Proliferation of Bronze Stars Raises Question of
Martial Values in a 21st Century

June 8, 2000

Comment: #363

Discussion Thread:  Comment discussing the 'wedge of mistrust'  #s: 126, 129, 129 response, 134, 138, 142, 155, 186, 206, 207, 233, 242, 261, 302, 324, 346.

Attached References:

[1] Jon R. Anderson, "Awarding Of Bronze Stars Questioned: Combat medal given to troops not entering combat zone," European Stars and Stripes, June 4, 2000, Pg. 3. Attached.

[2] Jon R. Anderson, "Bronze Star: Top-Heavy Honor? In airstrikes, most given to senior officers," European Stars and Stripes, June 5, 2000. Attached.

[3] Jon R. Anderson, "Marshall's Plan: Boost Morale With Award For Ground Troops," European Stars and Stripes, June 5, 2000. Attached.

A recurring subject of this list is the growing wedge of mistrust between the junior officers and enlisted men and women on the one hand and the senior officers on the other. The referenced discussion thread suggests that the heart of the problem lies in a growing belief on the part of the "juniors" that the "seniors" (colonel or navy captain and above) put their own interests (careers, post-retirement jobs, status symbols, and bureaucratic power) before the interests of the people they lead or the institution they serve.

Jon Anderson of the European Stars and Stripes recently published a expose about the large number of Bronze Stars awarded after the Serbo-NATO War, as well as the uneven pattern of their distribution. This information is likely to increase the cynicism in the lower ranks and thereby widen the wedge further - if true, his report is a case study in the values that are insensibly enervating the spirit of our current military and undermining the memory of earlier sacrifices.

On the other hand, decorations ago-go may reflect post-modern martial values that are appropriate to our view of techno-war in the 21st Century.

I asked an occasional contributor to this list, Commander XXX, to comment on this from a serving officer's perspective. He is particularly well qualified for this, being an active duty Naval officer with over 20 years of enlisted as well as commissioned service. Let's listen to what he has to say.

[Comment by Commander XXX]

TOPIC: Bronze Stars Awarded to Personnel Outside Combat Zone

The European STARS & STRIPES has recently published several articles written by Jon R. Anderson regarding Bronze Stars awarded by the USAF and USN to personnel for performance during Operation ALLIED FORCE. These medals went primarily to senior commissioned officers and a few senior enlisted members who were not directly involved in combat. Many were, in fact, in CONUS, Germany, or Naples during the operation, and at least one was awarded to a USAF counter-intelligence civilian deployed to Albania.

Amongst the awardees was the colonel responsible for putting up tents at Aviano AB in northern Italy, and three colonels at Ramstein AFB who were "engaged in ground operations against an opposing armed force" (????), and the support commander, operations commander, and bomber wing commander at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. "The citation for a lieutenant colonel in Missouri reads '... meritorious achievement while engaged in ground operations against an opposing armed force.'" (!!!!)

Were the Yugo armed forces or Serb militias actually in Missouri? Didn't the Commander in Chief specifically state that we were not involved in ground operations?

According to Stars & Stripes, 8 out of every 9 Bronze Stars were awarded to commissioned officers, mostly field grade and flag/general; only a handful were awarded with "V" devices. The USAF awarded 185 of them (yes, 185) and the USN was not much less derelict in awarding 69, including 5 members of CINCUSNAVEUR's staff in Naples! One of the Navy captains "distinguished himself by meritorious achievement in connection with action against the enemy." ADM Ellis would not comment on these.

The articles quote a LtCol Nancy Lee, "who helped manage the influx of awards nomination for the Air Force in Europe after the conflict," as saying, "The Air Force has its own philosophy." (regarding awards). She reportedly added "none of our decorations say anything about rank. . . . (Bronze Stars are considered) a more senior medal. It all has to do with span of responsibility." Say what . . . .?

Thanks for clearing that up. I thought it had to do with combat.

It would appear that in an age where Meritorious Service Medals and Legions of Merit are liberally dispensed to officers, the Bronze Star has been 'broadened' in order to recognize those senior officers who performed meritoriously in a crisis.

Apologists will surely note that the Bronze Star can be awarded for non-combat achievements, otherwise there would be no need for "V" devices on combat Bronze Stars. But the sheer volume of Bronze Stars awarded suggests an award system that is out of control.

Is this another symptom of rampant careerism? Where's the integrity? Who are we fooling?

Certainly not the fine young officers and enlisted members who have lost respect for the senior leadership, and are voting with their feet.

I am retiring early next year, and this episode has convinced me that it's a good time to go. With considerable disgust and anger, I have stripped my uniform of my several personal decorations, save a Good Conduct Medal. I can't imagine looking a combat veteran in the eye and trying to explain this slap in the face.

