(Index Page)

Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal

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For many years the individual components of the Armed Forces were separate and distinct entities. They had their own unique command structure, uniforms, and traditions. When the military consisted of the Navy and War Departments, the division of responsibility between the two was clear and unambiguous: the Navy prosecuted war on the seas, and the War Department fought wars on land. Although the Marine Corps bridged the gap between the two, it was historically a small service and was far more closely allied with the Navy than with the Army.

The first wearable military decoration was the Medal of Honor. The Navy Medal of Honor was established before the Army Medal of Honor, and even though the Army and Navy Medals of Honor were given for fairly comparable acts, the medals themselves were similar but different in design. The next decoration was established by the Army and was known as the Certificate of Merit medal, for which there was no Navy counterpart. During the First World War the Army established the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal, and about two years later the Navy followed suit with the Navy Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

The first decoration of a common design that could be awarded independently to members of both services was the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was created in 1926. Interestingly, it was not initiated by either the Army or Navy, but was the product of legislation recommended by a civilian board. It was not until the Second World War that it became necessary to integrate military decorations among the Armed Forces.

During the Second World War the trend was to establish decorations of the same name and design for use by all of the Services. These decorations included the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Air Medal. Even though the criteria for awarding these "common" decorations varied somewhat by branch of Service, the name and design of the medals themselves were the same. Following the Second World War this trend was reversed with the development of the Commendation and Achievement Medals, and most recently with the establishment by the Air Force of its Aerial Achievement Medal. The only decoration common to all Services established since World War II is the Meritorious Service Medal. However, beginning in 1963 (with the creation of the Joint Service Commendation Medal), a whole new family of military deocrations was established for individuals assigned to joint activities (they are refered to as DoD Decorations to distinguish them from Service component decorations).

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