The Army Medal of Honor was established by Joint Resolution of Congress, July 12, 1862.


The Army Medal of Honor has been in effect since April 15, 1861.


The Medal of Honor is awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one's life, above and beyond the call of duty. This gallantry must be performed either while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or, while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

For award of the Medal of Honor there must be no margin of doubt or any possibility of error. To justify the award, a person must clearly render himself conspicuously above his comrades by an act so outstanding that it clearly distinguishes his gallantry as being beyond the call of duty. It must be the type of action which if not done would not leave him open to criticism, but must be done without detriment to his mission or to the command to which he is attached. Further, the recommendation must be submitted within three years of the act, and the medal must be awarded within five years of the act (there have, however, been exceptions to the rules governing the timing of recommendations and awarding the Medal of Honor).


The Medal of Honor is worn before all other decorations and medals. It is the highest honor that can be conferred on a member of the Armed Forces.


Additional awards of the Army Medal of Honor are denoted by oak leaf clusters.


The current Army Medal of Honor was designed by the firm of Arthus Bertrand, Beranger & Magdelaine of Paris, France based on the original design of the Medal of Honor prepared in 1862 by R.T.G. Winkler, an employee of William Wilson & Son of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and sculpted by Anthony C. Paquet of the Philadelphia Mint.


Jacob Parrot was the first recipient of the Army Medal of Honor. It was presented to him by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on March 25, 1863.



The basic medal is a gold-finished, five-pointed star (point down) one and nine-sixteenths inches in diameter, each point terminating in a trefoil. Each point of the star contains an oak leaf in green enamel in its center, and a laurel wreath finished in green enamel surrounds the center of the star and passes through its points just below the trefoils, with the space between the re-entrant angles pierced. In the center of the star is a bust of Minerva in profile to the viewer's right. She is encircled by the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and a small shield at the bottom center. The star is suspended by two links from a bar bearing the inscription VALOR and surmounted by an eagle with displayed wings grasping laurel leaves in its right talon and arrows in its left.

The star represents each State in the Union, and collectively, the United States. The oak represents strength and the laurel represents achievement. The bust of Minerva alludes to wisdom, and the shield is taken from the Great Seal of the United States and represents lawful authority. The eagle is the Federal eagle, and the arrows it clasps represent military strength while the laurel leaves represent the goal of peace.


On the reverse of the bar suspending the star, the inscription THE CONGRESS TO. The remainder of the medal is blank for engraving the recipient's name.


The ribbon is a light blue moire silk neckband one and three sixteenths inches wide and twenty four inches long, behind a square pad in the center made of the ribbon with the corners turned in. Thirteen white stars are woven into the pad.


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