Combat Action Ribbon

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Combat Action Ribbon
Combat Action Ribbon.svg

USCG Combat Action Ribbon.png
Top: U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps
Bottom: U.S. Coast Guard
Awarded by United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
United States Coast Guard
Type Ribbon (Decoration)
Eligibility Satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or maritime engagement.
Awarded for Active participation in ground or surface combat on or after December 7, 1941
Status Current issue
Established Department of the Navy -
February 17, 1969
Department of Homeland Security - July 16, 2008
Next (higher) Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Commandant's Letter of Commendation Ribbon
Related Air Force Combat Action Medal
Army Combat Action Badge
Army Combat Infantryman Badge

The Combat Action Ribbon is a service ribbon that is awarded by the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard for satisfactory performance under enemy fire in ground and surface/maritime combat. The Combat Action Ribbon is a personal decoration and is authorized in two versions:

Eligibility for the Navy/Marine Corps version (1969, retroactive from December 7, 1941) of the award includes Coast Guard members who operated under control of the Navy since December 6, 1941. Coast Guard members are eligible for the Coast Guard version of the award since 2008. Coast Guard members who were awarded the Navy Combat Action Ribbon after January 1, 2009 are authorized only to wear the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps[edit]

The Navy Combat Action Ribbon (CAR) was established during the Vietnam War by a Secretary of the Navy Notice, dated February 17, 1969 with retroactive award to March 1, 1961.[1] The CAR (Navy/Marine Corps version) is awarded to members of the Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard (when operating under the control of the Navy) personnel with the grade of captain/colonel and below (Coast Guard, captain and below), who have actively participated in ground or surface combat.

In October 1999, World War II and Korean War veterans became retroactively eligible for the Navy Combat Action Ribbon by Public Law 106-65 on Oct. 5, 1999, which permitted the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) to award the Combat Action Ribbon to a member of the Navy or Marine Corps for participation in ground or surface combat during any period on or after December 7, 1941, and or before March 1, 1961, if the Secretary determines that the member has not been previously recognized in an appropriate manner for such participation.[2] Two specific blocks of time were later designated by then SECNAV Danzig: Dec. 7, 1941—Apr. 14, 1946 (World War II) & June 25, 1950—July 27, 1954 (Korean War)[3]

Sailors and Marines in clandestine or special operations where their ability to return fire is curtailed may be deemed eligible.[1] Personnel who earn the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Badge, or Combat Action Medal while assigned to United States Army or United States Air Force units, or who earned such for prior service in said service branch's may be authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon upon application to the Department of the Navy.[4]

In Jan 2013 the awarding criteria was expanded to include dangerous exposure to IEDs, mines, and scatterable munitions, be it the detonation of such or direct action taken to disable, render safe, or destroy such, can be deemed eligible if detonated or specifically emplaced by the enemy. Previously it applied only to exposure to IEDs detonated by the enemy. Eligibility under this criterion is retroactive only to 7 October 2001.[4]

Blanket lists of units and operations whose members or participants are deemed to be "in-combat", and thus potentially eligible, can be found in OPNAVNOTE 1650 (for specific units & ships) & in chapter 2, appendix E of recent SECNAVINST's (for specific operations & ships) though "Neither service in a combat area nor being awarded the Purple Heart Medal automatically makes a service member eligible" and specific sailors and marines may receive the ribbon in recognition of individual actions or various minor operations.[1]

Additional awards of the CAR (Navy/Marine Corps version) are denoted by 516 inch gold/silver stars on the ribbon.

U.S. Coast Guard[edit]

The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon (CAR) was established by the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security on July 16, 2008 in ALCOAST 361/08.[5] The CAR (Coast Guard version) is awarded to members of the Coast Guard who have actively participated in a ground or maritime engagement. Satisfactory performance under fire with the enemy is required.[5]

Criteria for the CAR also include personnel with direct exposure to the detonation of an improvised explosive device used by an enemy, and for personnel who serve in clandestine/special operations, who are restricted in their ability to return fire, where the risk of enemy fire was great.

The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon is authorized for:[6]

Operation Allied Force (Kosovo)
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom

Other minor operations and specific actions are authorized the ribbon as determined by the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Only one award per operation is authorized.

Initially, all other similar military awards from other services were required to be converted to the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon in order to be worn on the Coast Guard uniform, but the policy was modified effective January 1, 2009 to allow wearing the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, Air Force Combat Action Medal, and Army Combat Infantry/Medical/Action Badge for service prior to May 1, 1975 and cannot be converted to the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.[6][7]

Additional awards of the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon are denoted by 316 inch bronze/silver stars on the ribbon.

Stolen Valor Act[edit]

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it a federal crime for an individual who, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds himself or herself out to be a recipient of the Medal of Honor and certain other decorations, medals, and badges including the Combat Action Ribbon (the act defines CAR as a "combat badge").[8] The act also includes the CAR for any other violation concerning all military decorations, medals, or badges which is subject to a heightened penalty of "a fine, imprisonment of up to one year, or both" (except when authorized under regulation made pursuant to law).[9]

Notable recipients[edit]


Marine Corps[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1986 movie Heartbreak Ridge, Clint Eastwood's character, Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway, wears the Combat Action Ribbon on his dress blue uniform.

In the 1992 movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson's character, Colonel Nathan Jessup, wears the Combat Action Ribbon on his service dress uniform.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c SECNAVINST 1650.1H
  2. ^ Pub.L. 106–65 Oct. 5, 1999, STAT.588, G, Sec.564, "Retroactive Award of the Navy Combat Action Ribbon"
  3. ^ DOD Press Release, March 21, 2000, Retroactive Combat Action Ribbon [1] Retrieved May 13, 2015
  4. ^ a b "MARADMIN 038/13". 
  5. ^ a b a transcription of which is available at "". [better source needed]
  6. ^ a b Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon @ Foxfall medals [2] Retrieved May 13, 2015[better source needed]
  7. ^ Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon – Official Coast Guard All Hands blog[dead link]
  8. ^, Summary H.R.258-Stolen Valor Act of 2013 [3] Retrieved May 16, 2015
  9. ^ Stolen Valor Act of 2013, Pub.L. 113–12, Amended 18 U.S.C. § 704(1994)