Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
Dates: 1919 to Present (retroactive to 1874)
Criteria: Landings on foreign territory and operations against armed opposition for which no specific campaign medal has been authorized
Devices: Silver Letter “W”, Bronze, Silver Star
Notes: Originally a “ribbon only” award
Bars: “Wake Island”
For opposed landing on a foreign territory or operations deserving special recognition. The Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal is worn after the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal and before the China Service Medal.
The Marine Corps Expeditionary Ribbon was authorized by Marine Corps General Order on May 8, 1919. The medal pendant was added on July 28, 1921 by Executive Order 3524. The medal is awarded to members of the Marine Corps who have engaged in operations against armed opposition in foreign territory, or have served in situations warranting special recognition where no other campaign medal was awarded. To date, more than sixty operations have qualified for the award, the first (retroactively) being operations by Navy and Marine Corps personnel in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1874 and the latest being operations involving the attack on the USS Cole between 2000 and 2002. The Navy had actually planned to discontinue the medal after World War II (it was awarded only three times in twenty years) in favor of the Navy Expeditionary Medal but the concept was never implemented.
The medal was designed by Walter Hancock. The medal is a circular bronze disc showing a Marine charging from the sea (depicted by wave scrolls at his feet). The Marine is in a uniform of the post World War I period with a full pack and fixed bayonet. Above, in a semicircle, is a raised inscription, “EXPEDITIONS.” The reverse of the medal shows an American eagle perched on an anchor and laurel branches. On either side of the eagle are the words, “FOR SERVICE.” Above, in a semicircle is a raised inscription, “UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS.” The ribbon is cardinal red and gold, the official colors of the Corps. The ribbon has a wide red center stripe flanked by gold (sometimes mistaken for khaki) with narrow red edges. Additional awards are denoted by three-sixteenth inch diameter bronze stars. For those who served in the defense of Wake Island in December, 1941, a one-quarter inch silver “W” is worn on the ribbon bar and a bronze clasp bearing the inscription, “WAKE ISLAND” is affixed to the suspension ribbon of the medal.