Did You Know?
Civil decorations awarded to military personnel should not be considered military decorations, although some orders of chivalry have civil and military divisions. Decorations received by police and fire brigade personnel may sometimes be considered alongside military decorations, on which they may be modelled, although they are strictly not military awards.
Awards were common in ancient times, but these were strictly military awards. These awards presented real wages for certain services. They differed significantly from the later medieval and modern orders, which represented above all a sign of belonging to a particular organization, although there were also rewards for outstanding deeds.
Celts and Romans wore a torc or an Arrow without a Head, Dayaks wore and still wear tattoos, etc. Necklaces and bracelets were given during the early Middle Ages, evolving into richly jewelled big necklaces, often with a pendant (commonly a medal) attached.
One of the oldest military decorations still in use is Poland's War Order of Virtuti Militar (Latin for "For Military Valour") and was first awarded in 1792.
A campaign medal is a military decoration which is awarded to a member of the military who serves in a designated military operation or performs duty in a geographical theater. Campaign medals are very similar to service medals but carry a higher status as the award usually involves deployment to a foreign region or service in a combat zone.
A service medal is an award to individuals who participated in designated wars, campaigns, or expeditions, or who have fulfilled specific service requirements in a creditable manner.
Campaign medals were first invented to recognize general military service in war, in contrast to meritorious decorations which were only issued on a small scale for acts of heroism and bravery.
The first widespread use of campaign medals dates to the era of the Napoleonic Wars when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered a large number of ribbons and medals for issue to the soldiers serving under his command. Observing the soldiers pride at the receipt of such decorations, and their desire to receive more such awards, Napoleon was quoted as saying: "With a handful of ribbons I can conquer all of Europe".
Service ribbons or ribbon bars are small ribbons mounted on small metal bars equipped with attaching devices, and are generally issued for wear in place of medals. Each country's government has its own rules on what ribbons can be worn in what circumstances, and in which order. This is usually defined in an official document and is called "the order of precedence" and/or "the order of wearing". In some countries, (particularly the U.S.), some awards are "ribbon only", having no associated medal.
The service ribbon for a specific medal is usually identical to the suspension ribbon on the medal. For example, the suspension and service ribbon (US standard size, 1 1/4 inches by 3/8 inches) for the US Government's Purple Heart medal is purple with a white vertical stripe at each end.
However, there are some military awards that do not have a suspension ribbon, but have an authorized ribbon and unit award emblem. The Soviet Order of Victory is a badge that was worn on the military parade uniform. However, a ribbon bar representing the Order of Victory was worn on a military field uniform.
Construction & Display
There is a variety of constructions of service ribbons. In some countries, service ribbons are mounted on a "pin backing", which can be pushed through the fabric of a uniform and secured, with fasteners, on the inside edge. These ribbons can be individually secured and then lined up, or they can be all mounted on to a single fastener. After the Second World War, it was common for all ribbons to be mounted on a single metal bar and worn in a manner similar to a brooch. Other methods of wearing have included physically sewing each service ribbon onto the uniform garments.
"Orders of wearing" define which ribbons may be worn on which types of uniform in which positions under which circumstances. For example, miniature medals on dinner dress, full medals on parade dress, ribbons on dress shirts, but no decorations on combat dress and working clothing. Some countries (such as Cuba) maintain a standard practice of wearing full service ribbons on combat utility clothing. Others strictly prohibit this. These regulations are generally similar to the regulations regarding display of rank insignia, and regulations regarding saluting of more senior ranks.
Service medals and ribbons are generally worn in rows on the left side of the chest. In certain commemorative and/or memorial circumstances, a relative may wear the medals or ribbons of a dead relative on the right side of the chest. Medals and ribbons not specifically mentioned in the "Order of wear" are also generally worn on the right side of the chest.
Today military decorations include:
- Orders of Chivalry
- Bravery awards, in the form of a cross, star or medal on a ribbon
- Distinguished service awards, in the form of a cross, star or medal on a ribbon
- Campaign medals worn on a ribbon
- Service medals worn on a ribbon
- Awards for entire units
Awards and decorations of the United States Military are military decorations which recognize service and personal accomplishments while a member of the United States armed forces. Together with military badges, such awards are a means to outwardly display the highlights of a service member's career.
One of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II was Audie Leon Murphy (1925 - 1971), receiving every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. The 19-year-old Murphy received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition.
Phaleristics (from the Latin phalera; sometimes spelled Faleristics) is an auxiliary science of history which studies orders, medals, decorations (and their systems of awards in differing countries, such as the British honours system). The field also studies the medals' accessories, such as ribbon bars, and award certificates. It studies the historical, sociological and art history dimensions. It also defines the study of badges and pins created for civilian usage. The term defines a field of collecting.
The word comes from the Ancient Greece ta phalara, meaning "small round" or "crescent". It referred to the shape of medallions that were given as recognition for outstanding military service or bravery on the battlefield; originally, phalara were hung round horses' necks, but as their importance grew, they were transferred to the fighter's chest.
Later, both the related customs and the term (Latin: phalera) were adopted by the Romans.
Phaleristics was established as a separate scientific discipline in 1937, thanks to the efforts of the Czech soldier, collector and theoretician Oldrich Pilc. This was to distinguish phaleristics from numismatics and heraldry. However, there had been several earlier scholars of phaleristics, such as the 19th century Russian phalerist Julius Iversen.
Although established as a scientific sub-discipline of history, phaleristics usually studies orders and decorations "detached from their bodies".
King George VI of England loved the study of phaleristics, going to the extent of personally overseeing his uniform designs and ribbon placements. He is known to have designed a few British military decorations for the Royal Navy.