The impetus to create the Valorous Unit Award (VUA) began with General William Westmoreland during his tenure as the Commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Westmoreland felt that the criteria for the awarding of the Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) award should be expanded to include acts of heroism in combat because the only unit award for acts of battlefield valor at that time was the Distinguished Unit Citation (redesignated the Presidential Unit Citation in November, 1966).
A study group that reviewed the Army’s awards program in 1965 agreed with Westmoreland’s view and recommended expanding the MUC to include acts of heroism, but this proposal was disapproved by the Deputy Chief of Personnel. In its place, the DCSPER suggested the establishment of a VUA to recognize unit gallantry during combat on a level equivalent to that required for an individual to be awarded the Silver Star (SS). Both the recommendation and the proposed design for the new decoration were approved on January 12, 1966.
Open to units from other branches of the Armed Forces of the United States as well as units from nations fighting alongside U.S. Military forces, the VUA is awarded for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the United States while taking part in military operations with a foreign force. It is also awarded to units that are serving with friendly foreign forces fighting an opposing armed force in a conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The beginning eligibility date was retroactively established as August 3, 1963.
Because the focus of the award is on acts of extraordinary valor, it is not authorized based on length of combat duty or the number of combat operations in which a unit has participated. Generally speaking, units earn the award for their actions over a period of less than six months because it’s almost impossible for an entire unit to maintain SS levels of performance for periods longer than that.
As one of the highest decorations a unit can receive, recommendations for the VUA require substantial verification of the actions that are being honored. These include operational orders, reports, casualty figures (both friendly and enemy), maps detailing the terrain and explaining the disposition and actions of enemy forces, a complete list of all units (assigned and attached) taking part in the actions, and a commander’s statement certifying that more than 65 percent of the nominated unit’s modified table of organization and equipment strength took part. If that figure falls below that threshold, the unit will be listed as a detachment of the parent unit.