Vietnam Service Medal

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Vietnam Service Medal
Observe view of Vietnam Service Medal
Awarded by U.S. Armed Forces
Type Service medal[1]

Served in the armed forces between the following dates:

  • between 15 November 1960 and 30 April 1975 for military service, in geographical theater areas of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia.
Status Inactive
Established by Executive Order 11231 of 8 July 1965 (as amended by E.O. 11382 of 28 November 1967 and E.O. 13286 of 28 February 2003.)
First awarded 15 November 1961 (retroactive)
Last awarded 30 April 1975
Next (higher) Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Next (lower) Southwest Asia Service Medal
Related Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg

Vietnam Service Streamer vector.svg

Vietnam Service Ribbon and streamer

The Vietnam Service Medal is a military award of the United States Armed Forces established in 1965 by order of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The medal is awarded to recognize service during the Vietnam War and is authorized to service members of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, provided they meet the award requirements.

The distinctive design has been attributed to both sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, a former employee of the Army Institute of Heraldry[2] and Mercedes Lee who created the design.[3]

Award criteria[edit]

The Vietnam Service Medal (VSM) is awarded to any service member who served on temporary duty for more than 30 consecutive days, or 60 non-consecutive days, attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days with an organization participating in or directly supporting ground (military) operations or attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days aboard a naval vessel directly supporting military operations in the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos within the defined combat zone (DoD 1348 C6. revised September 1996) between the dates of 15 November 1961 and 28 March 1973, and from 29 April 1975 to 30 April 1975.[3][4] [5] For the United States Navy, vessels operating in Vietnamese waters qualify for the Vietnam Service Medal provided that the naval vessel was engaged in direct support of Vietnam combat operations. The United States Air Force also grants the Vietnam Service Medal exclusively to flight crews that flew missions over Vietnamese air space, even if the home base of the flight mission was hundreds of miles away requiring in flight refueling.

The Vietnam Service Medal is retroactive to 1961 and supersedes and replaces the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFEM) which was issued for Vietnam service prior to 1965. Defense Department regulations do not permit the simultaneous presentation of both the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, for the same period of service in Vietnam, however the AFEM may be exchanged for the VSM upon request from a service member. Veterans of the Vietnam War may exchange the AFEM for the VSM and have military records updated to reflect the difference by contacting the National Personnel Records Center, which is the current agency that provides record corrections reflecting an AFEM upgrade to the Vietnam Service Medal.[2]

The Republic of Vietnam also issued its own service medal for the Vietnam War, known as the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. This is a separate military award which was accepted by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Military in accordance with DoD 1348 C7. Six months of service in support of military operations in the Republic of Vietnam was the normal requirement for the award.

Medal and ribbon appearance[edit]

The Vietnam Service Medal (with a green, yellow, and red suspension ribbon) is a rounded bronze shaped medal, 1-1/4 inches in diameter. The obverse side consists of a figure of an oriental dragon behind a grove of bamboo trees (representing the subversive nature of the conflict), are above the inscription "REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM SERVICE". On the reverse, a crossbow facing upwards (the ancient weapon of Vietnam) with a ready to be fired lighted torch of the Statue of Liberty, above an arched inscription "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".[3]

The Vietnam Service Ribbon is 1-3/8 inches wide and consists of the following vertical stripes: three narrow (1/16 inch) strips of red with wider (5/32 inch) stripes of yellow in the center, flanked by even wider (5/16 inch) stripes of yellow on each side and narrow 1/8-inch stripes of primitive green on the ends. The yellow (yellow is traditionally the imperial color of Vietnam) with red stripes (the red represents the three ancient Vietnamese empires of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China) suggest the flag of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and the green represents the Vietnamese jungles.[3]

Ribbon devices[edit]

The Vietnam Service Medal is authorized three devices for wear on the suspension ribbon and on its service ribbon:[6][7]

  • Service star (campaign star): for participation in or support of operations in the seventeen designated campaigns of the Vietnam Conflict, a bronze 3/16 inch star is authorized for wear on the Vietnam Service Medal suspension and service ribbon for each of the campaigns from 15 March 1962 to 28 January 1973; a bronze star is also authorized for Operation Frequent Wind, 29-30 April 1975, for USN, USMC, and USAF personnel. A silver 3/16 inch star is authorized in lieu of five bronze stars.
  • Arrowhead device: assigned or attached member of a U.S. Army unit with direct combat assault credit for a parachute jump, helicopter assault landing, combat glider landing, or amphibious assault landing.
  • FMF combat operation insignia: for Naval personnel attached to the Marine Corps during Marine Corps combat operations.

