The Medal of Honor

medals of honor

Memorial Day inspired me to look at military medals, particularly Medal of Honor winners for a while. In 1782 General George Washington established the first formal system for rewarding the bravery of individual fighting men. The Badge of Military Merit, shaped like a purple heart, was designed to recognize “any singularly meritorious action.” Only a few were awarded and the medal fell into disuse after the Revolutionary War.
During the Civil War, Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy medal of valor, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was “to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” In 1862, Congress provided for awarding a medal of honor for the army “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection.” Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863. Almost 3,400 men and one woman have received the award for heroic actions in the nation’s battles since that time. 
Tomorrow: Medal of Honor Winners Rita Bay

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