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The Legion of Merit (LOM) is a
military award Military awards and decorations are distinctions given as a mark of honor for military heroism, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement.United States Department of Defense, DoD Manual 1348.33, 2010, Vol. 3 A decoration is often a medal ...
of the
United States Armed Forces The United States Armed Forces are the Military, military forces of the United States of America. The armed forces consists of six Military branch, service branches: the United States Army, Army, United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps, Uni ...

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 The United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washin ...

Note: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act of 2012 amended the Legion of Merit to be awarded to any uniformed service.
as well as to military and political figures of foreign governments. The Legion of Merit (Commander degree) is one of only two United States military decorations to be issued as a
neck order A necklet is a type of state decoration, decoration which is designed to be worn and displayed around a person's neck, rather than hung (draped) from the chest as is the standard practice for displaying most decorations. In the Middle Ages most ...
(the other being the
Medal of Honor The Medal of Honor (MOH) is the highest and most prestigious that may be awarded to recognize American , , , , , and who have distinguished themselves by acts of . The medal is normally awarded by the , but as it is presented "in the name of ...

Medal of Honor
), and the only United States military decoration that may be issued in degrees (much like an
order of chivalry An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades The Crusades were a series of religious ...
or certain
Orders of Merit An order of merit is an honorific Order (distinction), order that is conferred by a sovereign state, state, government, royal family, or other sovereign entity to an individual in recognition of military or Civilian, civil :wikt:merit, merit. The ...
), although the degrees including a neck ribbon are only awarded to non-U.S. nationals."Types of the Medal of Honor: 1862 To Present."
''Congressional Medal of Honor Society''. Retrieved: July 23, 2006.
The Legion of Merit is seventh in the
order of precedence An order of precedence is a sequential hierarchy of nominal importance and can be applied to individuals, groups, or organizations. Most often it is used in the context of people by many organizations and governments, for very formal and state o ...
of all U.S. military awards and is worn after the
Defense Superior Service Medal The Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM) is a military decoration Military awards and decorations are distinctions given as a mark of honor for military heroism, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement.United States Department of De ...

Defense Superior Service Medal
and before the Distinguished Flying Cross. In contemporary use in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Legion of Merit is typically awarded to Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force
general officers A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space force A space force is a military branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a hea ...
and
colonel Colonel (; abbreviated as Col., Col or COL) is a senior military officer An officer is a person who has a position of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social rel ...
s, and Navy and Coast Guard
flag officers A flag officer is a commissioned officer An officer is a member of an Military, armed forces or Uniformed services, uniformed service who holds a position of authority. In its broadest sense, the term "officer" refers to commissioned officers, ...
and
captain Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, aeroplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police department, election precinct, etc. The captain is a military rank in ar ...
s occupying senior command or very senior staff positions in their respective services. It may also be awarded to officers of lesser rank, senior
warrant officers Warrant officer (WO) is a rank or category of ranks in the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized ...
(typically in command positions at the rank of chief warrant officer 5), and to very senior enlisted personnel (typically in the rank of
command sergeant major A Command Sergeant Major (CSM) is a Non-commissioned officer, non-commissioned rank and position of office in the United States Army. The holder of this rank and position is the most senior enlisted member of a color-bearing Army unit (battalion ...
and
sergeant major of the Army The Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) is a unique non-commissioned rank and position of office in the United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in ...
in the Army, fleet master chief petty officer and
master chief petty officer of the Navy#REDIRECT Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON ) is a unique non-commissioned rank and position of office of the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not f ...
in the Navy,
command chief master sergeant Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) is the ninth, and highest, enlisted rank An enlisted rank (also known as an enlisted grade or enlisted rate) is in some armed services, any rank below that of a Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer. The term ...
and
chief master sergeant of the Air Force The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (acronym: CMSAF) is a unique Non-commissioned officer, non-commissioned rank in the United States Air Force. The holder of this rank and position of office represents the highest Enlisted rank, enlisted l ...
in the Air Force,
command chief master sergeant Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) is the ninth, and highest, enlisted rank An enlisted rank (also known as an enlisted grade or enlisted rate) is in some armed services, any rank below that of a Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer. The term ...
and senior enlisted advisor of the Space Force in the Space Force, and
sergeant major of the Marine Corps Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (officially abbreviated to SMMC) is a billet, as well as a unique enlisted grade of rank, with a unique non-commissioned grade of rank insignia, in the United States Marine Corps The United States Marine ...
in the Marine Corps), but these instances are less frequent, typically by exception, and the circumstances vary by branch of service. Authority to award the Legion of Merit is reserved for
general officer A general officer is an Officer (armed forces), officer of highest military ranks, high rank in the army, armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines. In some usages the term "general officer" refers to a rank above colo ...
s and
flag officer A flag officer is a Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command. The term is used differently in different countr ...
s in pay grade O-9 (e.g.
lieutenant general Lieutenant general (Lt Gen, LTG and similar) is a three-star rank, three-star military rank (NATO code OF-8) used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages, where the title of lieutenant general was held by the second-in ...

