In 1919 a Bill was introduced in Congress to establish a Victory Medal for military service during World War I. However, it was never reported out of Committee and was therefore never enacted into law. However, the objective of the proposed legislation was implemented by the Army in War Department General Orders Number 48 of April 9, 1919 (which was replaced by War Department General Orders Number 83 of June 30, 1919). It was implemented for the Navy by Navy Department General Orders Number 482 of July 30, 1919.
The World War I Victory Medal was awarded for qualifying service in the Armed Forces between April 6, 1917, and April 1, 1920.
The World War I Victory Medal was awarded for military service during the First World War. It was awarded for active service between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918; for service with the American Expeditionary Forces in European Russia between November 12, 1918, and August 5, 1919; or for service with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia between November 23, 1918, and April 1, 1920.
ORDER OF PRECEDENCE
For the Army, the World War I Victory Medal takes precedence after the Mexican Border Service Medal and before the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal. For the Navy, it takes precedence after the Dominican Campaign Medal and before the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal.
ARMY BATTLE CLASPS
Battle clasps are bronze bars one eighth of an inch high by one and a half inches wide. Each battle clasp contains the name of the campaign (or Defensive Sector). There is a small five-pointed star at each end of the clasp. They were awarded for specific battles or campaigns. The individual must have been present for duty under competent orders in the combat zone during the period in which the unit was engaged in combat.
The Army issued five service (country) clasps for this medal: England, France, Italy, Russia, and Siberia. These service clasps are one eighth of an inch high and one and a half inches wide, with the name of the country in which the service was performed inscribed thereon. Unlike the battle clasps, the Army's service clasps do not have the small five-pointed star at each end of the clasp. To be eligible for a service clasp, an individual must not have been eligible for a battle clasp.
The Navy issued six service (country) clasps for this medal: England, France, Italy, Russia, Siberia, and West Indies. The Navy's service clasps were awarded to personnel who served overseas but were not otherwise eligible for a battle clasp. Personnel who sailed from the United States prior to November 11, 1918 but never disembarked are eligible for the clasp denoting their overseas destination.
The Navy issued the following 18 operational or "duty" clasps.
Public Law 193 (65th Congress), approved February 4, 1919, authorized a silver star three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter to be worn on the ribbon of the Victory Medal by each Army officer or enlisted man who was cited for gallantry in action published in orders issued from the headquarters of a force commanded by a general officer. This "citation Star" was redesigned and renamed the Silver Star Medal in 1932, and upon application to the War Department any holder of a citation star could have it converted to a Silver Star Medal.
Navy Letter of Commendation Star
Navy Regulations provided that when any person was commended by the Secretary of the Navy for performance of duty during the First World War, and where that commendation did not justify an award of the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, or Distinguished Service Medal, that person would be entitled to wear a silver star on the ribbon of the Victory Medal for each such citation.
Maltese Cross (Navy)
Navy Department General Orders Number 482 of July 30, 1919, authorized a bronze Maltese cross three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter to be worn on the service ribbon of the Victory Medal by personnel attached to the American Expeditionary Forces in France any time between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918, and who were not otherwise entitled to a battle clasp.
A bronze star, three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, was authorized for wear on the service ribbon of the Victory Medal in lieu of any battle clasps (which were attached to the full medal but could not otherwise be represented on the service ribbon).
The World War I Victory Medal was designed by James Earl Fraser.
It is believed that the first World War I Victory Medal was presented to President Woodrow Wilson.
DESCRIPTION AND SYMBOLISM
In the center of a bronze medallion one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter, a full-length frontal representation of Winged Victory is shown. She holds a shield in her left hand, and in her right hand she holds a sword. The figure wears a spiked crown.
The theme of the obverse was agreed upon by all allied nations, and each country was expected to produce its own rendering of that theme. Winged Victory on the American medal is not only a modern rendering of Nike of Samothrace, it is also Columbia (who also represents America). The spiked crown on her head was suggested by the crown on the Statue of Liberty.
In the center of a bronze medallion one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter, a shield bearing the letters US (which are separated by a fasces superimposed over the center of the shield and which extends both above and below the shield). In the upper quarter of the medal, following the contour of its edge, the inscription, THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION. In the corresponding position along the outer edge of the lower portion of the medal are six stars. To the right of the shield, the names of the following countries: GREAT BRITAIN, BELGIUM, BRAZIL, PORTUGAL, RUMANIA and CHINA. To the left of the shield, FRANCE, ITALY, SERBIA, JAPAN, MONTENEGRO, RUSSIA, and GREECE.
The shield is taken from the Great Seal of the United States and represents America, as indicated by the initials on the shield. The fasces represents the lawful authority of the State and justice. The names of the other countries are the Allies who participated in the First World War.
The ribbon to the World War I Victory Medal consists of a double rainbow, with red joining in the center. The ribbon is edged with narrow stripes of white. The rainbows were selected to represent a "new era" and the calm after a storm (alluding to the First World War). It also represents the combined colors of the Allies joined together in a common cause. The two rainbows also represent the two groupings of nations, Allied and Associated, meeting the heraldic color for conflict and bravery. The use of the double rainbow also provides symmetry and balance and avoids having the ribbon confused with that of the British 1914 Star (which, although not a rainbow, is similar).
A small number of these medals (probably not more than one hundred) were numbered. The numbers have the prefix U.S.M., which presumably stands for United States Mint.