Know Your Uniform: Service & Campaign Medals

Campaign and service medals are a type of military decoration. They recognize an individual's participation during a specific conflict or event. The United Kingdom created the first modern campaign medals in the nineteenth century. The Dewey Medal, created by Congress for the Navy in 1898, was the first campaign medal issued by the United States.

Scroll through the page to learn more about campaign and service medals included in the exhibit.

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1. Wyoming Spanish-American War Service Medal

James S. Miller Collection, Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, Buffalo, Wyoming

The Wyoming Spanish-American War Service Medal recognized members of the 1st Battalion Wyoming Volunteer Infantry. A volunteer unit, the 1st Wyoming, mustered on May 7, 1898, for service in the Philippines. It saw action during the Attack on Manila in August and at San Pedro Macati in February 1899. The 1st Wyoming returned home in September 1899. Another Wyoming unit, Alger's Light Artillery, also received the medal for their service.

 

The Wyoming Legislature authorized a special medal to commemorate the 1st Wyoming's service. Shreve & Company of San Francisco, California, struck 325 medals with 299 distributed to the returning soldiers. Private James S. Miller of C Company received the medal on display. It is on loan from the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum.

2. Victory Medal (World War I)

Sheridan Armory Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The World War I Victory Medal recognized soldiers, sailors, and marines who served during the Great War and Russian Civil War. A committee of the victorious Allied Nations recommended a common service medal in March 1919. Although each nation's medal was slightly different, they shared some common elements, including the same ribbon, an image of a "Winged Victory," and the phrase "The Great War for Civilization." Minnesota-born American sculptor James Earle Fraser designed the American version.

 

The Victory Medal on exhibit is part of the Sheridan Armory Collection. Its original recipient is unknown. However, this unnamed doughboy served at the Battle of St. Mihiel and during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The battle and operational claps used by the Army and Navy indicate participation in specific battles or operational duties.

3. Wyoming World War I Service Medal

Sheridan Armory Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Wyoming World War I Service Medal recognized Wyomingites who served during the Great War. Created by an act of the Wyoming Legislature, the service medal features the Great Seal of the State of Wyoming surrounded by the text “For World War Service” and a laurel wreath. The medal’s reverse bears the inscription “Presented by the State of Wyoming for services rendered in the War with Germany and her Allies.” Many Wyoming veterans engraved their name and unit below the inscription. It was struck by Dan S. Park & Company of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

 

The Wyoming World War I Service Medal on exhibit is part of the Sheridan Armory Collection. It was presented to Ray E. Holsinger of Sheridan, Wyoming. Holsinger served in B Battery, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 13th Division. The 37th FA Regiment was formed during the summer of 1918 and never saw service in France.

4. Army of Occupation of Germany Medal

Educational Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Army of Occupation of Germany Medal recognizes soldiers from the American Third Army who served occupation duty between 1918 and 1923. Following the Armistice, American forces occupied a portion of the German Rhineland near Koblenz. These forces remained until 1923, when President Warren G. Harding decided to bring them home. The Army of Occupation of Germany Medal is a retroactive service medal. It was created by an Act of Congress on November 21, 1941, and announced on December 10, 1941.

 

Artist T. A. Rovelstad, working for the Heraldic Division of the Army’s Office of the Quartermaster General, created the medal. It features an image of General of the Armies John J. Pershing. The reverse side shows an eagle with outstretched wings standing on Ehrenbreitstein Castle.

5. China Service Medal

Lyle Wirth Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Department of the Navy presented the China Service Medal for service in China and Chinese territorial waters from 1937-1939 and 1945-1957. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel could receive the China Service Medal. They did not need to have taken part in any specific engagement.

 

The China Service Medal is the creation of American sculptor George Holburn Snowden. The front features a Chinese "junk" and the inscription "China Service." The reverse features an eagle clutching an anchor with the inscription "For Service" and "United States Navy" or "United States Marine Corps." The inscription depends on the recipient's branch of service. The China Service Medal on exhibit is from the Lyle Wirth Collection.

