A medal bar or medal clasp is a thin metal bar attached to the ribbon of a military decoration, civil decoration, or other medal. It most commonly indicates the campaign or operation the recipient received the award for, and multiple bars on the same medal are used to indicate that the recipient has met the criteria for receiving the medal in multiple theatres.
When used in conjunction with decorations for exceptional service, such as gallantry medals, the term "and bar" means that the award has been bestowed multiple times. In the example, "Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and two bars, DFC", "DSO and two bars" means that the Distinguished Service Order was awarded on three separate occasions. A British convention is to indicate bars by the use of asterisks; thus, DSO** would denote a DSO and two bars.
Bars are also used on long-service medals to indicate the length of service rendered.
The two terms are used because terms "bar" and "clasp" both refer to two parts of the medal; the indicator discussed in this article, and the part of the medal connected to the ribbon.
Prior to the early 19th century, medals and decorations were only awarded to ranking officers; occasions existed where medals were presented to soldiers (other ranks or enlisted men) or seamen (naval ratings), but these were often private efforts. One exception was the Army Gold Medal issued to higher ranking participants in the Peninsular War. A medal was given for service, with a clasp for each battle fought. After four clasps were earned the medal was turned in for a cross with the battle names on the arms, and additional clasps were then added. The maximum was achieved by the Duke of Wellington, with a cross and nine clasps.
Over the next 40 years, it became customary for governments to present a medal to all soldiers and officers involved in a campaign. These medals were often engraved with the names of the major battles the recipient had fought in during the campaign. The main disadvantages of this system were that new medals had to be created for each campaign or war, and that it was impossible to tell at a glance if the recipient was only a participant in the campaign overall, or if he had been involved in one or several major actions. (The first gallantry medal to be awarded to ordinary British soldiers was the Victoria Cross in 1856.)
The Sutlej Medal was the earliest medal to use such bars. It was awarded to British Army and Honourable East India Company soldiers who fought in the First Anglo-Sikh War between 1845 and 1846. The first battle the recipient participated in would be engraved on the medal itself. If the recipient had participated in multiple engagements, silver bars bearing the name of each additional battle were attached to the medal's ribbon. This method of notation evolved again on the Punjab Campaign medal, where the standard medal was awarded to all that had served during the campaign, with bars produced for the three major battles; the Battle of Chillianwala, the Siege of Multan, and the Battle of Gujarat.
The creation of bars led to the development of 'General Service' medals, which would be presented to any soldier serving in a general region or time frame. Bars would be awarded to denote the particular campaign or war the recipient fought in. The 1854 India General Service Medal was awarded to soldiers over a 41-year period. Twenty-three clasps were created for this award, becoming one of the more extreme uses of this system. The British Naval General Service Medal, was authorised in 1847 with some 231 clasps (of which about 10 were never issued) for actions ranging from relatively minor skirmishes to certain campaigns and all full-fledged battles between 1793 and 1840.
The Crimea Medal was issued with ornate battle bars. Since then the general trend has been to have simple horizontal devices.
The Legion of Merit (LOM) is a military award of the United States Armed Forces that is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The decoration is issued to members of the eight uniformed services of the United States as well as to military and political figures of foreign governments.
An oak leaf cluster is a ribbon device to denote subsequent decorations and awards consisting of a miniature bronze or silver twig of four oak leaves with three acorns on the stem that is authorized by the United States Armed Forces as for a specific set of decorations and awards of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and Department of the Air Force.
A member of the armed forces mentioned in dispatches is one whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which his or her gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described.
A service star is a miniature bronze or silver five-pointed star 3⁄16 inch in diameter that is authorized to be worn by members of the seven uniformed services of the United States on medals and ribbons to denote an additional award or service period. The service star may also be referred to as a campaign star or battle star depending on which award is authorized the star and the manner in which the device is used for the award.
A good conduct knot/loop is an award device of the Department of the Army which denotes additional decorations of the Army Good Conduct Medal.
