Despite the fact that the United States was a founding member of the United Nations and contributed by far the largest number of troops to that organization’s military presence in the Korean War, almost a year passed between the establishment of the United Nations Service Medal (12 December 50) and its formal acceptance by President Harry Truman for wear on the uniforms of members of the Armed Forces of the United states (27 November 1951).

When the fist U.N. Service Medal was established, it was likely envisioned there would not very many more in the future. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, and rather than striking new medals for every U.N. mission, the organization creates ribbons to accompany the same basic medal. The one you see here is for the actions taken in Korea between 1950 and 1954, with eligibility criteria obviously related to that conflict.

There are several ways individuals can qualify for this first U.N. Service Medal, later referred to as the U.N. Service Medal (Korea), with the first and most obvious being as a Servicemember of the Armed Forces of the United States deployed to Korea or adjacent area for service on behalf of the U.S. in the fighting in Korea. Also eligible are personnel who were dispatched to the same areas as members of “paramilitary or quasi-military units designated by the U.S. Government for service in support of U.N. Action in Korea,” provided by were certified by the U.N. Commander in Chief as having actually provided direct support of military operations; this same certification standard was required of those who provided “service with a national contingent designated by the U.S. Government for service in support of the U.N. action in Korea.”

The eligible service period for the U.N. Service Medal was between June 27, 1950 and July 27, 1954, with service having taken place within the “territorial limits of Korea”—a land mass that technically is still in dispute—or the adjacent waters or airspace over the land and water areas. Eligible personnel must have spent 30 days (consecutive or cumulative) assigned or attached to an eligible unit during the specified time frame. Exceptions were made for those personnel who engaged in active combat but were not officially attached to qualifying units.

Note that any personnel awarded the Korean Service Medal automatically qualify for the U.N. Service Medal.

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