Air Medal
The Air Medal is a military decoration
Awards and decorations of the United States military
Awards and decorations of the United States Military are military decorations which recognize service and personal accomplishments while a member of the United States armed forces...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The award was created in 1942, and is awarded for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.


The Air Medal was established by , signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, on 11 May 1942. The Air Medal was awarded retroactive to 8 September 1939. The medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Armed Forces of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, shall have distinguished himself/herself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 the medal's award criteria varied widely depending on the theater of operations, the aircraft flown, and the missions accomplished. In Europe some bomber crewmembers received it for five sorties; elsewhere much higher criteria were used.

Awards may be made to recognize single acts of merit or heroism, or for meritorious service. Award of the Air Medal is primarily intended to recognize those personnel who are on current crew member or non-crew member flying status which requires them to participate in aerial flight on a regular and frequent basis in the performance of their primary duties. However, it may also be awarded to certain other individuals whose combat duties require regular and frequent flying in other than a passenger status, or individuals who perform a particularly noteworthy act while performing the function of a crew member but who are not on flying status. These individuals must make a discernible contribution to the operational land combat mission or to the mission of the aircraft in flight.

Examples of personnel whose combat duties require them to fly include those in the attack elements of units involved in air-land assaults against an armed enemy and those directly involved in airborne command and control of combat operations. Awards will not be made to individuals who use air transportation solely for the purpose of moving from point to point in a combat zone.

Subsequent decorations of the Air Medal are denoted in the U.S. Army by award numerals
Award numerals
Award numerals are decorations of the United States military which are attachments to certain ribbons and awards. Award numerals denote repeated decorations of the same award and appear as arabic numerals on a medal or ribbon. Award numerals are very similar to the Strike/Flight numerals of the...

 displayed on the medal and ribbon. The Army originally used oak leaf clusters, however changed to numerals during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 when the number of Air Medals awarded became too large to be annotated on a single ribbon. The Army and the Air Force also awards the Air Medal with a Valor device
Valor device
The Valor device is an award of the United States military which is a bronze attachment to certain medals to indicate that it was received for valor...

 for acts of heroism.

The Secretary of the Air Force
Air force
An air force, also known in some countries as an air army, is in the broadest sense, the national military organization that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an army, navy or...

 approved the award of the "V" Device for valor to Air Medals awarded for heroism effective 21 Oct 2004. It applies to all Air Force members (Active Duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard
Air National Guard
The Air National Guard , often referred to as the Air Guard, is the air force militia organized by each of the fifty U.S. states, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia of the United States. Established under Title 10 and...

), retirees and veterans, but this change is not retroactive to any earlier date; only decorations approved on or after 21 Oct 2004 are affected by this policy change.

The Air Force does not utilize numerals on the Air Medal. Subsequent awards are annotated with the traditional oak leaf clusters. Enlisted members are also awarded three points toward promotion.


The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps have two types of Air Medal awards: "individual" for singular meritorious acts and "strike/flight" for participation in sustained aerial flight operations. Bronze Strike/Flight numerals
Strike/Flight numerals
Strike/Flight numerals are decorations of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps which are displayed on the Air Medal to denote the total number of Strike/Flight awards. Strike/Flight numerals are Arabic numerals five-sixteenths of an inch in height....

 denote "strike/flight" awards. As of September 27, 2006, gold award numerals
Award numerals
Award numerals are decorations of the United States military which are attachments to certain ribbons and awards. Award numerals denote repeated decorations of the same award and appear as arabic numerals on a medal or ribbon. Award numerals are very similar to the Strike/Flight numerals of the...

 are used to denote "individual" Air Medals. This is a return to the standard used before November 22, 1989. In the interval between November 22, 1989 and September 27, 2006, gold and silver award stars denoted subsequent "individual" Air Medals. Gold stars were used for the second through the fifth, seventh through tenth awards, and so on. Silver stars were used in lieu of five gold stars, and denote the sixth and eleventh (and so on) awards. For "individual" Air Medals, the valor device
Valor device
The Valor device is an award of the United States military which is a bronze attachment to certain medals to indicate that it was received for valor...

 may be authorized.

The United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

 issues the Air Medal with subsequent awards denoted by gold and silver stars. There are no additional devices authorized on the Coast Guard Air Medal.

During World War II, the Air Medal was also awarded to members of the Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol is a Congressionally chartered, federally supported, non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force . CAP is a volunteer organization with an aviation-minded membership that includes people from all backgrounds, lifestyles, and...

 that had been participants in that organization's anti-submarine patrol program.


The medal's design is set forth by law.

Description:A Bronze compass rose
Compass rose
A compass rose, sometimes called a windrose, is a figure on a compass, map, nautical chart or monument used to display the orientation of the cardinal directions — North, East, South and West - and their intermediate points. It is also the term for the graduated markings found on the traditional...

