Republic of Vietnam
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The Vietnam Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11231 signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 8, 1965.
The Vietnam Service Medal was awarded for qualifying service between 01 July 1958 and 28 March 1973, and for service during Operation Frequent Wind in 1975. (Certain personnel who served in Vietnam between 28 March 1973 and 30 April 1975 are also authorized the VSM.)
The Vietnam Service Medal was awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who served at any time between 01 July 1958 and 28 March 1973 in Vietnam or its contiguous waters or airspace; or, for any period of service during the same time period in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia or the air spaces thereover and in direct support of operations in Vietnam.
Order of Precedence
The Vietnam Service Medal is worn after the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and before the Southwest Asia Service Medal.
A. Bronze stars
Bronze stars are authorized for participation in the the 29 campaigns specified for the Vietnam War. A silver star is worn in lieu of five bronze stars. See Campaigns and Dates
B. Bronze Arrowhead
The bronze arrowhead is authorized for members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade who actually participated in a landing in the vicinity of Katum, RVN, between the hours of 0900-0907 on February 22, 1967.
The Vietnam Service Medal was designed by Mercedes Lee and sculpted by Frank King.
The identity of the first recipient of the Vietnam Service Medal is not known.
Description and Symbolism
In the center of a bronze medallion one and a quarter inches in diameter, an Asian dragon in profile is shown partially hidden by a grove of bamboo trees. In the exergue, the words REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM SERVICE are shown in three lines.
The bamboo grove was taken from the flag of the President of Vietnam, who at the beginning of the war was Ngo Ninh Diem (1901-1963). Diem was the first President of the Republic of Vietnam. The bamboo grove was a symbol of the first republic Vietnam, which followed the last imperial government under Emperor Bao Dai. The bamboo grove represented the lawful, democratic state. The dragon behind the bamboo grove is a traditional symbol of vietnam.
In the center of a bronze medallion one and a quarter inches in diameter, a crossbow over which is superimposed a flaming torch. In the lower half of the medal, and following the contour of its rim, the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The crossbow is the ancient weapon of Vietnam. It is surmounted by the torch from the Statue of Liberty, symbolic of the United States and of freedom.
The ribbon to the Vietnam Service Medal consists of a gold background edged in green, with three red stripes in the center. The gold background with the three red stripes is the flag of South Vietnam and represents the political state supported by the United States during the war; the green edge stripes represent the vegetation of Southeast Asia and allude to the physical terrain in which the service was rendered.The Vietnam Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11231 from President Johnson's desk on 8 July 1965.
The distinctive design was the creation of sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, a former employee of the Army's Institute of Heraldry.
The service medal was awarded to all members of the armed forces who served in Vietnam and contiguous waters and airspace between 01 July 1958 and 28 March 1973.
In addition, personnel serving in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia in direct support of operations in Vietnam during the same time period also were eligible for the medal.
To qualify for award of the VSM an individual must meet one of the following qualifications:
(1) Be attached to or regularly serve for 1 or more days with an organization participating in or directly supporting military operations.
(2) Be attached to or regularly serve for 1 or more days aboard a Naval vessel directly supporting military operations.
(3) Actually participate as a crewmember in one or more aerial flights into airspace above Vietnam and contiguous waters directly supporting military operations.
(4) Serve on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days in Vietnam or contiguous areas, except that time limit may be waived for personnel participating in actual combat operations.
Individuals qualified for the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for reason of service in Vietnam between I July 1958 and 3 July 1965 (inclusive) shall remain qualified for that medal. Upon request, any such individual may be awarded the VSM instead of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. No person will be entitled to both awards for Vietnam service.
Vietnam and contiguous waters, as used herein, is defined as an area which includes Vietnam and the water adjacent thereto within the following specified limits: From a point on the East Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with China southeastward to 21 N. Latitude, 108 15'E. Longitude; thence, southward to 18 N. Latitude, 108 15'E. Longitude; thence southeastward to 17 30'N. Latitude, 111 E. Longitude; thence southward to 11 N. Latitude; 111 E. Longitude, thence southwestward to 7 N. Latitude, 105 E. Longitude; thence westward to 7 N. Latitude, 103 E. longitude, thence northward to 9 30'N. Latitude, 103 E. Longitude, thence northeastward to 10 15'N. Latitude, 104 27'E. Longitude, thence northward to a point on the West Coast of Vietnam atthe juncture of Vietnam with Cambodia.
There are a total of 17 campaign stars authorized for the Vietnam Service Medal. Personnel are authorized one bronze campaign star for each qualifying campaign with a silver star worn in lieu of five bronze stars.
The design of the medal's suspension ribbon reflects that of the flag of the former South Vietnam -- yellow with three red stripes. The green trim at the edges is suggestive of the jungle nature of the conflict.
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 the Vietnam Service Medal with suitable appurtenances. Except as limited in section 2 of this order, and under uniform regulations to be prescribed by the Secretaries of the military departments and approved by the Secretary of Defense, or regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of Transportation with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a service in the Navy, the Vietnam Service Medal shall be awarded to members of the armed forces who serve in Vietnam or contiguous waters or air space, as defined by such regulations, after July 3, 1965, and before a terminal date to be prescribed by the Secretary of Defense. 1
[Sec. 1 amended by Executive Order 11382 of Nov. 28, 1967, 32 FR 16247, 3 CFR, 1966-1970 Comp., p. 691]
Sec. 2. Notwithstanding section 3 of the Executive Order No. 10977 of December 4, 1961, establishing the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, any member who qualified for that medal by reason of service in Vietnam between July 1, 1958, and July 4, 1965, shall remain qualified for that medal. Upon application, any such member may be awarded the Vietnam Service Medal in lieu of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, but no person may be awarded both medals by reason of service in Vietnam and no person shall be entitled to more than one award of the Vietnam Service Medal.
Sec. 3. The Vietnam Service Medal may be awarded posthumously.
Source: The provisions of Executive Order 11231 of July 8, 1965, appear at 30 FR 8665, 3 CFR, 1964-1965 Comp., p. 325, unless otherwise noted.
1. Editorial note: On Jan. 26, 1973, a terminal date of Mar. 28, 1973, was prescribed (DOD Instruction 1348.15).
(a) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of the military department concerned shall, upon the application of an individual who is an eligible Vietnam evacuation veteran, award that individual the Vietnam Service Medal, notwithstanding any otherwise applicable requirements for the award of that medal. Any such award shall be made in lieu of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal awarded the individual for participation in Operation Frequent Wind.
(b) ELIGIBLE VIETNAM EVACUATION VETERAN- For purposes of this section, the term `eligible Vietnam evacuation veteran' means a member or former member of the Armed Forces who was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for participation in military operations designated as Operation Frequent Wind arising from the evacuation of Vietnam on April 29 and 30, 1975.
4. Personnel that were awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for participating in Operation Frequent Wind from 29-30 April 1975 are now entitled to exchange it for the Vietnam Service Medal per section 542 in public law 107-314. Operation Frequent Wind, 29-30 april 1975, will be reflected as the 18th campaign under the Vietnam Campaign.
A. Commanders are authorized to process requests for personnel under his/her cognizance.
b. Retired and former personnel affected by this law need to submit their requests using form SF180 (http://www.americanwarlibrary.com/htomr.htm to The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) by fax to (314) 801-9195 or by mail to:
NATIONAL PERSONNEL RECORDS CENTER
MILITARY PERSONNEL RECORDS
9700 PAGE AVENUE
ST. LOUIS MO 63132
Requests addressed to NPRC must include the following personal information: full name, ssn, service/serial number, branch of service, date of birth, and period of service.