The medal is retroactive by design and is awarded to any service member who performed occupation garrison duty in either Germany, or the former Austria-Hungary, between the dates of November 12, 1918 and July 11, 1923. The medal was primarily created due to the rising tension with Germany, between 1939 and 1941, and also as a means to honor the World War I service of General of the ArmiesJohn J. Pershing, whose likeness appears on the actual medal. Initially the blue edge stripe was wavy, to signify the Rhine River, but that proved impractical to mass-produce and was changed to a straight line.
The first Army of Occupation of Germany Medal was presented to General of the Armies Pershing with retroactive presentations made to any service member upon application to the United States War Department. Ironically, less than three weeks after the medal was first authorized, the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor which led to another full-scale war with Germany, now allied with Japan.