Vietnam Medals (1961-1973) – Military Medals History

The first American advisors in the Republic of South Vietnam were awarded the new Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal which was created in 1961 to cover campaigns for which no specific military medal was instituted. However, as the U.S. involvement in the Vietnamese conflict grew, a unique award, the Vietnam Service Medal was authorized, thus giving previous recipients of the Expeditionary Medal the option of which medal to accept. The Government also authorized the acceptance of the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal by all who served for six months in-country, or in the surrounding waters or the air after 1960. Towards the end of the war a blanket general order authorized the RVN Gallantry Cross Unit Citation for all those who served in Vietnam.

The most notable change in medal policy occurred during the Vietnam War when the Department of Defense authorized the large scale acceptance of South Vietnamese awards. The South Vietnamese Armed Forces had a comprehensive awards system built to reflect their past as a former French colony. Since a large number of American military advisors and special forces worked with the South Vietnamese Armed Forces for over 15 years, (many serving multiple tours) numerous medals for valor and service were presented to U.S. personnel. Some of the most awarded were the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (for valor), the Civil Actions Medal and the Armed Forces Honor Medal (meritorious service). The last two medals are unusual since they were in two different degrees; first class for officers and second class for enlisted personnel. All foreign medals awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces were either furnished by the foreign government or purchased by the recipient since the United States government does not provide foreign medals to members of the Armed Forces.

After Vietnam, many new decorations, medals and ribbons came into being as the Department of Defense and the individual Services developed a complete structure to reward performance from the newest enlistee to the most senior Joint Staff officer. Some of the awards, such as the Army Service Ribbon and the Air Force Training Ribbon have no medal but reward the young recruits for successfully completing their transition from civilian to a ready member of the Armed Forces. Achievement and Commendation Medals provide a powerful means for a field commander to recognize younger individuals for outstanding performance.

Medals of America has been supplying our great Veterans with Military Medals since 1976. We also have a complete line of Military Ribbons, Military Hat Pins, Military Rank and Vietnam Vets Clothing.  Be sure to visit today!