Puneet Varma (Editor)

Bronze Star Medal

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Currently awarded

Bronze Star Medal

Military medal (Decoration)

Awarded for
"Heroic or meritorious achievement or service"

Army and Air Force – "V" DeviceNavy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard – Combat "V"

Executive Order 9419, 4 February 1944 (Superseded by E.O. 11046, 24 August 1962).

First awarded
4 February 1944 (Retroactive through 7 December 1941).

The Bronze Star Medal, unofficially the Bronze Star, is a United States decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.


Whenever the medal is awarded by the Army and Air Force for acts of valor in combat, the "V" Device is authorized for wear on the medal and whenever the medal is awarded by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard for acts of valor or meritorious service in combat, the Combat "V" is authorized for wear on the medal.

Officers from the other Uniformed Services of the United States are eligible to receive this award, as are foreign soldiers who have served with or alongside a service branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Civilians serving with U.S. military forces in combat are also eligible for the award. For example, UPI reporter Joe Galloway was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" Device during the Vietnam War for rescuing a badly wounded soldier under fire in the Battle of la Drang, in 1965.

General information

The Bronze Star Medal was established by Executive Order 9419, 4 February 1944 (superseded by Executive Order 11046, 24 August 1962, as amended by Executive Order 13286, 28 February 2003). The Bronze Star Medal may be awarded by the Secretary of a military department or the Secretary of Homeland Security with regard to the Coast Guard when not operating as a service in the Navy, or by such military commanders, or other appropriate officers as the Secretary concerned may designate, to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard of the United States, after 6 December 1941, distinguishes, or has distinguished, herself or himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight—

(a) while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;(b) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or(c) 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.

The acts of heroism are of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Silver Star. The acts of merit or acts of valor must be less than that required for the Legion of Merit but must nevertheless have been meritorious and accomplished with distinction. The Bronze Star Medal is awarded only to service members in combat zones who are receiving imminent danger pay.

The Bronze Star Medal (without the "V" device) may be awarded to each member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, after 6 December 1941, was cited in orders or awarded a certificate for exemplary conduct in ground combat against an armed enemy between 7 December 1941 and 2 September 1945. For this purpose, the US Army's Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge award is considered as a citation in orders. Documents executed since 4 August 1944 in connection with recommendations for the award of decorations of higher degree than the Bronze Star Medal cannot be used as the basis for an award under this paragraph.

Effective 11 September 2001, the Meritorious Service Medal may also be bestowed in lieu of the Bronze Star Medal (without Combat "V" device) for meritorious achievement in a designated combat theater.


The Bronze Star Medal was designed by Rudolf Freund (1878–1960) of jewelry firm Bailey, Banks & Biddle. (Freund also designed the Silver Star.)

The medal is a bronze star 1 12 inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter. In the center is a 316 inch (4.8 mm) diameter superimposed bronze star, the center line of all rays of both stars coinciding. The reverse bears the inscription "HEROIC OR MERITORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT" with a space for the name of the recipient to be engraved. The star hangs from its ribbon by a rectangular metal loop with rounded corners. The suspension ribbon is 1 38 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 132 inch (0.79 mm) white 67101; 916 inch (14 mm) scarlet 67111; 132 inch (0.79 mm) white; center stripe 18 inch (3.2 mm) ultramarine blue 67118; 132 inch (0.79 mm) white; 916 inch (14 mm) scarlet; and 132 inch (0.79 mm) white.

Authorized devices

The Bronze Star Medal with the "V" device to denote heroism is the fourth highest military decoration for valor. Although a service member may be cited for heroism in combat and be awarded more than one Bronze Star authorizing the "V" device, only one "V" may be worn on each suspension and service ribbon of the medal. The following ribbon devices must be specifically authorized in the award citation in order to be worn on the Bronze Star Medal, the criteria for and wear of the devices vary between the services:

  • Oak Leaf Cluster – In the Army and Air Force, the oak leaf cluster is worn to denote additional awards.
  • 5/16 Inch Star – In the Navy and Marine Corps and Coast Guard, the 5/16 inch star is worn to denote additional awards.
  • "V" Device – In the Army, the "V" is worn solely to denote "participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy."; in the Air Force, the "V" is worn to denote heroism in combat.
  • Combat "V" – In the Navy and Marine Corps and Coast Guard, the "V" is worn to denote combat heroism or to recognize individuals who are "exposed to personal hazard during direct participation in combat operations".
  • History

    Colonel Russell P. "Red" Reeder conceived the idea of the Bronze Star Medal in 1943; he believed it would aid morale if captains of companies or of batteries could award a medal to deserving people serving under them. Reeder felt another medal was needed as a ground equivalent of the Air Medal, and suggested calling the proposed new award the "Ground Medal". The idea eventually rose through the military bureaucracy and gained supporters. General George C. Marshall, in a memorandum to President Franklin D. Roosevelt dated 3 February 1944, wrote

    The fact that the ground troops, Infantry in particular, lead miserable lives of extreme discomfort and are the ones who must close in personal combat with the enemy, makes the maintenance of their morale of great importance. The award of the Air Medal has had an adverse reaction on the ground troops, particularly the Infantry Riflemen who are now suffering the heaviest losses, air or ground, in the Army, and enduring the greatest hardships.

