Non Combat Awards

There are a fair number of awards and medals for combat bravery in the face of the enemy but the United States early on Identified a need to recognise acts of bravery in a noncombat situation and the Soldiers Medal was Instituted 1926 which was awarded to the US Army for heroism not involving actual combat. This award is valued very highly by its recipients. Its British equivalent being the George Medal. Obverse shows an Eagle with upraised wings on a scroll adorned either side by stars. Reverse has a shield with the initials US and sprays of Oak and Laurel under which a there is a plaque for the recipient’s name. The words “Soldiers Medal” adorn the edge and “For Valor” either side of the shield. Devices: 🍂 = Bronze Oak Leaf for subsequent award.


The first medal was awarded for saving the life of a boy from drowning in Coopers Lake near Fort McPherson, Georgia on 12 August 1926 to Warrant Officer J K Wilson and also to Pte Cleophas C. Burnett for rescuing two women from drowning in the Roosevelt Park swimming pool, San Antonio, Texas, on 14 August 1926.


Navy & Marine Corp Medal. Instituted 1942 being the equivalent of the Soldiers medal. Awarded for heroism involving risk to life but in non-combat situation. An octagonal shape with an Eagle adorning an anchor perched on a globe with the word Heroism underneath. The reverse is left blank for engraving recipient’s name. Awarded retrospectively from December 6th 1941. This medal was designed by Lt Commander McClelland Barclay, USNR. Before his design was accepted the well-known battle artist was reported missing in action off New Georgia Island. Devices: ˜ = Gold Star for subsequent award.

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One of the more noted recipients was Lieutenant John F Kennedy (35th President of the United States) for extreme heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat PT 109, awarded August 1st to 2nd 1943 for directing the rescue of his crew after MTB PT109 had sunk following a collision with the Japanese destroyer Amagiri near to the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Theatre of operations during WW2.


Coast Guard Medal. Authorised 1949 but designed and awarded 1958 for heroism not involving conflict with an armed enemy of the United States. Equivalent to the Soldiers medal. Octagonal with the United States Coast Guard emblem of a pair of cross anchors enclosed within a rope circle. The reverse is left blank for engraving recipient’s name. Devices: ˜ = Gold Star for subsequent award.

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Former Korean War Veteran Boatswain Mate 1st class US Coast Guard, Edgar A. Culbertson was awarded the Coast Guard Medal for trying to rescue 3 teenagers from the North Pier break wall at Duluth, Minnesota during a storm April 30th 1967. Culbertson aged 31 lost his life in the rescue which also claimed the lives of the 3 teenage boys.


Airman’s Medal. Instituted 1960 for heroism involving risk to life but in a non-combat situation. Equivalent to the Soldiers medal. Medal has the figure of Hercules releasing a falcon. Reverse is that of a laurel leaf circle with the words “For Valor” and space to engrave the recipient’s name. Different from its counterparts, Navy and Marine Corp, Soldiers and Coast Guard Medal as it does not share the same octagonal shape so as not to confuse it with general service medals. Awarded from 1960. Devices: 🍂 = Bronze Oak Leaf for subsequent award.DSC_0186 (2)


US Air Force Pilot Adam Kinzinger received his Airman’s Medal in 2006 for disarming a man wielding a knife who had attacked a woman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (He is also a member of the US House of Representatives for Illinois).

Resource: “The Call of Duty” by Strandberg & Bender. “American War Medals & Decorations” by Evans E Kerrigan and


Author: James Findon

Hi I'm James Findon I live in Warwickshire, UK and my main employment is as a Maintenance Supervisor for a Global Real Estate Company. I have previously worked for the civil service on a United States Air Force Base in the UK and this developed my keen interest in American Military Awards and military history. I regularly contribute articles to military forums on the internet especially US Awards and equipment. I have visited some of Europe's battlefields and US Cemeteries including Normandy and Bastogne. I hope you'll enjoy reading my Blog as I've a passion for all thing US Military and for my sins I'm now an American Football convert, Green Bay being my team. Enjoy!

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