Vietnam campaigns[edit]

The Department of Defense established thirty military campaigns during the Vietnam War which covered all service branches. In 2010, the Department of Defense consolidated the original list of campaigns from the original 30 to a list of 18 by combining the Air Force campaign list with the other armed services. The United States Army, and Coast Guard recognize seventeen 3/16" service stars (also known as campaign stars; 3 silver and 2 bronze stars) on the Vietnam Service campaign streamer.[8][9] Additionally, the United States Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force recognize Operation Frequent Wind (29–30 April 1975).[10][11]

Department of Defense consolidated campaign periods[edit]

DoD Consolidated Campaign Periods for All Services
Name of Campaign Start Date End Date
Vietnam Advisory Campaign[a] 15 March 1962 7 March 1965
Vietnam Defense Campaign[a] 8 March 1965 24 December 1965
Vietnam Counteroffensive.[a] 25 December 1965 30 June 1966
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase II[a] 1 July 1966 31 May 1967
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase III[a] 1 June 1967 29 January 1968
Tet Counteroffensive[a] 30 January 1968 1 April 1968
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase IV[a] 2 April 1968 30 June 1968
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase V[a] 1 July 1968 1 November 1968
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase VI[a] 2 November 1968 22 February 1969
Tet 69 Counteroffensive[b][a] 23 February 1969 8 June 1969
Vietnam Summer-Fall 1969[b][a] 9 June 1969 31 October 1969
Vietnam Winter-Spring 1970[b][a] 1 November 1969 30 April 1970
Sanctuary Counteroffensive[b][a] 1 May 1970 30 June 1970
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase VII[a] 1 July 1970 30 June 1971
Consolidation I[a] 1 July 1971 30 November 1971
Consolidation II[a] 1 December 1971 29 March 1972
Vietnam Cease-fire[a] 30 March 1972 28 January 1973
Operation Frequent Wind[b][a] (USN USMC USAF only) 29 April 1975 30 April 1975

USAF original campaign periods[edit]

Original USAF Campaign Periods Before DoD Consolidation
Name of campaign Start Date End Date
Vietnam Initial Advisory Campaign[b] 15 November 1961 1 March 1965
Vietnam Air Defensive Campaign[b] 2 March 1965 30 January 1966
Vietnam Air Counteroffensive[b] 31 January 1966 28 June 1966
Vietnam Air Offensive[b] 29 June 1966 8 March 1967
Vietnam Air Offensive Phase II[b] 9 March 1967 31 March 1967
Vietnam Air/Ground Campaign[b] 22 January 1968 7 July 1968
Vietnam Air Offensive Phase III[b] 1 Apr 1968 31 October 1968
Vietnam Air Offensive Phase IV[b] 1 November 1968 22 February 1969
Tet 69 Counteroffensive[b][a] 23 February 1969 8 June 1969
Vietnam Summer-Fall 1969[b][a] 9 June 1969 31 October 1969
Vietnam Winter-Spring 1970[b][a] 1 November 1969 30 April 1970
Sanctuary Counteroffensive[b][a] 1 May 1970 30 June 1970
Southwest Monsoon[b] 1 July 1970 30 November 1970
Commando Hunt V[b] 1 December 1970 14 May 1971
Commando Hunt VI[b] 15 May 1971 31 October 1971
Commando Hunt VII[b] 1 November 1971 29 March 1972
Vietnam Cease-fire[a] 30 March 1972 28 January 1973
Operation Frequent Wind[b][a] 29 April 1975 30 April 1975

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Campaign period authorized by Department of Defense Manual 1348.33 Volume 2, dated 23 November 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Campaign period originally authorized by the Department of the Air Force but now consolidated with the Department of Defense list


  1. ^ AR 600-8-22 [1]
  2. ^ a b "Vietnam Service Medal". Naval History and Heritage Command. Archived from the original on 1 May 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d "Vietnam Service Medal". The Institute of Heraldry: Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the ARMY. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  4. ^ 578.26 Vietnam Service Medal
  5. ^ Air Force Personal Center Vietnam Service Medal Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ 578.26 Vietnam Service Medal[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ EO 11231, 8 July 1965, as amended. Amended by EO 11382, 28 November 1967, and EO 13286, 28 February 2003. Additional details and descriptions given at 32 CFR 578.26.
  8. ^ "US Army Campaigns: VietNam". . ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  9. ^ "Medals and Awards Manual" (PDF). . Dept. of Homeland Security, USCG. Retrieved 2013-07-16. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Campaign, War Service And Unit Award Streamers
  11. ^ A Guide to United States Air Force Lineage and Honors

External links[edit]