Establishing Authority: The Army Medal of Honor was established by Joint Resolution of Congress, July 12, 1862 (as amended)
Effective Date: April 15, 1861
Criteria: Awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one’s own life, above and beyond the call of duty. This gallantry must be performed either while engaged 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. Recommendation must be submitted within three years of the act and the military medal must be awarded within five years of the act.
The current Army Medal of Honor was designed by the firm of Arthus Bertrand, Beranger & Magdelaine of Paris, France and is based on the original design of the Medal of Honor created in 1862 by William Wilson & Son Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Medal of Honor is a five-pointed gold-finished star (point down) with each point ending in a trefoil. Every point of the star has a green enamel oak leaf in its center and a green enamel laurel wreath surrounds the center of the star, passing just below the trefoils. In the center of the star is a profile of the Goddess Minerva encircled by the inscription, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, with a small shield at the bottom. The star is suspended by links from a bar inscribed, “VALOR”, topped by a spread winged eagle grasping laurel leaves in its right talon and arrows in the left. The star represents each State in the United States. The oak leaf represents strength and the laurel leaf represents achievement. The head of Minerva represents wisdom with the shield from the Great Seal of the United States representing lawful authority. The laurel leaves clasped in the right claw of the Federal eagle offer peace while the arrows represent military might if the country’s offer of peace is rejected. The back of the bar holding the star is engraved, “THE CONGRESS TO.” The rest of the medal is smooth to permit engraving the recipient’s name. The ribbon is a light blue moiré patterned silk neck band one and three sixteenths inches wide and twenty four inches long, with a square pad in the center of the same ribbon. Thirteen white stars are woven into the pad.
Army Medal of Honor
(July 12, 1862 to May 1, 1896)
The first Army Medal of Honor had the same five-pointed star and flag ribbon as the Navy. The only differences were in the means of suspension. While the Navy medal was suspended by a fouled anchor, the Army’s was suspended from an American eagle with outstretched wings with a stack of eight cannon balls and a sabre in front of crossed cannon. The cannon, shot and sabre represent the artillery and cavalry with the eagle as the national symbol. The top of the ribbon was held by a shield derived from the Great Seal of the United States flanked by two cornucopia, symbolizing America as the land of plenty. The reverse of the medal was engraved with the words, THE CONGRESS TO but was otherwise blank to permit engraving the recipient’s name.
Army Medal of Honor
(May 2, 1896 to April 23, 1904)
In the years following the Civil War, many veteran’s organizations and other patriotic societies adopted membership badges and insignia which were thinly-disguised replicas of the Medal of Honor. To protect the sanctity of the Medal of Honor, Congress authorized a new ribbon for the medal in 1896 to clearly distinguish it from veterans association’s badges. The basic colors of the original ribbon were not changed, but simply altered.
Army Medal of Honor
(April 23, 1904 to Present)
Unfortunately, the Army Medal of Honor continued to be widely copied and its design criticized. On April 23, 1904 a new design was approved and was granted Patent Number 197,369. In addition to the new planchet, the redesigned award was suspended from the now familiar light blue moire ribbon symbolic of the loyalty and vigilance, containing 13 embroidered white stars representing the 13 original states. This new version of the Medal of Honor is the design that is still used to the present day. The only change that has taken place since the Army Medal of Honor’s adoption in 1904 is the suspension which was modified in 1942 from a pin on breast ribbon to a neck ribbon.Army Medal of Honor,