(Navy and Marine Corps)


The Sampson Medal was established by Act of Congress (Joint Resolution Number 18, 56th Congress) on March 3, 1901.


The Sampson Medal commemorates a series of naval engagements in the waters of the West Indies during the Spanish-American War. It was awarded to Navy and Marine Corps personnel by the Secretary of the Navy for military service of unusual merit in the waters of the West Indies and on the shores of Cuba between April 27 and August 14, 1898.


The Sampson Medal took precedence after the Dewey Medal and before the Peary Polar Expedition Medal (1908).

  • Ship's Bars
Each Sampson Medal was fitted with a bar that identified the ship to which the recipient was attached at the time he qualified for the medal.
  • Engagement Bars
Each recipient was authorized a Sampson Medal based on his participation in a specific engagement; if a person participated in additional engagements he was authorized separate engagement bars for those actions. These bars have the name of the engagement in raised letters on the front and the dates stamped into the reverse.


The obverse of the Sampson Medal was designed by Charles E. Barber and the reverse was designed by George T. Morgan


The first recipient of the Sampson Medal was Admiral William T. Sampson.



In the center of a bronze medallion one and a half inches in diameter, the profile of Admiral William T. Sampson, is shown facing to the left. In front of the admiral's face is the inscription WILLIAM T. SAMPSON, and in the corresponding position behind his bust, COMMANDER IN CHIEF. Following the contour of the upper half of the medal are the words, U.S. NAVAL CAMPAIGN WEST INDIES 1898.

Admiral Sampson was selected for the obverse of this medal because he was in command of the operations commemorated.


In the center of a bronze medallion one and a half inches in diameter, three men are depicted on the deck of a ship in naval combat. Beneath the three men there is a tablet with the place and date of the engagement for which the basic medal was issued. Behind and to the side of the tablet are crowns of laurel. The three men are a sailor, a marine, and an officer each performing his respective combat role and collectively symbolic of all the men who participated in the engagements commemorated by the medal. The laurel represents victory.


The ribbon to the Sampson Medal consists of a field of red bisected by a stripe of blue. The blue represents the Navy and the red represents the Marine Corps.


The Sampson Medal was impressed on the rim with the recipient's name and rating. In the case of officers, the person's rank came before the name; in the case of enlisted personnel, the name was followed by the recipient's rate.

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