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U.S. Army Service, Campaign Medals and Foreign Awards Information

Legion Of Merit


Description: The degrees of the Legion of Merit are as depicted below with description and components for each:






Chief Commander:

(1) Description: On a wreath of Green laurel joined at the bottom by a Gold bow-knot (rosette), a domed five-pointed White star bordered Crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a Gold ball. In the center, a Blue disk encircled by Gold clouds, with 13 White stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the United States Coat of Arms. Between each point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 2 15/16 inches. The words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" are engraved in the center of the reverse. A miniature of the decoration in Gold on a horizontal Gold bar is worn on the service ribbon.

(2) Components: Decoration breast badge, MIL-D-3943/12, NSN for complete decoration set is 8455-00-269-5752; NSN for individual decoration set is 8455-00-246-3821. The specification for the service ribbon is MIL-R-11589/80 and the NSN is 8455-00-252-9925. The lapel button is MIL-L-11484/10-1, NSN is 8455-00-253-0813.


Commander:
(1) Description: On a wreath of Green laurel joined at the bottom by a Gold bow-knot (rosette), a five-pointed White star bordered Crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a Gold ball. In the center, a Blue disk encircled by Gold clouds, with 13 White stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the United States Coat of Arms. Between each star point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 2 1/4 inches. A Gold laurel wreath in the v-shaped angle at the top connects an oval suspension ring to the neck ribbon that is 1 15/16 inches in width. The reverse of the five-pointed star is enameled in White, and the border is Crimson. In the center, a disk for engraving the name of the recipient surrounded by the words "ANNUIT COEPTIS MDCCLXXXII." An outer scroll contains the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA." The service ribbon is the same as the ribbon for the degree of Commander, except the ribbon attachment is Silver.

(2) Components: The decoration set for degree of Commander consists of the decoration, service ribbon and lapel button and is NSN 8455-00-269-5753. Individual components are the decoration, MIL-D-3943/14, NSN 8455-00-246-3819; the service ribbon, MIL-R-11589/80, NSN 8455-00-252-9928; and the lapel button, MIL-L-11484/10-2, NSN 8455-00-253-0814. The neck ribbon for the degree of Commander is 1 15/16 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 1/16 inch White 67101; center 1 13/16 inches Crimson 67112; and 1/16 inch White. 






Officer:
(1) Description: The design is the same as the degree of Commander except overall width is 1 7/8 inches and the pendant has a suspension ring instead of the wreath for attaching the ribbon. A Gold replica of the medal, 3/4 inch wide, is centered on the suspension ribbon.

(2) Components. The decoration set for degree of Officer consists of the decoration, service ribbon and lapel button and is NSN 8455-00-269-5754. Individual components are the regular size decoration, MIL-D-3943/13, NSN 8455-00-246-3823; the service ribbon, MIL-R-11589/80, NSN 8455-00-252-9936; and the lapel button, MIL-L-11484/10-3, NSN 8455-00-257-4307. The miniature decoration, MIL-D-3943/13, is not part of the set but is stocked separately, NSN 8455-00-996-5010.



Legionnaire/Legion of Merit:
(1) Description: The design is the same as the degree of Officer, except the suspension ribbon does not have the medal replica.

(2) Components: The decoration set for degree of Legionnaire and the Legion of Merit issued to U.S. personnel consists of the decoration, service ribbon and lapel button and is NSN 8455-00-262-3469. Individual components are the regular size decoration, MIL-D-3943/13, NSN 8455-00-246-3832; the service ribbon, MIL-R-11589/80, NSN 8455-00-252-9932; and the lapel button, MIL-L-11484/10-4, NSN 8455-00-257-4306. The miniature decoration, MIL-D-3943/13, is not part of the set but is stocked separately, NSN 8455-00-996-5009.

Ribbon: The ribbon for the decorations is 1 3/8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 1/16 inch White 67101; center 1 1/4 inches Crimson 67112; and 1/16 inch White.

Criteria:

a. The degrees of Chief Commander, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire are awarded only to members of armed forces of foreign nations under the criteria outlined in Army Regulation 672-7 and is based on the relative rank or position of the recipient as follows:

(1)  Chief Commander - Chief of State or Head of Government.

(2) Commander - Equivalent of an U.S. military Chief of Staff or higher position but not to Chief of State.

