Service: Coast Guard
Criteria: Heroism not involving actual conflict with an armed enemy of the United States.
Devices: Gold Star
The Coast Guard's search and rescue mission makes it inevitable that personnel of that service will occasionally be faced with extremely hazardous situations. After World War II, to provide a parallel Coast Guard decoration to the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the Coast Guard sought legislation for an appropriate counterpart decoration.
Authority for the new decoration, know as the Coast Guard Medal, was accordingly granted by an Act of Congress on August 4, 1949 but it was not designed and struck until 1958.
The Coast Guard Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Coast Guard, distinguishes himself by heroism not involving actual com bat with the enemy. To justify the Coast Guard Medal, the individual must have performed a voluntary act of heroism in the face of great danger which also extended beyond that normally expected of the individual. For lifesaving, the individual must have displayed heroism at the risk of his life.
It was first awarded in June of 1958. The first recipients were Engineman Third Class Earl A. Leyda and Boatswain's Mate Third Class Raymond A. Johnson, both of whom received the medal for their attempted rescue of workers trapped 5,800 feet below Lake Ontario after a tunnel explosion at Oswego, New York.
The Coast Guard Medal was designed and sculpted by Thomas Hudson Jones of the Army's Institute of Heraldry and is a bronze octagon. On its obverse it bears the Coast Guard Seal enclosed within a circle of continuous cable. The reverse is plain except for the inscription, "FOR HEROISM" in raised letters. The ribbon is medium blue in the center and at the edges, with two sets of alternating white and red stripes (four white and three red). An additional award is denoted by a five-sixteenth inch diameter gold star.