AIR MEDAL

The Air Medal was originally established by FDR to recognize a crew member for meritorious service or acts during flight, whether or not in combat. As WWII progressed, flyers became eligible as they completed certain numbers -- it varied for European, Pacific, and China-Burma-India Theater airspace -- of bombing raids, photo reconnaissance missions, air transport, and/or destruction of enemy aircraft or vessels.
 
The Air Medal is worn after the Bronze Star and before the Joint Service Commendation medal. For Air Force personnel, it is worn before the Aerial Achievement medal.
 
Walker Hancock's design was chosen from 22 contenders. It's a bronze 16-point compass rose that features an eagle swooping with two lightning bolts in its talons superimposed on the front. A fleur-de-lis at the top point holds the ribbon suspension ring. The compass rose and bald eagle symbolize the global strength of U.S. air power. The fleur-de-lis, the French symbol of nobility, represents the Air Corps's high ideals.
 
The medal hangs from a ribbon with a center 5/8th-inch stripe of Ultramarine flanked by an 1/4th-inch stripe of Golden Orange and an 1/8th-inch stripe of Ultramarine -- the original colors of the Army Air Corps.
 
The Army has used Arabic numerals to denote subsequent awards of the Air Medal for a considerable amount of time. The Navy and Marine Corps, on the other hand, award the Air Medal in two categories—an Individual award and a Strike/Flight award for meritorious achievement in sustained flight operations—and until 2006 employed a combination of bronze and gold stars to denote the number Individual awards and Arabic numerals to indicate Strike/Flight awards. In 2006, both services began using Arabic numerals to indicate the number of both types of awards (gold numbers for Individual awards, bronze for Strike/Flight). The Coast Guard still employs the star/number system, while the Air Force uses bronze and silver oak leaf clusters to reflect the number of subsequent awards.

The Air Medal can be awarded with “V” or “C” letter devices denoting, respectively, heroic actions in combat or meritorious service in combat conditions in which the recipient came under or was under threat of exposure to hostile actions. While the “V” device has been authorized for wear for decades, the “C” device was established in 2016, with specific guidance on issuance and wear published by the Department of Defense in December 2016 (DOD Manual 1348.33, Volume 4).
 
Notable recipients include: actors Clark Gable and James Stewart; astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Roger Chaffee, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, and Jim Lovell; baseball great Ted Williams; beauty contestant Patricia Northrup; director Oliver Stone; pilots Jimmy Doolittle, Nancy Harkness Love, Paul Tibbets (Enola Gay), Chuck Yeager, and the most-decorated Marine Chesty Puller; politicians George H. W. Bush, Tammy Duckworth, John McCain, George McGovern, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, and James Stockdale; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry; TV personalities Ed McMahon and Andy Rooney; and Michael Novosel, a 64-time recipient (over three wars) who also won the Medal of Honor.
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