The Sixth Marine Division received the Presidential
Unit Citation, the highest division award possible. Also received (for their
battles in Guam) the Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.
marked with a "*" courtesy of www.gruntsmilitary.com.
Many thanks for allowing usage of their graphics.
Scanned letters of Presidential
Unit Citation. Thanks to Mr. Rob Smith, Director of Administrative Computing,
Goucher College. Click to view full sized:
A military decoration is not something hung on a Christmas tree or squirted
on a birthday cake. It is an acknowledgement of a heroic act in a dangerous situation.
It might have been Napoleon who said that men will risk their lives for a scrap
of colored cloth. Whoever said that was wrong. Men don't fight with the expectation
of receiving a medal. A man will perform in dangerous situations out of a sense
of duty or because he cares what his comrades might think of him if he acts otherwise,
the result of being in a military unit with high esprit de corps. He might fight
merely for self preservation.
There is no bravery unless fear is present.
Fearlessness is not bravery. Bravery is the overcoming of fear while attempting
to do what is necessary or expected. Decorations are awarded to those men who
perform at a level above and beyond that which is expected.
is usually in the form of a medal, but can also be a ribbon bar or a badge. A
medal is a medallion suspended by a ribbon that has a distinctive pattern of colors,
usually vertical stripes. A ribbon bar can be used to represent a medal, but can
also be a stand alone award. Badges are medallions without cloth. They can be
such that the badge itself fastens directly to the uniform, or the medallion can
hang from a metal suspension bar fastened to the uniform.
Every medal is
not a decoration. Men who served with the Sixth Marine Division are entitled,
for example, to the Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal and the World War Two Victory
medal. These are service awards, "been there" medals and not decorations.
The decorations for valor that a Sixth Division Marine or Corpsman could be awarded
ranged from the Medal of Honor down to the Navy Letter of Commendation. The lowest
decoration in 1945 was the Purple Heart medal, which was usually but not always,
awarded to men who were wounded in action.
All medals have ribbon bars that
can be worn in lieu of the medals. An example of a ribbon bar that stands alone
as an award is the Presidential Unit Citation. That ribbon can be worn by every
man who served in the Sixth Marine Division on Okinawa. The requirements for that
award are that the unit as a whole performed at a level of valor which would have
merited an award of the Navy Cross medal to an individual.
badges are the marksmanship awards that every Marine recruit has had the opportunity
to qualify for. The service rifles have changed over the years, but the highest
award of an Expert Rifleman badge is usually earned by about 15 percent of the
One of the officers in the Sixth Marine Division, Lt. Col. Larson,
was entitled to wear both the Distinguished Marksman badge and the Distinguished
Pistol Shot badge. These are gold badges, awarded for exceptional skill with the
service rifle or the service pistol in special shooting competitions.
1900 up to the present day, Distinguished Rifle and Distinguished Pistol badges
have each been earned by several thousand Marines. A smaller number of Marines
have been, like Col. Larson, awarded both badges.
Since World War Two the
U. S. Army has awarded two different kinds of badges for combat service. These
are the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Combat Medic's Badge, awarded to soldiers
who have served in combat in front line infantry companies. A badge recently adopted
by the Army is awarded to soldiers who are not assigned to front line units, but
whose duties have put them in harm's way.
In the 1960s the Navy created
an award similar to the Combat Infantryman's Badge, in the form of a ribbon bar
only award, called the Combat Action Ribbon. Marines and sailors who served in
front line units in combat were eligible for this award, which was made retroactive
to the year 1961. In the 1990s it was decided that sailors and Marines had actually
served in combat prior to 1961. The Award of the Combat Action Ribbon was made
retroactive to the year 1941. Many Marines and Corpsmen who served in the Sixth
Marine Division on Okinawa are eligible for this award.
The HISTORY OF THE
SIXTH MARINE DIVISION, the book with a green cover that was published in 1948,
lists about 700 awards for valor, from the Medal of Honor on down, to men of the
Sixth Marine Division for the battle of Okinawa. Additional awards were made after
the information was gathered for the book, but fewer than 800 decorations for
bravery were awarded. That comparatively low number was for an entire Marine division
in a battle where the fighting was as fierce as any in World War Two.
