Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

    The Navy's Medal of Honor was the first Medal of Honor design created and approved. The initial work was done by the Philadelphia Mint at the request of Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. The Mint submitted several designs for consideration. The one prepared by the Philadelphia firm of William Wilson & Sons was the design selected.

 

     In 1913, the anchor that connected the medal to the suspension ribbon was changed slightly when the rope was removed. At the time of that change, the ribbon also changed to the same blue silk ribbon bearing 13 stars that was used with the Army Medal of Honor.

 

    Since the Navy awarded Medals of Honor for both COMBAT and NON-COMBAT heroism, in 1919 the Department of the Navy decided to distinguish between the two acts by presenting a different Medal of Honor for each. The Original Medal would be presented for COMBAT heroism and the new MALTESE CROSS would signify NON-COMBAT heroism meriting the Medal of Honor. Designed by New York's TIFFANY & COMPANY, it became known as the "Tiffany Cross".

 

    The blue silk ribbon of the Maltese Cross hung below a bar bearing the old English spelling for valor, "VALOUR". The Medal itself featured the American eagle in the center of the award and surrounded by a six sided border over the top of which was printed "UNITED STATES NAVY" AND "1917 - 1918". An anchor protruded outward from each of the cross's four arms and the back of the medal bore the words "Awarded To" with a place for the recipient's personal information. 

 

    The "Tiffany Cross" was not a popular award and is the rarest of all Medals of Honor in existence. In 1942, it was dropped from the Medal of Honor profile and the Navy returned to its original Medal of Honor as the only design awarded.

 

    Though it was not uncommon for Medals of Honor to continue to be pinned to a soldier's tunic during World War II, the practice of draping it around a recipient's neck became increasingly used. For this purpose the modern Medal of Honor was suspended from an 8-sided "pad" bearing 13 white stars, to which the blue silk neck ribbon was attached.

 

    The Medal of Honor is the only United States Military Award that is worn around the neck rather than pinned to the uniform.

 

Medal Descriptions provided by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society