Bronze Star Medal
The Bronze Star Medal (BSM, or BSV with valor device) is a United States Armed Forces individual military decoration that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service. As a medal it is awarded for merit, and with the “V” for valor device it is awarded for heroism. It is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth highest military award (including both combat and non-combat awards) in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations. Officers from the other federal uniformed services are also eligible to receive the award if they are militarized or detailed to serve with a service branch of the armed forces.
The Bronze Star Medal was established by Executive Order 9419, 4 February 1944 (superseded by Executive Order 11046, 24 August 1962, as amended by Executive Order 13286, 28 February 2003).
The Bronze Star Medal may be awarded by the Secretary of a military department or the Secretary of Homeland Security with regard to the Coast Guard when not operating as a service in the Navy, or by such military commanders, or other appropriate officers as the Secretary concerned may designate, to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard of the United States, after 6 December 1941, distinguishes, or has distinguished, himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight—
- while engaged in an 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.
The acts of heroism are of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Silver Star. The acts of merit or acts of valor must be less than that required for the Legion of Merit but must nevertheless have been meritorious and accomplished with distinction. The Bronze Star Medal is awarded only to service members in combat who are receiving imminent danger pay.
The award may be made to each member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, after 6 December 1941, was cited in orders or awarded a certificate for exemplary conduct in ground combat against an armed enemy after 7 December 1941. For this purpose, an award of the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge is considered as a citation in orders. Documents executed since 4 August 1944 in connection with recommendations for the award of decorations of higher degree than the Bronze Star Medal cannot be used as the basis for an award under this paragraph.
The award that eventually became the Bronze Star Medal was conceived by Colonel Russell P. “Red” Reeder in 1943, who believed it would aid morale if there was a medal which could be awarded by captains of companies or batteries to deserving people serving under them. Reeder felt the medal should be a ground equivalent of the Air Medal, and proposed that the new award be called the “Ground Medal”.
The idea eventually rose through the military bureaucracy and gained supporters. General George C. Marshall, in a memorandum to President Franklin D. Roosevelt dated 3 February 1944, wrote:
The fact that the ground troops, Infantry in particular, lead miserable lives of extreme discomfort and are the ones who must close in personal combat with the enemy, makes the maintenance of their morale of great importance. The award of the Air Medal has had an adverse reaction on the ground troops, particularly the Infantry Riflemen who are now suffering the heaviest losses, air or ground, in the Army, and enduring the greatest hardships.
The Air Medal had been adopted two years earlier to raise airmen’s morale. President Roosevelt authorized the Bronze Star Medal by Executive Order 9419 dated 4 February 1944, retroactive to 7 December 1941. This authorization was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 3, dated 10 February 1944.
The Executive Order was amended by President John F. Kennedy, per Executive Order 11046 dated 24 August 1962, to expand the authorization to include those serving with friendly forces. This allowed for awards where U.S. service members might be involved in an armed conflict where the United States was not a belligerent. At the time of the Executive Order, for example, the U.S. was not a belligerent in Vietnam, so U.S. advisers serving with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces would not have been eligible for the award.
Since the award criteria state that the Bronze Star Medal may be awarded to “any person…while serving in any capacity in or with” the U.S. Armed Forces, awards to members of foreign armed services serving with the United States are permitted. Thus, a number of Allied soldiers received the Bronze Star Medal in World War II, as well as U.N. soldiers in the Korean War, Vietnamese and allied forces in the Vietnam War, and coalition forces in recent military operations such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom and the Iraq War. A number of Bronze Stars with Valor Device were awarded to veterans of the Battle of Mogadishu.
The Bronze Star Medal was designed by Rudolf Freund (1878–1960) of jewelry firm Bailey, Banks & Biddle. (Freund also designed the Silver Star.)
The Bronze Star is a bronze star 11⁄2 inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter. In the center thereof is a 3⁄16 inches (4.8 mm) diameter superimposed bronze star, the center line of all rays of both stars coinciding. The reverse has the inscription “HEROIC OR MERITORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT” and a space for the name of the recipient to be engraved. The star is suspended from the ribbon by a rectangular shaped metal loop with the corners rounded. The ribbon is 13⁄8 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 1⁄32 inches (0.79 mm) white 67101; 9⁄16 inches (14 mm) scarlet 67111; 1⁄32 inches (0.79 mm) white; center stripe 1⁄8 inches (3.2 mm) ultramarine blue 67118; 1⁄32 inches (0.79 mm) white; 9⁄16 inches (14 mm) scarlet; and 1⁄32 inches (0.79 mm) white.
Additional awards of the Bronze Star Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force and 5/16 inch stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
The “V” device may be authorized for wear to all service personnel and indicates an individual award or unit award resulted from an act of combat heroism. The “V” device may also be awarded for wear to denote that a decoration was awarded (authorized) for direct participation in combat operations (Navy and Marine Corps). Only one “V” may be worn on service ribbons or suspension ribbons of medals.
The Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device is the United States military’s fourth highest award for valor.