Legion Of Merit Medal

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Legion of Merit Medal

Legion of Merit Medal

Service: All Services

Instituted: 1942 (retroactive to 8 Sept 1939)

Legion of Merit Medal Criteria

Legion of Merit Medal Criteria: Exceptionally merit­orious conduct in the per­formance of outstanding services to the United States

Devices: Army/Air Force: Bronze, Silver Oak Leaf Cluster; Navy/Mar­ine Corps/Coast Guard: Bronze Letter “V” Device (for valor), Gold, Silver Star

Notes: Issued in four deg­rees (Legionnaire, Officer, Commander & Chief Commander) to foreign nationals

The Legion of Merit Medal was Authorized by Congress on July 20, 1942 to award to members of the Armed Forces of the United States for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service. Superior performance of normal duties will not alone justify award of this decoration. This military medal is not awarded for heroism, but rather service and achievement while performing duties in a key position of responsibility. It may be presented to foreign personnel, but is not authorized for presentation to civilian personnel. There are four degrees of this decoration that are awarded to foreign personnel only (Chief Commander, Commander, Officer and Legionnaire). The first two degrees are comparable in rank to the Distinguished Service Medal and are usually awarded to heads of state and to commanders of armed forces, respectively. The last two degrees are comparable in rank to the award of the Legion of Merit Medal to U.S. service members. The Legion of Merit was designed by Colonel Robert Townsend Heard and sculpted by Katharine W. Lane of Boston.

The name and design of the Legion of Merit was strongly influenced by the French Legion of Honor. The medal is a white enameled five-armed cross with ten points, each tipped with a gold ball and bordered in red enamel. In the center of the cross, thirteen stars on a blue field are surrounded by a circle of heraldic clouds. A green enameled laurel wreath circles behind the arms of the cross. Between the wreath and the center of the medal, in between the arms of the cross are two crossed arrows pointing outward. The blue circle with thirteen stars surrounded by clouds is taken from the Great Seal of the United States and is symbolic of a “new constellation,” as the signers of the Declaration of Independence called our new republic. The laurel wreath represents achievement, while the arrows represent protection of the nation. The reverse of the cross is a gold colored copy of the front with blank space to be used for engraving. The raised inscription, “ANNUIT COEPTIS MDCCLXXXII” with a bullet separating each word encircles the area to be engraved. The words, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “ANNUIT COEPTIS” (He [God] Has Favored Our Undertaking) come from the Great Seal of the United States and the date, “MDCCLXXXII” (1782) refers to the year General Washington established the Badge of Military Merit. The ribbon is a purple-red called American Beauty Red which is edged in white. The color is a variation of the original color of the Badge of Military Merit.