The Navy Good Conduct Medal was authorized on November 21, 1884. The medal is awarded to enlisted personnel of the United States Navy and Naval Reserve (active duty) for creditable, above average professional performance, military behavior, leadership, military appearance and adaptability based on good conduct and faithful service for three-year periods of continuous active service.
Those receiving the award must have had no convictions by court martial and no nonjudicial punishment during the three year period (there was a time from November 1963 to January 1996 when the period was four years). For the first award the medal may be awarded to the next-of-kin in those cases where the individual is missing in action or dies of wounds received in combat. Naval personnel may also receive the medal if separated from the service as a result of wounds incurred in combat.
The Navy Good Conduct Medal is a circular bronze disc with a raised anchor and anchor chain circling a depiction of the U.S.S. Constitution and the words, “CONSTITUTION and UNITED STATES NAVY.” The reverse side of the medal has the raised inscription, “FIDELITY - ZEAL - OBEDIENCE” around the border with space provided in the center to stamp the recipient’s name. The medal is suspended from a plain bronze suspender and is worn after the Prisoner of War Medal and before the Naval Reserve Meritorious Service Medal. The ribbon of the Navy Good Conduct Medal is maroon. Additional awards are denoted by three-sixteenth inch diameter bronze and silver stars.
The forerunner of the Navy Good Conduct Medal was the Navy Good Conduct Badge which was established in 1868 by the Secretary of the Navy, making it our country’s second oldest award. The badge, in use from 1868 to 1884, was awarded to men holding a Continuous Service Certificate received upon the successful completion of a term of enlistment. In those early days, any seaman who qualified for three awards was promoted to petty officer.
The Good Conduct Badge was a Maltese cross with a circular medallion in the center. The medallion was bordered with a border inscribed around the edge with the words, “FIDELITY - ZEAL - OBEDIENCE and U.S.A.” in the center. The cross was suspended from a 1/2 inch wide red, white and blue ribbon.
In 1880, the Navy redesigned the Good Conduct Badge. The new medallion was proposed by Commodore Winfield Scott Schley from the design used on the letterhead of the Navy Department’s Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting. This new medallion was suspended from a 1-5/8 inch wide red ribbon with thin border stripes of white and blue.
In 1884, the medal was redesigned and in 1896, the award period was changed to three years of continuous active service. This new medal maintained the 1880 design but was suspended from a maroon ribbon by a straight bar clasp. Subsequent awards were recognized by the addition of clasps placed on the suspension ribbon between the top of the ribbon and the medallion. These clasps were bordered with rope and were engraved with the recipient’s ship or duty station. During World War I, medals were impressed with rim numbers but many were issued without engraving. In the 1930’s, the ship or duty station name on the clasps was replaced by the recipient’s enlistment discharge date. In 1942, all engraved clasps were replaced with generic clasps having, “SECOND AWARD”, “THIRD AWARD”, etc. in raised letters. Finally, subsequent to World War II, the Navy discontinued the clasps, began stamping the recipient’s information on the medal’s reverse and authorized the use of three-sixteenth bronze stars to denote additional awards.
Criteria: Outstanding performance and conduct during three years of continuous active enlisted service in the U.S. Navy
Devices: Bronze, Silver Star