Marine Division men received more than their share of one decoration and that
was the Purple Heart medal. Almost 7000 Marines and Corpsmen received that medal.
In the Sixth Marine Division the Purple Heart medal was awarded only for wounds
received in action from enemy fire. A high school and college classmate of mine,
a member of a rifle company in the Army's 96th Infantry Division and a stalwart
warrior, received his second Purple Heart medal for a sprained ankle, incurred
while successfully eluding bullets fired from a Japanese Nambu machine gun.
all wounds merited the Purple Heart. To be awarded a Purple Heart medal a wounded
Marine had to spend at least one night in either an aid station or a hospital
and be treated by a medical officer. Men whose wounds were treated by a corpsman
but not by a medical officer did not qualify for the medal. One man in G Company
of the 29th Marines was wounded six times, but was awarded only two Purple Heart
medals. Five Marines in G Company who returned from the hospital after being wounded
were later killed in action. Eight men were wounded severely enough to merit a
Purple Heart, spent time in the Sixth Medical Battalion Hospital on Okinawa, returned
to duty and were wounded again. Another man returned from the hospital twice after
being wounded, but was evacuated after being wounded for a third time. G Company
had 63 Marines killed in action and 224 who received Purple Heart medals for being
wounded in action. Every rifle company in the Sixth Marine Division had similar
One reason so few decorations for valor were awarded was due
to the strict requirements of the Marine Corps for awarding them. A Marine's actions
had to stand out above those of the rest of his comrades, difficult to do in outstanding
units. Another reason was the result of the high number of casualties. Acts of
valor must have had witnesses who were available to recommend decorations -- men
still with their units after the battle was over who had survived without being
killed or evacuated from the island after being wounded.
An example of this
is what happened to Corporal James Day. In May of 1945 Day occupied a shell hole
located close to a hill which was later known as Sugar Loaf. The men with Day
with one exception were all wounded or killed. During his time in the shell hole,
Day was mainly alone, the one man who was with him part of the time laid in the
bottom of the hole, violently ill with dengue fever. That man was killed later
in the battle. The location of the hole was such that it could not be fired on
directly from Sugar Loaf. The Japanese had to make frontal assaults on the hole.
Even after being wounded, Corporal Day fought off attacks for several days and
nights. When he was finally relieved, the bodies of 70 dead Japanese were counted
in the proximity of the hole.
Day's battalion commander was killed. His
company commander was wounded and evacuated from the island. No action was taken
to decorate Corporal Day for his heroic actions during those days and nights in
the shell hole.
After the death of Day's former company commander on Okinawa,
the son of the company commander found some documents among his father's effects
that described Day's heroism. Upon learning that Day had never been decorated
for those actions, the son began a campaign to get Day a medal. Ten men who had
observed various parts of Day's heroism had made statements, copies of which were
found with their service records. Finally, in January of 1998, almost 53 years
later, Day, now a retired Marine major general, received our nation's highest
award for valor, the Medal of Honor, from the president of the United States.
General Day died less than a year later.
The battle for the Island of Okinawa
was a long one, lasting for 82 days. Acts of heroism usually were not recorded
immediately after they occurred and many of those acts were forgotten. There was
never a system in place that sought out individuals who had observed acts of heroism.
A man leaving a relatively safe location to advance toward a place where
a determined enemy might be waiting to attempt to kill him was being brave in
the extreme. But medals were not awarded for that kind of bravery.
so it was that in a battle with such hard fighting, so few decorations for valor
were awarded to members of the Sixth Marine Division.
James S. White, G-3-29
MEDAL OF HONOR (NAVY):
Awarded to officers and enlisted men of the
Navy and Marine Corps who whall have distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity
at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action involving
actual conflict with the enemy.
View list of MOH winners
of 6th Marine Division.
Awarded to officers and enlisted men of the Navy and Marine
Corps who distinguish themselves by extraordinary heroism in connection with military
operations against an armed enemy.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL:
Awarded to any person who, while serving
in any capacity with the U.S. Marine Corps, shall have distinguished himself by
extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations agains an armed enemy.
