Instituted on 17 February 1969.
Criteria: Awarded to members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard for combat action surface, it is a personal military decoration. Qualifying personnel must have been in a ground or surface combat fire-fight, or action during which they were under enemy fire, and that their performance under fire must have been satisfactory.
Awarded to personnel in the grade of captain/colonel and junior thereto, who have actively participated in ground or surface combat. Upon submission of evidence to their commanding officer, personnel who earned the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge while a member of the U.S. Army may be authorized to wear this award on their Navy/Coast Guard uniform. USMC personnel cannot receive this authorization.
Initially, it was for service in combat from March 1, 1961. On October 5, 1999, it was made retroactive to December 7, 1941.
Gold and silver star attachments are applied to the ribbon to denote additional awards.