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Air Force

About 50 percent larger than the other Medals, the Air Force created its Medal in 1965. The first Air Force Medal went to Maj. Bernard F. Fisher in 1967, for action in South Vietnam. The first airman to receive a Medal, however, was the famous fighter pilot Capt. Edward Rickenbacker, in 1918.

Details below


All three versions of the Medal are worn suspended from a blue silk ribbon bearing 13 stars.

Bail - The Air Force Coat of Arms

The Air Force Medal kept the bar of the Army Medal, bearing the word “Valor.” The Air Force Coat of Arms, made of wings and flashes of lightning, replaced the Army eagle.

Oak and Laurel

The Medal retains the green enamel laurel wreath (victory) and the five points of oak leaves (strength) in the Army Medal, which airmen had previously received. Like the original Army Medal, a circle of 34 stars surrounds the centerpiece.


The head of the Statue of Liberty has replaced Minerva. Lady Liberty’s image is based on that of Semiramis, Queen of Babylon. Famed for beauty, strength, and wisdom, she is said to have built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.



The Air Force became a separate branch of service on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947. It had originally been part of the U.S. Army, called the Army Air Corps. Its members received the Army version of the Medal of Honor until 1965.