Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Other US Medals and Decorations

Presidential Unit Citation


Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

One of the most notable decorations on Bill’s discharge is the Distinguished Unit Badge. It was sometimes called that, but formally it was referred to as the “Distinguished Unit Citation”, established by Executive Order 9075 and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 26, 1942. In 1966 its name was changed to the “Presidential Unit Citation” (PUC). Like the CIB, this award was made retroactive to December 7, 1941 to include the attack on Pearl Harbor.

To receive a PUC in World War Two a unit had to do something altogether extraordinary. According to the U.S. Institute of Heraldry, to qualify:

“The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions as to set it apart and above other units participating in the same campaign. The degree of heroism required is the same as that which would warrant award of a Distinguished Service Cross to an individual. Extended periods of combat duty or participation in a large number of operational missions, either ground or air is not sufficient. This award will normally be earned by units that have participated in single or successive actions covering relatively brief time spans. It is not reasonable to presume that entire units can sustain Distinguished Service Cross performance for extended time periods except under the most unusual circumstances. Only on rare occasions will a unit larger than battalion qualify for award of this decoration.”

The Institute of Heraldry further states:

“The emblem is worn by all members of a cited organization and is considered an individual decoration for persons in connection with the cited acts and may be worn whether or not they continue as members of the organization. Other personnel may wear this decoration while serving with an organization to indicate the unit has been awarded the Presidential Unit Citation”.

The 505th PIR received this PUC for its action during the Normandy invasion. 2nd battalion 505th PIR was subsequently awarded a second PUC later in 1944 during Operation Market Garden in Holland.


Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

The streamer portion of the award shown above is flown together with the flag of the unit upon which the award was bestowed.

Here’s the text of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s PUC for their action at Sainte-Mère-Église during the Normandy D-Day invasion:

The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy between 6 and 9 June 1944, during the invasion of France.  The regiment landed by parachute shortly after 0200, 6 June 1944, on the Cotentin Peninsula, in the area west of Ste. Mere Eglise, France.  Drops were made in the face of artillery, machine gun, antiaircraft, and mortar fire from organized and fortified enemy positions, and against small arms fire of mobile and static antiairborne landing groups of German forces in the area.  Between 0200 and 0400 the regiment secured the area west of Ste. Mere Eglise for the predawn glider landing of Division Headquarters and antiaircraft elements of the division.  By the dawn the 505th Parachute Infantry had captured the town of Ste. Mere Eglise and controlled this vital road center, preventing movement of German forces on the roads to the beachheads east of Ste. Mere Eglise.  The regiment also established strong defensive positions east of the bridge over the Merderet River near La Fiere and prevented reinforcement of German forces east of the Merderet River.  The regiment maintained these positions against repeated counterattacks by a numerically superior enemy supported by tanks and artillery.  The regiment bore the full brunt of vicious German counterattacks, repelled every assault without comparable artillery support or assistance from friendly forces, and achieved the regimental objectives.  In the midst of continuous enemy fire, duties were performed unhesitatingly and with utter disregard for personal safety.  The courage and devotion to duty shown by members of the 505th Parachute Infantry are worthy of emulation and reflect the highest traditions of the Army of the United States.”

There will be more about Bill’s involvement in Normandy in a later post. For now I’ll let these powerful words speak for themselves.


European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Medal (with Arrowhead)


Image Source: U.S. Institute of Heraldry

According to the U.S. Institute of Heraldry, to be awarded the EAME medal a soldier had to meet the following criteria:

a. The European-African-Middle Eastern (EAME) Campaign Medal was awarded to personnel for service within the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater between 7 December 1941 and 8 November 1945 under any of the following conditions:

            (1) On permanent assignment.

            (2) In a passenger status or on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days or 60 days not consecutive.

            (3) In active combat against the enemy and was awarded a combat decoration or furnished a certificate by the commanding general of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that he actually participated in combat.

        b. ………..The EAME Theater included Europe, European Russia, Greenland, Iceland, Africa, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.”

