Silver Star Medal
TypePersonal Valor Decoration
Awarded forGallantry in action against an enemy of the United States
Presented by
EligibilityUnited States Armed Forces personnel, foreign allied personnel and civilians serving alongside U.S. military personnel in combat
StatusCurrently awarded
  • 9 July 1932 (1932-07-09): Army Citation Star (SS) (Retroactive to 15 April 1861)
  • 19 July 1942 (1942-07-19): Silver Star Medal
  • 7 August 1942: Navy, SSM (Retroactive to 6 December 1942)
  • 16 December 1942: Army, SS (Retroactive to 6 December 1941)
First awardedAugust 1932 (WWI Army Silver Star conversion)
Next (higher)Army: Distinguished Service Medal (Army)
Naval Service: Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air and Space Forces: Distinguished Service Medal (Air and Space Forces)
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
Next (lower)Defense Superior Service Medal
Army Captain Gregory Ambrosia receiving the Silver Star from Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Silver Star Medal (SSM) is the United States Armed Forces' third-highest military decoration for valor in combat. The Silver Star Medal is awarded primarily to members of the United States Armed Forces for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.


The Silver Star Medal (SSM)[5] is the successor award to the "Citation Star" (316 silver star) which was established by an Act of Congress on July 9, 1918, during World War I. On July 19, 1932, the Secretary of War approved the conversion of the "Citation Star" to the SSM with the original "Citation Star" incorporated into the center of the medal.

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. § 7276 for the U.S. Army, 10 U.S.C. § 8294 for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, and 10 U.S.C. § 9276 for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force.

The U.S. Army awards the medal as the "Silver Star". The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard award the medal as the "Silver Star Medal".[6] Since 21 December 2016, the Department of Defense (DoD) refers to the decoration as the "Silver Star Medal".[5]

Award criteria

The Silver Star Medal is awarded for gallantry, so long as the action does not justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards: the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, or the Coast Guard Cross.[7] 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.[5]

The Silver Star Medal is awarded for singular acts of valor or heroism over a brief period, such as one or two days of a battle.[5]

Air Force pilots and combat systems officers and Navy/Marine Corps naval aviators and 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.[8] However, during the Vietnam War, the last conflict to produce U.S. fighter aces: an Air Force pilot and two navigators/weapon systems officers (who were later retrained as Air Force pilots), a naval aviator and a naval flight officer/radar intercept officer who had achieved this distinction, were eventually awarded the Air Force Cross and Navy Cross, respectively, in addition to SSMs previously awarded for earlier aerial kills.[citation needed]

Unit award equivalent


The Silver Star Medal is a gold five-pointed star, 1+12 inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays from the center and a 316 inch (4.8 mm) 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 1+38 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 732 inch (5.6 mm) Old Glory red (center stripe); proceeding outward in pairs 732 inch (5.6 mm) white; 732 inch (5.6 mm) ultramarine blue; 364 inch (1.2 mm) white; and 332 inch (2.4 mm) ultramarine blue.[9]

Ribbon devices

Second and subsequent awards of the Silver Star Medal are denoted by bronze or silver oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force and by gold or silver 516 inch stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.[5][10][11]


Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown receives the Silver Star from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, 2008

The Department of Defense does not keep extensive records for the Silver Star Medal. Independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 SSMs have been awarded since the decoration was established.[12] Colonel David Hackworth who was awarded ten SSMs while serving in the Army during the Korean War and Vietnam War, is likely to be the person awarded the most SSMs.[13] General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was awarded seven SSMs for his service in France in World War I from February to November 1918 as a colonel and then brigadier general. Donald H. Russell, a civilian Vought F4U Corsair technical support engineer attached to a Marine Corps fighter wing, received the SSM for his actions aboard USS Franklin after the carrier was attacked by a Japanese dive bomber in March 1945.[14] In the fall of 1944, President Roosevelt's close adviser Harry Hopkins, the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow W. Averell Harriman and a military attaché presented the SSM to Soviet Red Army artillery officer Alexei Voloshin, who was the first to cross the Dnieper with his battery[15][page needed] and was one of four junior Red Army officers who received the award.[16]

Female recipients

Three Army nurses that served in World War I were cited in 1919 and 1920 with Citation Stars for gallantry in attending to the wounded while under artillery fire in July 1918. In 2007, it was discovered that they had never been awarded their Citation Stars. The three nurses (Army nurses served without rank until 1920) were awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumously:[17][18]

