Silver Star

The Silver Star Medal is the United States Armed Forces's third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat. The Silver Star Medal is awarded primarily to members of the United States Armed Forces for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

Silver Star Medal
Awarded by the
Department of the Army[1]
Department of the Navy[2]
Department of the Air Force[3]
Department of Homeland Security[4]
TypePersonal Valor Decoration
Awarded for"Gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States"
StatusCurrently awarded
Established9 July 1918 (1918-07-09): Army Citation Star (SS)
(Retroactive to 15 April 1861)
19 July 1932 (1932-07-19): Silver Star Medal
7 August 1942: Navy, SSM
(Retroactive to 6 December 1941)
16 December 1942: Army, SS
(Retroactive to 6 December 1941)
First awardedAugust 1932
(WWI Army Silver Star conversion)
Next (higher)Army: Army Distinguished Service Medal[5]
Navy and Marine Corps: Navy Distinguished Service Medal[5]
Air Force: Air Force Distinguished Service Medal[5]
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal, Uniformed Public Health Service: Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal
Next (lower)Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force: Defense Superior Service Medal[5]
Coast Guard: Secretary of Transportation Outstanding Achievement Medal[6]

Service ribbon


The Silver Star Medal (SSM)[5] is the successor award to the "Citation Star" (316 silver star) which was established by an Act of Congress on July 9, 1918, during World War I. On July 19, 1932, the Secretary of War approved the conversion of the "Citation Star" to the SSM with the original "Citation Star" incorporated into the center of the medal.

Authorization for the Silver Star Medal was placed into law by an Act of Congress for the U.S. Navy on August 7, 1942, and an Act of Congress for the U.S. Army on December 15, 1942. The current statutory authorization for the medal is Title 10 of the United States Code, 10 U.S.C. § 3746 for the U.S. Army, 10 U.S.C. § 8746 for the U.S. Air Force, and 10 U.S.C. § 6244 for the U.S. Navy.

The U.S. Army and Air Force award the medal as the "Silver Star". The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard continue to award the medal as the "Silver Star Medal". Since 21 December 2016, the Department of Defense (DoD) refers to the decoration as the Silver Star Medal.[5]

Award criteria

The Silver Star Medal is awarded for gallantry, so long as the action does not justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards: the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, or the Coast Guard Cross.[7] The gallantry displayed must have taken place while in 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.[5]

The Silver Star Medal is awarded for singular acts of valor or heroism over a brief period, such as one or two days of a battle.[5]

Air Force pilots and combat systems officers and Navy/Marine Corps naval aviators and flight officers flying fighter aircraft, are often considered eligible to receive the Silver Star upon becoming an ace (i.e., having five or more confirmed aerial kills), which entails the pilot and, in multi-seat fighters, the weapons system officer or radar intercept officer, intentionally and successfully risking his life multiple times under combat conditions and emerging victorious.[8] However, during the Vietnam War, the last conflict to produce U.S. fighter aces: an Air Force pilot and two navigators/weapon systems officers (who were later retrained as Air Force pilots), a naval aviator and a naval flight officer/radar intercept officer who had achieved this distinction, were eventually awarded the Air Force Cross and Navy Cross, respectively, in addition to SSMs previously awarded for earlier aerial kills.

Unit award equivalent


The Silver Star Medal is a gold five-pointed star, 1 12 inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays from the center and a 316 inch (4.8 mm) diameter silver star superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners. The reverse has the inscription FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION. The ribbon is 1 38 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 732 inch (5.6 mm) Old Glory red (center stripe); proceeding outward in pairs 732 inch (5.6 mm) white; 732 inch (5.6 mm) ultramarine blue; 364 inch (1.2 mm) white; and 332 inch (2.4 mm) ultramarine blue.[9]

Ribbon devices

Second and subsequent awards of the Silver Star Medal are denoted by bronze or silver oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force and by gold or silver 516 inch stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.[5][10][11][5]


The Department of Defense does not keep extensive records for the Silver Star Medal. Independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 SSMs have been awarded since the decoration was established.[12] Colonel David Hackworth who was awarded ten SSMs while serving in the Army during the Korean War and Vietnam War, is likely to be the person awarded the most SSMs.[13] Donald H. Russell, a civilian Vought F4U Corsair technical support engineer attached to a Marine Corps fighter wing, received the SSM for his actions aboard USS Franklin after the carrier was attacked by a Japanese dive bomber in March 1945.[14]

Female recipients

Three Army nurses that served in World War I were cited in 1919 and 1920 with Citation Stars for gallantry in attending to the wounded while under artillery fire in July 1918. In 2007, it was discovered that they had never been awarded their Citation Stars. The three nurses (Army nurses served without rank until 1920) were awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumously:[15][16] [15]

