Klinger's Place

This is a personal place to post things to the Internet related to my hobby of numismatics and items related to my family and friends.

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Location: San Diego, California

I grew up in Lykens, PA, graduated from PENN STATE, and was commissioned in the US Navy in 1961. I spent 30 years in the Navy - finishing as a Captain. I served most of my years in the Submarine Service. I had command of the USS Sam Houston (SSBN 609). I have a wonderful wife (Marilyn), two kids (David & Karolyn), and six grandkids (Kevin, David, Alison, Amber, Richard & Sarah).

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Air Force Medal of Honor

The only Air Force Medal of Honor type was finalized in 1965. Only 17 have been awarded - all for action in Vietnam. Between 1947 and 1965 Air Force personnel were authorized to receive the Army MOH. The design is similar to the Army design with the Air Force crest (wings and thunderbolts) replacing the Eagle. And the central figure is a crowned Miss Liberty to replace the Minerva head.

(left click photos to enlarge)

But when you look at this actual photo of all three current designs what hits you is the size of the Air Force medal. It is 50% larger than the Army medal. I only ever saw all three on display together once, many years ago and I remember how impressed I was with the size of the AF medal.

Army Medal of Honor Types

(left click photo to enlarge)

In my previous blog I showed the four types of the Navy Medal of Honor. It happens that the Army also had four types.

Type 1 was used from 1862 to 1895. It had a similar design as the Navy medal with the central design of "Minerva repulsing Discord". A spread eagle and cannons replace the anchor of the Navy version.
Several years ago at the ANA summer seminar, Adna Wilde and I were sitting in the hallway waiting for one of the instructors to open the classroom, when a student from another class (and vest pocket dealer) showed us what we recognised as a Civil War era type 1 Army Medal of Honor. He said that he had this on consignment and wanted to know how much it was worth. I was anxious to jump when Adna quickly told the man that it was illegal to buy sell or trade this item. I'm not sure the guy even knew it was a Medal of Honor. He walked away somewhat bewildered. I have no idea what ever happened to that MOH.

Type 2 was used from 1896 to 1903. The only difference from type 1 is the pin-back ribbon design. On the reverse of the medal is the phrase "By Congress" and a flat to engrave the name of the recipient. Perhaps this phrase added to the common reference to this award as "The Congressional Medal of Honor".

Type 3 was used from 1904 to 1944. It is known as the "Gillespie" medal after the General who had it designed - in France! The head of Minerva replaces the older version, and the legend UNITED STATES of AMERICA is added. Also, the cannons were replaced by arrows. This is the first time the 13 star pattern was introduced to the MOH design.

Type 4 was introduced in 1944 and is the present design. The device is identical to the type 3, but in this type the neck ribbon with starred "pad" replaces the pin-back ribbon.

This begged the question: why do all the photos I find of WWII MOH recipients show the medal being worn around the neck, rather than pinned to the uniform, even though the type 4, with neck ribbon was not authorized by the Army until 1944?

I think that the type 3 pin-back was awarded by the Army during WWII. This photo clearly shows that Audie Murphy is wearing the type 3 "Gillespie" medal pinned to the pad of the modern style neck ribbon which had been in use by the Navy since 1942.

In this later photo, he removed the pin-back ribbon and mounted the decoration directly to the pad of the neck ribbon. I guess this makes it a "hybrid" type 4 ?