War War I Service
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World War I Victory Medal
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In 1919 a Bill was introduced in Congress to establish a Victory Medal for military service during World War I. However, it was never reported out of Committee and was therefore never enacted into law. However, the objective of the proposed legislation was implemented by the Army in War Department General Orders Number 48 of April 9, 1919 (which was replaced by War Department General Orders Number 83 of June 30, 1919). It was implemented for the Navy by Navy Department General Orders Number 482 of July 30, 1919.
The World War I Victory Medal was awarded for qualifying service in the Armed Forces between April 6, 1917, and April 1, 1920.
The World War I Victory Medal was awarded for military service during the First World War. It was awarded for active service between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918; for service with the American Expeditionary Forces in European Russia between November 12, 1918, and August 5, 1919; or for service with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia between November 23, 1918, and April 1, 1920.
Order of Precedence
For the Army, the World War I Victory Medal takes precedence after the Mexican Border Service Medal and before the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal. For the Navy, it takes precedence after the Dominican Campaign Medal and before the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal.
Army Battle Clasps
Battle clasps are bronze bars one eighth of an inch high by one and a half inches wide. Each battle clasp contains the name of the campaign (or Defensive Sector). There is a small five-pointed star at each end of the clasp. They were awarded for specific battles or campaigns. The individual must have been present for duty under competent orders in the combat zone during the period in which the unit was engaged in combat.
-- In the First Army area, between 30 August and 11 November 1918, or in the Second Army area between October 12 and November 11, 1918.
-- At the regulating station at St Dizier and in the billeting region in connection therewith between October 31 and November 11, 1918.
-- In the area of corps, divisions, or smaller independent organizations under French, British, Belgian, or Italian commands between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918.
-- In any engagement not included in one of the thirteen major operations recognized by its own battle clasp.
-- In any engagement in European Russia after August 1, 1918, or in Siberia after August 15, 1918.
Army Service Clasps
The Army issued five service (country) clasps for this medal: England, France, Italy, Russia, and Siberia. These service clasps are one eighth of an inch high and one and a half inches wide, with the name of the country in which the service was performed inscribed thereon. Unlike the battle clasps, the Army's service clasps do not have the small five-pointed star at each end of the clasp. To be eligible for a service clasp, an individual must not have been eligible for a battle clasp.
Navy Service Clasps
The Navy issued six service (country) clasps for this medal: England, France, Italy, Russia, Siberia, and West Indies. The Navy's service clasps were awarded to personnel who served overseas but were not otherwise eligible for a battle clasp. Personnel who sailed from the United States prior to November 11, 1918 but never disembarked are eligible for the clasp denoting their overseas destination.
ENGLAND (April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918) FRANCE (April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918) ITALY (April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918) RUSSIA (November 12, 1918 to July 31, 1919) SIBERIA (November 12, 1918 to March 30, 1920) WEST INDIES (April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918)
Navy Operational Clasps
The Navy issued the following 18 operational or "duty" clasps.
ARMED GUARD: For personnel regularly attached to an escort vessel for one voyage across the North Atlantic between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918.
ASIATIC: For service on any vessel that made a Siberian port during the period of April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918. Also authorized for service aboard any combatant ship that made a Siberian port for not less than ten days between November 12, 1918, and March 30, 1920.
ATLANTIC FLEET: For service in the Atlantic Fleet between May 25 and November 11, 1918.
AVIATION: For qualifying service in such duty east of the thirty-seventh meridian and north of the Equator; or over the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean north of the Equator between May 25 and November 11, 1918.
DESTROYER: For service on the high seas on such duty east of the thirty-seventh meridian and north of the Equator; or, on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean north of the Equator between May 25, 1918, and November 11, 1918.
ESCORT: For personnel regularly attached to an escort vessel for one voyage across the North Atlantic between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918.
GRAND FLEET: For personnel regularly attached to any vessel forming part of the Grand Fleet between December 9, 1917, and November 11, 1918.
MINE LAYING: For service on such duty from May 26 to November 11, 1918.
MINE SWEEPING: For service on such duty from April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918 (or until minesweeping was completed).
MOBILE BASE: For service on tenders and repair vessels on such duty east of the 37th meridian and north of the Equator between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918.
NAVAL BATTERY: For service on such duty between July 10 and November 11, 1918.
OVERSEAS: For service on shore in allied or enemy countries of Europe from April 6, 1918, to November 11, 1918.
PATROL: For service on the high seas on such duty east of the thirty-seventh meridian and north of the Equator between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918 and on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean north of the Equator between May 25 and November 11, 1918.
SALVAGE: For service on such duty between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918.
