Defense
Distinguished
Service Medal
Display Recognition

Site Index

      • Example Display Recognition
      • Applicable Military Branches
      • Display Types
      • Issue Requirements
      • Issue Regulations
      • Who May Apply
      • Executive Order 11545
      • Administration Processing and Delivery
      • How To Apply For This Display Recognition and/or Medal
      • Mailing Address
      • Questions?
      • Other Display Recognitions
      • Example Display Recognition:
        Actual Size: 8 1/2 x 11
        Displayed: Air Force.
        All Five Service Branches, Army, Coast Guard,
        Marine and Navy are Applicable.



        Military Branches

        All Military Service branches are applicable:
        Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy

        Who May Apply

        • Veteran recipients
        • Active Duty recipients
        • Family Members of recipients
        • Estate Inheritors

        Display Types

        You have four display types to choose from:
        Black & White (No Color)
        Heavy Bond Enclosure

        Heavy Bond Enclosure
        Colors: Regal, Black, Navy
        Trimmed in Appearance Gold

        Ready for Mantle or Shelf Display

        Issue Requirements
        You must submit the following:

      • An unaltered photocopy of your DD-214 other military issued document clearly displaying your award of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
      • Contact The War Library if you do not have a DD-214: 1-562-422-4100.
      • NOTICE

        This Display Recognition is available ONLY to authorized recipients who possess orders, or authorization form, or release documentation that confirms award eligibility. (See "Issue Requirements"). To obtain either a Display Medal or a Display Recognition for your authorized award you will be required to provide military-issued documentation authorizing your award. There are no exceptions.

        WARNING!
        You must NOT submit a military issued document or photocopy that:

        • has been altered in any way by you after
          the original's official issue
        • contains information or corrections or
          additions that you entered
        • lists awards or training you knowingly did not receive
        • contains highlighting, colorizing or other markings you entered

        Be advised that on request any knowingly fraudulent document sent by you will be released to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that may result in prosecution and/or fine/imprisonment.

        Email Questions, or Phone / Fax: 1-562-422-4100

        Personnel Branch
        Processing and Delivery

        Style Admin Shipping Total
        Full Color .PDF (Printable) $7.50 Emailed $7.50
        Published Document only (Full Color) $14.00 $8.35 $22.35
        Published Document in Heavy Bond Enclosure (Full Color) $19.00 $8.35 $27.35
        Full Color Printable Certificates
        on CD-Rom (minimum 20 Certificates)
        $7.50 $7.50 By Count

      • *** USPS Shipping fee based on 1-3 Certificates shipped to any U.S. state, FPO or APO
      • ** USPS Shipping fee based on 1-10 Certificates shipped to any U.S. state, FPO or APO
      • Contact The War Library for international shipping cost
      • How to Apply

        You may apply for your Display Recognition using a...

      • Check Debit card (* Shipped within 1 week)
      • Charge card (* Shipped within 1 week)
      • Personal, Business, Bank or Cashiers Check ( Shipped in 6 weeks)
      • Money Order (* Shipped within 1 week)
      • (* Upon reception of required documentation)

        Complete and MAIL this APPLICATION FORM.
        Don't forget to include an unaltered COPY of your DD-214, WD AGO 53-55 or other pre-arranged document(s).

        DISPLAY RECOGNITION and/or MEDAL APPLICATION FORM

        Mailing Address

        Records Chief (REC-AMW)
        The American War Library
        817 East Via Carmelitos Ste 319
        Long Beach CA 90805-7549

        Questions?

        Click here for answers to common questions

        Email: Defense Distinguished Service Medal Display Recognition Inquiry

        Telephone: 1-562-422-4100

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        Issue Regulations


        Defense Distinguished Service Medal


        Click for larger image

        Description. Obverse: A gold color metal and enamel pendant 1 7/8 inches (4.76cm) in height overall consisting of a medium blue pentagon point up superimposed by a gold eagle with outspread wings charged on its breast with the shield of the United States and grasping in its talons three crossed arrows (as depicted on the seal of the Department of Defense) all gold, the wings projecting over and surmounting a gold arc encircling the top and sides of the pentagon and bearing nine conjoined gold stars above the wings, and two on each side below the wings, terminating in a gold wreath encircling the base composed of a laurel branch on the left and an olive branch on the right, the wreath surmounted by the extended ends of the arrows in base; at the top of the pendant a group of five graduated gold rays extending above the stars.

