The Silver Lifesaving Medal was established by Act of Congress (General Nature Number 71, Section 7), approved June 20, 1874.


The Silver Lifesaving Medal has been in effect from June 20, 1874 to the present.


The Silver Lifesaving Medal is awarded by the Commandant of the Coast Guard to any person who rescues, or endeavors to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other peril of water. To merit award of the Silver Lifesaving Medal, the rescue must involve such significant effort that it merits recognition, but not at the level recognized by the Gold Lifesaving Medal. The rescue or attempted rescue must either take place in waters within the United States or subject to its jurisdiction, or one of the parties must be a citizen of the United States or be from a vessel or aircraft owned or operated by citizens of the United States.

  • For members of the Coast Guard, the Silver Lifesaving Medal is worn after the Air Medal and before the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

  • For members of the Army, the Silver Lifesaving medal is worn after the Superior Unit Award and before the Good Conduct Medal.

  • For members of the Navy, the Silver Lifesaving Medal is worn after the Navy "E" ribbon and before the Prisoner of War Medal.

  • For members of the Air Force, the Silver Lifesaving Medal is worn after the Prisoner of War Medal and before the Combat Readiness Medal.

Additional awards of the Silver Lifesaving Medal are denoted by a decorative silver bar inscribed with the recipient's name.


The Silver Lifesaving Medal was designed by Hermann Faber and sculpted by Anthony C. Paquet.


The first recipients of the Silver Lifesaving received their medals on June 23, 1876, for heroism in rescuing two badly frozen men from the wreck of their boat on Watt's Lege (on the coast of Maine) on November 30, 1875. They were:
  • Otis N. Wheeler
  • John O. Philbrick


In the center of a silver medal one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter, a man is struggling in a heavy sea; hovering above him is the figure of a woman offering him one end of a long scarf. The entire scene is contained within a raised border. In the upper third of this border, and following the contour of the medal, are the words, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in raised letters; and in the bottom third, the words ACT OF CONGRESS AUGUST 4, 1949. The scene is a symbolic representation of a courageous rescue at sea, which represents the purpose of this medal.


The center of the medal is blank and is encircled by a laurel wreath tied at its base with a bow. The wreath is contained within a raised border which bears the inscription in raised letters, IN TESTAMENT OF HEROIC DEEDS IN SAVING LIFE FROM THE PERILS OF THE SEA. At the bottom of the medal, separating the beginning and ending of the inscription, is a stylized laurel wreath.


The ribbon has a broad center stripe of silver separated from blue edge stripes by narrow pinstripes of white.


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