn separate from individual awards on the opposite side of a military uniform. The Army is the only service to require this separation between unit and individual decorations. All Army unit awards are worn enclosed in a gold frame.


  • History 1
  • United States Army decorations 2
  • Good Conduct Medals 3
  • Unit Awards 4
  • Service Ribbons 5
  • Marksmanship Competition Awards 6
  • Other awards 7
    • Honorary awards 7.1
  • See also 8
  • References 9


The Spanish-American War was the first widespread award of campaign medals, both for service in the actual conflict and for participation in subsequent garrison and occupation duty. After the Spanish-American War, however, medals in the U.S. Army fell into disuse and, apart from a few peacetime Medal of Honor decorations, two medals for service in Mexico, or on the border, during the period 1911-17, plus the Civil War Campaign Medal and the Indian Campaign Medal, both finally authorized in 1907, there were no further Army decorations created until the First World War.

World War I saw the first widespread distribution of medals for combat, as the Medal of Honor returned awarded for bravery in battle against an enemy force. The Distinguished Service Cross was also created for those soldiers who had performed feats of bravery but not to the level required of the Medal of Honor. The only other medals of World War I were the World War I Victory Medal, accompanied by a confusing array of battle clasps to denote combat participation, and the very belated Army of Occupation of Germany Medal.

In the 1920s and '30s, the U.S. Army issued very few decorations and it was often common for a service member to spend an entire career without receiving a single medal. As World War II loomed, however, an American Defense Service Medal was created for those on duty, and a Good Conduct Medal began to be issued to enlisted personnel. With the outbreak of the war, the Army began the largest expansion of medals since the Spanish-American War as well as the first wide scale issuance of inter-service awards and decorations. In addition, several World War II campaign medals were created for various theaters and a World War II Victory Medal was established at the end of the conflict as well as an occupation medal.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Army expanded both its number of medals and ribbons, as well as having its service members eligible for several new inter-service campaign and service medals (such as the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the National Defense Service Medal).

In the modern age, members of other military branches serving under an Army command are also eligible to receive Army decorations. All Army service members may receive inter-service awards and decorations, international decorations, and authorized foreign medals. The Department of the Army also awards a limited number of civilian awards.

The current active decorations of the United States Army as follows (The Medal of Honor, the highest military award, is not shown as it covers all of the military services):

United States Army decorations

Distinguished Service Cross Distinguished Service Medal Soldier's Medal Army Commendation Medal Army Achievement Medal

Good Conduct Medals

Army Good Conduct Medal Army Reserve
Components Achievement Medal

Unit Awards

Presidential Unit Citation Valorous Unit Award Meritorious Unit Commendation Army Superior Unit Award

The Joint Meritorious Unit Award is also a unit award for the US Army

Service Ribbons

Army Sea Duty Ribbon NCO Professional
Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon Army Overseas
Service Ribbon
Army Reserve Components
Overseas Training Ribbon

Marksmanship Competition Awards

U.S. International Distinguished Shooter Badge President's Hundred Tab Army Distinguished Shooter Badges Interservice Competition Badge Army Excellence-In-Competition Badges

Other awards

Honorary awards

Federal honorary awards (in order of precedence)
No order of precedence
Public service awards
Awards of unique achievement
  • Brigadier General Jeremiah P. Holland Award - awarded to the most outstanding military police unit, company size or smaller, each fiscal year.
  • Secretary of the Army Awards for Program/Project Management
  • Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award
  • Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service

See also


  • U.S. Department of Defense Awards Manual 1348.33, Vol. 3, dated 23 November 2010
  • U.S. Army Regulation 600-8-22, Military Awards, dated 11 December 2006, last updated 15 September 2011
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