This award was authorized in 1908 for members of the Navy and Marine Corps who served aboard ships in the West Indies. It was rarely given, as most of those men were entitled to the "Sampson Medal" and two awards could not be given for the same service. For this reason it later was discontinued.
The design, by Bailey, Banks and Biddle, is almost the same as that of the Navy Spanish Campaign Medal. It shows Morro Castle, which guards Havana Harbor.
[Historical note: Just how much attention is paid to the colors selected for service medal ribbons? Unfortunately, sometimes a mistake will occur.
In 1908, the red-and-yellow color scheme was selected for the West Indies and Spanish campaign medals. Hundreds were awarded and worn before Navy leadership belatedly decided that a ribbon bearing the colors of the defeated Spanish nation - who by that time once again were allies - was inappropriate and orders were issued changing the ribbon color to blue-and-yellow.
The change was duly made in 1913, but not without scores of the medals leaving the service through discharges and retirements. Officially, the color remains blue-and-yellow, but finding one with the politically incorrect red-and-yellow helps verify the age of this particular service medal.]
21 June 1998