The Air Medal

Today is the anniversary of the establishment of the Air Medal.  Many of Frisky’s P-47 pilots earned the Air Medal for their combat missions in 1944-1945.  The award itself was established on 11 May 1942,  for “any person who, while serving in any capacity in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard of the United States subsequent to Sept. 8, 1939, distinguishes, or has distinguished, himself by meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” The Air Medal was amended on Sept. 11, 1942 to read “in any capacity in or with the Army”.

Air Medal. Illustrated by Virginia Reyes of the Air Force News Agency.   (Courtesy US Air Force)

Air Medal. Illustrated by Virginia Reyes of the Air Force News Agency. The medal is a bronze compass rose of sixteen points with a fleur-de-lis design on the top point. On the obverse, in the center, is an eagle, swooping downward (attacking) and clutching a lightning bolt in each talon. The reverse has a raised disk on the compass rose, left blank for the recipient’s name and rank. (Courtesy US Air Force)

It is awarded under the following criteria:  “It is awarded to U.S. military and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight and foreign military personnel in actual combat in support of operations. Required achievement is less than that required for the Distinguished Flying Cross, but must be accomplished with distinction above and beyond that expected of professional airmen.”

Ribbon for the Air Medal.  (Courtesy US Air Force)

Ribbon for the Air Medal. The ribbon has a broad stripe of ultramarine blue in the center flanked on either side by a wide stripe of golden orange, and with a narrow stripe of ultramarine blue at the edge, the original colors of the Army Air Corps. (Courtesy US Air Force)

As it is a combat decoration, the Air Medal  “…is not awarded for peace time sustained operational activities and flights.”

Certainly the fighter pilots in the 371st Fighter Group saw a lot of combat action in the European Theater of Operations, and thus earned many deserved Air Medals, with many receiving it multiple times in the form of Air Medal oak leaf clusters made to the original award.


Air Medal Fact Sheet, at:

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