Medal for Merit

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Medal for Merit
Medal, decoration (AM 2005.56.1-11).jpgMedal, decoration (AM 2005.56.1-12).jpg
Obverse and reverse of the Medal for Merit
TypeSingle grade decoration
Awarded forExceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services during World War II
Country United States
Presented byPresident of the United States
EligibilityCivilians of the United States and allied nations
StatusNo longer awarded
EstablishedJuly 20, 1942[1]
First awardedMarch 28, 1944[2]
Last awarded1952
Medal for Merit ribbon bar.svg
Ribbon bar of the medal
Next (higher)None (At the time of its awarding)
Next (lower)Medal of Freedom

The Medal for Merit was, during the period it was awarded, the highest civilian decoration of the United States. It was awarded by the President of the United States to civilians who "distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services" in the war effort "since the proclamation of an emergency by the President on September 8, 1939". Awards to civilians of foreign nations were eligible "only for the performance of exceptionally meritorious or courageous act or acts in furtherance of the war efforts of the United Nations."[1]

The medal is made of gold-finished bronze and enamel and is worn on the left chest from a ribbon.[3]


The Medal for Merit was created by Public Law 77-671 and its awarding codified by Executive Order 9286 - Medal for Merit on December 24, 1942, later amended and restated by Executive Order 9857A of May 27, 1947. Created during World War II, and awarded to "civilians of the nations prosecuting the war under the joint declaration of the United Nations and of other friendly foreign nations", the medal has not been awarded since 1952.[3][4]

The first medals were awarded to John C. Garand and Albert Hoyt Taylor on March 28, 1944.[2]

The Medal for Merit is currently listed as seventh in order of precedence of U.S. civilian decorations, below the Silver Lifesaving Medal and above the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.[5]

Civilians of foreign nations could receive the award for the performance of an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act or acts in furtherance of the war efforts of the Allies against the Axis Powers. The first person to receive this medal who was not an American citizen was Sir Edward Wilfred Harry Travis Director of the British Government Code and Cypher School in World War II, on January 12, 1946. The next foreign civilian to receive the medal was Edgar Sengier, the director of the Belgian Union Minière du Haut Katanga during World War II. Sengier was awarded the Medal for Merit on April 9, 1946.[6] The next foreign civilian to receive the medal was the Canadian spymaster William Stephenson in November 1946.[7] Stephenson had the code name "Intrepid" during World War II. Some writers consider Stephenson to be one of the real life inspirations for the fictitious character "James Bond". Another recipient was Sir Robert Watson-Watt, a British pioneer of radar, who created a chain of radar stations around the UK which enabled advance information to be available to the Royal Air Force of incoming German aircraft and was instrumental in the winning of the 1940 Battle of Britain. He was sent to the US in 1941 to advise on air defense, after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. He was awarded the US Medal for Merit in 1946.

All proposed awards were considered by the Medal for Merit Board, consisting of three members appointed by the President, of whom one was appointed as the Chairman of the Board. This medal cannot be awarded for any action relating to the prosecution of World War II after the end of hostilities (as proclaimed by Proclamation No. 2714 of December 31, 1946), and no proposal for this award for such services could be submitted after June 30, 1947. The last medal of this type was awarded in 1952 after a long delay in processing.

Notable recipients[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 77th Congress of the United States. "Public Law 77-671 To create the decorations to be known as the Legion of Merit, and the Medal for Merit". Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Scientific Notes and News". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 99 (2571): 276. April 7, 1944. doi:10.1126/science.99.2571.276.
  3. ^ a b "The Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America". p. 345. Office of the Federal Register (US)
  4. ^ Code of General Regulations, National Defense, Department of the Army, DoD National Archives and Records Administration as a Special Edition of the Federal Register, Published by the Office of the Federal Register, Washington, July 1, 1085. §578.15 Medal of Merit, pg 344-345
  5. ^ Bureau of Personnel. "Precedence of Awards". United States Navy. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  6. ^ "War Department: Recommendation for award of Medal for Merit to Edgar Edouard Sengier. Center for Research Libraries". Archived from the original on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  7. ^ Picture: Sir William S. Stephenson receives Medal for Merit
  8. ^ Engel, Helen; Smiley, Marilynn J. (2013). Remarkable Women in New York State History. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-60949-966-2.
  9. ^ Read, Phyllis J. (1992). The Book of Women's Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women. Random House Information Group. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-679-40975-5. Mary Shotwell Ingraham was the First woman to receive a U.S. Medal of Merit (1946); a founder of the United Service Organizations (USO) (1941). As a founder and former vice president of the USO (an organization that supplies social, recreational, and welfare facilities for the armed services), Ingraham was awarded the Medal for Merit by President Harry S. Truman.
  10. ^ "Citation Accompanying Medal for Merit Awarded to Dean Acheson". The American Presidency Project. June 30, 1947. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  11. ^ R. E. Gibson (1980). "Leason Heberling Adams 1887—1969, A Biographical Memoir". National Academy of Sciences. p. 9. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  12. ^ a b c "Millikan, son, aide get medals of merit". New York Times. 1949-03-22. Retrieved 2014-10-27.
  13. ^ Durand, William (1953). Adventures; In the Navy, In Education, Science, Engineering, and in War; A Life Story. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and McGraw-Hill. p. 153. ASIN B0000CIPMH.
  14. ^ Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 1955. Kelly's (U.K.). p. 802.
  15. ^ Getting, Ivan A.; Christie, John M. (1994). "David Tressel Griggs" (PDF). Biographical Memoirs. 64. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. pp. 112–133. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  16. ^ Dickie, William. "Dillon S. Myer, Who Headed War Relocation Agency, Dies", The New York Times, October 25, 1982, retrieved on April 6, 2014.
  17. ^ "Dr. Richard Roberts, 69, Pioneer As Physicist and Microbiologist". New York Times. 1980-04-07. Retrieved 2014-10-27.
  18. ^ "Thomas J. Watson Sr. Is Dead; I.B.M. Board Chairman Was 82". The New York Times. June 20, 1956. Retrieved January 10, 2015.

External links[edit]