The Medal: 1861 to Present

The Navy Medal of Honor was the first to be struck on December 21, 1861. This was quickly followed by the Army version of the award on July 11, 1862. Today, there are three different types of Medals of Honor: the original simple star-shaped medal first established in 1862 which the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have retained; a wreath version designed in 1904 for the Army; and an altered wreath version for the Air Force, designed in 1963 and adopted in 1965.

Facts about the medal

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. The Medal is generally presented to Recipients by the President of the United States.


Total Recipients


Living Recipients


double Recipients





The Navy's Medal of Honor was the first approved and the first designed in 1862. Inside a circle of 34 stars, representing the number of stars in the U.S. flag at the time, were engraved two images. To the right is Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, and a man clutching snakes in his hands. He represented Discord and the insignia came to be know as "Minerva Repulsing Discord." Since 1862, the symbolism in the Medal of Honor has changed very little.
The Medal of Honor holds a unique place in American popular culture. Medal Recipients have inspired storytellers in all media, with both real and fictional Medal Recipients appearing in books, films, television, and video games.
Each Medal of Honor goes through many steps in its journey to completion. The base of the medal is made by striking a brass blank. After creating the blanks, artisans anneal and re-strike the piece. The base is then trimmed before being pierced where the anchor assembly will be attached. Two holes drilled in the top allow the attachment of the anchor. The Medal is dipped to apply a coat of antique finish to the Medal. After the antiquing process, the Medal is hand-finished and polished.

The Medal of Honor in Time

View all the milestones of the Congressional Medal of Honor through the years.


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Is it the Medal of Honor or the Congressional Medal of Honor?

The award itself is called the Medal of Honor, and does not include the word Congressional. In 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation sent to him by Congress chartering the "Congressional Medal of Honor Society" to create a bond of brotherhood and comradeship among all living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. The CMOH Society then created the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to support and perpetuate the legacy of the Medal of Honor and its Recipients.

Are there any father/son Medal of Honor Recipients?

There have been two pairs of father and son Recipients. They were Lt. Arthur MacArthur (Civil War) and his son General Douglas MacArthur (WWII) and Lt. Col. (later President) Theodore Roosevelt (Spanish American War) and his son Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (WWII).

Can I buy a Medal of Honor?

It is illegal to buy, sell, barter, or manufacture any decorations or medals authorized by Congress for the United States armed forces. This includes the Medal of Honor.

Can I tell people that I received the Medal of Honor if I didn’t?

Misrepresentation of one's self as a Medal of Honor Recipient is a CRIME punishable by imprisonment.

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to receive the Medal of Honor?

It is not required to be a U.S. citizen to be awarded the Medal, but you must be in the U.S. military in order to qualify for the Medal of Honor.

Has a U.S. President ever received the Medal of Honor?

President Theodore Roosevelt is the only president to be awarded the Medal of Honor. It was long after his death on January 16, 2001, for his gallantry in charging up San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War.

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