[End Commander XXX's Critique]

It is indeed ironic that proliferation of Bronze Stars is the subject of the Commander's lament, for Reference 3 below explains how General George Marshall invented the Bronze Star in response to the Army Air Corps proliferation of Air Medals during WWII, while the infantry had no comparable medal and was taking most of the casualties.

Roosevelt opposed the creation of a new medal, and the exchange between Marshall and Roosevelt bears repeating:

Roosevelt, responding to Marshall's pressure, wrote a memo to Secretaries of Army and Navy, saying "I worry about the multiplicity of medals The danger of this proposed Bronze Star medal is that if it is to be awarded, the whole tendency will be to give it to people who have merely gone through an operation with normal performance of duty - what they were expected to do - and with enough luck not to get wounded. There is always the danger that we will cheapen the value of such things if we hand out too many of them."

On 3 Feb 1944, Marshall countered in a subsequent memo to Roosevelt: "There is a definite and urgent need for the Bronze Star to provide the ground people with something corresponding with the Air Medal.   The awards of the Air Medal have had an adverse reaction on the ground troops, particularly the infantry riflemen who are now suffering the heaviest losses, air or ground, in the Army, and enduring the greatest hardships   The fact that the ground troops, infantry in particular, lead miserable lives of extreme discomfort and are the ones who must close in personal combat with the enemy, makes the maintenance of their morale of great importance."

Marshall's counter-argument convinced Roosevelt, and the President created the Bronze Star on the next day, Feb. 4, with Executive Order 9419.

To his credit, Marshal recognized the problem Roosevelt was concerned about and tried to set up constraints that would limit its award to battlefield merit, suggesting that it be awarded "immediately at the time, so as to sustain or stimulate morale. There will be a minimum of misapplication if done in the field at the time. There are too many eyewitnesses present."

But then, this is the thinking of the 20th Century, and it may not apply to the revolution of military affairs now upon us in the 21st Century: the tactics of destruction from a safe distance, the strategy of "force protection," and the grand strategy of drive-by shootings with cruise missiles. Perhaps the martial values of Commander XXX, General Marshall, and President Roosevelt (and the very idea of a wedge of mistrust) are merely historical curiosities reflecting the experience of a bygone century and do not account for the post-modern moral requirements of techno-war, when there are more things we are willing to kill for and fewer things we are willing to die for.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference #1

European Stars and Stripes
June 4, 2000 Pg. 3

Awarding Of Bronze Stars Questioned Combat medal given to troops not entering combat zone

(First of two parts)

By Jon R. Anderson, Stars and Stripes

This time last year, an Air Force lieutenant colonel was leading a team of mechanics and maintenance crews at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., making sure the B-2 bomber was a regular player in the air campaign against Yugoslavia some 5,000 miles away. For his efforts, he is among the nearly 200 Air Force members to receive the nation's fourth-highest combat award, the Bronze Star. And like the lieutenant colonel, the majority of those who received the coveted awards did so for actions far from the combat zone.

Last year's Operation Allied Force contained many firsts. It was NATO's first all-out military campaign and it also was the first won by air power alone. And it was the first campaign fought predominantly -from one side, at least -from afar. So far, in fact, that it has radically changed the way troops are being recognized for their wartime contributions. For the first time in U.S. history, scores of troops who never went near the combat zone are being given Bronze Star combat medals, while -perhaps ironically - most of the ground troops closest to the fighting have gotten none.

Meaningful decoration

For many civilians, awards like the Bronze Star Medal, with its red, white and blue ribbon, might seem like little more than colorful ornaments to decorate fancy uniforms. But for those who wear those uniforms, medals -especially combat awards -are not only a source of professional pride and boosted morale, but often are linked to promotions and key career-building assignments.

Such was evidenced by the storm of controversy that erupted when three 1st Infantry Division soldiers captured in Macedonia -and beaten before their release a month later -were awarded the Purple Heart, the nation's oldest award. The Purple Heart is reserved for those wounded in combat and is listed below the Bronze Star in the military's "order of precedence" chart.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Boorda committed suicide in 1996 only hours after learning he was being investigated by Newsweek for improperly wearing combat medals from Vietnam. Make no mistake, experts say, medals are important to those in uniform.

"The Bronze Star was initially created for combat-fighting men," said Frank Foster, author of the Complete Guide to All U.S. Military Medals: 1939 to Present. "It seems awfully strange that people far from the combat zone would qualify for it."

Jim Thompson, author of Decorations, Medals, Badges and Insignia of U.S. Marine Corps and the soon-to-be-released book by the same title for the Navy, laughed out loud when called for comment.

"I guess I'm surprised and a little alarmed that our decorations -particularly a combat decoration -are being given out this way. "The message this sends is that the medal has been diluted," he said. "They've stretched it too far."

