Why the U.S. military created the Silver Star, Navy Cross, and other medals for bravery

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Today, the Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and Air Force Cross are known as awards that recognize the heroic actions of servicemen in combat.


But they were created following serious controversy over other awards.

During the Civil War, Congress created the Medal of Honor to recognize valor. But some of the prices were considered questionable by some. Perhaps the most glaring case of them is that of the 27e Régiment du Maine.

According to HomeofHeroes.com, the 864 men in this regiment received the medal en masse due to a poorly drafted order from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and a bureaucratic snafu.

Sgt. Joshua Moore receives the Navy Cross from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at a 2013 awards ceremony (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani)

So in 1917 there was an effort to clean up the mess that had been created. A total of 911 medals of honor were revoked, including those of the 27th Maine. But there was also an effort to ensure that the Medal of Honor wouldn’t be awarded so frivolously in the future, while also recognizing bravery in action.

As America entered World War I, it was evident that there would be acts of bravery. Congress therefore created the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Citation Star (which would later become the Silver Star Medal) in 1918, and the Navy Cross in 1919 to meet the value that did not reach the level of the Medal of honor. This was the start of the “Pyramid of Honor,” which now has a multitude of decorations to recognize servicemen (and women) for their bravery or other meritorious deeds.

Why the U.S. military created the Silver Star, Navy Cross, and other medals for bravery
Army Spc. Craig Middleton receives the Silver Star from Major General Kurt Fuller at a ceremony in 2012. (Photo: US Army)

So what kind of courageous actions justify what medal? Perhaps an indicator of today’s standards can come from the example citations in the SECNAV 1650.1H instruction.

Historically, however, it should be noted that during the Vietnam War, Randy “Duke” Cunningham was awarded the Navy Cross for making an ace (an Air University biography reports that he was nominated for the Medal of honor for his actions on May 10, 1972).

Or, one can look at Leigh Ann Hester’s actions to get a good idea of ​​what would warrant a Silver Star.

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