 1 11/16 inches circumscribing diameter and charged with an eagle volant carrying two lightning flashes in its talons. A fleur-de-lis at the top point holds the suspension ring. The points of the compass rose on the reverse are modeled with the central portion plain for engraving the name of the recipient.

Ribbon: The ribbon is 1 3/8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes:
  1. 1/8 inch Ultramarine Blue 67118;
  2. ¼ inch Golden Orange 67109;
  3. center 5/8 inch Ultramarine Blue;
  4. ¼ inch Golden Orange; and
  5. 1/8 inch Ultramarine Blue.

Components: The following are authorized components of the Air Medal and the applicable specifications for each:
  • a. Decoration (regular size): MIL-D-3943/23. NSN for decoration set is 8455-00-269-5747. For replacement medal NSN 8455-00-246-3837.

  • b. Decoration (miniature size): MIL-D-3943/23. NSN 8455-00-996-5002.

  • c. Ribbon: MIL-R-11589/7. NSN 8455-00-252-9963.

  • d. Lapel Button: MIL-L-11484/17. NSN 8455-00-257-4308.

Designer: Walker Hancock
Walker Hancock
Walker Kirtland Hancock was a 20th-century American sculptor and teacher. He created notable monumental sculptures, including the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...

. Hancock had competed for the medal design as a civilian, but prior to the award of the competition had been inducted into the army.

Notable recipients

  • Buzz Aldrin
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  • Irv Anderson
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  • Henry Arnold
  • Rex T. Barber
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  • John Beal
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  • Kermit Beahan
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  • Bruce Bennett
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  • Leo Berman
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  • Jim Berg
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  • Roy Boehm
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  • Richard Bong
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  • Bill Bower
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  • Patrick Henry Brady
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     (with "V" device and award numeral 52)
  • George H. W. Bush
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  • Ben Nighthorse Campbell
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  • Howard Cannon
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  • Roger Chaffee
  • E. Daniel Cherry  (with 34 Oak Leaf Clusters)
  • Jim H. Clary (with 23 Oak Leaf Clusters)
  • Robert L. Coffey, Jr.
  • Bruce P. Crandall
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     (23 awards)
  • Jack Crichton
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  • Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
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  • George E. Day (officer)
  • Jimmy Doolittle
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  • Wayne A. Downing
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     (with Valor and 2 silver Oak Leaf Clusters)
  • Tammy Duckworth
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  • Michael Durant
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  • Thomas Ferebee
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  • Clark Gable
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  • Francis Gabreski
  • John Glenn
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  • David E. Grange, Jr. (23 awards)
  • Gus Grissom
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  • David Hackworth (with "V" device and award numeral 34)
  • Joe R. Hooper
  • Bob Hoover
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  • Robert L. Howard
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  • John F. G. Howe
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  • John E. Hunt
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  • Jack H. Jacobs
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  • Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr.
  • Johnnie Johnson (RAF officer)
  • William T. Kane
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  • Ben Kuroki
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  • Clyde Lassen
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  • Curtis LeMay
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  • John Levitow
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  • Barbara Erickson London (WASP)
  • Jim Lovell
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  • George Marrett
  • Barry McCaffrey
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  • John McCain
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  • Ed McMahon
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     actor, entertainer, and Marine pilot
  • Ian McPhillips
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     U.S. Coast Guardsman
  • Evan Mecham
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  • John C. Meyer
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  • Robin L. Moore, Jr.
  • Wayne Morris (American actor)
  • Michael Novosel
  • Joseph R. Pitts
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  • Stephen Pless
  • Colin Powell
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  • George Preddy
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  • Bob Price
  • Chesty Puller
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  • Raleigh Rhodes
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  • Gene Roddenberry
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  • Robert Rosenthal (USAF)
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    Lieutenant Colonel Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal was a highly-decorated pilot in the Eighth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, receiving sixteen awards including the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against the...

  • H. Norman Schwarzkopf
  • Arthur D. Simons
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  • James Stewart (actor)
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  • James Stockdale
    James Stockdale
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  • Bruce Sundlun
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  • Charles Sweeney
    Charles Sweeney
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  • William Y. Thompson
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  • Paul Tibbets
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  • Patrick M. Walsh
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  • Bobby Wilks
    Bobby Wilks
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  • Ted Williams
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  • Delbert Wong
  • Chuck Yeager
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  • Hubert Zemke
    Hubert Zemke
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  • Charles McGee
    Charles McGee (pilot)
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     (with 25 Oak Leaf Clusters)
  • Michael Karas
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  • Majory Babinetz
  • Thomas Andrews Drake
    Thomas Andrews Drake
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  • Craig McGettigan

External links

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