The Congressional Medal of Honor for the Navy was enacted by Congress on December 21, 1861.  The bill was introduced in the Senate by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes.  President Lincoln signed the bill on December 21, 1861.


On February 17, 1862 Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts introduced a similar bill to honor Army privates who distinguished themselves in battle.   The law authorizing the medal and associated recognition was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln on July 12, 1862.


A distinct Medal of Honor was authorized for the Air Force on August 10, 1956.  Prior to that time any Air Force recipients received the Army Medal.  From 1919 through 1942 the Navy awarded both a combat and non-combat version of the medal.


Across all branches of the military the Medal has been awarded fewer than 3,500 times since then its creation.  Today each branch of the armed services has a distinct Medal design, and these have evolved over the years.

Air Force



1944 to Present

1956 to Present

1942 to Present

1913 to 1942














Navy Combat Medal

1919 to 1942














Navy Non-Combat Medal

1904 to 1943

1862 to 1912

1896 to 1903

1862 to 1895

Copyright 2013 Hilliard A Wilbanks Foundation