lieutenant general
and
vice admiral Vice admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to lieutenant general and air marshal. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral. In many navies,Vice admiral is a three-star rank in the navies of N ...

vice admiral
) and above, civilian
Department of DefenseDepartment of Defence or Department of Defense may refer to: Current departments of defence * Department of Defence (Australia) The Department of Defence (DoD) is a Government department, department of the Government of Australia charged with ...
personnel at assistant service secretary or
Assistant Secretary of Defense Assistant Secretary of Defense is a title used for many high-level executive positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense within the U.S. Department of Defense. The Assistant Secretary of Defense title is junior to Under Secretary of Defense ...
level and above, or equivalent secretary-level civilian personnel with the
Department of Homeland Security The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the U.S. The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North Amer ...
with direct oversight of the U.S. Coast Guard.


Criteria

The degrees of Chief Commander, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire are awarded only to members of armed forces of foreign nations under the criteria outlined in Army Regulation 672-7 and is based on the relative rank or position of the recipient as follows: :#Chief Commander:
Head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional ch ...
or
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Departmen ...
. However, this degree was awarded by President Roosevelt to some Allied World War II theater commanders, usually for joint amphibious landings or invasions. (The President had this power under of October 29, 1942, paragraph 3b.) :#Commander: Equivalent of a U.S. military chief of staff or higher position, but not to a head of state. :#Officer:
General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral zone in suppo ...
or
flag officer A flag officer is a Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command. The term is used differently in different countr ...
below the equivalent of a U.S. military chief of staff;
colonel Colonel (; abbreviated as Col., Col or COL) is a senior military officer An officer is a person who has a position of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social rel ...

colonel
or equivalent rank (e.g., Navy or Coast Guard
captain Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, aeroplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police department, election precinct, etc. The captain is a military rank in ar ...
) for service in assignments equivalent to those normally held by a general or flag officer in U.S. military service; or
military attaché A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission, often an embassy. This post is normally filled by a high-ranking Officer (armed forces), military officer who retains their commission (document), commission while se ...
s. :#Legionnaire: All recipients not included above. When the Legion of Merit is awarded to members of the uniformed services of the United States, it is awarded without reference to degree. The criteria are "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements" and is typically reserved for senior officers at O-6 level and above, typically in connection with senior leadership/command positions or other senior positions of significant responsibility. * The performance must have been such as to merit recognition of key individuals for service rendered in a clearly exceptional manner. * Performance of duties normal to the grade, branch, specialty, or assignment, and experience of an individual is not an adequate basis for this award. * For service not related to actual war, the term "key individual" applies to a narrower range of positions than in time of war and requires evidence of significant achievement. * In peacetime, service should be in the nature of a special requirement or of an extremely difficult duty performed in an unprecedented and clearly exceptional manner. * However, justification of the award may accrue by virtue of exceptionally meritorious service in a succession of important positions. The degrees and the design of the decoration were influenced by the French
Legion of Honour The National Order of the Legion of Honour (french: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), formerly the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour (') is the highest French order of merit An order of merit is an honorific order Order or ORDER or ...
(''Légion d'honneur'').


History


World War II

Although recommendations for creation of a medal for meritorious service were initiated as early as September 1937, no formal action was taken toward approval. In a letter to the Quartermaster General (QMG) dated December 24, 1941, the Adjutant General formally requested action be initiated to create a meritorious service medal, and provide designs in the event the decoration was established. Proposed designs prepared by Bailey, Banks, and Biddle, and the Office of the Quartermaster General were provided to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel (Colonel Heard) by the QMG on January 5, 1942. The Assistant Chief of Staff (G-1), Brigadier General John H. Hilldring, in a response to the QMG on April 3, 1942, indicated the Secretary of War had approved the design recommended by the QMG. The design of the Legion of Merit (change of name) would be ready for issue immediately after legislation authorizing it was enacted into law. (A separate medal called the
Meritorious Service MedalA Meritorious Service Medal is an award presented to denote acts of meritorious service, and sometimes gallantry, that are worthy of recognition. Notable medals with similar names include: *Meritorious Civilian Service Award *Meritorious Service Meda ...

