Legion of Merit (USA)
The Legion of Merit (Commander degree) is one of only two United States military decorations to be issued as a neck order (the other being the Medal of Honor) and the only United States military decoration that may be issued in award degrees (much like an order of chivalry or certain Orders of Merit), although the degrees including a neck riband are only awarded to non-U.S. nationals.
In contemporary use in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Legion of Merit is typically awarded to Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force general officers and colonels, and Navy and Coast Guard flag officers and captains occupying senior command or very senior staff positions in their respective services. It may also be awarded to officers of lesser rank, senior warrant officers, and to very senior enlisted personnel, but these instances are less frequent, typically by exception, and the circumstances vary by branch of service.
Authority to award the Legion of Merit is reserved for general officers and flag officers (Lieutenant General and Vice Admiral) and above, civilian Department of Defense personnel at assistant service secretary or Assistant Secretary of Defense level and above, or equivalent secretary-level civilian personnel with the Department of Homeland Security with direct oversight of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The degrees of Chief Commander, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire are awarded only to members of armed forces of foreign nations under the criteria outlined in Army Regulation 672-7 and is based on the relative rank or position of the recipient as follows:
- Chief Commander: Head of state or government. However, this degree was awarded by President Roosevelt to some Allied World War II theater commanders, usually for joint amphibious landings or invasions.
- Commander: Equivalent of a U.S. military chief of staff or higher position, but not to a head of state.
- Officer: General or flag officer below the equivalent of a U.S. military chief of staff; colonel or equivalent rank for service in assignments equivalent to those normally held by a general or flag officer in U.S. military service; or military attachés.
- Legionnaire: All recipients not included above.
Additional awards of the Legion of Merit are denoted by oak leaf clusters (in the Army and Air Force), and by 5⁄16 inch (7.9 mm) gold stars (in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard). Until 2017, the sea services (i.e., the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) awarded the Combat "V" for wear on the LOM. The Army and Air Force do not authorize the "V" device. The U.S. Air Force limits the Legion of Merit to four awards per career.
- The Chief Commander Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal is, on a wreath of green laurel joined at the bottom by a gold bow-knot (rosette), a domed five-pointed white star bordered crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a gold ball. In the center, a blue disk encircled by gold clouds, with 13 white stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the Great Seal of the United States. Between each point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 2 15/16 in. The words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" are engraved in the center of the reverse. A miniature of the decoration in gold on a horizontal gold bar is worn on the service ribbon.
- The Commander Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal is, on a wreath of green laurel joined at the bottom by a gold bow-knot (rosette), a five-pointed white star bordered crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a gold ball. In the center, a blue disk encircled by gold clouds, with 13 white stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the Great Seal of the United States. Between each star point, within the wreath, are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 2 1/4 in. A gold laurel wreath in the v-shaped angle at the top connects an oval suspension ring to the neck ribbon that is 1 15/16 in in width. The reverse of the five-pointed star is enameled in white, and the border is crimson. In the center, a disk for engraving the name of the recipient surrounded by the words "ANNUIT COEPTIS MDCCLXXXII." An outer scroll contains the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA." A miniature of the decoration in silver on a horizontal silver bar is worn on the service ribbon.
- The neck ribbon for the degree of Commander is 1 15/16 in wide and consists of the following stripes: 1/16 in white 67101; center 1 13/16 in crimson and 1/16 in white.
- The Officer Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal is similar to the degree of Commander except the overall width is 1 7/8 in and the pendant has a suspension ring instead of the wreath for attaching the ribbon. A gold replica of the medal, 3/4 in wide, is centered on the suspension ribbon.
- The Legionnaire Degree of the Legion of Merit Medal and the Legion of Merit Medal issued to U.S. personnel is the same as the degree of Officer, except the suspension ribbon does not have the medal replica.
The ribbon for all of the decorations is 1 3/8 in wide and consists of the following stripes: 1/16 in white; center 1 1/4 in crimson; and 1/16 in white. The reverse of all of the medals has the motto taken from the Great Seal of the United States, "ANNUIT COEPTIS" ("He [God] has favored our undertakings") and the date "MDCCLXXXII" (1782), which is the date of America's first decoration, the Badge of Military Merit, now known as the Purple Heart. The ribbon design also follows the pattern of the Purple Heart ribbon.
There have been 10 Signals and C&E Branch recipients of the United States Legion of Merit. The awards per degree are:
- Commander - 2
- Officer - 6
- Legionnaire - 2
Please see Legion of Merit (USA) - Signals Recipients for a listing of the individuals.