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Legion of Merit (LM)


The Legion of Merit, the first United States decoration created specifically for award to citizens of other nations, was established by an Act of Congress of July 20, 1942, amended by an executive order of March 15, 1955. It is conferred on officers and enlisted men of the armed forces of the United States and on nationals of other countries "who shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services" since Sept. 8, 1939, the date of the president's proclamation of the state of emergency that led to World War II. The Legion of Merit may be awarded for combat or noncombat services; in the case of American military personnel, if the award is for combat service it is shown by the wearing of a combat "V" device.

The Legion of Merit was originally ranked directly below the Distinguished Service Medal in the Navy's pyramid of honor. This was changed by Navy Directive Number 49 of Jan. 28, 1946, which placed the Legion of Merit immediately below the Silver Star, thus making it the Navy's fifth ranking decoration.

The Legion of Merit is also the first award to have different degrees. If a holder of the Legion of Merit in one degree is subsequently given another such award, it is never in a degree lower than the original one. The degrees of chief commander and commander are conferred on members of foreign governments only and are awarded for services comparable to those for which the Distinguished Service Medal is given to members of the United States armed forces.


a. 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:

(1) Chief Commander - Chief of State or Head of Government.

(2) Commander - Equivalent of an U.S. military Chief of Staff or higher position but not to Chief of State.

(3) Officer - General of Flag Officer below the equivalent of a U.S. military Chief of Staff; Colonel or equivalent rank for service in assignments equivalent to those normally held by a General or Flag Officer in U.S. military service; or Military Attaches.

(4) Legionnaire - All recipients not included above.

b. The Legion of Merit is awarded to all members of the Armed Forces of the United States without reference to degree for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. 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.


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 United States Coat of Arms. Between each point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 2 15/16 inches. 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.