We already know that Bill qualified for the medal for active combat as per his CIB. More specific to the EAME medal, Bill’s discharge papers state the following under 32. Battles and Campaigns

“GO 33 40 WD 45 Naples- Foggia Sicily Normandy Rhineland Ardennes Central Europe”

Corresponding to this in 33. Decorations and Citations it states:

“European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 6 Bronze Stars”

The GO 33 40 WD 45 were General Orders #33 and #40. They were issued by the War Department in 1945. They authorized the EAME Campaign Medal for service in the bronze star campaigns of Naples-Foggia, Sicily, Normandy, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe. I don’t have copies of these General orders at this time, so I cannot reproduce the text of them here.

There were 16 qualifying bronze star battle campaigns in the EAME region:

Egypt-Libya: June 11, 1942 – February 12, 1943
Air Offensive, Europe: July 4, 1942 – June 5, 1944
Algeria-French Morocco: November 8–11, 1942
Tunisia: November 12, 1942 – May 13, 1943
Sicily: May 14, 1943 – August 17, 1943
Naples-Foggia: August 18, 1943 – January 21, 1944
Anzio: January 22, 1944 – May 24, 1944
Rome-Arno: January 22, 1944 – September 9, 1944
Normandy: June 6, 1944 – July 24, 1944
Northern France: July 25, 1944 – September 14, 1944
Southern France: August 15, 1944 – September 14, 1944
Northern Apennines: September 10, 1944 – April 4, 1945
Rhineland: September 15, 1944 – March 21, 1945
Ardennes-Alsace: December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945
Central Europe: March 22, 1945 – May 11, 1945
Po Valley: April 5, 1945 – May 8, 1945 

Source: Wikipedia

Bill was not awarded any bronze stars for any of the North African campaigns. That’s because he arrived at their locations after fighting had ceased and the campaigns were finished.

Bronze and Silver Battle Stars

Bronze-service-star-3d Silver-service-star-3d

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

A bronze star campaign device is different from a Bronze Star Medal. The former indicates that a soldier fought in a designated bronze star campaign. The latter was awarded for valor in battle. Bronze battle star’s (as they are sometimes called) were only awarded if a soldier was physically present during a designated bronze star campaign. A soldier couldn’t have received one, say if he was sick and his outfit went to battle, leaving him behind. 

Each Bronze Star device attached to the EAME medal corresponds to one campaign. A silver star device is attached when five bronze stars have been awarded. 

Arrowhead Device


Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Arrowhead pin is a replica of a real Native American arrowhead. It was awarded to Bill to symbolize the fact that he was a member of the group spearheading an assault; in his case, descending from the sky to do battle behind enemy lines. To receive it he had to physically jump from his C-47 aircraft during the assault. If his unit was called back or if he failed to make the jump, he would not qualify for credit.

It was only awarded once, regardless of how many times a soldier participated in spearhead assaults. Bill was in four such assaults namely; the jump into Sicily, the Salerno jump (Naples-Foggia), The Normandy jump, and the jump into Holland (Rhineland).

Display of EAME Devices

Since Bill fought in six campaigns in the EAME Theater, his ribbon and medal would comprise of one Arrowhead, one Silver and one Bronze Star. These devices would be superimposed in the following order on Bill’s EAME ribbon and medal:


200px-Arrowhead_device.svg Silver-service-star-3d Bronze-service-star-3d

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons 


Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Meaning of the EAME Stripes, Colors and Imagery

The colors on the ribbon and medal were designed to symbolize the theaters of war in which the campaigns were fought. The red, white and blue stripes in the middle represent the United States. The green bands on either side of these signify the green landscape of Europe. The green, white and red strips on the left side correspond to the national colors of Italy, while the white and black strips on the right side represent those of Nazi Germany. The brown boarders on the left and right symbolize the desert sands of North Africa.

Euro-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal

Image Source: U.S. Air Force Personnel Center

The face of the medal shows Army troops pouring out of a Navy LST while taking enemy fire. If you look closely, there’s an exploding shell to the back of the soldier at left in the foreground. The airplane on the left represents the Air Force. It’s a scene meant to capture the essence of the invasions of North Africa and Europe.


Image Source: U.S. Institute of Heraldry

The back of the medal presents a Bald Eagle, symbol of the American people. It stands proudly on a craggy bluff portraying America’s tenacity and fortitude in fighting the war from 1941 through 1945.


