Military Times NOW hosts the HomeOfHeroes  Awards & Citations Database

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Revised and Updated: July 15, 2008

Recipients of the
Navy Distinguished Service Medal


Up until World War I the ONLY medal authorized for award to members of the U.S. Navy was the Medal of Honor. On January 2, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson issued a Presidential Order establishing the Army's Distinguished Service Cross, an award ONLY for valor in combat as the Army's second highest award, as well as the Army Distinguished Service Medal, which could be presented for both combat and non-combat actions of distinguished service. (The same Presidential Order also established the Silver Star Citation which eventually became the Silver Star Medal.)

During the World War, the vast majority of outstanding acts of valor performed by members of the Navy were those of U.S. Marines serving with Army units, and the Navy Corpsmen and Medical Officers assigned to those Marine units. As a result, large numbers of members of the Navy and Marine Corps were awarded ARMY decorations (DSCs, DSMs, and even FIVE Army Medals of Honor).

During that war Naval sea duty was also fraught with danger and, while perhaps not as striking as ground combat, the valor shown by the officers of ships that braved deadly waters and lurking submarines was largely unrecognized by the awarding of NAVY medals. On February 4, 1919, three months after the end of the war, the Navy followed the example set by the Army the previous year, establishing two awards below the Medal of Honor in precedence, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the Navy Cross. 

While the Medal of Honor is reserved ONLY for members of U.S. Military Forces, both the Navy Cross and the DSM are authorized for presentation to American Civilians and to Foreign Allies. In all cases it is awarded for:

The Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the United States Navy or Marine Corps, has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great responsibility. The performance must be such as to merit recognition for service which is clearly exceptional. Exceptional performance of normal duty will not alone justify an award of this decoration.

The Navy Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to members of all branches of service, including civilians and foreign Allies, and in all cases where there is a subsequent award a Gold Star is worn in lieu of the second or additional awards. In the case of a SIXTH award, a Silver Star (device) would be worn in lieu of the DSM and four Gold Stars. Admiral Charles Robert Larson's Navy DSM ribbon would show a Silver Star and one Gold Star, indicating his RECORD SEVEN awards of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

NOTE: When the Navy Distinguished Service Medal was authorized in 1919, it held precedence over the Navy Cross which, at that time, did NOT require the level of combat valor the award does today. In 1942, several months after the beginning of World War II and after the Army had already awarded hundreds of Silver Stars to members of the Navy and Marine Corps, the Navy revised its own awards system. In addition to authorizing awarding of the Silver Star by the Department of the Navy, the Navy Cross was elevated in precedence to the same level as the Army Distinguished Service cross as a "valor only award," and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal became third in precedence, as a decoration generally bestowed upon senior Navy Flag and Marine Corps General Officers.


To date we have identified less than 500 recipients of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, however included in those totals are ALL Pre-World War II awards in History. We hope to complete the majority of WWII Navy DSMs by October 2008, while working concurrently on post-WWII awards.

Statistical Summary of  Navy DSM Awards

 Event Navy USMC USCG Army USAF* Civilian Foreign


World War I 147 21 1 3   1 157 330
  NC Flights 1             1
  2d Nicaragua 2             2
  Byrd Expeditions 1             1
  Squalus Rescue 1             1
  Interim (1918-1942) 4             29
World War II** 29 30   1       60
  Interim (1945-2008)** 7 1           8
Korea**   6     1     7
Cold War** 1     1       2
Vietnam** 7             7
 TOTALS 200 58 1 5 1 1 157 423

 * Includes U.S. Army Air Corps (WWI) and U.S. Army Air Force (WWII)
**Presently being Compiled

Our Research Library now contains the citations for ALL DSM awards (Army & Navy) from inception through 1942, and we continue to compile citations for subsequent periods.

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