Read the latest entry in the Medal of Honor Blog: Six Medal of Honor Recipients who Saved Lives Between the Lines

Click here to read.

 

 

Army Medal of Honor

Presently, there are three variations of the Medal of Honor. Steeped with symbolism, the Medal has become a historic symbol of our nation’s bravest. Out of respect for those who have earned it, its appearance has remained largely unaltered in over 150 years.

United States of America

The words “United States of America” surround the central engraving.

Eagle

The eagle perched at the top of the medal is a traditional symbol of the United States.

Minerva

A simple profile of Minerva, the Helmeted Goddess of Wisdom and War, rests in the center of the medal.

Oak Clusters

Dark green oak clusters located in each of the star’s five points represent strength.

Laurel Wreath

The wreath of laurel leaves, a symbol of victory, was added in 1904.

Ribbon

A light blue ribbon, a color of valor, is embroidered with 13 stars for the 13 original colonies.

Air Force Medal of Honor

Presently, there are three variations of the Medal of Honor. Steeped with symbolism, the Medal has become a historic symbol of our nation’s bravest. Out of respect for those who have earned it, its appearance has remained largely unaltered in over 150 years.

34 Stars

The 34 stars encircling the insignia are equal to the number of stars on the U.S. Flag in 1862. Each star represents a state, from both Union and Confederate states.

Coat of Arms

The lightning bolts at the top of the Medal are borrowed from the Air Force Coat of Arms.

Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is centered in the Air Force design. In addition to standing for Liberty, she is derived from the imagery of Queen Semiramis of Babylon who was famed for her beauty, strength and wisdom.

Oak Clusters

Dark green oak clusters located in each of the star’s five points represent strength.

Laurel Wreath

The wreath of laurel leaves, a symbol of victory, was carried over from the Army’s Medal of Honor design.

Ribbon

A light blue ribbon, a color of valor, is embroidered with 13 stars for the 13 original colonies.

Navy, Marine Corps & Coast Guard Medal of Honor

Presently, there are three variations of the Medal of Honor. Steeped with symbolism, the Medal has become a historic symbol of our nation’s bravest. Out of respect for those who have earned it, its appearance has remained largely unaltered in over 150 years.

Laurel & Oak Leaves

Clusters of laurel and oak leaves located on each of the star’s five points represent victory and strength.

34 Stars

The 34 stars encircling the insignia are equal to the number of stars on the U.S. Flag in 1862. Each star represents a state, from both Union and Confederate states.

Minerva

The Roman Goddess of Wisdom and War, Minerva is depicted warding off a man clutching snakes in his hand, meant to represent discord. The shield in Minerva’s right hand is representative of the Union of our States, while the bundle of rods and axe blade in her left is symbolic of authority. The owl perched on her helmet is a symbol of wisdom.

Ribbon

A light blue ribbon, a color of valor, is embroidered with 13 stars for the 13 original colonies.

Designs of the Medal of Honor

Since its creation during the American Civil War, the Medal of Honor has undergone several design changes. The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy have always had separate designs for their personnel. Until the U.S. Air Force introduced its design in 1965, all airmen received the Army design. The U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard receive the U.S. Navy design.

In 1919, the Navy experimented with a second Navy design, known as the “Tiffany Cross,” to be bestowed on Naval personnel whose actions took place during armed conflict. Individuals whose actions did not take place during combat received the original star design. This two-design system created confusion and the Tiffany Cross design was not widely issued.

Below are images illustrating the evolution of Medal of Honor designs from the beginning. The original designs were worn on the lapel of a recipient. Today the Medal of Honor is the only U.S. Military medal that hangs around the neck.

Hands holding medals

ALL MEDAL DESIGNS

1862

Army

Army Medal, 1862

1896

Army

Army Medal, 1896

1904 "Gillespie"

Army

Army Medal, 1904 "Gillespie"

Current

Army

Army Medal, Current

1862

Navy

Navy Medal, 1862

1913

Navy

Navy Medal, 1913

1919 "Tiffany Cross"

Navy

Navy Medal, 1919 "Tiffany Cross"

Current

Navy

Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Medal, Current

Current

Air Force

Air Force Medal, Current

View the Recipients

3508 Total Number
of Medals

History & Timeline

View History & Timeline
19 Double
Recipients

Statistics & FAQs

View Statistics & FAQs

The Medal of Honor

Awarding The Medal

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual in the Armed Services of the United States. It is generally presented to its Recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.

Read More