        Reverse: On an arc at the top the inscription "For Distinguished Service" above the pentagon which bears the inscription "From The Secretary of Defense To", all in gold.

        Symbolism: The pentagon refers to the five armed services, the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard (in time of war) and Air Force. It also alludes to the headquarters of the Department of Defense. The configuration of the eagle bearing the shield of the United States and grasping three arrows upon a medium blue background together with an arc of thirteen stars and wreath of laurel and olive refers to the seal of the Department of Defense and indicates the award of the medal in the name of the Secretary of Defense. The conjoined stars and gold rays signify unity and excellence in the performance of the mission of the Department of Defense on behalf of the Nation.

        Ribbon: A ribbon 1 3/8 inches (3.49cm) in width composed of the following vertical stripes: Bluebird 3/8 inch (.95cm), Golden Yellow 1/4 inch (.64cm), Scarlet 1/8 inch (.32cm), Golden Yellow 1/4 inch (.64cm), Bluebird 3/8 (.95cm) inch.

        Symbolism: Bluebird is the color associated with the Department Defense. Yellow signifies excellence and the knowledge and guidance provided by great achievement. Red connotes zeal and courageous action.

        Background: a. Authorized by E.O. July 9, 1970.

        b. The Defense Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM) shall only be awarded to officers of the Armed Forces of the United States whose exceptional performance of duty and contributions to national security or defense have been at the highest levels. Such officers have direct and ultimate responsibility for a major activity or program that significantly influences the policies of the U.S. Government. Only under the most unusual circumstances will the DDSM be awarded as an impact award for outstanding TDY achievement. The DDSM is specifically intended to recognize exceptionally distinguished service and to honor an individual's accomplishments over a sustained period.

        (1) Normally, such broad responsibilities shall be held by only the most senior officers whose duties bring them into direct and frequent contact with the Secretary of Defense and the other senior officials within the Government. Examples of such positions are the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chiefs and the Vice Chiefs of the Military Services, including the Commandant and the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; and the CINCs and the Deputy CINCs of the Unified Combatant Commands.

        (2) The DDSM also may be awarded to other senior officers who serve in positions of great responsibility, or to an officer whose direct and individual contributions to national security or defense are recognized as being so exceptional in scope and value as to be equivalent to contributions normally associated with positions encompassing broader responsibilities.

        c. The DDSM, as the highest Defense decoration, may only be awarded by the Secretary of Defense. Under no circumstances may the awarding authority be delegated.

        d. The DDSM shall be placed in precedence after the MOH and the Distinguished Service Crosses of the Armed Forces, but before the Distinguished Service Medals of the Armed Forces.

        e. All recommendations for award of the DDSM to the members of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Unified Combatant Command Headquarters or activities reporting to or through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shall be processed through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for recommendation. The recommendations shall not be boarded at the Joint Staff level. The Director, Joint Staff, for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shall forward his recommendations to the Chief, Military Personnel Division, Personnel and Security Directorate, WHS, for boarding and processing. Recommendations should be submitted to arrive at the Joint Staff no later than 90 days before the desired presentation date.

        f. All other recommendations for award of the DDSM shall be submitted to the Chief, Military Personnel Division, Personnel and Security Directorate, Washington Headquarters Services (WHS), for boarding and processing. Recommendations should be submitted to the WHS no later than 90 days before the desired presentation date.

        Establishing Authority The Defense Distinguished Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11545 signed by President Richard M. Nixon on July 9, 1970. Effective Dates The Defense Distinguished Service Medal has been in effect since July 9, 1970.