Good Conduct Medal

Army-Good-Conduct-Medal-Obv Army-Good-Conduct-Medal-Rev

Image Source: U.S. Institute of Heraldry

The criteria for receiving this medal were:

“…exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity in active Federal Military service. It is awarded on a selective basis to each soldier who distinguishes himself from among his/her fellow soldiers by their exemplary conduct, efficiency, and fidelity throughout a specified period of continuous enlisted active Federal military service. Qualifying periods of service include each three years completed after 27 August 1940 or, for first award only, upon completion of at least one year upon termination of service if separated prior to three years. The immediate commander must approve the award and the award must be announced in permanent orders.” - U.S. Institute of Heraldry.

“The eagle, with wings spread, denotes vigilance and superiority. The horizontal sword denotes loyalty, and the book represents knowledge acquired and ability gained. On the reverse, the lone star denotes merit. The wreath of laurel and oak leaves denotes reward and strength.” - U.S. Institute of Heraldry.

I don’t yet have the citation for Bill’s award in a General Order (GO) so I can’t tell when he received it, nor its exact wording. For some idea of what it might contain, here’s a GO for award of the medal to enlisted men of the 328th Field Artillery Battalion of the 85th Infantry Division:

Sample_GO_Good ConductMedal

Army of Occupation Medal (With Germany Clasp)

Army_of_Occupation_Medal ArmyOccMedal

Image Sources: Wikipedia Commons

Bill was also awarded the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp. The medal was authorized in 1946 and delivery of them only began 1947. That’s why it’s not mentioned on his discharge.

The black stripe symbolizes Germany, while the red is for Japan. The bridge displayed on the face is the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, Germany. It is symbolically important, being the first bridge where the Allies crossed the Rhine River in Germany.

Bill performed occupation duty in the area near Ludwigslust in northern Germany from around May 5 and for sometime onwards. Hostilities ceased on May 8, 1945 with the surrender of Germany. He was in Berlin from August 1 to November 1, 1945 as part of the US army of occupation and assigned to the 82nd Airborne Parachute Maintenance Company stationed at the huge Tempelhof Aerodrome. He had previously reached the rank of Technical Sergeant T-4. In Berlin, Bill played a key role supervising the repair and packing of parachutes for regimental sized parade jumps as a show of American might to the Russian allies stationed nearby in their zone. Bill told numerous stories of dangerous patrol missions involving the post war Nazi resistance movement known as the Werewolves. He was also captured by the Russians and held against his will in their sector, later managing to escape.

The criteria for award of the Occupation Medal pertaining directly to Bill is:

(1) Germany (excluding Berlin) between 9 May 1945 and 5 May 1955. Service between 9 May and 8 November 1945 will count only if the EAME Campaign Medal was awarded for service prior to 9 May 1945.” U.S. Institute of Heraldry


“(3) Berlin between 9 May 1945 and 2 October 1990. Service between 9 May and 8 November 1945 may be counted only if the EAME Campaign Medal was awarded for service prior to 9 May 1945.” U.S. Institute of Heraldry

I will need to get the General Order with Bill’s name on it for confirmation, but this means that Bill must have been awarded the EAME medal before 9 May 1945.


WWII Victory Medal

299px-WorldWarIIVictoryMedal WorldWarIIVictoryMedal_rev

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

The last US decoration appearing on Bill’s discharge is the World War II Victory Medal. It was awarded to all military service personnel, active or in reserve status, from December 7, 1941 until December 31, 1946; the date which President Truman declared to be the official end of hostilities. This meant that even though the war ended with the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, some men and women who had entered the service in 1946 were awarded the medal without having been WWII veterans.

In my view the Victory Medal is the most  evocative of all Bill’s awards. Rainbow colors dominate the left and right sides of the award’s ribbon, representing the collaboration of all allied nations during the war. The broad red stripe symbolizes the blood of the soldiers killed or wounded in the war. The two white lines between the rainbows and the red stripe signify a new hope and the fact that this was the second global war the world has faced.

The front side displays Nike, Greek goddess of victory. The sword she’s holding is broken in two, symbolizing the end of Nazi and Imperial Japanese tyranny. She’s stepping on a helmet belonging to Mars, the Roman god of war. This represents the end of hostilities. A rising sun in the background symbolizes the dawn of peace.

