Harman Patil (Editor)

"V" Device

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Ribbon device

Last awarded

In use

Next (lower)
"C" Device

"V" Device "V" Device

Awarded for
to denote valor or combat service

First awarded
1945; 72 years ago (1945)

The "V" Device is a miniature 14 inch letter "V" with serifs that is authorized by the United States Armed Forces as a ribbon device for a defined set of decorations.


The Army and Air Force version is bronze and referred to as the "V" Device. The Coast Guard version is also bronze but referred to as the Valor Device. The Navy and Marine Corps version is gold and referred to as the Combat Distinguishing Device or Combat "V". The criteria for and wear of the "V" device differs among the services.

Criteria and wear

The "V" device must be specifically authorized in the award citation for wear on the decoration. Although a service member may be cited for heroism in combat and be awarded more than one decoration authorizing the device, only one "V" device may be worn on each award. The "V" device may also be authorized for the Air Medal by all the services where heroism in aerial combat was involved on an individual mission. The criteria for the device vary between the services:

  • Army – the "V" is worn solely to denote "participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy".
  • Navy and Marine Corps – the "V" is worn to denote combat heroism or to recognize individuals who are "exposed to personal hazard during direct participation in combat operations".
  • Coast Guard - after August 15, 2016, new awards of the "V" shall be worn for valor only; to denote a heroic act or acts while participating in conflict or combat with an armed enemy.
  • Air Force – the "V" is worn on the Bronze Star Medal to denote heroism in combat, on the Commendation Medal and Achievement Medal to denote heroism or being "placed in harms' way" during contingency deployment operations. Prior to January 1, 2014, the device was also authorized on Outstanding Unit Awards and Organizational Excellence Awards to indicate the unit participated in direct combat support actions.
  • Army and Air Force

    The bronze "V" is positioned to the right of any bronze or silver oak leaf clusters from the wearer's perspective, or positioned in center of the service ribbon if worn alone. The following examples depict decorations that were awarded with the "V" Device in at least one instance:

    For the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, the "V" is always worn in the center of the service ribbon, while any gold or silver 516 Inch Stars are added in balance to the right and left of the "V" starting with the right side from the wearer's perspective. The Navy and Marine Corps use an anodized gold version, while the Coast Guard uses a bronze version like the Army and Air Force. The following examples depict decorations that were awarded with the device in at least one instance:

    Decorations authorized the "V" device

    The following medals including the Joint Service Commendation Medal are authorized the "V" device if applicable:


    In 1944, the Army authorized a brass "V", for valor, as an attachment to be worn on the Bronze Star Medal. The "V" ("V" Device) was first worn by Army personnel to denote an award for valor in 1945. The Secretary of the Navy authorized the "V" (Combat "V") for the Bronze Star Medal and the Legion of Merit on February 13, 1946.

    In 1996, the "V" device garnered public attention after the suicide of Admiral Jeremy Boorda, who was the Chief of Naval Operations of the Department of the Navy. The news media reported that his death by suicide may have been caused by a Navy investigation (following a media story) into whether he was wearing this device on the service ribbons of his uniform without authorization. Admiral Boorda had been wearing a Combat "V" on two decorations he was awarded during the Vietnam War as a weapons officer and executive officer aboard two naval ships off the coast of Vietnam. Although there were indications these devices were authorized to be worn on his Navy Commendation and Achievement Medals, the Department of the Navy Board For Correction of Naval Records determined after his death that both of the devices were not authorized to be worn.

    In 2011 the Department of Defense updated regulations concerning the Medal of Honor, specifying that the "V" device (instead of the oak leaf cluster and 5/16 inch star) would be used to denote additional citations in the rare event of a soldier being awarded a second MoH. In May 2015 the DoD changed the updated regulations concerning the MoH to specify that "A separate MOH is presented to an individual for each succeeding act that justifies award." There has not been a living repeat Medal of Honor recipient since the World War I era.


    "V" Device Wikipedia