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.

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