The Good Conduct Medal is one of the oldest military awards of the United States Armed Forces. The U.S. Navy's variant of the Good Conduct Medal was established in 1869, the Marine Corps version in 1896, the Coast Guard version in 1923, the Army version in 1941, and the Air Force version in 1963; the Air Force Good Conduct Medal was temporarily discontinued from February 2006 to February 2009, followed by its subsequent reinstatement.
The World War I Victory Medal was a United States World War I service medal designed by James Earle Fraser.
The Citation Star was a Department of War personal valor decoration issued as a ribbon device which was first established by the United States Congress on July 9, 1918. When awarded, a 3⁄16-inch (4.8 mm) silver star was placed on the suspension ribbon and service ribbon of the World War I Victory Medal to denote a Citation (certificate) for "Gallantry In Action" was awarded to a soldier, or to a marine or attached to the Army's Second Division, American Expeditionary Forces. The Citation Star was replaced in 1932 with the introduction of the Silver Star Medal.
The Navy Commendation Star or Navy Letter of Commendation Star was a Department of the Navy personal military decoration issued as ribbon device which was authorized in 1918 to be "placed" on the World War I Victory Medal. A 3⁄16 inch silver star was issued to any service member of the Navy and Marine Corps who had been cited and commended by the Secretary of the Navy for performance of duty. Among the recipients of the Commendation Star was future Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
The Africa Star is a military campaign medal, instituted by the United Kingdom on 8 July 1943 for award to British and Commonwealth forces who served in North Africa between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943 during the Second World War.
The Army of Occupation Medal is a military award of the United States military which was established by the United States War Department on 5 April 1946. The medal was created in the aftermath of the Second World War to recognize those who had performed occupation service in either Germany, Italy, Austria, or Japan. The original Army of Occupation Medal was intended only for members of the United States Army, but was expanded in 1948 to encompass the United States Air Force shortly after that service's creation. The Navy and Marine equivalent of the Army of Occupation Medal is the Navy Occupation Service Medal.
A rosette is a small, circular device that is typically presented with a medal. The rosettes are either worn on the medal to denote a higher rank, or for situations where wearing the medal is deemed inappropriate, such as on a suit. Rosettes are issued in nations such as Belgium, France, Italy and Japan. Rosettes are also sometimes called bowknots, due to their shape. Moreover, a large rosette is sometimes pinned onto the ribbon which suspends a medal, typically the Officer 's badge of certain orders of chivalry.
The Nkwe ya Boronse - Bronze Leopard, post-nominal letters NB, is a military decoration for bravery which was instituted in 2003. It is South Africa's third highest military decoration for bravery.
The Atlantic Star is a military campaign medal, instituted by the United Kingdom in May 1945 for award to British Commonwealth forces who took part in the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous campaign of the Second World War.
The 1939–1945 Star is a military campaign medal instituted by the United Kingdom on 8 July 1943 for award to British and Commonwealth forces for service in the Second World War. Two clasps were instituted to be worn on the medal ribbon, Battle of Britain and Bomber Command.
The Air Crew Europe Star is a military campaign medal, instituted by the United Kingdom in May 1945 for award to British and Commonwealth air crews who participated in operational flights over Europe from bases in the United Kingdom during the Second World War.
The Emergency Reserve Decoration (ERD) was a British military decoration for long service, instituted on 17 November 1952 and given for service up to 1967.
The Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal is a British campaign medal which was awarded to members of the Cape Colonial Forces who took part in three campaigns in and around the Cape of Good Hope, in Basutoland in 1880–1881, in Transkei in 1880–1881 and in Bechuanaland in 1896–1897.
The Army Gold Medal (1808–1814), also known as the Peninsular Gold Medal, with an accompanying Gold Cross, was a British campaign medal awarded in recognition of field and general officers' successful commands in campaigns, predominantly the Peninsular War. It was not a general medal, since it was issued only to officers whose status was no less than that of battalion commander or equivalent.
The Burma Medal is a campaign medal awarded by the Governor-General of India to native Indian soldiers of the armies of the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) who participated in the First Burma War from April 1824 to February 1826.