One of the widest-ranging awards issued by the United States, the Legion of Merit can be awarded to members of every U.S. uniformed service as well as to military and political figures of foreign governments, recognizing individuals' exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements and/or their service to the U.S.
The medal is fifth or sixth in order of precedence depending on the branch of the armed service. It is also the only medal with a neck order besides the Medal of Honor.
The medal was first suggested in 1937, but it wasn't until July 20, 1942 that it was enacted into law. Between 1942 and 1944, the Legion of Merit was given for both meritorious service and combat valor, but the establishment of the Bronze Star refocused the criteria for this decoration.
Typically, the Legion of Merit is awarded to U.S. senior officers. In foreign countries, the medal is given in degrees: Chief Commander for heads of state or government (although FDR also gave it to WWII theatre commanders); Commander for the equivalent of a military chief of staff; Officer for a general, colonel, or equivalent position for military service or military attachés; and Legionnaire for all other recipients.
The elaborate medal consists of a blue enamel disc surrounded by 14 gold clouds and inscribed with 13 white enamel stars. It is superimposed on a white enamel star edged in crimson with five v-shaped points, each accented with a gold ball. That in turn is superimposed on a gold disc with an outer wreath of green enamel laurel and with gold crossed arrows between each point of the star. A gold bow is at the bottom, and the medal hangs from a gold laurel wreath suspension ring threaded with a crimson neck ribbon.
On the back is a repeat of the white star with a gold disc for engraving the recipient's name, surrounded by the phrase "Annuit Coeptis MDCCLXXXII" ("He Has Favored Our Undertakings"). The date, 1782, marks the establishment of the U.S.'s first military award, now known as the Purple Heart.

Until April 1974, the Navy and Marine Corps awarded the Legion of Merit with the “V” Combat Distinguishing Device to personnel who earned the medal while exposed to personal danger through direct participation. Both services ceased issuing the device with the medal at that time, but in January 1991 they began to again award the “V” to eligible Legion of Merit recipients. In 2017, the Department of Defense disestablished the “V” device for several awards, including the Legion of Merit, but at the same time it established “C” and “R” devices that more clearly define the conditions under which the recipient earned the medal.

A bronze oak leaf clusters is used to indicate a subsequent Legion of Merit award; a silver oak leaf cluster is worn in lieu of five bronze oak leaf clusters.

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