Awarded for combat only.
SILVER STAR MEDAL:
Awarded to any person who, while serving in any
capacity with the U.S. Marine Corps, had distinguished himself by gallantry in
action not warranting the award of the medal of honor or distinguished cross,
and to any person who while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Marine Corpts,
received a citation for gallantry in action published in orders issued at the
headquarters of a force commanded by a general officer. Awarded for combat action
LEGION OF MERIT:
Awarded to officers and enlisted men of the armed
forces of the United States and friendly foreign nations who since the presidential
proclamation of national emergency for World War II, 8 Setp. 1939, whall have
distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance
of outstanding services. Awarded for combat and non-combat action.
DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS:
(Identical for all branches of the Service)
The DFC was the first American Military personal decoration authorized in identical
design and ribbon for issuance by all branched of the military service. Awarded
to Officers and enlisted men of the Armed Forces of the United States who have
distinguished themselves, subsequent to 11 Nov 1918, by heroism or extraordinary
achievement while participating in an aerial flight.
Awarded for combat and
NAVY AND MARINE CORPS MEDAL:
Awarded to any person, who, wile serving
in the capacity with he United States Navy or Marine Corps, including Reserves,
shall have, since 6 Dec 1941, distinguished himself of herself by heroism not
involving actual conflict with an enemy, or to any person to whom the Secretary
of the Navy has heretofore awarded a Letter of Commendation for heroism not involving
Combat, regardless of date of such an act of heroism, who makes application for
such medal. Awarded Non Combat Action only.
BRONZE STAR MEDAL:
Awarded to any person who, while serving in any
capacity with (identical for all branches of the service) the U.S. Marine Corps
has distinguished himself by gallantry in action not warranting the Medal of Honor
or Distinguished Service Cross, and to any person who, while serving in any capacity
with the U.S. Marine Corps received a citation for gallantry in action published
in orders issued at the headquarters of a force commanded by a general officer.
(Identical for all branches of the Service) Awarded to any
person who while serving with the Armed Forces of the United States, in any capacity,
subsequent to 8 Sep 1939, distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while
participating in an aerial flight. Awarded to combat and non-combat action.
(Identical for all branches of the service). Awarded
to any person wounded in action against an enemy of the United States, or as a
result of act of such enemy, if wound necessitated treatment by a Medical Officer.
Also awarded posthumously to the next of kin of service personnel killed in action
or who die as a result of wounds received in action against an enemy of the United
States, or as a result of an act of such enemy after 5 April 1917.
NAVY COMMENDATION RIBBON:
Awarded to Officers and enlisted men of
the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard who received an individual Letter of Commendation
signed by the Secretary of Navy, Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, Commander
in Chief, Pacific Fleet, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet or Commanding General,
Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, for an act of heroism or service per-formed between
6 Dec 1941 and 11 Jan 19 1944 are automatic-ally authorized to wer the Commendation
Ribbon with Metal Pendant. All personnnel of the above services who subsequently
receive such a commendation signed by the Secretary of the Navy or authorities
so designated by the Secretary of the Navy during War or Emergency are authorized
to wear the Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant provided such letter of commendation
contains in the text such authorization, signify-ing the desire of the issuing
officer to accord this privilege. A second and each succeeding award shall be
presented by the wearing of a 3/16 inch bronze star on the ribbon an suspension
ribbon of the Pendant. Combat or Noncombat.
PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION:
Awarded to any ship, aircraft or Naval
unit or any Marine Corps Aircraft, detachment or higher unit by the Secretary
of the Navy in the name of the President for outstanding performance in action
against an enemy of the United States on or after 16 Oct 1941. Such service must
be comparable to that for which a Navy Cross is awarded to an individual.
