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World War I
Awards of the Silver Star

Conspicuous Gallantry in Action

Awards of the Silver Star Medal to heroes of World War I is an issue that is, and likely will long remain, an issue beyond resolution. The Silver Star was not established as an individual medal until 1932. At that time, veterans of World War I who had been cited for "gallantry in action" and awarded the "Citation Star" were, based upon specific criteria, authorized to request issuance of the Silver Star Medal in lieu of the earlier ribbon device.

During World War I commanders down to the company level frequently commended individual soldiers for gallant conduct in battle, distinguished service in both combat and non-combat roles, and other soldierly qualities. Only those individuals cited specifically for "Gallantry in Action" with a citation published in the orders issued from a U.S. force commanded by, or which was the appropriate command of a  general officer, or published by the War Department, were authorized to wear the 3/16" silver Citation Star on their Victory Ribbon.

The American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) under the command of General John J. Pershing began citing individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in General Orders published from 1918 to 1920, with continuing supplements through 1941. Most War Department General Orders provided citations for award of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, or Distinguished Service Medal. Even so, numerous individuals were also cited personally by General Pershing for gallantry in action or for meritorious conduct, and were issued the A.E.F. Meritorious Service Citation.

During the same time period commanders of the separate U.S. Army divisions cited individuals (as well as unit's) in published citations that included both combat gallantry and non-combat actions. For this reason, not all individuals issued a citation like those shown at right, or who were published in the General Orders of the A.E.F.'s divisions, qualified for the Citation Star. The First Division's General Orders No. 1 (January 1, 1920), consolidated most of the previous General Orders by that division into a listing of slightly more than 14,000 members of the First Division, A.E.F., who qualified for the Citation Star. 

Thus the first challenge is in determining which World War I citations qualified for the Citation Star and, subsequently, for upgrade to the Silver Star Medal. If the issue were as simple as simply requiring "gallantry in action" in the text, the task would be easy. But many of those cited for distinguished conduct were subsequently determined to merit the Citation Star in those cases where their cited conduct was performed while under enemy fire. For that reason, for the purposes of our database, we will not attempt to "weed out" the conduct awards.

A second challenge is in determining the multiple awards. It was entirely possible for an individual to be cited by the Brigade Commander, subsequently cited by his Division Commander for the same action, and then perhaps cited yet again for the same action by General Pershing. A perusal of the citations would tend to indicate THREE awards for the same action. Furthermore, that same action might be (and in many cases WAS), upgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross or Silver Star.

A.E.F. Army Meritorious Service Citation

Army First Division Citation

Army Second Division Citation 

Take for example the case of Lieutenant Commander Joel T. Boone (USN), who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Vierzy, France, on July 19, 1918, and the Army's Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in the Belleau Wood on June 9, 10, and 25, 1918. He is ALSO cited SIX times for what might be considered Citation Stars as follows:

  1. "Conspicuous Service" from June 1 - 10, 1918 G.O. #40, 1918, Second Division, A.E.F.

  2. "Great courage" from March 17 to November 11, 1918 G.O. #88, 1918, Second Division, A.E.F.

  3. "Gallantry in Action" near Thiaucourt, France, on September 12 - 15, 1918. C.O. #1, June 3, 1919, GHQ, A.E.F.

  4. "Action against the enemy" near Thiaucourt, France, on September 12 - 15, 1918 G.O. #88, 1918, Second Division, A.E.F.

  5. "Great coolness under fire" (no date given) - G.O. #88, 1918, Second Division, A.E.F.

  6. "Gallantry in action" in the Soissons Sector (no date given) G.O. #64, 1919, Second Division, A.E.F.

boone_joel.jpg (94237 bytes)While it is obvious that he is cited twice for the same action (2. and 3.), by both the Second Division and by the A.E.F.'s General Headquarters, it is difficult to determine which, if any, of the other citations are duplications of any other awards. Lieutenant Commander Boone wears FIVE Oak Leaf Clusters (as his WWI Silver Stars were Army Awards) on his Silver Star ribbon in the official photo of him at right. Since he served throughout World War II as well, I've not yet determined if any of those OLCs represent World War II awards, or if all of his awards were for World War I. His official biography lists his awards as: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters.

That latter part of the above raises one more point to be remembered. The Navy Silver Star was not authorized until August 7, 1942, at which point the award was retroactive to December 7, 1941. For this reason, ALL World War I awards of the Citation Star and subsequently Silver Star, were ARMY awards. Members of the Navy and Marine Corps awarded the Silver Star in WWI received the ARMY award, and additional WWI awards are noted by Oak Leaf Clusters rather than the Navy's Gold Star in lieu of additional awards.


When the Silver Star Medal replaced the Silver Star Citation or Citation Star, it was up to the individual recipient to contact the War Department to request their medals. I am advised that the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis has a card file indicating which veterans requested the upgrade, though I've not seen that file nor does anyone know how many names it contains. Certainly, as with earlier upgrades of Pre-WWI Certificates of Merit to DSMs or DSCs, no doubt there are hundreds, if not thousands, of World War I recipients of the Citation Star who never made that application. For all intents and purposes, however, they should be numbered among the recipients of the Silver Star. For that reason we provide our indexes and citations based upon issued General Orders, without attempt to determine which of them are actually Silver Star awards.


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