The Navy Good Conduct Medal was established on April 26, 1869, by Secretary of the Navy A.E. Borie. The transitional design of the Navy Good Conduct Medal followed from the original establishment of the Good Conduct Medal by the Secretary of the Navy in 1884.


The Navy's transitional design of the Good Conduct Medal extended from 1884 to 1961.


The Good Conduct Medal was initially awarded to enlisted men of the Navy who completed a second (or subsequent) enlistment of three years under Continuous Service; obtained a general average of 4.5 on their Conduct Records, and who were recommended by their commanding officer. In time it came to be awarded for the honorable completion of a fixed term of service.


Although the exact place in the order of precedence has changed over the years, the Navy Good Conduct Medal has generally taken precedence after all decorations and before all campaign and service medals.

  • Ship Bars
Under the provisions of General Order 327 of 1884, the Navy quit issuing duplicate medals after each discharge and in their place issued a bar to be attached to the ribbon. The bar was engraved on the front with the sailor's last ship or duty station and on the back with his Continuous Service number and his date of discharge.
  • Date Bars
> In 1931 the sailor's ship or duty station was dropped from the front of the bar and replaced by the engraved year his enlistment ended.
  • Enlistment Bars
In 1942 (during the Second World War) engraved bars were replaced by die struck bars that indicated the number of the recipient's subsequent award (i.e., SECOND AWARD, THIRD AWARD, and so on).
  • Stars
In about 1950 the use of bars was discontinued in favor of bronze stars three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter to indicate subsequent awards. These stars were used on both the ribbon to the medal itself and the service ribbon worn on the duty uniform.


The transitional design of the Navy Good Conduct Medal was done by Commodore Winfield Scott Schley and was based on the Navy logo then in use on certain documents, which itself bore a striking resemblance to the reverse design of Great Britain's Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.



In the center of a bronze medallion one and a quarter inches in diameter, a sailing ship in full rigging is shown sailing to the right. Beneath the ship is the word CONSTITUTION. The ship and inscription are contained within a circle of rope tied at the base. The scene is superimposed over an anchor, with its stock appearing above and its flukes below. The anchor's chain forms a circle between the rope and the edge of the medal. Within the circles formed by the rope and chain are the words UNITED< (on the left) STATES (on the right) and NAVY (across the lower part of the anchor).

The ship is the Constitution, one of six frigates authorized by Act of Congress on March 27, 1794. Launched on October 21, 1797, the Constitution was a "ship of beauty, power, and speed ... fashioned as a national expression of growing naval interest, and a symbol auguring the dedication, courage, and achievement of the American fighting men and ships." The Constitution thus represents the American naval tradition. The cable, anchor, and chain are nautical symbols further referring to naval service.


The center of the reverse is blank for inscribing the recipient's name. The word FIDELITY appears on the inside contour on the left; the word OBEDIENCE on the right, and ZEAL at the base. These words are taken from the original Good Conduct Medal and represent the virtues recognized by the medal.
  • Second (Transitional) Ribbon
The second ribbon to the Navy Good Conduct Medal is one of the most unique features of the transitional medal. It consists of two segments of blue, white and red ribbon joined at the red edge, with the blue forming the outer edges of the ribbon. The ribbon thus consists of "two" pieces of the original ribbon, which represent the National colors.

  • Third (Current) Ribbon
The third ribbon, which came into use in about 1885, was a relatively bright shade of solid red.

  • Suspender: Second Medal
Another unique feature of the second medal (besides its ribbon) was the ring that connected the medal to the ribbon. It was a double ring of one-piece construction. The ribbon passed through the larger ring and the medal was connected to the smaller ring by a separate ring that passed through a hole drilled in the top of the medal.
  • Suspender: Third Medal
About a year after being introduced the somewhat complicated double ring suspender was replaced by a wide bar that gave the medal a neat, squared-off appearance. This suspension bar was used up until 1961, when it was replaced by the standard pin used on most other military medals.

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