6. American Defense Service Medal

James R. Hawkins Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

Established by President Franklin Roosevelt, the American Defense Service Medal recognized active duty service in the two years before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On September 8, 1939, President Roosevelt declared a limited national emergency following the German invasion of Poland. The emergency declaration activated the Reserves and National Guard units. Artist Lee Lawrie designed the medal. It features an armed female with a Greek helmet, sword, and shield on the front with the inscription "American Defense."

 

The American Defense Service Medal on exhibit is from the James R. Hawkins Collection. Before World War II, Hawkins served in the Headquarters Troop, 115th Cavalry Regiment, Wyoming National Guard. Like other guard units, the 115th mobilized in 1941. He remained with the 115th until 1943, when he transferred to the 44th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. Serving in France, he was captured by German forces at the Battle of the Bulge and sent to a POW camp.

7. Woman's Army Corps Service Medal

Educational Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Women’s Army Corps Service Medal recognized members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and Women's Army Corps serving during World War II. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps formed in 1942. They performed a range of non-combat support roles, including switchboard operators, bakers, armorers, drivers, and stenographers. In 1943 the WAAC reformed as the Women's Army Corps. While the Women's Army Corps Service Medal recognized service during World War II, the WAC remained part of the Army until 1978, when it disbanded. Female soldiers and units integrated with their male counterparts.

 

The front of the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal features the bust of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war, along with a sheathed sword, oak leaves, and palm branch. The medal’s reverse features a scroll held by an eagle. An inscription on the scroll reads “For Service in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.” The medal’s ribbon is green and gold, the WAC’s branch colors.

8. Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

Educational Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal is one of three campaign medals issued by the Armed Forces during World War II. It was created by executive action in 1942 by President Franklin Roosevelt. It recognizes service for at least 30 days in the Asian-Pacific Theater between 1941 and 1945. The front of the medal shows a pair of servicemen standing on a beach with ships and aircraft in the background. The reverse bears a bald eagle's image with the inscription "United States of America, 1941-1945." Sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier's designer, created the front of the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. Another artist, Adolph Alexander Weinman, created the design from the reverse side. The War and Navy Departments used it on all the American WWII campaign medals. The ribbon used colors of the United States and Japanese flags.


The Army and Navy used several "devices" to recognize an individual's participation. Small 3/16" bronze service stars recognized servicemen's participation in specific campaigns. A silver star recognized a servicemen’s participation in five campaigns; The Army recognized 16 campaigns. The Navy recognized 43 campaigns. An "arrowhead" device recognized participation in an amphibious landing, parachute landing, or glider landing. Only one arrowhead device could be worn on a ribbon. Navy personnel serving with Marine Corps units could wear the Fleet Marine Force Combat Operations insignia. Some Navy Construction Battalions also issued medals with Arabic numeral devices.

9. Victory Medal (World War II)

Educational Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The World War II Victory Medal recognizes members of the United States military and Commonwealth of the Philippines military serving between 1941 and 1946. The medal's ribbon combined the rainbow pattern from the WWI Victory Medal with a broad red stripe. On the Victory Medal front is a woman representing liberation standing on a Greek helmet and broken sword. The sword hilt is clasp in her right hand. The design on the reverse bears the inscription "United States of America 1941-1946" and the Four Freedoms proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt, "Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom From Want, Freedom From Fear.”

 

The World War II Victory Medal is the second most awarded medal in American history. There have been over twelve 12 million recipients. It began its life as the “Victory” Ribbon. Congress authorized the medal in July 1945. Secretary of War Robert Patterson approved the medal’s design, submitted by Thomas Hudson Jones, in February 1946. The United States Merchant Marine created a separate World War II Victory Medal for their service members in August 1946.

10. Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" Clasp

Richard Larson Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Army of Occupation Medal recognizes soldiers and airmen who served on occupation duty in Germany, Japan, or Korea after World War II. The medal is similar to the Army of Occupation of Germany service medal issued after World War I. The medal's front shows the Remagen Bridge's stone abutments over the Rhine River with the inscription "Army of Occupation." The medal's reverse has an image of Mount Fuji with clouds and a pair of Japanese junks. Soldiers and airmen received the Army of Occupation Medal after 30 days of consecutive service in occupied territory. Thomas Hudson Jones designed it. A similar medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, served a similar role for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel serving occupation duty in Japan and Germany.

 

The Army and Air Force continued to issue the Army of Occupation Medal throughout the Cold War. West Berlin was considered an occupied territory until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The medal also recognizes service during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949. Soldiers and airmen serving 92 consecutive days during the airlift could receive a unique Berlin Airlift Device.

11. Korea Service Medal with 3 Service Stars

Educational Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Korean Service Medal is the first service medal issued during the Cold War. The Korean War began in June 1950 with an invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces. The conflict ran almost the entire length of the Korean Peninsula before North Korean, Chinese, and UN officials signed an armistice in 1954. The front of the Korean Service Medal features a traditional Korean gateway with the inscription “Korean Service.” The medal’s reverse has an image of the Korean “taegeuk” symbol representing universal balance. The ribbon uses the United Nation’s white and blue color scheme.

 

The Korea Service Medal is often confused with several other medals. These medals are the United Nations Korea Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. Since the Korean War, American military personnel serving in the ROK have received either the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Korea Defense Service Medal.

12. Republic of Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Service Star

Gary Brown Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Republic of Vietnam Service Medal recognizes American service members who served in the Vietnam War. It was first awarded in 1965. Recipients had to have served in Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia or participating or supporting military operations. This requirement includes aircrews and sailors. Military personnel could also receive the RVSM if they served 1-2 months on temporary duty assignments in the service area. Small 3/16" service stars represented a service member’s participation during a specific campaign. The Debarment of Defense recognizes 18 campaigns during the Vietnam War.

 

The Army's Institute of Heraldry designed the Vietnam Service Medal. Thomas Hudson Jones and Mercedes Lee served as its designers. The front features the image of a dragon hiding in a bamboo grove with the inscription "Republic of Vietnam Service." The reverse shows a crossbow about to be lit by a torch and the inscription "United States of America." The ribbon uses colors from the South Vietnamese Flag. The VSM is often paired with the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. The RVCM was a South Vietnamese service medal awarded to South Vietnamese and allied military personnel.

13. Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal

Educational Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal recognizes members of the Armed Forces who participate in operations supporting the United Nations or friendly foreign nations. President John F. Kennedy created the medal in 1961. The front of the medal shows an eagle holding a sword above an eight-pointed compass. The text “Armed Forces Expeditionary Service” is inscribed as well. The medal’s reverse side shows the shield from the US Coat of Arms above two laurel branches and below the text “United States of America.”

 

Since the end of World War II, the Department of Defense has issued the Armed Forces Expeditionary Service for forty military and support operations. These operations include the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada), Operation Just Cause (Panama), Operation Restore Hope (Somalia).

14. Iraq Campaign Medal

Oregon Trail State Veterans Cemetery Collection, Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum

The Iraq Campaign Medal is one of several created after 9/11 during the Global War on Terror. It recognizes service during the Iraq War between 2003 and 2011. Designed by the Army's Institute of Heraldry, the front shows a map of Iraq above a palm wreath with the inscription "Iraq Campaign." The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are visible on the map. The back shows the Statue of Freedom in front of a sunburst flanked by a pair of scimitars with the inscription "For Service in Iraq."

 

The Iraq Campaign Medal on exhibit came from the Oregon Trail State Veterans Cemetery in Evansville, Wyoming. Cemetery staff found and transferred it to the WVMM. It belonged to a nameless veteran of the Iraq War.