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The Medal of Honor
Although most people are familiar with the Medal of Honor as shown below, The Medal of Honor has not always appeared as it does today. Shown on this page are images of the actual medals as they have appeared throughout history as well as background information about the medal itself.
General George Washington had created the Badge of Military Merit on 7 August 1792 but it had fallen into disuse after the Revolutionary War. Decorations, as such, were still too closely related to European royalty to be of concern to the American people. However, the fierce fighting and deeds of valor during the Civil War brought into focus the realization that such valor must be recognized. Legislation was introduced in the Senate on 17 February 1862, which authorized the medal for the Army and followed the pattern of a similar award approved for Naval personnel in December 1861. The Resolution provided that: "The President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause two thousand "medals of honor" to be prepared with suitable emblematic devices, and to direct that the same be presented, in the name of Congress, to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection, and the sum of ten thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby appropriated out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, for the purpose of carrying this resolution into effect."
1862
The original design for the Army was created by Christian Schussel and engraved by Anthony C. Pacquot. The pendant was identical to the design approved by the Navy, with the exception of the suspension and clasp. It consisted of a five-pointed star, tipped with trefoils containing a crown of laurel and oak. In the middle, a band of 34 stars represented the number of States in 1862. Minerva, personifying the United States, stands with a left hand resting on fasces and right hand holding a shield blazoned with the United States arms. She repulses Discord, represented by snakes.
Army Navy
         
1896
In 1896, misuse of the medal led to a change in the design of the ribbon because the original had been imitated by nonmilitary organizations. This change was authorized by Joint Resolution of Congress, Fifty-Fourth Congress, Sess. I, 2 May 1896. At this time a bowknot (rosette) was adopted to be worn in lieu of the medal. The ribbon and bowknot (rosette), established and prescribed by the President, was promulgated in War Department Orders dated 10 November 1896.
Army   Navy
Spanish-American War
until World War I
         
1904
Army - On 23 April 1904, Congress authorized a new design of the medal. The design adopted at that time was designed by Major General George L. Gillespie and is the one currently in use. The medal was worn either suspended from the neck or pinned over the left breast in precedence to other military decorations.
Army
1913
 Navy - Since its birth the Navy's Medal of Honor, presented also to members of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, has not changed. In 1913 the anchor that connected it to the suspension ribbon was changed slightly when the rope was removed. At the time of that change the ribbon too changed to the same blue silk ribbon bearing 13 stars that was used with the Army Medal of Honor.
Navy
 
Since the Navy awarded Medals of Honor for both COMBAT and NON-COMBAT heroism, in 1919 the Department of the Navy decided to distinguish between the two acts by presenting a different Medal of Honor for each. The Original Medal would be presented for COMBAT heroism and the new MALTESE CROSS would signify NON-COMBAT heroism meriting the Medal of Honor. Designed by New York's TIFFANY & COMPANY, it became known as the "Tiffany Cross".

The "Tiffany Cross" (1919)) was not a popular award and is the rarest of all Medals of Honor in existence. In 1942 it was dropped from the Medal of Honor profile and the Navy returned to its original Medal of Honor as the only design awarded.
Tiffany Cross
1965
Air Force - Authorized in 1956, the Air Force unveiled its own design for the Medal of Honor in 1965. About 50% larger than the other services' Medals of Honor, it retained the laurel wreath and oak leaves of the Army Medal which had previously been presented to members of the Army Air Service and Air Corps. It also retained the bar bearing the word "VALOR". Inside the circle of stars the helmeted profile of Minerva from the Army's medal is replaced by the head of the Statue of Liberty. Replacing the Army's eagle is the Air Force Coat of Arms.
Present
The present neck ribbon was adopted in 1944. It is worn outside the shirt collar and inside the coat, hanging above all other decorations.

When the patent on the Medal of Honor first obtained by General Gillespie expired in 1918 Congress intervened to protect the Medal's integrity. In 1923 legislation was enacted to prohibit the unauthorized manufacture of medals awarded by the military services. Additional legislation since then has taken steps to further protect the awards presented to our military heroes, and the Medal of Honor in particular.

As long as our Nation has veterans of military service there will be "war stories" and embellished tales of battlefield heroics. Such is the nature of military men. Sadly, some have stooped to the lowest levels by claiming or displaying medals they are not authorized. Misrepresentation of ones' self as a Medal of Honor recipient is a CRIME punishable by imprisonment.




References:
The Army Institute of Heraldry
Naval Historical Center
Congressional Medal of Honor Society
"The Call of Duty" by John E. Stranburg and Roger James Bender
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