NAVY UNIT COMMENTATION:
Awarded to any ship, aircraft, detachment
or other unit in the Naval service of the United States which has, subsequent
to 6 Dec 1941, distinguished itself by outstanding heroism in action against the
enemy but not sufficiently to justify award of the Presidential Unit Citation;
or to be awarded to any similar unit which has distinguished iself by extremely
meritorious service not involving combat but in support of military operations
and such as to render the unit outstanding compared to similar units rendering
ASIATIC-PACIFIC THEATER RIBBON:
Awarded to Officers and enlisted men
of the Armed Forces of the United States who, during the period 7 DEC 1941 and
2 Mar 1946, shall have served on active duty in the prescribed Asiatic-Pacific
area under any one of certain specified conditions and/or aboard certain snips
of the Army or Navy. A small bronze star is authorized to be attached to the ribbon
for each battle which the wearer has participated therein.
CHINA SERVICE MEDAL:
Awarded to Officers and enlisted men of the Armed
Forces of the United States who participated in operations in China between 2
Sep 1945 and 1 April 1957.
CHINESE GOVERNMENT MEDAL WWII:
Awarded by the Chinese Gov't to all
members of the Armed Forces of the Allied Forces who participated in the war with
Japan and were involved in operations on the mainland of China, the islands, and
or contiguous ocean areas during WWII and or the occupation of China and the surrender
of enemy forces after World War II.
NAVY OCCUPATION SERVICE MEDAL:
Japan between 3 September 1945 and 27
April 1952 in the four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu; the
surrounding smaller islands of the Japanese homeland; the Ryukyu Islands; and
the Bonin-Volcano Islands. Service between 3 September 1945 and 2 March 1946 will
counted only if the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal was awarded for service prior
to 3 September 1945.
VICTORY MEDAL WWII:
Awarded to all members of the Armed Forces of the
United States or of the Government of the Philippine Islands who served on active
duty in World War II at any time between 7 DEC 1941 and 31 DEC 1946 both dates
AMERICAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL:
Awarded to personnel for service within the
American Theater between 7 December 1941 and 2 March 1946 under any of the following
On permanent assignment outside the continental limits
of the United States
Permanently assigned as a member of a crew
of a vessel sailing ocean waters for a period of 30 days of 60 nonconsecutive
Permanently assigned as a member of an operating crew of
an airplane actually making regular and frequenet flights over ocean waters for
a period of 30 days.
Outside the continental limits of the United
States in a passenger status or on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days of 60
days not consecutive.
In active combat against the enemy and was
awarded a combat decoration or furnished a certificate by the commanding general
of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that he actually participated in
Within the continental limits of the United States for
an aggregate period of one year.
GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL:
Awarded to Enlisted men of the Marine Corps, regular
or reserve, for obedience, sobriety, military efficiency, neatness, bearing and
intelligence. Through the years numerous revisions have been made in the regulations
governing the award, the following information being the last revision to become
effective. For completion of 3 years of continuous active service terminating
on or after 10 DEC 1945, including service in temporary warrant or commissioned
status. A good conduct award shall be authorized for any 3 years' enlisted service
consisting of a combination of periods of active service, broken or unbroken,
in a war, national emergency or a period of armed hostilities, in which the United
States is engaged, notwithstanding the time elapsing between tours of such service,
provided the individual is otherwise qualified, and provide further that when
the first period of such service terminated prior to 10 DEC 1945, a total of four
years enlisted service shall be required for such award.
COMBAT ACTION RIBBON:
The Combat Action Ribbon was established on February
17, 1969 by Secretary of the Navy John H. Chafee and announced by SECNA VNOTE
1650 of February 17, 1969. the Annual Defence Authorization Bill (Public Law 106-65)
signed into law by President Clinton on October 5, 1999, authorized the Secretary
of the Navy to award the Combat Action Ribbon to members of the Navy or marine
Corps who participated in combat during any period after December 6, 1941. It
originally took effect on March 1, 1961; hoewever, with the passage of Public
Law 106-65 (cited above), award of the Combat Action Ribbon may now be made retroactive
to December 7, 1941. It is a personal decoration awarded to members of the Navy,
marine Corps, and Coast Guard (when operating under the control of the Navy) in
the grade of captain (or colonel in the Marine Corps) and below who have actively
participated in ground or surface combat.