Friday, June 17, 2016

World War II Army Awards and Decorations

My father-in-law was drafted into the U.S. Army on 7 April 1941 and today is the 71st anniversary of his honorable discharge. During his active service he earned or was awarded the following medals, ribbons and devices:
  • Bronze Star Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster -- awarded for heroic achievement or service, meritorious achievement or service, or meritorious service in a combat zone; each Oak Leaf Cluster denotes multiple awards
  • Purple Heart Medal -- awarded for wounds suffered in combat
  • Army Good Conduct Medal -- awarded to active duty military personnel who completed three years of honorable and faithful service
  • American Defense Medal -- recognized military service members who were on active service between 8 September 1939 and 7 December 1941 (before Pearl Harbor was attacked and the U.S. entered the war)
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Three Bronze Battle Stars -- recognized military service members who performed military service in the European (including Africa and the Middle East) Theater of Operations; battle stars are awarded for each military campaign[1]
  • World War II Victory Medal -- awarded to any military member who was on active service between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946
My father-in-law's ribbon "rack;" built using EZ Rack Builder[1]

On 16 May 1945, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster. His citation read:

Staff Sergeant PETER C. DAGUTIS, 36109224, Infantry, 2d Infantry Regiment, United States Army. For distinctive service in connection with military operations against the enemy during the period 20 September 1944 to 15 April 1945 in Europe. On innumerable occasions, Sergeant DAGUTIS, a squad leader, has voluntarily exposed himself to enemy fire for the safety and protection of his unit. In addition to directing the operation of his squad in SANRY-SUR-NEID, he commandeered a weapon and from the speed with which he completed fire missions, was largely responsible for the disruption of a desperate enemy counterattack. His courage, leadership and devotion to duty reflect great credit upon himself and the armed forces. Entered service from Michigan.
Major General, U.S. Army

My father-in-law's Bronze Star Citation; personal collection

In addition to the medals and ribbons, he also received or earned the following:
  • Combat Infantry Badge -- for active combat
  • Expert Infantry Badge -- for attaining certain required infantry skills
  • Driver and Mechanic Badge with Driver-W Bar (wheeled vehicles) -- awarded to soldiers who exhibited a high degree of skill in the operation and maintenance of motor vechicles
  • Six Overseas Bars -- each bar denotes 6 months in a combat zone
  • Honorable Discharge Lapel Button, better known among soldiers as the Ruptured Duck -- awarded to military service members who were honorably discharged during World War II
His uniform would have also included patches indicating rank and the units in which he served. In my father-in-law's case, the 5th Infantry Division and perhaps his 2nd Infantry Regiment patch.

Terrible picture of the shadowbox present I made for my
husband; personal collection

I collected over time all of my father-in-law's medals, ribbons, badges, pins, and patches and had a shadow box made for my husband as a birthday present several years ago. When my father, a Korean War veteran, saw it, he was most impressed with the Combat Infantry Badge, not to be confused with the Expert Infantry Badge.

Combat Infantry Badge; photograph courtesy of the U.S. Army

The Expert Infantry Badge is awarded to infantry men with certain specialities, after testing and exhibiting specific required skills. It is a merit badge, if you will. The Combat Infantry Badge was awarded to soldiers who were 1) infantry men satisfactorily performing infantry duties, 2) assigned to an infantry unit during such time as the unit is actively engaged in armed combat, and 3) actively participating in such ground combat. Campaign or battle credit alone is not sufficient for award of the Combat Infantry Badge. The badge is still awarded today. If you see a soldier wearing one, he has been in an actual ground battle and under enemy fire.

If you would like to learn more about the awards and decorations listed on your ancestor's Army discharge papers, I found the following sources very useful:

Awards and Decorations of the United States Armed Forces, which includes links to explanations about individuals awards and decorations

If you are interested in purchasing your ancestor's Army awards, simply Google the term "Army medals" and you will find plenty of sources. Most of these sources include a slew of commemorative medals and ribbons, but none of them are listed in the Army military awards regulation. They do make nice keepsakes and momentos, but should not be confused with the official ones.

[1] A few days ago, when reading The Army Ground Forces: The Organization of Ground Combat Troops, I learned 5th Infantry Division was informed in early July 1945 that it was entitled to credit for two additional campaigns. My father-in-law's honorable papers reflect only three campaigns as he separated from the Army in mid June. I have not yet updated his ribbon rack to accurately reflect the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver star which is used instead of five Bronze Battle Stars. His updated ribbon rack would look like this:

Top row left to right: Bronze Star with one Oakleaf cluster, Purple Heart, and
Army Good Conduct Medal. Bottom Row left to right: American Defense
Service; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign with one Silver Battle
Start; World War II Victory; image courtesy of EZ Rack Builder.

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