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Silver Star

This article is about United States military decoration. For other uses, see Silver Star (disambiguation).
Silver Star
Awarded by United States Armed Forces
Type Military medal (Decoration)
Awarded for "Gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States"
Status Currently awarded
First awarded 1932
Next (higher) Army – Army Distinguished Service Medal[1]
Navy and Marine Corps – Navy Distinguished Service Medal[1]
Air Force - Air Force Distinguished Service Medal[1]
Coast Guard - Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal, Uniformed Public Health Service - Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal
Next (lower) Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force – Defense Superior Service Medal[1]
Coast Guard - Secretary of Transportation Outstanding Achievement Medal[2]
Silver Star Service Ribbon

The Silver Star, officially the Silver Star Medal, is the third-highest military decoration for valor awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces. Any uniformed servicemember may receive the medal, which is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.


The Silver Star is the successor award to the "Citation Star" (316 silver star) which was established by an Act of Congress on July 9, 1918. On July 19, 1932, the Secretary of War approved the conversion of the "Citation Star" to the Silver Star Medal. The original "Citation Star" is incorporated into the center of medal. The Silver Star's suspension and service ribbon resembles the red, white, and blue suspension and service ribbon of the Certificate of Merit Medal.[3]

Authorization for the Silver Star Medal was placed into law by an Act of Congress for the U.S. Navy on August 7, 1942 and an Act of Congress for the U.S. Army on December 15, 1942. The current statutory authorization for the medal is Title 10 of the United States Code, 10 U.S.C. § 3746 for the U.S. Army, 10 U.S.C. § 8746 for the U.S. Air Force, and 10 U.S.C. § 6244 for the U.S. Navy.

The US Army and Air Force award the medal as the "Silver Star". The US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard continue to award the medal as the "Silver Star Medal".

Award criteria

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry not justifying the award of one of the next higher valor awards: the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross.[4] The gallantry displayed must have taken place while in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.[1]

Air Force pilots and combat systems officers and Navy and Marine Corps Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers flying fighter aircraft are often considered eligible to receive the Silver Star upon becoming an ace (i.e., having five or more confirmed aerial kills), which entails the pilot and, in multi-seat fighters, the weapons system officer or radar intercept officer, intentionally and successfully risking his life multiple times under combat conditions and emerging victorious.[5] However, during the Vietnam War, the last conflict to produce U.S. fighter aces, the USAF pilot, the two USAF navigators/weapon systems officers (who were later retrained as USAF pilots), the USN naval aviator and the one USN naval flight officer/radar intercept officer to achieve this distinction were eventually awarded the Air Force Cross and Navy Cross, respectively, in addition to Silver Stars previously awarded for earlier aerial kills.[citation needed]

Unit award equivalent

Air Force - Gallant Unit Citation
Army - Valorous Unit Award
Coast Guard - Coast Guard Unit Commendation
Navy-Marine Corps - Navy Unit Commendation


The Silver Star is a gold five-pointed star, Script error: No such module "convert". in circumscribing diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays from the center and a Script error: No such module "convert". diameter silver star superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners. The reverse has the inscription FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION. The ribbon is Script error: No such module "convert". wide and consists of the following stripes: Script error: No such module "convert". Old Glory red (center stripe); proceeding outward in pairs Script error: No such module "convert". white; Script error: No such module "convert". ultramarine blue; Script error: No such module "convert". white; and Script error: No such module "convert". ultramarine blue.[3]

Ribbon devices

Second and subsequent awards of the Silver Star are denoted by oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force and by 516 inch stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.[1][6][7][8]


The Department of Defense does not keep extensive records of awards of the Silver Star. Independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established.[9] Colonel David Hackworth is likely to be the person who has been awarded the most Silver Stars. He earned ten Silver Stars for service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.[10]

Female recipients

An unknown number of women received the award in World War II. In 1944, four Army nurses serving in Italy — First Lieutenant Mary Roberts, Second Lieutenant Elaine Roe, Second Lieutenant Rita Virginia Rourke, and Second Lieutenant Ellen Ainsworth (posthumous) — became the first women recipients of the Silver Star, all cited for their bravery in evacuating the 33rd Field Hospital at Anzio, Italy on February 10.[11]

The next known woman to receive the medal is Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, who received it in 2005 for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq.[11] In 2007, it was discovered that three nurses who served in World War I were cited with Citation Stars for their service in July 1918. Having never been awarded their Citation Stars, they were awarded the Silver Star posthumously.[12] Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown was awarded the Silver Star in March 2008 for heroism in the War in Afghanistan.[11]

Notable recipients

Notable recipients include:


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33 Volume 3" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. Department of Defense. 23 November 2010. pp. 13, 52. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "Ribbon Order of Precedence" (PDF). Medals and Awards Program. Personnel Management, CG-12. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Silver Star". The Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Section 578.12 – Silver Star". Code of Federal Regulations. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Korean War pilot receives Silver Star 56 years later. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  6. ^ Coast Guards Medals and Awards, COMDTINSTM1650D, May 2008, P. 1-13 a, 2-3 5., 1-16 "a"
  7. ^ Navy-Marine Awards manual, Aug. 22, 2006, SECNAVINST 1650.1H, P. 1-8, 123. 1., 1-22
  8. ^ DOD Awards Manual, 1348.33, Oct. 12, 2011, P. 60, Order of Precedence, Silver Star Medal.
  9. ^ Home of Heroes: Silver Star Medal. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
  10. ^ Hackworth, Col David H., U.S. Army (retired) (December 2002). Look Truth Right in the Eye. Interview with Fred L. Schultz and Gordon Keiser. Naval Institute Proceedings. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Abrashi, Fisnik (March 9, 2008). "Medic Stationed in Afghanistan Becomes 2nd Woman to Be Awarded Silver Star". Fox News. Associated Press. 
  12. ^ "Daughter Accepts Silver Star Her World War I Nurse Mother Earned". United States Army. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  13. ^ O'Donnell, Maureen. "Military Times Hall of Valor: William J. Cullerton". Military Times. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 

External links