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Air Force Medals and Ribbons


Medal of Honor


This was established by Congress on July 6, 1960, as the highest of several awards created specifically for the Air Force. It is given in the name of Congress to officers and enlisted members who distinguished themselves by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual combat with an armed enemy of the United States.

This medal (pictured below) was designed by Lewis J. King, Jr., of the Army's Institute of Heraldry. It is a gold finished five pointed star, one point down, tipped with trefoils and each point containing a crown of laurel and oak on a green enamel background. Centered on the star is an annular of thirty-four stars which surround the profile of the head from the Statue of Liberty. The star is surrounded by a green enameled laurel wreath, edged in gold. The medal is suspended from a design, taken from the Air Force coat of arms. In the center is a baton with eagle claws at both ends resting on a pair of aviator's wings emitting thunderbolts from the center. This is attached to a horizontal bar bearing the word "Valor." The neck ribbon passes through the bar, and has an octagonal pad of the traditional light blue moire ribbon with thirteen white stars. The reverse of this decoration is blank and suitable for engraving.

The first presentation of this Medal of Honor was made at the White House in Washington on Jan. 19, 1967, when the President placed it around the neck of Maj. Bernard F. Fisher, United States Air Force.

The Air Force Medal of Honor has been awarded 13 times for actions during the war in Vietnam. Four of these decorations, to Capt. Steven L. Bennett, Capt. Lance P. Sijan, Capt. Hillard A. Wilbanks, and A1C William H. Pitsenbarger were posthumously awarded. Two of the medals were awarded for extraordinary heroism while the recipient's were prisoners of war, one to Captain Sijan and the other to Col. George E. Day who was the most highly decorated officer in the Air Force.

Others who received the medal for their actions in the war in Vietnam are: Maj. Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen, Capt. James P. Fleming, Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson, Sgt. John L. Levitow, Lt. Col. Leo K. Thorsness, Capt. Gerald O. Young, and Col. William A. Jones III, who received the medal posthumously.

In addition, four other airmen received the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Korean War. Majs. George A. Davis Jr., Charles J. Loring Jr., and Louis J. Sebille, and Capt. John S. Walmsley Jr., were all awarded the medal posthumously. During World War II, 35 members of the Army Air Corps were presented the nation's top honor for their actions during air missions.

(Weighted Airman Promoted System Point Value: 15)



Graphics & Information Courtesy of United States Air Force

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