Awards & Decorations Descriptions
Distinguished Service Cross
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest medal awarded in the US military for exceptional bravery and risk of life in actual combat with an enemy force. The US Department of Defense states that the Distinguished Service Cross is conferred upon an individual who demonstrates “extraordinary heroism.”
Soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) earned six Distinguished Service Crosses in the first eight weeks of combat. After the 442nd Regimental Combat Team joined the 100th in Italy in June 1944, an additional nine Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded.
The Military Intelligence Service earned one Distinguished Service Cross.
Nineteen of the total awards were upgraded to Medals of Honor in June 2000.
Distinguished Service Medal
The Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the United States Army, has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great responsibility.
Originally established by Congress in 1918 as the Citation Star and redesignated in 1932, the Silver Star is the third-highest military combat decoration awarded to a member of the US Armed Forces. It is awarded for “gallantry in action.”
Legion of Merit
The Legion of Merit is awarded to members of the US Armed Forces and to nationals of other countries “who shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.”
The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to any member of the US Armed Forces distinguished by an act of valor that involved “personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.”
Bronze Star Medal
The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest military decoration awarded to a member of the US Armed Forces. According to the US Department of Defense, it is awarded to an individual who demonstrates “heroic or meritorious achievement of service.”
First introduced as the “Badge of Military Merit” by George Washington in 1782, the Purple Heart is the oldest and one of the most recognized medals awarded to members of the US Armed Forces. The Purple Heart is a combat decoration awarded to those who are wounded in action by an instrument of war at the hands of an enemy. It is also awarded to the next of kin in the name of a service member who was killed in action or who died from wounds received in action.
The 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) and the 442nd RCT earned a total of 9,486 Purple Hearts. The 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) became known as the “Purple Heart Battalion” because of its bravery and high casualty rate at Monte Cassino.
First authorized by President Roosevelt in 1942, the Air Medal is awarded for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight to any person serving in any capacity in or with the US Armed Forces. It may be awarded to acknowledge single acts of merit, service, or heroism, or for meritorious service.
Army Commendation Medal
The Army Commendation Medal is awarded to any member of the US Armed Forces other than General Officers for heroism or meritorious achievement or meritorious service. It may also be awarded to any service member of a friendly foreign nation for an act of heroism or extraordinary achievement or meritorious service beneficial to the foreign nation and the US.
Combat Infantryman Badge
Approved by the War Department in 1943, the Combat Infantryman Badge is awarded to a person in the grade of Colonel or below with an infantry or special forces military occupational specialty who has satisfactorily performed duty while assigned as a member of an infantry/special forces unit, brigade or smaller size, when the unit was engaged in active ground combat.
Presidential Unit Citation (originally the Distinguished Unit Citation)
The Presidential Unit Citation, which prior to 1957 was recognized as the Distinguished Unit Citation, is conferred upon units of the US Armed Forces and allied nations for extraordinary heroism against an enemy. The US government notes that the unit awarded “must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign.”
The 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd RCT earned five Presidential Unit Citations in 20 days of fighting in the Rhineland, including the liberation of Bruyères, Biffontaine, and the Rescue of the Lost Battalion. It is the only military unit with this distinction in US history.
The Military Intelligence Service was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation in April 2000, more than five decades after the war. Prior to that, six MIS individuals were attached to units that received a Presidential Unit Citation.
The following units were awarded with the Presidential Unit Citation:
- 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
- 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team
- 442nd Regimental Combat Team
- 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team
- 3rd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team
- Companies F and L, 442nd Regimental Combat Team
- 232nd Combat Engineer Company
- Military Intelligence Service
Congressional Gold Medal (Civilian Award)
The Congressional Gold Medal is the United States’ highest civilian award. Recipients join the ranks of important figures including George Washington, who received the very first award for his role in the American Revolution. Congress refers to the Congressional Gold Medal as the “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.” According to the US Department of Defense, it is conferred upon an individual or unit who “performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States.”
On November 2, 2011, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the 19,000 veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service.
Lt. General Lucian Truscott salutes after fastening the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation Banner to the guidon of Co. L, 3rd Battalion, 442nd RCT, at a ceremony in Leghorn, Italy. September 4, 1945. Courtesy of the US Army Signal Corps.