|Awarded for||Heroism in combat[N 1]|
|Presented by||United States|
|Established||22 December 1945|
|Next (lower)||"C" device|
A "V" device is a metal 1⁄4-inch (6.4 mm) capital letter "V" with serifs which, when worn on certain decorations awarded by the United States Armed Forces, distinguishes an award for heroism or valor in combat instead of for meritorious service or achievement.
The decorations with which a "V" may be authorized differ among the military services, as well as the manner in which the "V" is worn and the name by which it is referred to. Until 2017, each service also used different criteria in determining whether a "V" could be authorized.[N 1]
The Department of Defense, Army, and Air Force refer to the "V" as the "V" Device. The Coast Guard refers to it as the Valor Device, while the Navy and Marine Corps refer to it as the Combat Distinguishing Device or Combat "V". When referring to a medal that has been awarded with the "V" device, it is often referred to as having been awarded "with valor".
On 22 December 1945, in War Department Circular 383, the United States Army decided to introduce the "V" device to distinguish the award of a Bronze Star Medal for acts of valor and heroism, rather than meritorious service. Soldiers, including Army airmen, who were awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroism in combat were now authorized to wear a bronze "V" on the suspension and service ribbon of the medal. Only one "V" was allowed to be worn on a ribbon. The Department of the Navy introduced the "V" as the "Combat Distinguishing Device", and on 15 February 1946, authorized the "V" device to be worn on the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star Medal for services or acts performed in actual combat with the enemy; in February 1947, this was changed to acts or services involving direct participation in combat operations. Most World War II veterans who were entitled to the "V" probably did not know about or apply for the device, since large-scale separations from the services were taking place after the war ended. Stocks of the device also were not available for issue for at least a year after the issuance of the Army circular.
To be worn on a decoration, the "V" device must have been specifically authorized in the written award citation issued with the medal. In 1996, the "V" device garnered public attention after the suicide of Admiral Jeremy Boorda, who was the Chief of Naval Operations. The news media reported that his death by suicide may have been caused by a Navy investigation following a story by Newsweek about Boorda wearing two "combat valor pins" on the service ribbons of his uniform, which he received for duty as a weapons officer and executive officer aboard two naval ships off the coast of Indochina during the Vietnam War. Although there were indications these "combat distinguishing devices" were authorized to be worn on his Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal, the Department of the Navy Board For Correction of Naval Records determined after his death that both of the devices were not authorized to be worn on the two decorations.
In 2011, the Department of Defense changed its awards manual regulations concerning the Medal of Honor, specifying that the "V" device instead of the oak leaf cluster and 5⁄16 inch star would be used to denote additional citations in the rare event of a service member being awarded a second MoH. By May 2015, the Department of Defense changed its awards manual again concerning the Medal of Honor, specifying that a separate MOH is presented to an individual for each succeeding act that justifies an award. There has not been a living repeat Medal of Honor recipient since the World War I era, so the "V" device has never actually been worn in this fashion.
Until 2017, the criteria and conditions under which the "V" device could be awarded differed among the services. For the Army, the "V" was worn solely to denote "participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy". For the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, the "V" could be worn to denote combat heroism, or to recognize individuals who were "exposed to personal hazard during direct participation in combat operations". For the Air Force, the "V" could be worn on the Bronze Star Medal to denote heroism in combat, but also on the Commendation Medal and Achievement Medal to denote heroism or for being "placed in harm's way" during contingency deployment operations.
Prior to 1 January 2014, the device was also authorized on Outstanding Unit Awards and Organizational Excellence Awards to indicate the unit participated in direct combat support actions. The "V" device is also authorized for the Air Medal by all the services where heroism in aerial combat was involved on an individual mission. On 15 August 2016, the Coast Guard changed their criteria such that new awards of the "V" would be for valor only, to denote a heroic act or acts while participating in conflict or combat with an armed enemy. On 6 January 2016, the Department of Defense announced that it was revising its military decorations and awards program to include a "V" device change to its original 1940s use of denoting heroism in combat only on specific decorations for the military services. Two new "C" and "R" devices will also be used on relevant awards.
On 2 February 2017, new silver-plated and gold-plated "V" devices were introduced, followed by wreathed versions in September which led to speculation that the various versions of the "V" device would now indicate how many times a specific medal was awarded with the "V." The U.S. Air Force uniform regulations update of 15 April 2019, was the first to describe and depict the new "V" devices as follows:
On 21 December 2016, the "V" device ceased being authorized for Achievement Medals. Retroactive to January 2016, the "V" device ceased being authorized for the Legion of Merit, being replaced by the "C" device.