SUBMARINE: For service on the high seas on such duty east of the thirty-seventh meridian and north of the Equator or on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean north of the Equator between May 25 and November 11, 1918 and on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean north of the Equator between May 25 and November 11, 1918.
SUBMARINE CHASER: For service on the high seas on such duty east of the thirty-seventh meridian and north of the Equator or on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean north of the Equator between May 18 and November 11, 1918 and on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean north of the Equator between May 25 and November 11, 1918.
TRANSPORT: For personnel regularly attached to a transport or cargo vessel for one voyage across the North Atlantic between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918.
WHITE SEA: For service on any vessel which made a Russian port or any combatant ship in a Russian port while in the White Sea not less than ten days between November 12, 1918, and July 31, 1919.
The Army Citation Star
Public Law 193 (65th Congress), approved February 4, 1919, authorized a silver star three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter to be worn on the ribbon of the Victory Medal by each Army officer or enlisted man who was cited for gallantry in action published in orders issued from the headquarters of a force commanded by a general officer. This "citation Star" was redesigned and renamed the Silver Star Medal in 1932, and upon application to the War Department any holder of a citation star could have it converted to a Silver Star Medal.
Navy Letter of Commendation Star
Navy Regulations provided that when any person was commended by the Secretary of the Navy for performance of duty during the First World War, and where that commendation did not justify an award of the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, or Distinguished Service Medal, that person would be entitled to wear a silver star on the ribbon of the Victory Medal for each such citation.
Maltese Cross (Navy)
Navy Department General Orders Number 482 of July 30, 1919, authorized a bronze Maltese cross three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter to be worn on the service ribbon of the Victory Medal by personnel attached to the American Expeditionary Forces in France any time between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918, and who were not otherwise entitled to a battle clasp.
A bronze star, three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, was authorized for wear on the service ribbon of the Victory Medal in lieu of any battle clasps (which were attached to the full medal but could not otherwise be represented on the service ribbon).
The World War I Victory Medal was designed by James Earl Fraser.
It is believed that the first World War I Victory Medal was presented to President Woodrow Wilson.
Description and Symbolism
In the center of a bronze medallion one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter, a full-length frontal representation of Winged Victory is shown. She holds a shield in her left hand, and in her right hand she holds a sword. The figure wears a spiked crown.
The theme of the obverse was agreed upon by all allied nations, and each country was expected to produce its own rendering of that theme. Winged Victory on the American medal is not only a modern rendering of Nike of Samothrace, it is also Columbia (who also represents America). The spiked crown on her head was suggested by the crown on the Statue of Liberty.
In the center of a bronze medallion one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter, a shield bearing the letters US (which are separated by a fasces superimposed over the center of the shield and which extends both above and below the shield). In the upper quarter of the medal, following the contour of its edge, the inscription, THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION. In the corresponding position along the outer edge of the lower portion of the medal are six stars. To the right of the shield, the names of the following countries: GREAT BRITAIN, BELGIUM, BRAZIL, PORTUGAL, RUMANIA and CHINA. To the left of the shield, FRANCE, ITALY, SERBIA, JAPAN, MONTENEGRO, RUSSIA, and GREECE.
The shield is taken from the Great Seal of the United States and represents America, as indicated by the initials on the shield. The fasces represents the lawful authority of the State and justice. The names of the other countries are the Allies who participated in the First World War.
The ribbon to the World War I Victory Medal consists of a double rainbow, with red joining in the center. The ribbon is edged with narrow stripes of white. The rainbows were selected to represent a "new era" and the calm after a storm (alluding to the First World War). It also represents the combined colors of the Allies joined together in a common cause. The two rainbows also represent the two groupings of nations, Allied and Associated, meeting the heraldic color for conflict and bravery. The use of the double rainbow also provides symmetry and balance and avoids having the ribbon confused with that of the British 1914 Star (which, although not a rainbow, is similar).
A small number of these medals (probably not more than one hundred) were numbered. The numbers have the prefix U.S.M., which presumably stands for United States Mint.
1. Description: The medal is bronze and 1 3/8 inches in diameter. On the obverse is a winged Victory, standing full length and full face. On the reverse is the inscription "THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION" and the United States shield with the letters "U.S." surmounted by a fasces, and on either side the names of the allied and associated nations. The lapel button is a five-pointed star 5/8-inch in diameter on a wreath with the letters "U.S." in the center.
2. Ribbon: The medal is suspended by a ring from a silk ribbon 1 3/8 inches in width, representing two rainbows placed in juxtaposition and having the red in the middle.