  • Jane Rignel – Mobile Hospital No. 2, 42nd Division, for gallantry in "giving aid to the wounded under heavy fire" in France on July 15, 1918
  • Linnie Leckrone – Shock Team No. 134, Field Hospital No. 127, 32nd Division, for gallantry while "attending to the wounded during an artilley bombardment" in France on July 29, 1918
  • Irene Robar – Shock Team No. 134, Field Hospital No. 127, 32nd Division, for gallantry while "attending to the wounded during an artillery bombardment" in France on July 29, 1918

An unknown number of servicewomen received the award in World War II. Four Army nurses serving in Italy during the war—First Lieutenant Mary Roberts, Second Lieutenant Elaine Roe, Second Lieutenant Rita Virginia Rourke, and Second Lieutenant Ellen Ainsworth (posthumous)—became the first women recipients of the Silver Star, all cited for their bravery in evacuating the 33rd Field Hospital at Anzio on February 10, 1944.[17] Later that same year, Corporal Magdalena Leones, a Filipino American, received the medal for clandestine activities on Luzon;[18] as of 2016, she is the only female Asian American to receive a Silver Star.[19]

The next known servicewomen to receive the Silver Star is Army National Guard Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester in 2005, for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq[17] and Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown in March 2008, for extraordinary heroism as a combat medic in the War in Afghanistan.[17]

Notable recipients

Notable recipients include:

See also


  1. "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 11 January 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  2. "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 18 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  3. "Air Force Guidance Memorandum for Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2803, The Air Force Military Awards and Decorations Program" (PDF). Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  4. "Coast Guard Military Medals and Awards Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  5. "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33 Volume 3" (PDF). Department of Defense Technical Information Center. 21 December 2016. pp. 14–16. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  6. "Ribbon Order of Precedence" (PDF). Medals and Awards Program. Personnel Management, CG-12. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  7. "Section 578.12 – Silver Star". Code of Federal Regulations. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  8. Korean War pilot receives Silver Star 56 years later Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  9. "Silver Star". The Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  10. Coast Guards Medals and Awards, COMDTINSTM1650D, May 2008, P. 1-13 a, 2-3 5., 1-16 "a"
  11. Navy-Marine Awards manual, Aug. 22, 2006, SECNAVINST 1650.1H, P. 1-8, 123. 1., 1-22
  12. Home of Heroes: Silver Star Medal., Retrieved 2008-12-16.
  13. Hackworth, Col David H. (December 2002). "Look Truth Right in the Eye". (Interview). Interviewed by Fred L. Schultz and Gordon Keiser. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  14. "First Civilian Wins Navy Silver Star" (PDF). The New York Times. 7 November 1945. p. 12. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  15. Prior, Richard M.; Marble, William Sanders (1 May 2008). "The Overlooked Heroines: Three Silver Star Nurses of World War I". Military Medicine. 173 (5): 493–498. doi:10.7205/milmed.173.5.493.
  16. "Daughter Accepts Silver Star Her World War I Nurse Mother Earned". United States Army. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  17. Abrashi, Fisnik (March 9, 2008). "Medic Stationed in Afghanistan Becomes 2nd Woman to Be Awarded Silver Star". Fox News. Associated Press.
  18. Drummond, Tammerlin (17 June 2016). "Filipina Silver Star winner, Richmond resident Magdalena Leones dies at 95". East Bay Times. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
    "Magdalena Leones". Retrieved 18 June 2016.
    Leonardo Q. Nuval (1996). Remember Them Kindly: Some Filipinos During World War II. Claretian Publications. p. 31. ISBN 978-971-501-678-0.
    Guillermo, Emil (5 July 2016). "Magdalena Leones, Filipina WWII Silver Star Recipient Who Aided MacArthur, Dies in California". NBC News. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  19. "Only Filipina WWII US Silver Star recipient dies at 95". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Makati City. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2018. Filipino WWII veterans and her family members mourn the passing of Cpl. Magdalena Estoista Leones, 95, who entered the history books as the only Asian female to have been awarded the Silver Star in World War II for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.
  20. "Battle joined: Army panel backs WWII vet's posthumous bid for Medal of Honor". Fox News. 4 November 2015.
  21. O'Donnell, Maureen. "Military Times Hall of Valor: William J. Cullerton". Military Times. Retrieved 2013-01-25.
  22. "Barry McCaffrey - Recipient - Military Times Hall Of Valor". Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  23. "Barry McCaffrey - Recipient - Military Times Hall Of Valor". Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  24. "List of Silver Star Recipients".
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