        Criteria

        The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is awarded by the Secretary of Defense to any military service officer for performing exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a specified or unified command, a Defense agency, or such other joint activity as may be designated by the Secretary of Defense. Order of Precedence The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is worn after the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross (depending on the Service Branch of the recipient), and before the distinguished service medals of the separate services. Devices Additional awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters, except in the case of the Coast Guard. Until 1998, subsequent awards to Coast Guard personnel were denoted by gold stars five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. In 1998 the Coast Guard authorized the wear of oak leaf clusters to denote subsequent awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; however, gold stars previously earned will still be worn. Designer and Sculptor The Defense Distinguished Service Medal was designed by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by Lewis J. King, Jr., both of the Army's Institute of Heraldry. First Recipient The first recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal was General Earle G. Wheeler, who received it upon his retirement as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 9, 1970. Description and Symbolism Obverse The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is gold in color and one and seven-eighths inches in overall height. It features a medium-blue enameled pentagon (point up) superimposed by a gold eagle with outspread wings. The eagle's breast is charged with the shield of the United States, and the eagle is shown grasping three crossed arrows in its talons. The pentagon and eagle are enclosed within a gold, pierced circle consisting in the upper half of thirteen stars and in the lower half of a wreath of laurel (on the left) and olive (on the right). At the top of the medal is a suspender composed of five graduated gold rays which extend above the stars. The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is rich in symbolism: the eagle grasping the arrows is taken from the seal of the Secretary of Defense and is the American bald eagle, symbolic of the Nation. The pentagon in the background alludes to the five branches of the Armed Forces (the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard). It also alludes to the headquarters of the Department of Defense, which is housed in the Pentagon. The configuration of the eagle bearing the shield of the United States and grasping three arrows upon a medium of blue background together with an arc of thirteen stars and wreath of laurel and olive refers to the seal of the Department of Defense and indicates the award of the medal in the name of the Secretary of Defense. Additionally, the conjoined stars and gold rays signify unity and excellence in the performance of the mission of the Department of Defense on behalf of the United States. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen colonies, and through them, all of the states. The olive branch represents the goal of defense (peace) while the laurel branch represents achievement. Reverse On the reverse of the pentagon in the center of the medal is the inscription FROM / THE SECRETARY / OF DEFENSE / TO, with space beneath for inscribing the recipient's name. On the reverse of the ring bearing the stars (and above the pentagon) is the inscription FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE. Ribbon

        The ribbon is composed of a central stripe of red flanked on either side by stripes of gold and blue. The red represents zeal and courageous action; the gold represents excellence and the knowledge and guidance provided through senior leadership; and the medium blue represents the Department of Defense.

        Executive Order 11545
        Establishing the Defense Distinguished Serivce Medal

        DATE: 07-09-70

        32 -- National Defense Subchapter B -- Military And Civilian Personnel

        Establishing the Defense Distinguished Service Medal

        By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, it is ordered as follows:

        Section 1. There is hereby established a Defense Distinguished Service Medal, with accompanying ribbons and appurtenances, for award by the Secretary of Defense to a military officer who performed exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a specified or unified command, a Defense agency, or such other joint activity as may be designated by the Secretary of Defense.

        Sec. 2. The Defense Distinguished Service Medal and appurtenances thereto shall be of appropriate design approved by the Secretary of Defense and shall be awarded under such regulations as he shall prescribe. These regulations shall place the Defense Distinguished Service Medal in an order of precedence after the Medals of Honor and the Distinguished Service Crosses of the Armed Forces and before the Distinguished Service Medals of the Armed Forces.

        Sec. 3. No more than one Defense Distinguished Service Medal shall be awarded to any one person, but for each succeeding exceptionally meritorious period of service justifying such an award, a suitable device may be awarded to be worn with that Medal as prescribed by appropriate regulations of the Department of Defense.

        Sec. 4. The Defense Distinguished Service Medal or device may be awarded posthumously and, when so awarded, may be presented to such representative of the deceased as may be deemed appropriate by the Secretary of Defense.

        The provisions of Executive Order 11545 of July 9, 1970, appear at 35 FR 11161, 3 CFR, 1966 - 1970 Comp., p. 946, unless otherwise noted.

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