Decorations eligible for the "V" device
|Distinguished Flying Cross|
|Bronze Star Medal|
Army and Air Force
For the Army and the Air Force, the "V" is positioned to the right of any bronze or silver oak leaf clusters from the wearer's perspective, or positioned in the center of the service ribbon if worn alone.
|Army Commendation Medal, nine awards, of which at least one was for valor|
|Army Commendation Medal, ten awards, of which at least one was for valor|
For the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, the "V" is always worn in the center of the service ribbon, while any gold or silver 5⁄16 Inch Stars are added in balance to the right and left of the "V" starting with the right side from the wearer's perspective. Marine Corps refer to it as Combat Distinguishing Device. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard continue to award and issue the bronze version. The Marine Corps allows anodized medals and anodized Combat "V"s to be worn on the dress blues uniform.
Combined with Arabic numerals
Golden or brass Arabic numerals may be used to indicate the total number of times the medal was awarded if the total number of devices, of any types, exceed 4 total devices and would thus not fit on a single ribbon.
|Total of four awards, of which at least one was for valor|
|Total of five awards, of which at least one was for valor|
|Total of nine awards, of which at least one was for valor|
- Eddie Albert, actor and activist
- Richard Lee Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State
- Monica Beltran
- Michael Boorda, 25th Chief of Naval Operations
- Jim Bridenstine, US Representative
- Maurice Britt, NFL football player
- William B. Caldwell III
- Duane Carey, NASA astronaut
- Christopher Cassidy, NASA astronaut
- Llewellyn Chilson
- Max Cleland, US Senator
- Dan Crenshaw, US Representative
- Ray Davis
- Bob Dole, US Senator
- Desmond Doss
- Joseph Dunford, 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Michael Fahey, Mayor of Omaha
- Kenneth Raymond Fleenor, Mayor of Selma, Texas
- Ronald Fogleman, 15th Chief of Staff of the Air Force
- Tommy Franks, Commander of the US Central Command
- William J. Gainey
- Joseph L. Galloway, newspaper correspondent and columnist
- Bill Genaust
- Calvin Graham, youngest US serviceman to serve and fight during World War II, at 12 years of age
- Mark E. Green, US Representative
- William Guarnere
- David H. Hackworth, journalist
- Michael Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps
- Alexander Haig, US Secretary of State
- Gustav Hasford, novelist, journalist and poet
- Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA
- Ira Hayes
- Joseph P. Hoar, Commander in Chief of US Central Command
- Charles T. Horner Jr.
- Robert L. Howard
- Zach Iscol, entrepreneur, candidate in the 2021 New York City Comptroller election
- Jack H. Jacobs, military analyst and investment manager
- Richard Jadick
- Sam Johnson, US Representative
- James L. Jones, 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps
- Woodrow Keeble
- John Kerry, US Secretary of State
- Harry Kizirian
- Charles C. Krulak, 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps
- Victor H. Krulak, author
- Chris Kyle, Navy Seal Sniper
- Douglas MacArthur, five-star general
- Richard Marcinko, 1st commanding officer of Seal Team Six
- Lee Marvin, actor
- John McCain, US Senator
- Michael A. Monsoor
- Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI
- Audie Murphy, actor, songwriter, and rancher
- Raymond L. Murray
- John P. Murtha, US Representative
- Peter Pace, 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- David Petraeus, Director of the CIA
- Chance Phelps
- Chesty Puller
- Charles B. Rangel, US Representative
- L. Scott Rice
- Matthew Ridgway, 19th Chief of Staff of the US Army
- John Ripley
- Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander of US Central Command
- Sidney Shachnow
- Hugh Shelton, 14th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- David M. Shoup, 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps
- Arthur D. Simons
- Jamie Smith
- Robert L. Stewart, NASA astronaut
- Earl E. Stone, 1st Director of the Armed Forces Security Agency, the predecessor of the National Security Agency
- Oliver Stone
- Jeff Struecker
- Keni Thomas, country music singer
- Strom Thurmond, US Senator
- Matt Urban
- John William Vessey Jr., 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Alejandro Villanueva, NFL football player
- Raúl G. Villaronga, Mayor of Killeen, Texas
- Larry D. Welch, 12th Chief of Staff of the US Air Force
- Allen West, US Representative
- Chuck Yeager, first pilot confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight
- Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., 19th Chief of Naval Operations
- From 1945 until 2 February 2017, criteria varied among the services for the award of a medal with the "V" device. While the Army awarded the "V" solely to denote "participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy," the Navy and Marine Corps also awarded the "V" to recognize individuals who are "exposed to personal hazard during direct participation in combat operations", and the Air Force included provisions for awarding the "V" to members who were "placed in harm's way" during contingency deployment operations.
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Includes Army Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Air Force Achievement Medal.
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The bronze letter "V" may be worn on the following ribbons if the citation specifically authorizes the "V" for valor (heroism): Decorations awarded prior to 1974: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal. Decorations awarded after 1974: Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Navy Commendation Medal. Wear only one "V". Arrange gold, bronze or silver stars, or the oak leaf cluster indicating subsequent awards of the medal (except Air Medal <(see article 5319.7)>, in a horizontal line beside the "V" symmetrically in the center of the suspension ribbons of large and miniature medals (position as detailed below). Arrange them in a horizontal line on the ribbon bar with the "V" in the center and the first star to the wearer's right, the second to the wearer's left, and so on.