Skip to main content
Related Content
  • Awards and Medals
Document Type
  • Documentary Histories
  • Historical Summary
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials
  • NHHC

The Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor

The Navy and Marine Corps' Medal of Honor is our country's oldest continuously awarded decoration, even though its appearance and award criteria has changed since it was created for enlisted men by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles on 16 December 1861. Legislation in 1915 made naval officers eligible for the award.

Although originally awarded for both combat and non-combat heroism, the Medal of Honor today is presented for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.

The design of our highest military decoration is rooted in the Civil War. The central motif is an allegory in which Columbia, in the form of the goddess Minerva uses the shield of the republic to put down the figure of Discord, plainly a reference to the unfolding split in our nation. The design is encircled by 34 stars, representing the states of the Union at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War.

The Curator Branch of NHHC holds several Medals of Honor in its collections. Visit the Curator page for information on artifact documentation, preservation, and loans. 

Additional Resources

The Navy Medal of Honor (an overview of the history of the medal)

Extraordinary Bravery: Lieutenant Weedon Osborne and the Battle of Belleau Wood

H-Gram 023-2: U.S. Navy Personnel Awarded the Medal of Honor During World War I

H-Gram 019: First Medal of Honor for Naval Aviator in Vietnam War: Lieutenant Junior Grade Clyde Everett Lassen

H-Gram 018: Dental Valor 

H-Gram 015: “Take Her Down!”— Commander Howard Gilmore and USS Growler (SS-215)

Surface Warrior – Remembering Ernest Evans

Medal of Honor Recipient Fireman 2nd Class Telesforo Trinidad

Navy Medal of Honor Recipients at Iwo Jima

The Warrior of Kāneʻohe: Pearl Harbor’s First Medal of Honor Recipient

Honoring Harvey C. Barnum, Jr, Medal of Honor Recipient

A Matter of Honor – History of the Medal of Honor 

The History of Medal of Honor Recipient, Thomas J. Hudner (infographic)

The History of Medal of Honor Recipient, Michael A. Monsoor (infographic)

Medal of Honor Recipients

The following pages list Medal of Honor recipients by time period and conflict; in some cases, citations are also provided.

Global War on Terrorism

For more information on recipients from all services, please consult the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Published: Thu May 07 14:39:55 EDT 2020