What is the Medal of Freedom?

Introduction

“A meritorious act or service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of a war against an enemy or enemies and for which an award of another United States medal or decoration is considered inappropriate”

The Medal of Freedom was a decoration established by President Harry S. Truman to honour civilians whose actions aided in the war efforts of the United States and its allies.

It was intended to be awarded by the secretary of state, the secretary of war, or the secretary of the navy, but presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy also authorised awards.

Not to be confused with the Presidential Medal of Freedom which replaced it on 22 February 1963.

Outline

The medal is a bronze disc whose obverse features the profile of the Statue of Freedom of the US Capitol Building, with the word “FREEDOM” in capital letters in an arc at the bottom of the disc. The reverse features the Liberty Bell surrounded by the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” in capital letters. The medal is suspended on a red ribbon with four thin white stripes. The original Executive Order 9586 establishing the medal specified “No more than one Medal of Freedom shall be awarded to any one person, but for a subsequent act or service justifying such an award a suitable device may be awarded to be worn with the medal” and bronze, silver, and gold palm devices were produced and awarded. There is no evidence of US citizens having received these palm devices, whereas some non-US citizens did receive them (e.g. Micheline “Michou” Dumon and Nancy Wake), and these devices have been interpreted as signifying degrees of the award.

Established in 1945, first awarded in 1946 and last awarded in 1961. Over 20,000 were awarded.

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