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The Silver Star is the third highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is also the third highest award given for valor (in the face of the enemy).

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United Statesmarker not justifying a Service Cross—the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross. It may be awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Armed Forces, distinguishes himself or herself by extraordinary heroism involving one of the following actions:
  • In action against an enemy of the United States
  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party

General information

The Silver Star differs from the Services Crosses in that it requires a lesser degree of gallantry and need not be earned while in a position of great responsibility.

Air Force pilots are often considered eligible to receive a Silver Star upon becoming an ace (having five or more confirmed kills), which entails the pilot intentionally and successfully risking his life multiple times under combat conditions and emerging victorious.

Soldiers who received a Citation Star for gallantry in action during World War I were eligible to apply to have the citation converted to the Silver Star Medal. (see below)

The Valorous Unit Award is considered the unit level equivalent of a Silver Star Medal.


The Silver Star is the successor decoration to the Citation Star which was established by an act of the U.S. Congress on July 9, 1918. On July 19, 1932, the Secretary of War approved the Silver Star Medal to replace the Citation Star. The original Citation Star is incorporated into the center of the Silver Star Medal, and the ribbon for the Silver Star Medal is based closely on the Certificate of Merit Medal.

Authorization for the Silver Star was placed into law by an Act of Congress for the U.S. Navy on August 7, 1942 and an Act of Congress for the U.S. Army on December 15, 1942. The primary reason for congressional authorization was the desire to award the medal to civilians as well as the Army. The current statutory authorization for the Silver Star Medal is Title 10 of the United States Code ( ).

The US Department of Defense does not keep extensive records of Silver Star awards, however independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded in US History. Colonel David Hackworth is the record holder for most Silver Stars awarded to a single person. He earned ten Silver Stars for service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, in addition to two Distinguished Service Cross.


The Silver Star is a gold star, 1½ inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays from the center and a 3/16 inch (5 mm) diameter silver star superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners. The reverse has the inscription "FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION." The ribbon is 138 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 732 (6 mm) inch Old Glory red 67156 (center stripe); proceeding outward in pairs 732 inch (6 mm) white; 732 inch (6 mm) ultramarine blue; 364 inch (1 mm) white; and 332 inch (2 mm) ultramarine blue.

Additional decorations of the Silver Star are denoted in the U.S. Army and Air Force by oak leaf clusters, while the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps issue award stars.

Female recipients

In 1944, four nurses serving in World War II became the first female recipients of the Silver Star. 1st Lt. Mary Roberts, 2nd Lt. Elaine Roe, 2nd Lt. Rita Virginia Rourke, and 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth (posthumous) were cited for their bravery in successfully evacuating the 33rd Field Hospital at Anziomarker, Italymarker on February 10. They remained the sole female recipients until Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star in 2005 for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. Three nurses who had served in World War I were posthumously awarded the Silver Star in 2007. Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown, the first woman serving in Afghanistan to be chosen for this honor, was awarded the Silver Star in March 2008.

Notable recipients

Notable recipients include:


In the case of the Silver Star, any false written or verbal claim to a decoration or medal or any wear, purchase, attempt to purchase, solicitation for purchase, mailing, shipping, import, export, manufacture, sale, attempt to sell, advertising for sale, trade, or barter of a decoration or medal authorized for wear by authorized military members or veterans is a federal offense punishable by a fine and/or up to one year in jail.

See also


  1. Korean War pilot receives Silver Star 56 years later. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  2. Home of Heroes: Silver Star Medal. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
  3. 18 U.S.C. 704
  4. Stolen Valor Act of 2005


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