The Defense Distinguished Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11545 signed by President Richard M. Nixon on July 9, 1970.
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal has been in effect since July 9, 1970.
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is awarded by the Secretary of Defense to any military service officer for performing exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a specified or unified command, a Defense agency, or such other joint activity as may be designated by the Secretary of Defense.
ORDER OF PRECEDENCE
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is worn after the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross (depending on the Service Branch of the recipient), and before the distinguished service medals of the separate services.
Additional awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters. Until 1998, subsequent awards to Coast Guard personnel were denoted by gold stars five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. In 1998 the Coast Guard authorized the wear of oak leaf clusters to denote subsequent awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; however, gold stars previously earned continued to be worn.
DESIGNER AND SCULPTOR
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal was designed by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by Lewis J. King, Jr., both of the Army's Institute of Heraldry.
The first recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal was General Earle G. Wheeler, who received it upon his retirement as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 9, 1970.
DESCRIPTION AND SYMBOLISM
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is gold in color and one and seven-eighths inches in overall height. It features a medium-blue enameled pentagon (point up) superimposed by a gold eagle with displayed (outspread) wings. The eagle's breast is charged with the shield of the United States, and the eagle is shown grasping three crossed arrows in its talons. The pentagon and eagle are enclosed within a gold, pierced circle consisting in the upper half of thirteen stars and in the lower half of a wreath of laurel (on the left) and olive (on the right). At the top of the medal is a suspender composed of five graduated gold rays which extend above the stars.
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is rich in symbolism: the eagle grasping the arrows is taken from the seal of the Secretary of Defense and is the American bald eagle, symbolic of the Nation. The pentagon in the background alludes to the five branches of the Armed Forces (the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard). It also alludes to the headquarters of the Department of Defense, which is housed in the Pentagon. The configuration of the eagle bearing the shield of the United States and grasping three arrows upon a medium of blue background together with an arc of thirteen stars and wreath of laurel and olive refers to the seal of the Department of Defense and indicates the award of the medal in the name of the Secretary of Defense. Additionally, the conjoined stars and gold rays signify unity and excellence in the performance of the mission of the Department of Defense on behalf of the United States. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen colonies, and through them, all of the states. The olive branch represents the goal of defense (peace) while the laurel branch represents achievement.
On the reverse of the pentagon in the center of the medal is the inscription FROM / THE SECRETARY / OF DEFENSE / TO, with space beneath for inscribing the recipient's name. On the reverse of the ring bearing the stars (and above the pentagon) is the inscription FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE.
The ribbon is composed of a central stripe of red flanked on either side by stripes of gold and blue. The red represents zeal and courageous action; the gold represents excellence and the knowledge and guidance provided through senior leadership; and the medium blue represents the Department of Defense.