The Air Medal was established by Executive Order 9158 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 11, 1942.
The Air Medal is retroactive to September 8, 1939.
The Air Medal may be awarded to individuals who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces, distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement, or by meritorious service while participating in aerial flight, but not of a degree that would justify an award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
ORDER OF PRECEDENCE
The Air Medal is worn after the Bronze Star Medal and before Joint Service Commendation Medal. For Air Force personnel it is worn before the Aerial Achievement Medal.
Strikes are sorties that deliver ordnance against the enemy, land or evacuate personnel in an assault, or in which personnel are engaged in search and rescue operations. The distinguishing feature of a strike is that it encounters enemy opposition.
Flights are sorties that deliver ordnance against the enemy, land or evacuate personnel in an assault, or in which personnel are engaged in search and rescue operations. The distinguishing feature of a flight is that although it takes place in a nominally hostile environment, it does not encounter enemy opposition.
DESIGNER AND SCULPTOR
The Air Medal was designed and sculpted by Walker Hancock.
The first recipient of the Air Medal was not recorded.
DESCRIPTION AND SYMBOLISM
The obverse is a bronze compass rose of sixteen points and is one and eleven sixteenths inches in circumscribing diameter. The compass rose is suspended by a fleur-de-lis. In the center of the obverse there is an eagle volant, swooping downward and carrying a lighting bolt in each talon.
The compass rose reflects the global capacity of American air power, represented by the American bald eagle. The lightning bolts in the eagle's talons allude to the ability of the United States to wage war from the air. The Fleur-de-lis, the French symbol of nobility, represents the high ideals of American airmen.
The points of the compass rose on the reverse are modeled with the central portion plain for inscribing the recipient's name.
The ribbon is predominantly ultramarine blue with two orange-gold stripes just inside each edge and were selected because they were the colors of the Army Air Force.