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Awards and Decorations of the United States Military

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Title: Awards and Decorations of the United States Military  
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Subject: Colours, standards and guidons
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Awards and Decorations of the United States Military

Awards and decorations of the United States Military are the military awards including decorations which recognize service and personal accomplishments while a member of the United States Armed Forces. Together with military badges, such awards are a means to outwardly display the highlights of a service member's career.

Order of precedence

While each service has its own order of precedence, the following general rules apply to all services:

  1. U.S. military personal decorations
  2. U.S. military unit awards
  3. U.S. non-military personal decorations (after unit awards in order of receipt; if from the same agency, the applicable agency precedence listing should be consulted)
  4. U.S. non-military unit awards
  5. U.S. military campaign awards
  6. U.S. military service and training awards
  7. U.S. Merchant Marine awards and non-military service awards
  8. Foreign military personal decorations
  9. Foreign military unit awards
  10. Non-U.S. service awards (e.g., United Nations, NATO)
  11. Foreign military service awards
  12. Marksmanship awards (Navy and Coast Guard)
  13. State awards of the National Guard (Army & Air Force)

Unit awards are worn on the right side in the U.S. Army.

Active United States

By order of precedence

Note: Precedence of particular awards will vary slightly among the different branches of service.

Ribbon/Award Name
Personal decorations
  Medal of Honor
Awarded for "Gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty"
Service Cross medals. Awarded for "Extraordinary heroism"

Distinguished Service Cross (Army)

Navy Cross

Air Force Cross

  Coast Guard Cross

Distinguished Service medals

Defense Distinguished Service Medal

Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal

  Distinguished Service Medal (Army)

  Navy Distinguished Service Medal

Air Force Distinguished Service Medal

  Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Star Awarded for "Gallantry in action"
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Medals for non-combat heroism

Soldier's Medal

Navy and Marine Corps Medal

Airman's Medal

Coast Guard Medal

Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Meritorious service medals

Defense Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal

Air Medal
Aerial Achievement Medal
Commendation medals

Joint Service Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal

Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal

Air Force Commendation Medal

Coast Guard Commendation Medal

Achievement medals

Joint Service Achievement Medal

Army Achievement Medal

Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal

Air Force Achievement Medal

Coast Guard Achievement Medal

Commandant's Letter of Commendation
Navy and Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon

Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon

Air Force Combat Action Medal

Unit Awards
Presidential Unit Citations

Army and Air Force Presidential Unit Citation

Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation

Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation

Joint Meritorious Unit Award

Army Valorous Unit Award

Navy Unit Commendation

Air Force Gallant Unit Citation

Coast Guard Unit Commendation

Meritorious Unit Commendations

Army Meritorious Unit Commendation

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation

Air Force Meritorious Unit Award

Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation

Army Superior Unit Award

  Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation

Efficiency Awards

Navy "E" Ribbon

Air Force Organizational Excellence Award

Coast Guard "E" Ribbon

Service awards
Prisoner of War Medal
Combat Readiness Medal
Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon
Air Force Recognition Ribbon
Good Conduct medals

Army Good Conduct Medal

Navy Good Conduct Medal

Air Force Good Conduct Medal

Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal

Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal

Reserve decorations

Armed Forces Reserve Medal

Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal

Naval Reserve Meritorious Service Medal

Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal

Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal

Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct Medal

Expeditionary medals

Navy Expeditionary Medal

Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal

Ribbon/Award Name
Campaign and service medals
Army of Occupation Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Antarctica Service Medal
Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Southwest Asia Service Medal
Kosovo Campaign Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal
Air and Space Campaign Medal
Service and training awards
Army Sea Duty Ribbon

Army Overseas Service Ribbon

Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon

Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon

Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon

Navy Arctic Service Ribbon

Coast Guard Sea Service Ribbon

Naval Reserve Sea Service Ribbon

Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon

Coast Guard Restricted Duty Ribbon

Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon

Coast Guard Overseas Service Ribbon

Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon

Air Force Longevity Service Award
Recruiting service ribbons

Navy Recruiting Service Ribbon

Air Force Recruiter Ribbon

Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon

Coast Guard Recruiting Service Ribbon

Training service ribbons

Air Force Military Training Instructor Ribbon

Navy Recruit Training Service Ribbon

Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon

Guard ribbons

  Navy Ceremonial Guard Ribbon

Marine Corps Security Guard Ribbon

Professional Development Ribbons

  Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon

  Air Force NCO PME Graduate Ribbon

Air Force Honor Graduate Ribbon

Coast Guard Honor Graduate Ribbon

Army Service Ribbon

Air Force Training Ribbon

Marksmanship awards [1][2][3]
Air Force Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon

Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Distinguished Marksman Device)

Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Silver Rifle EIC Device)

Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Bronze Rifle EIC Device)

Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Expert Device)

Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Expert Device)

Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon

Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon


Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Distinguished Pistol Shot Device)

Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Silver Pistol EIC Device)

Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Bronze Pistol EIC Device)

Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Expert Device)

Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Expert Device)

Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon

Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon


By military department

To denote additional achievements or multiple awards of the same decoration, the United States military maintains a number of award devices which are pinned to service ribbons and medals.

National Guard and state defense forces

Other award types


Main articles: Obsolete military awards of the United States and United States service medals of the World Wars
Ribbon/Award Name
Personal decorations
Certificate of Merit Medal
Marine Corps Brevet Medal
Army Wound Ribbon
Specially Meritorious Service Medal
Department of Transportation military awards
Transportation Distinguished Service Medal
Secretary of Transportation Outstanding Unit Award
Coast Guard Bicentennial Unit Commendation
19th and early 20th century Commemorative Medals
Sampson Medal)
Dewey Medal)
United States Antarctic Expedition Medal
19th and early 20th century Campaign Medals
Civil War Campaign Medal
Indian Campaign Medal
China Campaign Medal (Army)
China Relief Expedition Medal (Navy)
Spanish-American War campaign and occupation medals
Spanish Campaign Medal
West Indies Campaign Medal
Spanish War Service Medal
Army of Cuban Occupation Medal
Army of Cuban Pacification Medal
Army of Puerto Rican Occupation Medal
Philippine-American War campaign medals
Philippine Campaign Medal
Philippine Congressional Medal
Navy Distinguished Marksman and Pistol Shot Ribbon
Navy Distinguished Marksman Ribbon
Navy Distinguished Pistol Shot Ribbon
Ribbon/Award Name
Navy & Marine Corps expedition medals (1920s and 1930s)
Nicaraguan Campaign Medal (1912)
Dominican Campaign Medal
Haitian Campaign Medal (1917)
Nicaraguan Campaign Medal (1933)
Haitian Campaign Medal (1921)
Yangtze Service Medal
World War I and Pre-WWI service medals
Mexican Service Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
World War II and Pre-WWII service medals
China Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Women's Army Corps Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Post World War II Service medals
Medal for Humane Action
Korean Service Medal
Service and Training awards
Naval Reserve Medal
Fleet Marine Force Ribbon
Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon
Reserve Special Commendation Ribbon


The following decorations were designed for issuance with an approved medal, but were either never officially approved for presentation or were discontinued before a first award could be made.

Ribbon/Award Name
Personal decorations
  Distinguished Warfare Medal
Combat service decorations
Combat Recognition Ribbon
Ribbon/Award Name
General service decorations
Cold War Victory Medal

Single service awards

Single service awards were official military decorations created as one time awards to recognize a single event. The first such single service award was issued during the Spanish American War by the Revenue Cutter Service to honor the heroic actions of the vessel USRC Hudson during the Battle of Cárdenas. The last single service was issued in 1960 when Congress authorized the awarding of the Four Chaplains' Medal recognizing the Four Chaplains who died together during World War II.[5] There have been no single service awards issued since by the U.S. military, mainly due to the decline and complications of awarding commemorative service medals.

Ribbon/Award Name
Personal valor decorations
Four Chaplains' Medal
Personal commemorative decorations
Cardenas Medal of Honor
NC-4 Medal
Ribbon/Award Name
Exploratory commemorative decorations
  Peary Polar Expedition Medal
  Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal
  Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal

Unofficial decorations

Unofficial decorations are those military awards created and issued by local commanders. In most cases, unofficial awards were designed to commemorate a specific battle or engagement of a commander's unit. The most well known unofficial awards were issued during the American Civil War. These include the Butler and Gillmore Medals as well as two awards issued by Philip Kearny, known respectively as the Kearny Medal and Kearny Cross.