3. Criteria: a. The World War I Victory Medal was awarded for honorable service for active duty at any time between 6 April 1917 and 11 November 1918. It was also awarded for service between 12 November 1918 and 5 August 1919, with the American Expeditionary Forces in European Russia, and was awarded to the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia between 23 November 1918 and 1 April 1920.
b. Battle clasps were awarded for each of the major operations for individuals actually present under competent orders. The clasps, with a star on each side of the name of the campaign or one of the defensive sectors, were worn on the suspension ribbon for the following campaigns:
c. Clasps were awarded to personnel who served overseas in one of the following areas and were not entitled to a battle clasp:
England: 6 Apr 1917 - 11 Nov 1918 France: 6 Apr 1917 - 11 Nov 1918 Italy: 6 Apr 1917 - 11 Nov 1918 Siberia: Any service in Siberia Russia: Any service in European Russia
d. The lapel button is bronze, except that personnel who were wounded in action were awarded a silver lapel button.
4. Components: The following components are authorized:
a. Medal (regular and miniature sizes): MIL-DTL-3943/236.
b. Ribbon: MIL-DTL-11589/148.
c. Lapel Button: MIL-DTL-11484/47
d. Streamers. Streamers are displayed on the organizational flag to represent campaign participation. The inscription on the organizational streamer will be as indicated in the unit's lineage and honors.
5. Background: a. The medal was established by an Act of Congress, 1919, and promulgated by War Department General Orders 48, 1919, which was rescinded by War Department General Orders 83, 30 Jun 1919.
b. The 14 Allied Nations decided on a single ribbon, but pendant design was left up to each Nation. Mr. James E. Fraser was the designer of the U.S. Victory Medal.
c. The Victory Medal ribbon pattern is used in thirteen streamers displayed on the Army flag to represent World War I service. The inscriptions for the streamers displayed on the Army flag are listed in AR 840-10.
REVIEWING the history of the Victory Medal (now known as the World War I Victory Medal) is to study a fascinating aspect of the American military's first modern participation alongside forces of other nations.
Of the nearly 5 million Americans who served during the war, some 500,000 were sailors, 50,000 were Marines, and more than 4 million were in the Army. Significantly, then, the Victory Medal was the most widely distributed American award up to World War II.
Within months of the 11 Nov. 1918 armistice ending the First World War, the concept of a Victory Medal was approved and an Interallied Military Commission meeting in France formulated a set of recommendations that would evolve into the Victory Medal we know today.
The name originally proposed for the medal, the "Allies' Medal," was rejected by the Commission because the name technically excluded the U.S. (America was an Associated power versus an Allied power) and Germany, ironically, could issue a medal by the same name. The following design-related resolutions were adopted by the Commission and were to apply to the separate Victory medals created by the 16 Allied and Associated nations:
1. A medal of the Great War shall be created and be called the Victory Medal. 2. It shall be distributed under conditions to be determined by each government. 3. The ribbon, identical for all countries, will represent two rainbows placed in juxtaposition in such a manner as will bring the red in the middle. [An American, Army Col. T. Bentley Mott, is credited with the ribbon design.] 4. The medal shall be bronze, round, its diameter 36 mm. 5. The final design of the medal itself shall be left up to the respective countries. a. On the obverse will be represented a figure of Victory -- winged, standing, full length and full face. The background and border will be plain and bear no inscription or date. b. The reverse will bear the inscription "The Great War for Civilization" in the language of the country concerned and will show the names of the various Allied and Associated nations or indicate their coats of arms. c. The edge will be plain.
The various countries' final interpretation of this design criteria is a curious chapter in itself but beyond the scope of this presentation.
On 12 April 1919, announcement of the soon-to-be issued Victory Medal was made by Gen. Peyton C. March, Army Chief of Staff, who placed the medal's design in the hands of the government's Commission on Fine Arts.
That group selected prominent sculptor James Earle Fraser for the project. Celebrated designer of our "buffalo" nickel, Fraser not only executed the U.S. Victory Medal, but also the Navy Cross, an early design of the Navy's Distinguished Service Medal and portions of a proposed (but discarded) redesign of the Navy Medal of Honor. Final endorsement of Fraser's Victory Medal design was given by Secretary of War Newton D. Baker on 14 November 1919.
As specified, the obverse shows a representation of Victory, in this case wearing a spiked crown, arguably similar to that seen on the Statue of Liberty. The reverse has an American shield and the names of 14 Allied and Associated nations. Atop the shield is a fasces -- a medievel battle axe.
NAVY SERVICE CLASPS
Criteria for the Victory Medal and its clasps were issued by Navy Department General Order No. 482 of 30 June 1919. Sixteen clasps initially were authorized, although only one could be issued to each recipient and worn on the suspension ribbon. A single bronze 3/16-inch bronze star is worn on the service ribbon bar to represent the earned clasp.
