Service: All Services
Instituted: 1942 (retroactive to 8 Sept 1939)
Criteria: Exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the United States
Devices: Army/Air Force: Bronze, Silver Oak Leaf Cluster; Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard: Bronze Letter “V” (for valor), Gold, Silver Star
Notes: Issued in four degrees: Legionnaire, Officer, Commander & Chief Commander to foreign nationals
Authorized by Congress on July 20, 1942 for award to members of the Armed Forces of the United States for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service. Superior performance of normal duties will not alone justify award of this decoration. It is not awarded for heroism but rather service and achievement while performing duties in a key position of responsibility.
The name and design of the Legion of Merit were strongly influenced by the French Legion of Honor. The medal is a white enameled five-armed cross with ten points, each tipped with a gold ball and bordered in red enamel. In the center of the cross, thirteen stars on a blue field are surrounded by a circle of heraldic clouds. A green enameled laurel wreath circles behind the arms of the cross. Between the wreath and the center of the medal, in between the arms of the cross are two crossed arrows pointing outward.