After the Civil War, stricter military regulations prohibited local commanders from issuing awards and the practice had fallen into disuse by the 20th century. Even so, the Department of Defense has stated that large numbers of unofficial medals were privately issued to members of the Armed Forces of the United States for many years after the Civil War, mostly to commemorate specific battles, events, or as private veteran memorabilia.[6]

Foreign and international

Main articles: Authorized foreign decorations of the United States military & International military decoration authorized by the US military

Foreign and international decorations are authorized for wear on United States military uniforms by the Department of Defense in accordence with established regulations for the receipt of such awards as outlined by the State Department. In the case of foreign decorations, the awards may be divided into senior service decorations (awarded only to high ranking U.S. officers), heroic decorations for valor, and foreign service decorations.

There are hundreds of foreign and international awards which have been approved for issuance to United States miltiary personnel since World War I, the following being among the more common.

Ribbon/Award Name
First World War
Legion of Honor (France)
Order of the Bath (United Kingdom)
Military Medal (France)
Croix de guerre (France)
  Croix de guerre (Belgium)
Czechoslovak War Cross (1918)
Caribbean & Central America (1920s & 30s)
  Order of Abdon Calderón (Ecuador)
Second World War (Europe)
Croix de guerre (France)
  Croix de guerre (Belgium)
Luxembourg War Cross
Czechoslovak War Cross (1945)
  Luxembourg War Cross (Unit Citation)
Second World War (Pacific)
Philippine Defense Medal
Philippine Liberation Medal
Philippine Independence Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines)
Second World War (Senior Orders)
Order of Adolphe of Nassau (Luxembourg)
Order of the Aztec Eagle (Mexico)
Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)
Order of the Crown (Belgium)
Order of Leopold (Belgium)
Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco)
Order of Pao Ting (China)
Order of Virtuti Militari (Poland)
Order of the White Eagle (Poland)
Order of the White Eagle (Yugoslavia)
Order of William (Netherlands)
Korean War
Korean War Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (Korea)
Ribbon/Award Name
Vietnam War
Vietnam Distinguished Service Order (Army)
  Vietnam Distinguished Service Order (Navy)
  Vietnam Distinguished Service Order (Air Force)
Vietnam Military Merit Medal
Vietnam Gallantry Cross (Standard)
Vietnam Gallantry Cross (Air)
Vietnam Gallantry Cross (Navy)
Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal
Vietnam Civil Actions Medal
Vietnam Staff Service Medal
Vietnam Special Service Medal
Vietnam Technical Service Medal
Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation
  Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
  Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation
Persian Gulf War
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
International Awards (20th Century)
United Nations Medal
Multinational Force and Observers Medal
Inter-American Defense Board Medal
NATO Medal (Yugoslavia)
  NATO Medal (Kosovo)
55px  NATO Medal (Macedonia)
Senior Military Awards (21st Century)
  Aeronautical Merit Cross (Peru)
Cross of Honor (Germany)
United Arab Emirates)
Order of the Crown of Thailand
  Order of the Date Palm (Iraq)
Order of May (Argentina)
Order of Merit (Germany)
Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
Order of National Security Merit (Korea)
Order of the Rising Sun (Japan)
Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil)

During the First and Second World Wars, the Croix de Guerre medals of France and Belgium, as well as the French Military Medal and Luxembourg War Cross, were further issued as unit citation cords, known as Fourragère. Service members could receive both the individual award and the unit cord; in the case of the later, the unit citation could either be worn temporarily while a member of the unit or permanently if the service member was present during the actual battle which warranted the unit citation. A further unit citation cord of the Order of William of the Netherlands was also issued during World War II, and was far more commonly known as the "Orange Lanyard".

As of 2002, the Republic of Korea has again issued the Korean Presidential Unit Citation to certain United States Marine Corps units, thus placing this previously obsolete foreign award back on the active order of precedence for U.S. decorations. Apart from this one decoration, most 21st century foreign military awards are reserved for only the most senior flag and general officers and then only presented as "end of tour" decorations upon transfer from a major command.


To display devices on World Heritage Encyclopedia pages, use Template:Ribbon devices.

For Further Reading

See also


External links

  • Institute of Heraldry website
  • U.S. Army Symbols and Insignia
  • The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army
  • U.S. Navy Service and Campaign Medals
  • PDF format)
  • Military Awards (U.S. Army) (in PDF format)
  • Search Awards & Decorations for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, & Coast Guard
  • Americal Division Veterans Association

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