The Silver Star was originally established at the direction of President Woodrow Wilson as a "citation star," as provided in section 5 of War Department General Orders Number 6 on January 12, 1918. It was modified slightly and affirmed as an Army decoration by Act of Congress (Public Law 193, 65th Congress) approved July 9, 1918. The Silver Star medal was created in 1932 and was extended to the Navy and Marine Corps by Act of Congress (Public Law 702, 77th Congress) approved August 7, 1942.


No initial qualifying date was set for either the Silver Star Medal or its predecessor, the Silver Citation Star. Since the earliest action for which a Silver Star was ultimately issued was during the Civil War, Members of the Army have therefore been eligible to receive the Silver Star for qualifying acts from April 15, 1861 to the present. Members of the Navy and Marine Corps have been eligible to receive the Silver Star for qualifying acts from December 6, 1941 to the present, with certain provisions for retroactive awards prior to that date.


The Silver Star may be awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, is cited for gallantry 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 armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
The required gallantry, while of a lesser degree than that required for the award of a Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross, must nevertheless have been performed with marked distinction.


The Silver Star is worn after the service Distinguished Service Medal and before the Defense Superior Service Medal.

  • Army and Air Force
Additional awards are denoted by oak leaf clusters.
  • Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard
Additional awards are denoted by gold stars five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter.


The Act that created the Silver Star specified that it was to be "a silver star three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter." The Silver Star Medal, which was authorized in 1932, was designed by Rudolf Freund (1878-1960) of Bailey, Banks and Biddle.


Silver Star Medal number #1 (with six oak leaf clusters) was issued to General Douglas MacArthur in August of 1932. The first Navy recipient was Shipfitter Second Class Clarence J. Ashenbrenner, who died while attempting to rescue fellow crewmen during the attack on the Cruiser Marblehead during the Battle of the Java Sea. His award was announced on July 27, 1942.



The overall design of the medal is a five-pointed star (point up) one and three quarters inches in circumscribing diameter, finished in gilt-bronze. In the center of this star is a smaller five-pointed star (point up), three-sixteenths of an inch in circumscribing diameter. The silver star is centered within a wreath of laurel tied at its base by a bow. The center lines and rays of both stars coincide. The top of the medal has a rectangular-shaped metal loop, .35 inch in length and .45 inch in width (outside finished dimensions), with rounded corners. This loop is struck as part of the pendant.

The small silver star in the center of the medal is the "silver [citation] star" prescribed by the original legislation. The laurel wreath alludes to achievement, and the larger gilt-bronze star is symbolic of military service.


The reverse is plain except for the inscription (in raised letters) at the top of the medal, FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION, that denotes the purpose of the medal. The space below is for engraving the recipient's name.


The ribbon has a center stripe of red flanked on either side by a stripe of white of equal width. The white stripes are flanked by equal blue bands having borders of white with blue edging. These are the colors of the National flag.


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