Silver Star - World War I
The Silver Star Medal is the United States' third highest award exclusively for combat valor, and ranks fifth in the precedence of military awards behind the Medal of Honor, the Crosses (Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross/Air Force Cross), the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (awarded by DOD), and the Distinguished Service Medals of the various branches of service. It is the highest award for combat valor that is not unique to any specific branch; it has been bestowed by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines. It may be given by any one of the individual services to not only their own members, but to members of other branches of service, foreign allies, and even to civilians for "gallantry in action" in support of combat missions of the United States military.
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 units) in published citations that included both combat gallantry and non-combat actions. For this reason, not all individuals were issued a citation like those shown here, 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.
CONVERSIONS of the SSC to the SSM
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.
RECIPIENTS OF MAJOR AWARDS
Unfortunately, we do not have individual records for World War I Silver Star recipients. However we have a master listing of recipients of major awards, which includes WWI. This information is provided in a PDF document which enables you to search the content by several search terms - name, branch of service, war/conflict. Use "World War I " (space after I) to highlight all World War I recipients.
Silver Star Index
We estimate that the number of Silver Stars awarded for World War I to present is somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000. You will find recipients of the Silver Star listed alphabetically on our website within conflict.
Index of Major Awards
Home of Heroes continues to update our website content for online visitors. Here is a resource that can help you find a recipient of a major award. This information is provided in a PDF document which enables you to search the content by several search terms - name, branch of service, war/conflict.