The reverse side harks back to a speech made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Called the Four Freedoms speech, in it he proclaimed these four freedoms should be enjoyed by all humanity.

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2009 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bill’s Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB)

Over the next few posts, I’d like to take a closer look at some of the medals listed in Bill’s Honorable Discharge starting with his CIB.

CIB History and Purpose

The CIB was introduced during WWII in October, 1943 and was made retroactive to 7 December, 1941 marking America’s entry into the war after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The idea behind the badge was to give personal recognition to the bravery of individual infantrymen fighting under extremely poor conditions, while sustaining very high casualty rates.

To receive the award a soldier had to be assigned to an infantry unit, hold an infantry related MOS, and had to perform his duty while engaging the enemy in battle on the ground.

At the time a regimental commander was the highest rank eligible for the award. General James Gavin (commander of the 82nd Airborne) was a colonel commanding the 505th PIR when he received his CIB for action in Sicily, 1943. That’s why you’ll see pictures of him wearing one even as a two star Major General.


CIB Design Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Bill’s CIB

Bill received his CIB in General Order Number 16 (GO #16). It’s dated October 5, 1944 which is fitting because that just happened to be his 22nd birthday!

I’ve scanned in GO #16 from a copy obtained from the National Archives. Pvt William A. Clark is listed forth from the bottom.


GO#16 Bill's CIB

WD Cir. #186 and #271 means War Department Circular numbers 186 and 271, respectively. The acronym “EM” just means Enlisted Men.

The listed soldiers are being awarded their CIB’s for examplary conduct in action against the enemy….” In October 1944, the War Department stated that “action against the enemy” more specifically meant “ground combat against enemy ground forces.” Subsequent, GOs awarding CIBs most likely contained the updated language, although I haven’t seen any examples.

The men were entitled to additional pay as per War Department Circular #271 of $10.00 per month. Since this was effective January, 1944, Bill may have received a nice birthday present of back pay on the order of $90.00 - $100.00.

According to the Military Awards Branch of the US Army Human Resources Command (USAHRC) individuals were only to be awarded the CIB in WWII if they possessed an MOS of the following: Light machine gunner (604); Heavy machine gunner (605); Platoon sergeant (651); Squad leader (653); Rifleman (745); Automatic rifleman (746); Heavy weapons NCO (812), or Gun crewman (864).

Bill’s separation record and discharge papers only list MOS 521 and 620. However, to get the CIB, Bill had to possess at least one of the qualifying MOS’s listed above. During the war and in the years after, at times Bill talked about jumping with his rifle and using it in battle. Sometimes he used the standard issue M1 Garand, but favored the British made Thompson submachine gun, or “Tommy Gun”, and the “Grease Gun” which replaced the Tommy Gun later in the war. They had a larger ammunition capacity and superior rate of fire over the M1 making them indispensable weapons in tight, fluid combat situations particularly after a jump.

Jumping with a rifle and using it in battle goes hand in hand with possession of an MOS of 745 and/or 746. I’ve reproduced them below from The War Department’s 1944 “Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel” (TM12-427).




Bill’s separation record document states that it was prepared using information “from available Army records and supplemented by personal interview.”

Talking about his WWII medals in 2001, Pierre Rinfret has this to say about US Army records:

“I cannot account for the incompetence of the U.S. Army….In many many ways the so-called records of an individual are more often than not totally and completely inaccurate, but what else would you expect. SNAFU (situation normal, all fouled up) was not invented as an acronym without reason!” - Pierre Rinfret, 2001

Renfret was a veteran lead scout in the 26th Infantry Division under General Patton, an economic advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and a 1990 Candidate for New York Governor.

Looking at what we know, there can be only one explanation for the apparent disparity in Bill’s award of the CIB. His Army record seems incomplete in not including a rifleman MOS. It wouldn’t have been all that useful in postwar civilian employment, so it’s probable that he didn’t feel like pushing the issue during his separation interview. Indeed Bill himself said his service record was messed up in a letter home while stationed in Berlin.

