American Defense Service Medal

American Defense Service Medal
Awarded by Department of War and Department of the Navy
Type Service Medal
Eligibility Military personnel only
Awarded for Service between 8 September 1939 and 7 December 1941
Status Inactive
Established Executive Order 8808, June 28, 1941
First awarded September 8, 1939 (retroactive)
Last awarded March 2, 1946
Next (higher) Army: Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
Air Force: Air Force Recognition Ribbon
Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard: China Service Medal
Next (lower) Army Women's Army Corps Service Medal
Navy & Marine Corps American Campaign Medal
Air Force American Campaign Medal

Service ribbon and Streamer

The American Defense Service Medal was a military award of the United States Armed Forces, established by Executive Order 8808, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on June 28, 1941.[1][2] The medal was intended to recognize those military service members who had served on active duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941.

A similar medal, known as the American Campaign Medal, was established in 1942, for service in the American Theater during the World War II era.


The American Defense Service Medal was established by Executive Order 8808, on 28 June 1941, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and announced in War Department Bulletin 17, 1941. The criteria for the medal was announced in Department of the Army Circular 44, on 13 February 1942. The service ribbon design was approved by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy on January 7, 1942. The medal was designed by Mr. Lee Lawrie, a civilian sculptor from Easton, Maryland. The model was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts on May 5, 1942.[2][3]


The medal is authorized to military members who served on active duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941. Members of the United States Army, to include those in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, received this medal for any length of service during the eligibility period, provided that they were on orders to active duty for a period of twelve months or longer.[1] The United States Navy excluded those Reservists who were on active duty for less than ten days during the eligibility period, but otherwise the Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard awarded the medal to all personnel who served on active duty at any time during the eligibility period, provided they passed their initial physical examinations, such as in the case of those Reservists called back to extended active duty prior to the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, or those enlisted recruits and officer candidates accessed during the same period.[4]


The bronze medal is 1 1/4 inches in width. On the obverse is a female Grecian figure symbolic of defense, holding in her sinister hand an ancient war shield in reverse and her dexter hand brandishing a sword above her head, and standing upon a conventionalized oak branch with four leaves. Around the top is the lettering "AMERICAN DEFENSE". The reverse is the wording "FOR SERVICE DURING THE LIMITED EMERGENCY PROCLAIMED BY THE PRESIDENT ON SEPTEMBER 8, 1939 OR DURING THE UNLIMITED EMERGENCY PROCLAIMED BY THE PRESIDENT ON MAY 27, 1941" above a seven-leafed spray of laurel.[2][3]

The suspension and service ribbon of the medal is 1 3/8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 3/16 inch Golden Yellow 67104; 1/8 inch triparted Old Glory Blue 67178; White 67101; and Scarlet 67111; center ¾ inch Golden Yellow; 1/8 inch triparted Scarlet; White; and Old Glory Blue 67178; and 3/16 inch Golden yellow. The golden yellow color was symbolic of the golden opportunity of the youth of the United States to serve the National colors, represented by the blue, white and red pin stripes on each side.[2][3]


The American Defense Service Medal was authorized with the following devices:

  • Foreign Service Clasp: Issued by the United States Army for military service outside the continental limits of the United States, including service in Alaska. The foreign service clasp is a bronze bar 1/8 inch in width and 1-1/2 inches in length with the words FOREIGN SERVICE, with a star at each end of the inscription.[1]
  • Base Clasp: Issued by the U.S. Navy and United States Marine Corps for service outside the continental limits of the United States (service in either Alaska or Hawaii qualified).[4]
  • Fleet Clasp: Issued by the Navy, Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard for service on the high seas while regularly attached to any vessels of the Atlantic, Pacific, or Asiatic fleets as well as vessels of the Naval Transport Service and vessels operating directly under the Chief of Naval Operations.[4] The Fleet clasp is a bronze bar 1/8 inch in width and 1-1/2 inches in length with the words FLEET inscribed.
  • Sea Clasp: Issued by the Coast Guard for all other vessels and aircraft, not qualifying for the Fleet Clasp, which regularly conducted patrols at sea.[4]
  • "A" Device: Awarded to any member of the Navy who served duty in actual or potential belligerent contact with Axis Powers in the Atlantic Ocean between June 22 and December 7, 1941.[4]
  • Service star: Worn in lieu of clasps when wearing the American Defense Service Medal as a ribbon on a military uniform.[1][3][4]

See also


  • Foster, Frank C. (2002). A complete guide to all United States military medals, 1939 to present. Fountain Inn, S.C.: MOA Press. ISBN 1-884-45218-3. OCLC 54755134. 
  • Kerrigan, Evans E. (1971). American war medals and decorations. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-12101-0. OCLC 128058. 
  • Kerrigan, Evans E. (1990). American medals and decorations. Noroton Heights, CT: Medallic. ISBN 0-792-45082-5. OCLC 21467942. 
  • Robles, Philip K. (1971). United States military medals and ribbons. Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle. ISBN 0-804-80048-0. OCLC 199721. 


  1. 1 2 3 4 Army Regulation 600–8–22 Military Awards (PDF). Washington, DC: Headquarters Department of the Army. 24 June 2013. p. 70. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "American Defense Service Medal". The Institute of Heraldry. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "American Defense Service Medal". Air Force Personnel Center. 2 August 2010. Archived from the original on 6 November 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (PDF). Washington, DC: Department of the Navy. 1953. pp. 57–59. NavPers 15,790. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
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