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Vietnam Service Medal

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Title: Vietnam Service Medal  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, USS Frank E. Evans, Southwest Asia Service Medal, B. A. Baracus, Marcelite J. Harris
Collection: Awards Established in 1965, United States Campaign Medals
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Vietnam Service Medal

Vietnam Service Medal
Observe view of Vietnam Service Medal
Awarded by U.S. Armed Forces
Type Service medal[1]

Served in the armed forces between the following dates:

  • between 15 November 1961 and 30 April 1975 for military service, in geographical theater areas of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia.
Status Inactive
Established by Executive Order 11231 of 8 July 1965 (as amended by E.O. 11382 of 28 November 1967 and E.O. 13286 of 28 February 2003.)
First awarded 15 November 1961 (retroactive)
Last awarded 30 April 1975
Next (higher) Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Next (lower) Southwest Asia Service Medal
Related Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Vietnam Service Ribbon and streamer

The Vietnam Service Medal is a military award of the United States Armed Forces established in 1965 by order of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The medal is awarded to recognize service during the Vietnam War and is authorized to service members of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, provided they meet the award requirements.

The distinctive design has been attributed to both sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, a former employee of the Army Institute of Heraldry[2] and Mercedes Lee who created the design.[3]


  • Award criteria 1
  • Medal and ribbon appearance 2
    • Ribbon devices 2.1
  • Vietnam campaigns 3
    • Department of Defense consolidated campaign periods 3.1
    • USAF original campaign periods 3.2
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Award criteria

The Vietnam Service Medal (VSM) is awarded to any service member who served on temporary duty for more than 30 consecutive days, or 60 non-consecutive days, attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days with an organization participating in or directly supporting ground (military) operations or attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days aboard a naval vessel directly supporting military operations in the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos within the defined combat zone (DoD 1348 C6. revised September 1996) between the dates of 15 November 1961 and 28 March 1973, and from 29 April 1975 to 30 April 1975.[3][4] [5] For the United States Navy, vessels operating in Vietnamese waters qualify for the Vietnam Service Medal provided that the naval vessel was engaged in direct support of Vietnam combat operations. The United States Air Force also grants the Vietnam Service Medal exclusively to flight crews that flew missions over Vietnamese air space, even if the home base of the flight mission was hundreds of miles away requiring in flight refueling.

The Vietnam Service Medal is retroactive to 1961 and supersedes and replaces the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFEM) which was issued for Vietnam service prior to 1965. Defense Department regulations do not permit the simultaneous presentation of both the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, for the same period of service in Vietnam, however the AFEM may be exchanged for the VSM upon request from a service member. Veterans of the Vietnam War may exchange the AFEM for the VSM and have military records updated to reflect the difference by contacting the National Personnel Records Center, which is the current agency that provides record corrections reflecting an AFEM upgrade to the Vietnam Service Medal.[2]

The Republic of Vietnam also issued its own service medal for the Vietnam War, known as the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. This is a separate military award which was accepted by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Military in accordance with DoD 1348 C7. Six months of service in support of military operations in the Republic of Vietnam was the normal requirement for the award.

Medal and ribbon appearance

The Vietnam Service Medal (with a green, yellow, and red suspension ribbon) is a rounded bronze shaped medal, 1-1/4 inches in diameter. The obverse side consists of a figure of an oriental dragon behind a grove of bamboo trees (representing the subversive nature of the conflict), are above the inscription "REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM SERVICE". On the reverse, a crossbow facing upwards (the ancient weapon of Vietnam) with a ready to be fired lighted torch of the Statue of Liberty, above an arched inscription "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".[3]

The Vietnam Service Ribbon is 1-3/8 inches wide and consists of the following vertical stripes: three narrow (1/16 inch) strips of red with wider (5/32 inch) stripes of yellow in the center, flanked by even wider (5/16 inch) stripes of yellow on each side and narrow 1/8-inch stripes of primitive green on the ends. The yellow (yellow is traditionally the imperial color of Vietnam) with red stripes (the red represents the three ancient Vietnamese empires of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China) suggest the flag of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and the green represents the Vietnamese jungles.[3]

Ribbon devices

The Vietnam Service Medal is authorized three devices for wear on the suspension ribbon and on its service ribbon:[6][7]

  • Service star (campaign star): for participation in or support of operations in the seventeen designated campaigns of the Vietnam Conflict, a bronze 3/16 inch star is authorized for wear on the Vietnam Service Medal suspension and service ribbon for each of the campaigns from 15 March 1962 to 28 January 1973; a bronze star is also authorized for Operation Frequent Wind, 29-30 April 1975, for USN, USMC, and USAF personnel. A silver 3/16 inch star is authorized in lieu of five bronze stars.
  • Arrowhead device: assigned or attached member of a U.S. Army unit with direct combat assault credit for a parachute jump, helicopter assault landing, combat glider landing, or amphibious assault landing.
  • FMF combat operation insignia: for Naval personnel attached to the Marine Corps during Marine Corps combat operations.

Vietnam campaigns

The Department of Defense established thirty military campaigns during the Vietnam War which covered all service branches. In 2010, the Department of Defense consolidated the original list of campaigns from the original 30 to a list of 18 by combining the Air Force campaign list with the other armed services. The United States Army, and Coast Guard recognize seventeen 3/16" service stars (also known as campaign stars; 3 silver and 2 bronze stars) on the Vietnam Service campaign streamer.[8][9] Additionally, the United States Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force recognize Operation Frequent Wind (29–30 April 1975).[10][11]

Department of Defense consolidated campaign periods

USAF original campaign periods

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Campaign period authorized by Department of Defense Manual 1348.33 Volume 2, dated 23 November 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Campaign period originally authorized by the Department of the Air Force but now consolidated with the Department of Defense list


  1. ^ AR 600-8-22 [2]
  2. ^ a b "Vietnam Service Medal". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Vietnam Service Medal". The Institute of Heraldry: Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the ARMY. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  4. ^ 578.26 Vietnam Service Medal
  5. ^ Air Force Personal Center Vietnam Service Medal
  6. ^ 578.26 Vietnam Service Medal
  7. ^ EO 11231, 8 July 1965, as amended. Amended by EO 11382, 28 November 1967, and EO 13286, 28 February 2003. Additional details and descriptions given at 32 CFR 578.26.
  8. ^ "US Army Campaigns: VietNam". . ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  9. ^ "Medals and Awards Manual" (PDF). . Dept. of Homeland Security, USCG. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  10. ^ Campaign, War Service And Unit Award Streamers
  11. ^ A Guide to United States Air Force Lineage and Honors

External links

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