The Gold Lifesaving Medal was established by Act of Congress (General Nature, Number 71, Section 7), approved June 20, 1874.


The Gold Lifesaving Medal has been in effect from June 20, 1874 to the present.


The Gold Lifesaving Medal is awarded by the Commandant of the Coast Guard to any person who rescues, or endeavors to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other peril of the water. To merit award of the Gold Lifesaving Medal, the rescue must be made at the risk to one's own life and show extreme heroic daring. The rescue or attempted rescue must either take place in waters within the United States or subject to its jurisdiction, or one of the parties must be a citizen of the United States or be from a vessel or aircraft owned or operated by citizens of the United States.

  • For Coast Guard members, the Gold Lifesaving Medal is worn after the Coast Guard Medal and before the Bronze Star Medal.

  • For members of the Army, the Gold Lifesaving Medal is worn after the Superior Unit Award and before the Good Conduct Medal.

  • For members of the Navy, the Gold Lifesaving Medal is worn after the Navy "E" Ribbon and before the Prisoner of War Medal.

  • For members of the Air Force, the Gold Lifesaving Medal is worn after the Prisoner of War Medal and before the Combat Readiness Medal

Additional awards of the Gold Lifesaving Medal are denoted by a decorative gold bar inscribed with the recipient's name.


The Gold Lifesaving Medal was designed by Hermann Faber and sculpted by Anthony C. Paquet.


The first recipients of the Gold Lifesaving Medal were three brothers who received their medals on June 19, 1876 for their rescue of two members of the crew of the shipwrecked schooner Consuelo near Kelley' Island (Lake Erie) on May 1, 1875.
  • Hubbard M. Clemons
  • Lucian M. Clemons
  • A.J. Clemons


In the center of a gold medal one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter, three men are depicted in a boat in a heavy sea. One of the men is rowing the boat while another is standing, preparing to throw a line. The third figure is reaching out to help a fourth figure, a mariner in distress, who is clinging to a spar. In the distance to the left is the wreck of a ship. The entire scene is contained within a raised border. In the upper third of this border, and following the contour of the medal, are the words, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in raised letters; and in the bottom third, the words ACT OF CONGRESS AUGUST 4, 1949. The scene is a symbolic representation of a courageous rescue at sea, which represents the purpose of this medal.


In the center of the reverse is an ornate monument. An American eagle with displayed wings is perched atop the monument, and to its left is the figure of a woman holding an oak wreath in her left hand, and with her right hand she is preparing to inscribe the name of the recipient on the monument. To the right of the monument a mast, a yard with a sail, an anchor, a sextant, and a spray of laurel are grouped together. The monument and figures are contained within a raised border which bears the inscription in raised letters, IN TESTAMENT OF HEROIC DEEDS IN SAVING LIFE FROM THE PERILS OF THE SEA. At the bottom of the medal, separating the beginning and ending of the inscription, is a stylized laurel wreath.


The ribbon has a broad center stripe of gold separated from red edge stripes by narrow pinstripes of white.


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