Like General Gavin, Bill got his CIB during the Sicily Campaign. To be awarded the CIB was a really big deal because of the additional pay and because it distinguished a man from others who hadn’t been seen combat. Again quoting from Pierre Rinfret:

“The following listing [of medals] is what I believe to be the order of importance BUT I have placed the combat infantry badge first since in my judgment that is the most important medal anyone could ever receive and because it reveals the caliber of a man!” - Pierre Rinfret, 2001

Bill received his CIB for combat in the pivotal battle of Biazza Ridge, Sicily. The 505th PIR were fighting 17 Mark VI Tiger tanks and supporting infantry from the infamous and brutal German Hermann Goring Division. If it wasn’t for the heroism of Gavin’s “boys” (as the then Colonel Gavin referred to his men), the enemy would have succeeded in pushing the Allies back into the sea; dooming the invasion to failure.

The battle of Biazza Ridge was a horrendous engagement and a triumph of the human spirit on the part of the 505 in the direst of circumstances. In a later post, I’ll talk in more detail about what happened to Bill during what he remembered as one of those dark days.”

Bill’s Bronze Star Medal


BSM Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

After the war, Bill was retrospectively eligible for the Bronze Star Medal (BSM), but he never pursued his entitlement to it.

“The Bronze Star Medal (BSM) was established in February 1944. Announcement of the criteria of the award was made several months later. At the conclusion of World War II, General George C. Marshall, upon reviewing the number of awards received by infantrymen, was disturbed to learn that comparatively few had received recognition and that infantrymen accounted for more casualties than any other branch or element of the U.S. Armed Forces. It was determined that many commanders were unaware of the criteria for awarding the BSM. The reason, combined with the late announcement of award criteria, caused an inequity. In order to rectify this disparity and oversight, the criteria was established for Combat Infantryman Badge and Combat Medical Badge recipients during the period December 7. 1941, to September 2, 1945, to receive the BSM.” - National Records Personnel Center, 2009

So Bill’s CIB is effectively also a BSM.

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2009 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bill’s Separation Qualification Record

Another interesting document is Bill’s Separation Qualification Record. It reveals some of the detail about Bill’s military skills or his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). He completed three months of basic training (MOS 521) and received his qualifications as a Rigger and Parachute Repairman (MOS 620). MOS 620 was a skill he practiced for thirty months covering the entire duration of the war, culminating in his promotion in grade to Technical Sergeant T-4.

Click on the pages for higher resolution images.




All enlistees to the Army had to complete basic infantry training to earn the MOS of 521. The War Department’s 1944 “Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel” (TM12-427), gives a description of what MOS 521 is used for on page 68.

MOS520part1 MOS5201part2



Page 80 of the same document gives a more detailed account of the MOS 620 skill set.

MOS620part1 MOS620part2

Like all other would be paratroopers, once basic training was completed, Bill underwent the grueling four week long airborne training program. As per his discharge papers he was awarded his jump wings in February 1943. Upon graduation troopers were assessed for skills that would be useful in the context of airborne operations and were subsequently assigned to subordinate units within the 82nd Division. In addition to combat troopers, men were needed to drive vehicles, cook meals, operate artillery equipment, and rig parachutes etc. Part of the decision of where they would go was based upon their basic training reports. Other information was used including any civilian skills they possessed.

I don’t have access to Bill’s basic training evaluation report, but page 2 of his separation record does indicate he was a back tender at the Aetna paper mill in Dayton, Ohio. The work there required skills in operating and maintaining machinery used to make paper. It seems very likely that this was a significant contributing factor in the decision to assign him to parachute rigging and repair. To complete the final part of his airborne training, Bill attended the parachute packing and maintenance school at Fort Benning which had been established since 1942.

Being a “rigger”, Bill was responsible for the vital and morally onerous task of repairing and packing parachutes for troops prior to combat and training jumps. If a chute failed to open the responsibility fell on the riggers. Bill also customized equipment satchels to overcome design faults at the request of commanders and as favors for fellow troopers.

Riggers comprised part of an airborne regiment’s service company. Other service company personnel such as ambulance drivers, runners, stenographers, cooks, orderlies etc had to attend jump school as well. But they usually landed in gliders instead of making combat jumps. However, riggers were routinely asked to volunteer (and indeed were required) to make combat jumps to instill confidence in the hearts of troopers that their parachutes were packed correctly.

In all, Bill made 52 jumps during the war including all four combat jumps made by the 505th PIR . I’ll talk more about his involvement in these jumps in the coming months.

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2009 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.