The Silver Star, officially the Silver Star Medal, is the United States third highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to any person serving in any capacity with the United States Armed Forces. The medal is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.
The Silver Star is the successor award to the "Citation Star" (3⁄16 silver star) which was established by an Act of Congress on July 9, 1918. On July 19, 1932, the Secretary of War approved the conversion of the "Citation Star" to the Silver Star Medal. The original "Citation Star" is incorporated into the center of medal. The Silver Star's suspension and service ribbon resembles the red, white, and blue suspension and service ribbon of the Certificate of Merit Medal.
Authorization for the Silver Star Medal was placed into law by an Act of Congress for the U.S. Navy on August 7, 1942 and an Act of Congress for the U.S. Army on December 15, 1942.
The US Army and Air Force currently awards the medal as the "Silver Star". The US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard continues to award the medal as the "Silver Star Medal".
The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry not justifying the award of one of the next higher valor awards – the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross. The gallantry displayed must have taken place while in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
Air Force pilots, combat systems officers, Navy and Marine Corps Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers flying fighter aircraft are often considered eligible to receive the Silver Star upon becoming an ace (i.e., having five or more confirmed aerial kills), which entails the pilot and, in multi-seat fighters, the weapons system officer or radar intercept officer, intentionally and successfully risking his life multiple times under combat conditions and emerging victorious. However, during the Vietnam War, the last conflict to produce U.S. fighter aces, the one USAF pilot, the two USAF navigators/weapon systems officers (who were later retrained as USAF pilots), the one USN Naval Aviator and the one USN Naval Flight Officer/radar intercept officer to achieve this distinction were eventually awarded the Air Force Cross and Navy Cross, respectively, in addition to Silver Stars previously awarded for earlier aerial kills
The Silver Star is a gold five-pointed star, 1 1⁄2 inches (38 mm) in circumscribing diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays from the center and a 3⁄16 inch (4.8 mm) diameter silver star superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners. The reverse has the inscription FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION. The ribbon is 1 3⁄8 inches (35 mm) wide and consists of the following stripes: 7⁄32 inch (5.6 mm) Old Glory red (center stripe); proceeding outward in pairs 7⁄32 inch (5.6 mm) white; 7⁄32 inch (5.6 mm) ultramarine blue; 3⁄64 inch (1.2 mm) white; and 3⁄32 inch (2.4 mm) ultramarine blue.
The Department of Defense does not keep extensive records of awards of the Silver Star. Independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established. Colonel David Hackworth is likely to be the person who has been awarded the most Silver Stars. He earned ten Silver Stars for service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
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