The Bronze Star was conceived
by Col. Russell P. "Red" Reeder in 1943 as a morale-booster for ground troops, particularly infantryman, much like the Air Medal
for airmen that had been established two years earlier. The medal was adopted a year later (retroactive to the attack on Pearl Harbor) and is awarded to members of the Armed Forces -- and foreign soldiers serving with or alongside them -- for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone not involving aerial flight.
John F. Kennedy amended the criteria in 1962 to include those serving with friendly foreign forces in a conflict against an armed enemy (such as in Vietnam). A second amendment in 2003 addressed matters of Homeland Security primarily as regards the Coast Guard when not performing as a service of the Navy.
Noted recipients include: military personnel Omar Nelson Bradley, Jessica Lynch, John McCain, Norman Schwarzkopf, William Westmoreland, and Chuck Yeager; actors James Arness, Charles Durning, Henry Fonda, Audie Murphy, and Mickey Rooney; author/journalists Dominick Dunne, Ron Kovic, and Rod Serling; director Oliver Stone; musician Glenn Miller; politicians Spiro Agnew, Bob Dole, Alexander Haig, John Kerry, and Colin Powell; TV personality Judge Joseph Wapner; and Oklahoman City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Designed by Rudolf Freund, a jeweler also behind the Silver Star, the medal is an 1 1/2-inch bronze star with a 3/16th-inch star superimposed in the center. On the back is the inscription "Heroic or Meritorious Achievement" with space for the recipient's name. Its suspension ribbon has a 1/8th-inch ultramarine stripe in the center flanked on either side by stripes of 1/32nd-inch white, 9/16th-inch scarlet, and 1⁄32nd-inch white.
A "V" device indicates valor; subsequent awards are marked by oak leaf clusters for the Army and Air Force and by stars for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.