The Air Medal is a military decoration of the United States which was established by Executive Order 9158, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, on May 11, 1942. The Air Medal is retroactive to September 8, 1939.
The Air Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Armed Forces of the United States, shall have distinguished himself/herself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.
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 displayed on the medal and ribbon. The Army originally used oak leaf clusters, however changed to numerals during the Vietnam War 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 for acts of heroism.
The Secretary of the U.S. Air Force 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, ANG, AFRes), 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.
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps have two types of Air Medals awards: "individual" for singular meritorious acts and "strike/flight" for participation in sustained aerial flight operations. Bronze Strike/Flight numerals denote "strike/flight" awards. As of September 27, 2006, gold award numerals 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 may be authorized.
The United States Coast Guard 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.
Description: A Bronze compass rose 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:
Components: The following are authorized components of the Air Medal and the applicable specifications for each:
Designer: Walker Hancock. Hancock had competed for the medal design as a civilian, but prior to the award of the competition had been inducted into the army.