    The Air Medal had been adopted two years earlier to raise airmen's morale. President Roosevelt authorized the Bronze Star Medal by Executive Order 9419 dated 4 February 1944, retroactive to 7 December 1941. This authorization was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 3, dated 10 February 1944.

    President John F. Kennedy amended Executive Order 9419 per Executive Order 11046 dated 24 August 1962 to expand the authorization to include those serving with friendly forces. This allowed for awards where US service members become involved in an armed conflict where the United States was not a belligerent. At the time of the Executive Order, for example, the US was not a belligerent in Vietnam, so US advisers serving with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces would not have been eligible for the award.

    Since the award criteria state that the Bronze Star Medal may be awarded to "any person ... while serving in any capacity in or with" the US Armed Forces, awards to members of foreign armed services serving with the United States are permitted. Thus, a number of Allied soldiers received the Bronze Star Medal in World War II, as well as U.N. soldiers in the Korean War, Vietnamese and allied forces in the Vietnam War, and coalition forces in recent military operations such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom and the Iraq War. A number of Bronze Star Medals with the "V" device were awarded to veterans of the Battle of Mogadishu.

    World War II infantry award

    As a result of a study conducted in 1947, the policy was implemented that authorized the retroactive award of the Bronze Star Medal (without the "V" device) to all soldiers who had received the Combat Infantryman Badge or the Combat Medical Badge during World War II. The basis for doing this was that the badges were awarded only to soldiers who had borne the hardships which resulted in General Marshall's support of the Bronze Star Medal. Both badges required a recommendation by the commander and a citation in orders.

    U.S. Air Force criteria controversy

    In 2012, two female U.S. airmen were allegedly subjected to cyber-bullying after receiving Bronze Star Medals for meritorious non-combat service. The two airmen, who had received the medals in March 2012, had been finance NCOICs in medical units deployed to the War in Afghanistan. The awards sparked a debate as to whether or not the Air Force was awarding too many medals to its members, and whether the Bronze Star should be awarded for non-combat service. This prompted the Air Force to take down stories of the two posted to the internet, and to clarify its criteria for awarding medals. The Air Force contended that meritorious service awards of the Bronze Star outnumber valor awards, and that it views awards on a case-by-case basis to maintain the integrity of the award.

    This is not the first time that the USAF has been criticized for offering this award. The Department of Defense investigated the award of the Bronze Star Medal (BSM) by the USAF to some 246 individuals after operations in Kosovo in 1999. All but 60 were awarded to officers, and only 16 of those awarded were actually in the combat zone. At least five were awarded to officers that never left Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. During this campaign, the Navy had awarded 69 BSMs, and the Army with 5,000 troops in neighboring Albania (considered part of the combat zone) awarded none. In the end, there was a Pentagon review and decision by Congress in 2001 to stop the awarding of Bronze Stars to personnel outside the combat zone.