Navy service clasps (above at right) are approximately 1/4-inch wide by 1 1/2 inches long and have a rope border. The Army clasps are far simpler and measure 1/8-inch by 1 1/2-inch long. Both styles are to match very closely the color and finish of the medal itself.
Bureau of Navigation Circular Letter No. 36-20 of 23 April 1920 announced provisions for issuing the Victory Medal, adding that honorable character of service was a precondition for award of the Victory Medal. Recipients were authorized to have engraved on the rim his or her name, rank and the name of the ship or station where he or she served during the war. Discharged or retired Navy personnel applied for their medals either directly to the Navy Department in Washington D.C. or at the nearest Navy Recruiting Office. Active duty personnel applied at their current duty station.
The Victory Medal also was extended to those normally outside the Navy but who had worked alongside naval forces during the war. This included the U.S. Coast Guard, the Lighthouse Service and certain medical officers of the U.S. Public Health Service assigned to duty aboard Coast Guard cutters.
In 1933, the Navy extended the Army's Russia and Siberia service clasps to naval personnel for duty in the following timeframe:
RUSSIA: For service on shore in Northern Russia from 12 November 1918 to 31 July 1919. SIBERIA: For service on shore in Siberia from 12 November 1918 to 30 March 1920.
Seven years later, on 05 October 1940, the Secretary of the Navy authorized the award of the Army's FRANCE, ENGLAND and ITALY service clasps to personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps who sailed from the U.S. prior to 11 Nov. 1918 enroute to one of these countries, regardless of their date of arrival in that country -- even if those personnel were returned to the U.S. without disembarking.
The first formal assignment of clasps was contained in General Order No. 528 of 25 April 1920. Curiously, it also made reference to clasps HOSPITAL SHIP and GUNBOAT, devices never authorized or officially struck. By 1953, the Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual specified clasps for approximately 1,388 ships, all of which are detailed on this web site. 140 of these vessels qualified for two different clasps and two ships qualified for three clasps. Again, a recipient could wear only one earned clasp.
A number of unauthorized clasps and ribbon devices have been seen over the years.
Naval personnel routinely received only the single service clasp. The thousands of Marines and Navy Medical Corps personnel attached to the Army in France earned and were authorized to wear those Army clasps authorized by their parent command.
A very few medals are seen with a combination of Navy-style clasps and Army-style clasps, notably by the Navy and Marine Corps Northern Bombing Group in France, whose medals frequently are seen with the Navy "AVIATION" clasp and the Army "YPRES-LYS" clasp. Proper authorization for that and other combinations is unclear. RELATED INSIGNIA
When any person had been commended as the result of the recommendation of the Board of Awards by the Secretary of the Navy for performance of duty during World War I not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Medal, or a Navy Cross, he or she shall wear a 3/16-inch silver star on the suspension ribbon and ribbon bar for each such citation.
Army personnel earning an equivalent "silver citation star" later could trade in that insignia for the Silver Star Medal after its creation in 1932. This applied equally to Marines earning the Army insignia. Naval personnel did not become eligible for the Silver Star Medal until 1942.
A bronze Maltese cross, 3/16-inch in diameter, was to be placed on the service ribbon of those officers and men of the Marine Corps and Medical Corps, United States Navy, who were attached to the American Expeditionary Forces in France any time between 6 April 1917, and 11 November 1918, and who are not entitled to any battle clasp provided for by General Order No. 83, War Department, 30 June 1919.
11 Nov. 1918 -- Armistice ends World War. 24 Jan. 1919 -- Issuance of an "Allies Medal" proposed by Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France to the Supreme War Council. Concept is approved. 18-21 MAR 1919 -- Interallied Military Commission determines design criteria for medal. 12 APR 1919 -- Decision to issue a Victory Medal announced by Gen. Peyton C. March, Army chief of staff. 30 JUN 1919 -- Navy releases criteria for eligibility, 16 clasps initially authorized. 27 SEP 1919 -- MOBILE BASE clasp authorized 27 OCT 1919 -- SUB CHASER clasp authorized 14 NOV 1919 -- James Earle Fraser's design for medal approved 03 FEB 1920 -- First samples struck 25 APR 1920 -- Assignment of clasps by ships published. 21 JUN 1920 -- General distribution begins December 1921 -- WEST INDIES clasp authorized 1933 -- Army's RUSSIA and SIBERIA service clasps authorized for eligible Navy personnel. 05 OCT 1940 -- Army's FRANCE, ENGLAND and ITALY service clasps authorized for eligible Navy personnel.