Establishing Authority: The Navy Medal of Honor arose from a Public Resolution signed into law by President Lincoln on December 21, 1861 authorizing the preparation of “200 medals of honor” to promote the efficiency of the Navy. It was followed by a Joint Resolution of Congress on July 12, 1862 (as amended) which actually approved the design and further defined the eligibility and required deeds of potential recipients.
Criteria: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one’s own life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual conflict with an opposing armed force. The Navy Medal of Honor is a five pointed star with a standing figure of the Goddess Minerva surrounded by a circle of stars representing the number of States in the Union at the outbreak of the Civil War. Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Strength and Wisdom, holds a shield taken from the Great Seal of the United States, and in her left hand she holds a fasces, representing the lawful authority of the state with which she is warding off a crouching figure representing Discord. The military medal is suspended from an anchor and the reverse is plain for engraving the recipient’s name. The ribbon is light blue and has a light blue eight-sided central pad with thirteen white stars.
Navy Medal of Honor
December 21, 1861 to August 11, 1913
Since its inception, the Navy Medal of Honor has been revised three times. The original version was quite similar to its Army counterpart with a planchet virtually identical to that used on the present Navy Medal of Honor. The same suspension ribbon (“Flag design”) as the Army, a solid dark blue field on its top half and thirteen alternating vertical stripes of red and white on the bottom was also fitted. The major differences lay in the hangers used for ribbon suspension. Where the Army used an eagle as its hanger (the transition between the ribbon and the medal), the Navy employed a gold rectangular frame on which was superimposed a gold star, both pieces supporting a gold anchor.
August 12, 1913 to April 5, 1917
The first modification to the Medal of Honor by the Navy was authorized on August 12, 1913 as part of a general update to their uniform regulations. In a change which was mostly cosmetic, the original ribbon was discarded in favor of the same light blue ribbon with white stars that was used on the Army medal since 1904. Along with a few minor changes to the planchet, the regulations now stated that the medal was to be worn from a cravat-style neck ribbon.
April 6, 1917 to August 6, 1942
In 1919, a new Medal of Honor version, retroactive to the start of World War I, came into use and remained until 1942 when the current Navy Medal of Honor was reinstituted. This version was often referred to as the “Tiffany Cross,” since the firm of Tiffany & Co. were the designers of the new award. The medal was a gold cross patee on a wreath of oak and laurel leaves. In the center of the cross was an octagon with the inscription, “UNITED STATES NAVY 1917-1918”. Inside the octagon was an eagle design of the United States Seal and an anchor appeared on each arm of the cross. The reverse of the medal had the raised inscription, “AWARDED TO” and space for the recipient’s name. The medal was suspended from a light blue ribbon with thirteen white stars. The ribbon was suspended from a rectangular gold pin bar inscribed with the word, “VALOUR”.
August 7, 1942 to Present
In 1942, Congress readopted the original, Civil War-style five-pointed star, adding a neckband of light blue and eight-sided pad charged with 13 white stars. Although some minor modifications have been made to the neck ribbon/pad in the interim, the award as adopted in 1942 is basically identical to the Medal of Honor design used by the Navy and Marine Corps today.
Many Americans today are confused with the term “Congressional Medal of Honor,” when, in fact, the proper term is “Medal of Honor.” A law passed in July 1918 authorized the President to present the medal in the name of Congress. Part of this confusion stems from the fact that all MOH recipients belong to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society chartered by Congress.
An act of Congress in July 1963 clarified and amended the criteria for awarding the Medal of Honor to prevent award of the medal for deeds done “in line of profession,” but not necessarily in actual conflict with an enemy. This act of Congress made the clarification by stating that the award was “for service in military operations involving conflict with an opposing force or for such service with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict.”
Medals of America also offers a selection of military medals, patches and military ribbons as well as custom embroidered military shirts, jackets, and vests.