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Military awards and decorations are distinctions given as a mark of honor for military heroism, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement.A decoration is often a medal consisting of a ribbon and a medallion.
While the United States Government does not consider all its military awards and medals as being "decorations", other countries tend to refer to all their military awards and medals as "decorations". Civil decorations awarded to military personnel should not be considered military decorations, although some orders of chivalry have civil and military divisions. Decorations received by police and fire brigade personnel may sometimes be considered alongside military decorations, on which they may be modelled, although they are strictly not military awards.
Decorations have been known since ancient times. The Egyptian Old Kingdom had the Order of the Golden Collar while the New Kingdom awarded the Order of the Golden Fly.Celts and Romans wore a torc or received other military decorations such as the hasta pura , a spear without a tip. Dayaks wore and still wear tattoos, etc. Necklaces and bracelets were given during the early Middle Ages, evolving into richly jewelled big necklaces, often with a pendant (commonly a medal) attached.
The oldest military decorations still in use is Sweden's För tapperhet i fält ("For Valour in the Field") and För tapperhet till sjöss ("For Valour at Sea") awarded to officers and soldiers of the Swedish Armed Forces who have—as the medal names suggest—shown valour in the field or at sea in wartime. The medal was instituted by Swedish king Gustav III on 28 May, 1789, during his war against Russia. Whilst technically it is still active, it is for practical purposes inactive, not having been awarded since 1915. The next oldest was the Austro-Hungarian Tapferkeits Medaille Honour Medal for Bravery 1789–1792. This medal was instituted on 19 July, 1789, by the Emperor Joseph II.
Another of the oldest military decorations still in use is Poland's War Order of Virtuti Militari (Latin for "For Military Valour"). It was first awarded in 1792.
Medals have been forged by many people to make the medal appear more valuable or to make one look like a more decorated soldier. Medal forgeries can include: adding bars, engraving a famous soldier's name on it or creating a whole new medal. Medal forgery is illegal in most countries and can be punishable by imprisonment.
Today military decorations include:
In most NATO militaries, only the service ribbons are normally worn on everyday occasions (as opposed to the actual medals).
The Legion of Honour is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. Established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, it has been retained by all later French governments and régimes.
A medal or medallion is a small portable artistic object, a thin disc, normally of metal, carrying a design, usually on both sides. They typically have a commemorative purpose of some kind, and many are given as awards. They may be intended to be worn, suspended from clothing or jewellery in some way. They may be struck like a coin by dies or die-cast in a mould.
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. It is authorized by the United States Armed Forces for a specific set of decorations and awards of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and Department of the Air Force.
The National Order of Vietnam was a combined military-civilian decoration of South Vietnam and was considered the highest honor that could be bestowed upon an individual by the Republic of Vietnam government.
To be mentioned in dispatches describes a member of the armed forces whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which their gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described.
The Order of Leopold is one of the three current Belgian national honorary orders of knighthood. It is the oldest and highest order of Belgium and is named in honour of its founder; King Leopold I. It consists of a military, a maritime and a civil division. The maritime division is only awarded to personnel of the merchant navy, and the military division to military personnel. The decoration was established on 11 July 1832 and is awarded by Royal order.
An order is a visible honour awarded by a sovereign state, monarch, dynastic royal house or organisation to a person, typically in recognition of individual merit, that often comes with distinctive insignia such as collars, medals, badges, and sashes worn by recipients.
The Royal Order of the Sword is a Swedish order of chivalry and military decoration created by King Frederick I of Sweden on February 23, 1748, together with the Order of the Seraphim and the Order of the Polar Star.
The Nkwe ya Gauta - Golden Leopard, post-nominal letters NG, is a military decoration for bravery which was instituted in 2003, to replace the Honoris Crux Gold (HCG). It is South Africa's highest military decoration for bravery.
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 orders, decorations, and medals of Canada comprise a complex system by which Canadians are honoured by the country's sovereign for actions or deeds that benefit their community or the country at large. Modelled on its British predecessor, the structure originated in the 1930s, but began to come to full fruition at the time of Canada's centennial in 1967, with the establishment of the Order of Canada, and has since grown in both size and scope to include dynastic and national orders, state, civil, and military decorations; and various campaign medals. The monarch in right of each Canadian province also issues distinct orders and medals to honour residents for work performed in just their province. The provincial honours, as with some of their national counterparts, grant the use of post-nominal letters and or supporters and other devices to be used on personal coats of arms.
The Castle of Good Hope Decoration was a military decoration for bravery which was instituted by the Union of South Africa on 6 April 1952, but never awarded. The decoration was intended for award to members of the South African Defence Force for a signal act of valour or most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
För tapperhet i fält and För tapperhet till sjöss are two Swedish military medals awarded to officers and soldiers of the Swedish Armed Forces who have—as the medal names suggest—shown valour in the field or at sea in wartime. These two medals, along with the various grades of the Order of the Sword, are the only awards in Sweden that have the designation "Swedish war decorations". The medal was instituted by Gustav III on 28 May 1789, during his war against Russia and was meant to complement the Order of the Sword—which was instituted on 23 February 1748 and was awarded for the same purpose—valour in the field or at sea—but only to officers.
The Honoris Crux of 1952, post-nominal letters HC, is a military decoration for bravery which was instituted by the Union of South Africa in 1952. It was in use from 1952 to 1975 and was awarded to members of the South African Defence Force for gallantry in action against the enemy in the field. It was discontinued on 1 July 1975, when it was replaced by a new set of four Honoris Crux decorations, in four classes.
Brita Christina Hagberg, née Nilsdotter, alias Petter Hagberg,, was a woman who served as a soldier in the Swedish army during the Russo-Swedish War (1788–1790). She is one of two confirmed women to have been decorated for bravery in battle in Sweden before women were allowed into the military in the 20th century.
The Cross of Valour is the second highest military decoration of the Greek state, awarded for acts of bravery or distinguished leadership on the field of battle. It has been instituted three times, first on 13 May 1913 during the Balkan Wars but not issued until 1921 during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, then on 11 November 1940 shortly after the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War and finally in 1974.
The Awards and decorations of the German Armed Forces are decorations awarded by the German Bundeswehr, the German government, and other organizations to the German military and allied forces. Modern era German military awards have been presented since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949.
The Armed Forces of India are eligible for a myriad of military decorations. Decorations are awarded for extraordinary bravery and courage, as well as distinguished service during times of war and peace. Service and campaign medals have been awarded throughout the history of India as an independent state.
Vasa Medal was established by King Oscar II of Sweden in 1895 as a reward medal for general civil virtues. It was given in gold and silver of the 8th and 5th sizes. The medal shows a royal crown but without the king´s picture. It is worn in the ribbon of the Order of Vasa; green. It carries the cross of the Order of Vasa and the reverse a globe coated with the Three Crowns of the coat of arms of Sweden. It ceased to be awarded in 1974.