Recipients of the Bronze Star medal must have performed acts of heroism or merit in a conflict against an enemy of the United States or must have served meritoriously in a combat zone. It is given for actions not deemed worthy of a Silver Star or the Legion of Merit.
The award was established in 1944, and is the fourth-highest individual award and the ninth-highest award in the United States military order of precedence. The wording of the authorization opens it to non-Americans, since the recipient need only perform meritoriously in service against an enemy of the United States. Therefore, allied soldiers in conflicts that America has become involved in are eligible for the award as well as American troops.
For particularly valorous service under fire, the Medal of Honor may be awarded with the "V" device for valor. Each branch has its own criteria for assigning this additional decoration. The Army assigns the V for heroism against an armed enemy, while the Navy and Marines add the V for individuals exposed to personal danger while participating in combat operations. In addition, oak leaf clusters may be awarded in the Army and Air Force, while the Navy and Coast Guard add 5/16-inch stars as distinguishing decorations.