    Notable recipients

  • Bert A. Adams, Louisiana House of Representatives, 1956 to 1968
  • Spiro Agnew, Vice President of the United States, 1969 to 1973 and Governor of Maryland, 1967 to 1969
  • Eddie Albert, actor, U.S. Navy Lieutenant, WWII (Combat "V")
  • James Arness, actor; USA WWII
  • Tim Babcock, Governor of Montana, 1962 to 1969
  • Kristin Beck, a former United States Navy SEAL who gained public attention in 2013 when she came out as a transwoman
  • Beau Biden, 44th Attorney General of Delaware, son of Vice President Joe Biden
  • Rudy Boesch, US Navy SEAL Master Chief Petty Officer and Survivor contestant.
  • Westray Battle Boyce, second Director of the Women's Army Corps.
  • Omar Nelson Bradley, USA General of the Army, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Edward Brooke, U.S. Senator.
  • William Derwood Cann, Jr., Monroe, Louisiana mayor.
  • Edward M. Carmouche, Louisiana Democratic Party chairman and attorney in Lake Charles; World War II, 3 awards.
  • Llewellyn Chilson, USA, WWII, 2 awards (1 with "V" Device)
  • Ramon Colon-Lopez, US Air Force Chief Master Sergeant ("V" Device).
  • John Connally, Governor of Texas, Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of the Treasury.
  • Cordelia E Cook, US Army Captain, WW II, first woman to receive this military award and Purple Heart.
  • Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator.
  • Calvin L. Graham, USN, WWII, youngest recipient at age 12
  • Chuck Daigh, American racing driver.
  • Gray Davis, Governor of California (1999–2003)
  • Bob Dole, U.S. Senator, presidential nominee; USA WWII
  • Dominick Dunne, author and producer; father of murdered daughter Dominique Dunne, Griffin Dunne and Alexander Dunne.
  • Charles Durning, distinguished actor
  • Dale Dye, actor; USMC Captain, Vietnam (Combat "V")
  • Martin H. Foery, US Army General.
  • Henry Fonda, actor; USA WWII
  • Marshall Fredericks, sculptor.
  • Robert Moyers, American Orthodontist
  • Joseph L. Galloway, war correspondent and author.
  • Salvatore Giunta, US Army soldier and Medal of Honor recipient.
  • David Hackworth, US Army Colonel, 8 awards (7 with "V" Device)
  • Oren W. Haglund, Production manager of eleven ABC/Warner Brothers television series from 1955 to 1961.
  • Alexander M. Haig, US Army General, Supreme Allied Commander for NATO and Secretary of State.
  • Ernest Hemingway, war correspondent in WW II, noted author.
  • Earl Honaman, Army Chaplain during WW II, Episcopal Bishop of Central Pennsylvania
  • Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., US Navy Captain and Medal of Honor recipient.
  • William G. Hundley, prosecutor for U.S. Justice Department; criminal defense attorney for high-profile clients
  • Whitfield Jack, attorney in his native Shreveport, Louisiana; Major General of United States Army Reserve
  • Bernard Jackvony, Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island.
  • David C. Jones, USAF General, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Terry Teruo Kawamura, USA Corporal, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient.
  • John Kerry, U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State.
  • Humayun Khan
  • Ron Kovic, Author; USMC Vietnam (Combat "V"), anti-war activist.
  • Bill Koll, Olympian.
  • Chris Kyle, US Navy SEAL.
  • Frederick Lippitt, political figure and philanthropist.
  • Jessica Lynch, US Army soldier, POW in Iraq, 2003.
  • John L. Loos, American historian.
  • Sandy MacGregor, Australian Army officer who was the first to explore the Cu Chi tunnels.
  • Donald Malarkey, US Army Technical Sergeant, World War II.
  • Victor Maghakian, USMC Captain
  • John McCain, U.S. Senator and presidential nominee; USN Captain, Vietnam POW
  • Timothy McVeigh, US Army Sergeant, executed as Oklahoma City bomber.
  • Glenn Miller, jazz-musician.
  • A. Brown Moore, lawyer, businessman, politician from New Orleans
  • Arch A. Moore, Jr., Governor of West Virginia.
  • Harold G. Moore, USA Lieutenant General, 4 awards (2 with "V" Device)
  • Seth Moulton, U.S. Representative.
  • Audie Murphy, actor, USA Major (NG), WWII, MOH, 2 awards (1 with "V" Device)
  • John Murtha, U.S. Representative.
  • María Inés Ortiz, US Army Captain and first nurse killed since the Vietnam War.
  • Juan Pajota, Filipino guerilla Captain, involved in famous POW Raid at Cabanatuan during World War II.
  • Lemuel Penn Educator, US Army Lt. Colonel and Army Reserve Officer. Murdered by the Ku Klux Klan out which arose the Supreme Court case United States v. Guest.
  • Leroy Petry, US Army Master Sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient in Afghanistan; 2 awards
  • Ryan M. Pitts, US Army Staff Sergeant and Afghanistan Medal of Honor recipient.
  • Colin Powell, US Army General, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and former US Secretary of State.
  • John Rawls, American political philosopher.
  • Loretta Reynolds, USMC Brigadier General.
  • Mickey Rooney, actor.
  • Steve Russell, U.S. Representative, 2 awards (1 with "V" Device)
  • Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., US Army General, Theater commander during Operation Desert Storm.
  • Rod Serling, USA WW II, television writer and producer of The Twilight Zone.
  • William Shakespeare, football player.
  • Lloyd Shapley, 2012 Nobel laureate in economics.
  • Brandt Smith, member of the Arkansas House of Representatives since 2015
  • James Peyton Smith, member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1964 to 1972
  • Wayne Smith, member of the Texas House of Representatives from Baytown since 2003; veteran of Vietnam War.
  • W. E. "Pete" Snelson, member of both houses of the Texas State Legislature from 1961 to 1983
  • Tom Stagg, Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, two Bronze Stars in World War II
  • Oliver Stone, film director/screenwriter; USA Vietnam ("V" Device)
  • Tony Tinderholt, member of the Texas House of Representatives.
  • Lauri Törni, a captain in Finnish and German armed forces and a major in US armed forces
  • Matt Urban, USA Lieutenant Colonel, WWII, MOH, 3 awards (2 with "V" Device)
  • Dave Wallace, member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from Mississippi County, Arkansas, Army officer in the Vietnam War
  • Joseph Wapner, judge on The People's Court.
  • William Westmoreland, US Army General, Commander of Military Assistance Command Vietnam, 1964–1968.
  • Dennis Wheatley, British writer and novelist
  • Joshua Wheeler, 11 Awards
  • Douglas Wilder, 66th Governor of Virginia 1990 to 1994.
  • Richard Winters, USA Major, World War II.
  • Max Wolff, Brazilian Army Sergeant, World War II.
  • Chuck Yeager, US Air Force Brigadier General and test pilot; first pilot to break sound barrier.
  • References

    Bronze Star Medal Wikipedia