Meritorious Service Medal
was established in 1969.) An act of Congress (Public Law 671, 77th Congress, Chapter 508, 2d Session) on July 20, 1942, established the Legion of Merit and provided that the medal "shall have suitable appurtenances and devices and not more than four degrees, and which the President, under such rules and regulations as he shall prescribe, may award to :(a) personnel of the Armed Forces of the United States and of the Government of the Commonwealth Philippines and :(b) personnel of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations who, since the proclamation of an emergency by the President on 1939-09-08, shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services." The medal was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 40, dated August 5, 1942.
Executive Order In the United States, an executive order is a directive Directive may refer to: * Directive (European Union), a legislative act of the European Union * Directive (programming), a computer language construct that specifies how a compiler shou ...
9260, dated October 29, 1942, by President
Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American politician who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the De ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt
, established the rules for the Legion of Merit, and required the President's approval for the award. Following the invasion of North Africa in November 1942, a number of United States officers were awarded the Legion of Merit in the degree of Officer. One of the recipients was future
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the presiding officer of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) is the body of the most senior uniformed leaders within the United States Department of D ...
Lyman Lemnitzer Lyman Louis Lemnitzer (August 29, 1899 – November 12, 1988) was a United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight Uniformed services of t ...
. Soon after, regulations for the award of the Legion of Merit were revised so that it would not be awarded in the degrees above Legionnaire to United States military personnel. The Legion of Merit is similar to the French
Legion of Honor The National Order of the Legion of Honour (french: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), formerly the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour (') is the highest French order of merit An order of merit is an honorific order Order or ORDER or ...
in both its design, a five-armed cross, and in that it is awarded in multiple degrees. Unlike the Legion of Honor, however, the Legion of Merit is only awarded to military personnel. In addition, it is the only award in the world with multiple degrees of which the higher degrees cannot be awarded to citizens of the country of the award's origin. In October 1942, Brazilian Army Brigadier General Amaro Soares Bittencourt became the first person awarded the Legion of Merit (Commander) and a week later, Lieutenant, junior grade Ann A. Bernatitus, a U.S. Navy Nurse Corps officer, became the first member of the
United States Armed Forces The United States Armed Forces are the Military, military forces of the United States of America. The armed forces consists of six Military branch, service branches: the United States Army, Army, United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps, Uni ...

United States Armed Forces
and the first woman to receive the Legion of Merit. She received the award for her service during the defense of the Philippines. LTJG Bernatitus was also the first recipient of the Legion of Merit authorized to wear a
Combat "V" Combat (French language, French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violence, violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapons) or unarmed (Hand-to-hand combat, not using weapons). Combat is sometime ...
with the medal. General
Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American military officer An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. In its broadest sense, the term " ...
was presented the Legion of Merit by President Roosevelt while he was en route to the
Tehran Conference The Tehran Conference (d Eureka) was a strategy meeting of , , and from 28 November to 1 December 1943, after the . It was held in the 's embassy in , Iran. It was the first of the of the "Big Three" leaders (the , the , and the ). It closely ...

Tehran Conference
, in
Cairo, Egypt Cairo ( ; ar, القاهرة, al-Qāhirah, , Coptic language, Coptic: ⲕⲁϩⲓⲣⲏ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities and towns in Egypt, largest city of Egypt. The Greater Cairo, Cairo metropolitan area, with a population o ...

Cairo, Egypt
, on November 26, 1943. In 1943, at the request of the Army Chief of Staff, General
George C. Marshall George Catlett Marshall Jr. (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American soldier and statesman. He rose through the United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land military branch, service branch of the United State ...
, approval authority for U.S. personnel was delegated to the Department of War. Executive Order 10600, dated March 15, 1955, by President
Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American military officer An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. In its broadest sense, the term " ...
, again revised approval authority. Current provisions are contained in Title 10,
United States Code The Code of Laws of the United States of America (variously abbreviated to Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, U.S. Code, U.S.C., or USC) is the official compilation and codification Codification may refer to: *Codification ( ...
1121. As a result, awarding authority for the Legion of Merit resides with general officers/flag officers at the Lieutenant General / Vice Admiral level or higher. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, unlike the Army and later the Air Force, provided for the Legion of Merit to be awarded with a "V" device indicating awards for participation in combat operations. From 1942 to 1944, the Legion of Merit was awarded for a fairly wide range of achievements. This was because it was, until the establishment of the
Bronze Star Medal The Bronze Star Medal (BSM) is a Awards and decorations of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious ac ...

Bronze Star Medal
in 1944, the only decoration below the Silver Star which could be awarded for combat valor, and the only decoration below the
Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Service Medal
which could be awarded for meritorious noncombat service.


After World War II

After the establishment of the
Bronze Star Medal The Bronze Star Medal (BSM) is a Awards and decorations of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious ac ...

Bronze Star Medal
(BSM) in February 1944, the Legion of Merit was awarded almost exclusively to senior officers in the rank of lieutenant colonel (Army, Marine Corps and Air Force) or commander (Navy and Coast Guard) (O-5), and above. Beginning in the 1980s, the Legion of Merit began to be awarded more frequently to senior-ranking warrant officers (W-4 and W-5), as well as to senior enlisted service members (E-8 and E-9), usually as a retirement award. When not awarded as a retirement award, it is most commonly awarded to officers in pay grade O-6 and higher. The
Meritorious Service MedalA Meritorious Service Medal is an award presented to denote acts of meritorious service, and sometimes gallantry, that are worthy of recognition. Notable medals with similar names include: *Meritorious Civilian Service Award *Meritorious Service Meda ...

