The Medal for Merit was, during the period it was awarded, the highest civilian decoration of the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territor ...
. It was awarded by the
President of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United Sta ...
to civilians who "distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services" in the war effort "since the proclamation of an emergency by the President on September 8, 1939". Awards to civilians of foreign nations were eligible "only for the performance of exceptionally meritorious or courageous act or acts in furtherance of the war efforts of the United Nations." The medal is made of gold-finished bronze and enamel and is worn on the left chest from a ribbon.


The Medal for Merit was created by Public Law 77-671 and its awarding codified by Executive Order 9286 - Medal for Merit on , later amended and restated by Executive Order 9857A of . Created during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposi ...
, and awarded to "civilians of the nations prosecuting the war under the joint declaration of the United Nations and of other friendly foreign nations", the medal has not been awarded since 1952. The first medals were awarded to John C. Garand and Albert Hoyt Taylor on . The Medal for Merit is currently listed as seventh in order of precedence of U.S. civilian decorations, below the Silver Lifesaving Medal and above the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. Civilians of foreign nations could receive the award for the performance of an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act or acts in furtherance of the war efforts of the Allies against the
Axis Powers The Axis powers, ; it, Potenze dell'Asse ; ja, 枢軸国 ''Sūjikukoku'', group=nb originally called the Rome–Berlin Axis, was a military coalition that initiated World War II and fought against the Allies. Its principal members were N ...
. The first person to receive this medal who was not an American citizen was Sir Edward Wilfred Harry Travis Director of the British Government Code and Cypher School in World War II, on . The next foreign civilian to receive the medal was Edgar Sengier, the director of the Belgian Union Minière du Haut Katanga during World War II. Sengier was awarded the Medal for Merit on . The next foreign civilian to receive the medal was the Canadian spymaster William Stephenson in . Stephenson had the code name "Intrepid" during World War II. Some writers consider Stephenson to be one of the real life inspirations for the fictitious character "
James Bond The ''James Bond'' series focuses on a fictional British Secret Service agent created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short-story collections. Since Fleming's death in 1964, eight other authors hav ...
". Another recipient was Sir Robert Watson-Watt, a British pioneer of radar, who created a chain of radar stations around the UK which enabled advance information to be available to the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) a ...
of incoming German aircraft and was instrumental in the winning of the 1940
Battle of Britain The Battle of Britain, also known as the Air Battle for England (german: die Luftschlacht um England), was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the Royal Navy defended ...
. He was sent to the US in 1941 to advise on air defense, after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. He was awarded the US Medal for Merit in 1946. All proposed awards were considered by the Medal for Merit Board, consisting of three members appointed by the president, of whom one was appointed as the chairman of the board. This medal cannot be awarded for any action relating to the prosecution of World War II after the end of hostilities (as proclaimed by Proclamation No. 2714 of ), and no proposal for this award for such services could be submitted after . The last medal of this type was awarded in 1952 after a long delay in processing.

Notable recipients

See also

* President's Certificate of Merit


External links

NARA - Federal Register - Executive Order 9637 - Medal for Merit

Exploring the Medal for Merit
Philip J. Schlegel, 2012. Includes list of recipients. {{Authority control 1942 establishments in the United States Awards established in 1942 Awards disestablished in 1946 Civil awards and decorations of the United States Establishments by United States executive order * United States in World War II