To acknowledge the issue of medals in the field during WW2, ribbons were issued and worn on the uniform to indicate what skills or awards have been earned. Also unit awards and ribbons denoting specialist qualifications with attachments were also issued and are still seen in use today as shown.
Set of 9 ribbons and corresponding medals from the first Gulf war period.
Ribbons left to right are: Navy Achievement with Gold Star denoting second award. Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon, Navy E Ribbon with 2 award E’s, Navy Good Conduct with 2 stars denoting 2 extra awards, National Defense Service, Southwest Asia Service with 1 battle star, Navy Sea Service Deployment with 1 battle star, Navy Arctic Service ribbon and Navy Pistol Marksmanship with Sharpshooter S. Underneath the ribbons are the 4 medals awarded, Navy Achievement with Gold Star, Navy Good Conduct with 2 stars, National Defense Service and Southwest Asia Service with 1 battle star.
WW2 Asiatic Pacific, WW2 Victory, Philippine Liberation, Bronze Star and Purple Heart Ribbons. Made by Wolf Brown Co circa post WW2. Asiatic star and Philippine Liberation ribbons have service stars fitted.
Set of Twelve Navy Vietnam Service ribbons. Achievement, Navy Unit Commendation, Good Conduct, Expeditionary, Defense, Vietnam Service, Humanitarian Service, Navy Sea Service Deployment, Multinational Force and Observer, RVN Campaign, Navy Expert Rifleman and Expert Pistol Marksmanship with Sharpshooter S qualification. Stars denote additional awards.
Ribbon bar for Army Distinguished Service Medal, Philippine Defense Ribbon and Army Presidential Unit Citation.
Top L-R: Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Navy Presidential Unit Citation.
Bottom L-R: N.C.O. Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Marine Corp Reserve Ribbon.
Ribbons are worn no more than 3 in a row with the top row having the less amount. Citation ribbons are sometimes worn on the right breast.
Korean Presidential Unit Citation.
Different types of ribbon fixing can be either pin fixing or clutch fixing. The ribbons can also be fixed onto a ribbon bar to indicate how many awards or service medals have been issued to the recipient.
Button Hole Lapel Pins for the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Army Commendation. These can be stud mount, clutch and screw back which are older in issue and are worn on civilian clothes.
Medal devices include bronze or silver oak leaf cluster for second or subsequent awards and silver representing 5 bronze. The same with bronze and silver service stars. The letter V for valor (valour) and M for mobilised reservists and the H hourglass for multiple award of armed forces reserve medal. A bronze arrowhead denotes participation in parachute, glider or amphibious landings. Each service and each medal has different devices and clasps to be fitted.
Left: V for valour device on Bronze Star. Centre: Marine Corp Device and Bronze Star on Asiatic Pacific Campaign for combat service with USMC and second award or participation in a campaign or major operation. Right: ASIA bar for service in the Asiatic theatre of operations on Navy Occupation Service Medal.
Army Good Conduct Medal and ribbon with suspension bar with 2 loops indicating a second award. 3 loops would indicate a 3rd award and a 4th for 4 awards and a 5th up to 5. A single Silver loop would indicate a 6th award continuing with more loops up to a 10th award with Gold 11 to 15. The medal is awarded for 1 year’s continuous service in wartime and 3 years during peace time.
A set of Miniature WW2 and Korea Army Service Medals including the Bronze Star, Air medal and the United Nations Korea Service medal. The reserve medal is for the army, the Air medal also being awarded for army service.
Miniature Distinguished Service Medal with screw mount.
Left: Air force Reserve Meritorious service medal, Centre: Distinguished Flying Cross. Right: Air force Cross.
Boxed Miniature Air Medal still in its original plastic wrapper with box dated 9/69(September 1969).
Devices: = Gold, Silver & Bronze Star. Gold denotes second & subsequent award of a decoration. Silver in lieu of 5 Gold Stars. Bronze second & subsequent award of a service award or participation in a campaign.
Bronze & Silver Oak Leaf. Bronze for second & subsequent award of a joint service decoration or Unit Citation. Silver in lieu of 5 Bronze.
Letter V = Bronze for Navy & Gold for the Marine Corp. Awarded for distinguished action in combat.
Knotted loop bar in Bronze, Silver or Gold. Denotes number of awards of Army Good Conduct Medal. Bronze 2nd to 5th, Silver 6th to 10th & Gold 11th to 15th.
W = Letter W, Defence of Wake Island. (WW2). USMC Expeditionary Medal.
A= Bronze Letter A. Defense Service Medal denotes service with Atlantic fleet before WW2.
Bronze Arrowhead. Army & USAF participation in parachute, glider & amphibious assault or landing.
Gold Airplane for Berlin Airlift. Army of Occupation Medal.
Bronze Marine Corp device. Navy, denotes combat service with the USMC.
Bronze, Gold or Silver Antarctica Disk to denote “Wintered-over” on the Antarctic continent. Antarctica Service medal.
3 = Bronze Number 3. All Services. Air medal awards & other awards.
US Navy, Coast Guard Pistol & Rifle Marksmanship Badges are the highest awards for weapons qualification. These are officially designated as badges but they are worn under the same criteria as medals. Both Navy medals designed by the US Mint in the 1930’s.
Devices: Letters S (silver) and E (bronze) are for sharpshooter on the Navy marksmanship awards. There are also Pistol, Rifle and target devices for the same award for the US Coast Guard with a Silver E & S.
Letters S (silver) and E (bronze) are for sharpshooter on the Navy marksmanship awards. There are also Pistol, Rifle and target devices for the same award for the US Coast Guard with a Silver E & S.
E=Navy E ribbon for battle efficiency.
Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Hour Glass device indicating subsequent years for reserve service. Bronze = 10, Gold = 20 and Silver = 30 years service.
Armed Forces Reserve. Established 1950 to current day. Awarded to the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corp, National Guard and the Navy Reserve. Each medal being different on the reverse. Hourglass device is issued for years of service 10 = bronze, 20 = Silver and 30 = Gold plus an “M” device for mobilisation.
To obtain a better understanding of ribbons and other devices I recommend reading:
“US Military Medals 1939 to Present” (Medals of America Press) Col. Frank Foster & Mr. Lawrence Borts where there is comprehensive information on ribbons and the type of devices fitted to medals of all the US services.