Meritorious Service Medal
(MSM) was established in 1969 as a "junior" version of the Legion of Merit and prior to 2003 was only awarded for non-combat service. The MSM is awarded more frequently, and to more lower-ranking military personnel, than the Legion of Merit. Recipients of the MSM are usually in pay grades E-7 thru E-9, W-3 thru W-5 (Army Only), and O-4 thru O-6 for the Army, Air Force, and Space Force; for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard the MSM is usually presented to those in pay grades E-9, W-4, W-5, O-5 and O-6.


Insignia

*The Chief Commander Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal is, on a wreath of green laurel joined at the bottom by a gold bow-knot (rosette), a domed five-pointed white star bordered crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a gold ball. In the center, a blue disk encircled by gold clouds, with 13 white stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the
Great Seal of the United States The Great Seal is a principal National symbols of the United States, national symbol of the United States. The phrase is used both for the physical seal (device), seal itself, which is kept by the United States Secretary of State, and more genera ...

Great Seal of the United States
. Between each point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is . The words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" are engraved in the center of the reverse. A miniature of the decoration in gold on a horizontal gold bar is worn on the service ribbon. *The Commander Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal is, on a wreath of green laurel joined at the bottom by a gold bow-knot (rosette), a five-pointed white star bordered crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a gold ball. In the center, a blue disk encircled by gold clouds, with 13 white stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the
Great Seal of the United States The Great Seal is a principal National symbols of the United States, national symbol of the United States. The phrase is used both for the physical seal (device), seal itself, which is kept by the United States Secretary of State, and more genera ...

Great Seal of the United States
. Between each star point, within the wreath, are crossed war arrows pointing outwards, representing armed protection to the Nation. The overall width is . A gold laurel wreath in the v-shaped angle at the top connects an oval suspension ring to the neck ribbon that is in width. The reverse of the five-pointed star is enameled in white, and the border is crimson. In the center, a disk for engraving the name of the recipient surrounded by the words "ANNUIT COEPTIS MDCCLXXXII": a combination of the motto from the Great Seal, "He
od
od
Has Favored Our Undertakings", with the date for the first award of a US decoration, the
Purple Heart The Purple Heart (PH) is a Awards and decorations of the United States military, United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President of the United States, President to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after April ...

Purple Heart
. An outer scroll contains the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA." A miniature of the decoration in silver on a horizontal silver bar is worn on the service ribbon. :The neck ribbon for the degree of Commander is wide and consists of the following stripes: white 67101; center crimson and white. *The Officer Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal is similar to the degree of Commander except the overall width is and the pendant has a suspension ring instead of the wreath for attaching the ribbon. A gold replica of the medal, wide, is centered on the suspension ribbon. *The Legionnaire Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal and the Legion of Merit Medal issued to U.S. personnel is the same as the degree of Officer, except the suspension ribbon does not have the medal replica. The ribbon for all of the decorations is wide and consists of the following stripes: white; center crimson; and white. The reverse of all of the medals has the motto taken from the
Great Seal of the United States The Great Seal is a principal National symbols of the United States, national symbol of the United States. The phrase is used both for the physical seal (device), seal itself, which is kept by the United States Secretary of State, and more genera ...

Great Seal of the United States
, "ANNUIT COEPTIS" ("He
od
od
has favored our undertakings") and the date "MDCCLXXXII" (1782), which is the date of America's first decoration, the
Badge of Military Merit The Badge of Military Merit was a military award of the United States Armed Forces The United States Armed Forces are the Military, military forces of the United States of America. It consists of the United States Army, Army, United States Mar ...
, now known as the
Purple Heart The Purple Heart (PH) is a Awards and decorations of the United States military, United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President of the United States, President to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after April ...

Purple Heart
. The ribbon design also follows the pattern of the Purple Heart ribbon. ;Additional awards Additional awards of the Legion of Merit are denoted by oak leaf clusters (in the Army, Air Force, and Space Force), and by gold stars (in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard). Until 2017, the sea services (the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) awarded the
Combat "V" Combat (French language, French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violence, violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapons) or unarmed (Hand-to-hand combat, not using weapons). Combat is sometime ...
for wear on the LOM. The Army, Air Force, and Space Force do not authorize the "V" device for the Legion of Merit.


Notable recipients

A few recipients are listed above.


References


External links


Legion of Merit – Criteria, Background, and Images
{{DEFAULTSORT:Legion Of Merit Military awards and decorations of the United States Awards established in 1942 1942 establishments in the United States