An unknown number of servicewomen received the award in World War II. Four Army nurses serving in Italy during the war—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 on February 10, 1944.[19] Later that same year, Corporal Maggie Leones, a Filipino who later immigrated to the United States, received the medal for clandestine activities on Luzon;[20][21][22][23] as of 2016, she is the only female Asian to receive a Silver Star.[24]

The next known servicewomen to receive the Silver Star were Army National Guard Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester in 2005, for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq[19] and Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown in March 2008, for extraordinary heroism as a combat medic in the War in Afghanistan.[19]

Notable recipients

Main category: Recipients of the Silver Star

See also


  1. ^ "Army Regulation 600–8–22: Military Awards" (PDF). Department of the Army. 11 January 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 January 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  2. ^ "SecNav Instruction 1650.1H: Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual" (PDF). Department of the Navy. 18 September 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Air Force Guidance Memorandum for Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2803, The Air Force Military Awards and Decorations Program" (PDF). Department of the Air Force. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Coast Guard Military Medals and Awards Manual" (PDF). Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Department of Defense Manual 1348.33 Volume 3 (PDF). Department of Defense Technical Information Center. 21 December 2016. pp. 14–16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 February 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Fact Sheet: Silver Star Medal". U.S. Air Force. 3 August 2010.
  7. ^ "Section 578.12 – Silver Star". Code of Federal Regulations. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  8. ^ Bergquist, Carl (12 April 2008). "Korean War pilot receives Silver Star 56 years later". Maxwell Air Force Base. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  9. ^ "Silver Star". The Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  10. ^ "COMDTINSTM1650D Coast Guards Medals and Awards" (PDF). U.S. Coast Guard. May 2008. pp. 1-13 a, 2-3 5., 1-16 "a". Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 August 2009.
  11. ^ "SecNav Instruction 1650.1H: Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual". Department of the Navy. 22 August 2006. pp. 1–8, 123. 1., 1–22.
  12. ^ "Silver Star Medal". Home of Heroes. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  13. ^ Hackworth, Col. David H. (December 2002). "Look Truth Right in the Eye". (Interview). Interviewed by Fred L. Schultz and Gordon Keiser. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  14. ^ "First Civilian Wins Navy Silver Star" (PDF). The New York Times. 7 November 1945. p. 12. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  15. ^ Panzer Killers: Anti-Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front.
  16. ^ "Rosguard celebrates the parade with 100-year-old front-line soldier, holder of the highest awards of the USSR and the USA". Archived from the original on 1 March 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  17. ^ Prior, Richard M.; Marble, William Sanders (1 May 2008). "The Overlooked Heroines: Three Silver Star Nurses of World War I". Military Medicine. 173 (5): 493–498. doi:10.7205/milmed.173.5.493. PMID 18543572.
  18. ^ "Daughter Accepts Silver Star Her World War I Nurse Mother Earned". United States Army. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  19. ^ a b c Abrashi, Fisnik (9 March 2008). "Medic Stationed in Afghanistan Becomes 2nd Woman to Be Awarded Silver Star". Fox News. Associated Press.
  20. ^ Drummond, Tammerlin (17 June 2016). "Filipina Silver Star winner, Richmond resident Magdalena Leones dies at 95". East Bay Times. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Magdalena Leones". Military Times Hall of Valor. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  22. ^ Nuval, Leonardo Q. (1996). Remember Them Kindly: Some Filipinos During World War II. Claretian Publications. p. 31. ISBN 978-971-501-678-0.
  23. ^ Guillermo, Emil (5 July 2016). "Magdalena Leones, Filipina WWII Silver Star Recipient Who Aided MacArthur, Dies in California". NBC News. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Only Filipina WWII US Silver Star recipient dies at 95". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Makati City. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2018. Filipino WWII veterans and her family members mourn the passing of Cpl. Magdalena Estoista Leones, 95, who entered the history books as the only Asian female to have been awarded the Silver Star in World War II for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.
  25. ^ "Battle joined: Army panel backs WWII vet's posthumous bid for Medal of Honor". Fox News. 4 November 2015.
  26. ^ O'Donnell, Maureen. "William J. Cullerton". Military Times Hall of Valor. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  27. ^ "Barry McCaffrey". Military Times Hall Of Valor. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Barry McCaffrey". Military Times Hall Of Valor. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  29. ^ "List of Silver Star Recipients". American War Library.
  30. ^ Williams, Rudi (25 March 2004). "Korean War Double Hero Reflects on Life". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 6 February 2021.