(3)  Officer - General of Flag Officer below the equivalent of a U.S. military Chief of Staff; Colonel or equivalent rank for service in assignments equivalent to those normally held by a General or Flag Officer in U.S. military service; or Military Attaches.

(4) Legionnaire - All recipients not included above.

b. The Legion of Merit is awarded to all members of the Armed Forces of the United States without reference to degree for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The performance must have been such as to merit recognition of key individuals for service rendered in a clearly exceptional manner. Performance of duties normal to the grade, branch, specialty or assignment, and experience of an individual is not an adequate basis for this award. For service not related to actual war the term "key individual" applies to a narrower range of positions than in time of war and requires evidence of significant achievement. In peacetime, service should be in the nature of a special requirement or of an extremely difficult duty performed in an unprecedented and clearly exceptional manner. However, justification of the award may accrue by virtue of exceptionally meritorious service in a succession of important positions.

Background:

a. Although recommendations for creation of a Meritorious Service Medal were initiated as early as September 1937, no formal action was taken toward approval. In a letter to the Quartermaster General (QMG) dated 24 December 1941, The Adjutant General formally requested action be initiated to create a Meritorious Service Medal and provide designs in the event the decoration was established. Proposed designs prepared by Bailey, Banks, and Biddle and the Office of the Quartermaster General were provided to Assistant Chief of Staff G1 (Colonel Heard) by the QMG on 5 January 1942. The Assistant Chief of Staff G1 (BG Hilldring) in a response to the QMG on 3 April 1942, indicated the Secretary of War approved the design recommended by the QMG and directed action be taken to assure the design of the Legion of Merit (change of name) be ready for issue immediately after legislation authorizing it was enacted into law.

b. An Act of Congress (Public Law 671 - 77th Congress, Chapter 508, 2d Session) on 20 July 1942, established the Legion of Merit and provided that the medal "shall have suitable appurtenances and devices and not more than four degrees, and which the President, under such rules and regulations as he shall prescribe, may award to (a) personnel of the Armed Forces of the United States and of the Government of the Commonwealth Philippines and (b) personnel of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations who, since the proclamation of an emergency by the President on 8 September 1939, shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services". The medal was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 40 dated 5 August 1942. Executive Order 9260, dated 29 October 1942, by President Roosevelt, established the rules for the Legion of Merit and required the President's approval for award. However, in 1943, at the request of General George C. Marshall, approval authority for U.S. personnel was delegated to the War Department. Executive Order 10600, dated 15 March 1955, by President Eisenhower, revised approval authority. Current provisions are contained in Title 10, United States Code 1121.

c. The reverse of the medal has the motto taken from the Great Seal of the United States "ANNUIT COEPTIS" (He [God] Has Favored Our Undertakings) and the date "MDCCLXXXII" (1782) which is the date of America's first decoration, the Badge of Military Merit, now known as the Purple Heart. The ribbon design also follows the pattern of the Purple Heart ribbon.

d. The Legion of Merit was the first American decoration awarded to citizens of other nations. Awardees included:

(1) Chief Commander - China's Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek was a first recipient.

(2) Commander - Brazil's Brigadier General Amaro Soares Bittencourt was first to receive this or any of the degrees.

(3) Officer - first to receive the Officer degree were Colonel Johanes K. Meijer of the Royal Netherlands Army, Major Herbert J. Thompson of the British Army, and Major Stephan M. Dobrowalski of the Polish Army.

(4) Legionnaire/Legion of Merit - First award to Lieutenant Anna A. Bernatitus, heroic Navy Nurse who served at Bataan and Corregidor.

(5) At the beginning of the North African Campaign, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer accompanied General Mark Clark by submarine to North Africa. Upon arrival, about 60 officers were awarded the Legion of Merit and were among the first awarded the medal. By some misunderstanding as to the rules governing the awards, these 60 American Officers were awarded the degree of Officer. According to General Lemnitzer, President Roosevelt was annoyed, however, he did not rescind the awards. Accordingly, these were the only American Officers awarded the Legion of Merit with a degree.

e. Order of precedence and wear of decorations is contained in Army Regulation 670-1. Policy for awards, approving authority, supply, and issue of decorations is contained in Army Regulation 600-8-22.


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