The Air Force
Medal of Honor

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The Medal of Honor, often called The Congressional Medal of Honor, was established by the United States Congress during the Civil War.  The Navy's Medal was first, and was introduced in Congress in December, 1861 as a means to "promote the efficiency of the Navy".  The following February legislation was introduced authorizing a similar award for members of the US Army.  On July 12, 1861 President Lincoln signed the bill authorizing the Army's Medal of Honor.  (The Navy's had been authorized by the President seven months earlier.)

From the Civil War to the pre-World War I days, Medals of Honor were awarded to less than 2,500 American soldiers, sailors and Marines.  Of 119 Medals of Honor awarded for World War I service, four went to men of the US Army Air Service.  During World War II an additional 38 airmen of the Army Air Corps received Medals of Honor. 

The four brave Korean War heroes of the new United States Air Force each received the same award as their predecessors in the Air Service and Air Corps...the Army Medal of Honor.  In 1965 all that changed, and the Air Force introduced its own design for a Medal of Honor.  Almost twice the size of the Army and Navy designs, it most closely resembles the Army award, maintaining the down-pointing star inside the green enamel laurel wreath.  The Air Force made only two major changes (beyond the size) from the Army award.  The profile of Minerva in the center of the Medal is replaced with the head of the Statue of Liberty.  The eagle that perches atop the Army's Medal of Honor is replaced by the thunderbolt sprays of the US Air Force Coat of Arms.

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