Engaging the enemy

The criteria for the Bronze Star medal is specific. According to Defense Department regulations, the medal is to be awarded to service members "engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States" or an "opposing foreign force." What qualified as the combat zone for Operation Allied Force was equally specific. According to President Clinton's executive order signed April 13, the combat zone was defined as Yugoslavia, Albania, the Adriatic Sea and the northern Ionian Sea. It also included the airspace above these areas, thus covering the aircrews of long-range bombers and naval aircraft flying missions into the combat zone. Service members in Macedonia and Bosnia already were considered inside the combat zone because of earlier designations. According to the medal's requirements, the Bronze Star only can be awarded for action on the ground. The Air Medal covers heroism in flight.

The citation for the lieutenant colonel in Missouri, like most, reads that he earned the medal for "meritorious achievement while engaged in ground operations against an opposing armed force." In Missouri. And he was not alone. At least four more at Whiteman got the Bronze Star, including the support commander, the operations commander and the leader of the bomber wing itself -none of them for actions in the combat zone. Closer, but still hundreds of miles from the fighting in Yugoslavia, the civil engineering squadron commander at Aviano Air Base, Italy, got the Bronze Star nod for building a "miraculous" tent city, according to his citation.

So, too, did the three colonels who spent the majority of the war "engaged in ground operations against an opposing armed force" behind their desks at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, working on over flight clearances and basing rights. In fact, of the 185 medals handed out by the Air Force in the nine months since the war ended, nine out of every 10 have been awarded for service far from the combat zone in the Balkans.

A mixed bag

Stars and Stripes reviewed the Bronze Stars that have been awarded from NATO's 78-day effort to drive Slobodan Milosevic out of Kosovo. The results show what several military experts and combat historians describe as a disturbing trend not only in the Air Force, but in the Navy as well. Take Adm. James Ellis' right-hand man during the air campaign, a Navy captain who worked in Naples, Italy, as the executive assistant to the commander of NATO's U.S. contingent.

For that work, the captain also received the Bronze Star, along with 69 other sailors. His citation, signed by Ellis, said the captain "distinguished himself by meritorious achievement in connection with action against the enemy." In fact, Ellis gave five members of his Naples-based staff Bronze Stars, only one of which -to Marine Brig. Gen. James Amos -was for actions actually in the combat zone. Ellis declined to comment.

Most of the other Navy awards went to those in the fleet where aircraft carriers and cruise missile-launching ships and submarines pressed the attack from the sea. Because there was a threat from Yugoslavia's navy, the waters around the Balkans -the Adriatic and Ionian Seas - were considered part of the combat zone.

So was Albania because it is within range of Serbian artillery and long-range rockets, and threat of counterattack was greatest there. As the war kicked into high gear, 5,000 Army soldiers, in what was dubbed Task Force Hawk, slogged their way into the muddy fields and rugged mountains of Albania and set up attack bases, poised to launch tank-killing helicopters and missiles into Kosovo. Although they were never used in combat, two aviators were killed training in Albania's highlands -the only casualties of the conflict -and many of those troops were among the first to roll into a still smoldering Kosovo.

Since the war has ended, Army peacekeepers have driven back riots while being pummeled with rocks and sticks, shelled by mortars, shot at and injured by land mines. None of them has received the Bronze Star.

Open interpretations

Few in the Army have heard about the Air Force's and Navy's awards. But reaction is almost always the same when they do. "What? You're kidding, right?" said one Army major, who deployed to Albania during the war. "Well, I guess that's one standard. I have no problem with a pilot or aircrew member who actually flew into harm's way getting whatever they deserve, but, wow, a Bronze Star to someone who never set foot in the combat zone? That's amazing."

That's what many outside the military are saying as well.

"I've never heard of anyone getting a Bronze Star who wasn't at least in the combat zone," said Dennis Giangreco, managing editor of Military Review, a monthly magazine on combat history. "That's a new one. I can see people who have received Bronze Stars in the past being none too pleased about it."

Frank Dugan is one of those people. During his two tours in Vietnam, he received three Bronze Stars. One he says he "really earned," fighting his way from a landing helicopter in a "hot" landing zone. The other two were "only" part of a campaign to recapture lost bunkers, he said. "I cannot recall a single instance of any serviceperson getting a Bronze Star who didn't go into the combat zone," said Dugan, who's now a top official for one of the United States' largest veterans groups, the 2.8 million-member American Legion. "Frankly, I think it sets a bad precedent."

Word of these latest Bronze Stars already is spreading among veterans. "We've gotten several angry letters," Dugan said.

Ironically, the Bronze Star was created to give the rank-and-file soldiers -the proverbial ground-pounders in the Army -something to be proud of while slugging it out through World War II. Gen. George C. Marshall convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to start minting the medals because pilots and aircrews were getting Air Medals, but the infantryman had no comparable award.

"Marshall never meant for people at the staff headquarters to get the Bronze Star," said Larry Bland, editor of the four-volume Papers of George Catlett Marshall. "It was for the grunts who were doing the hard work and who were actually getting shot at." Navy and Air Force leaders, however, say the times have changed.

Sign of the times

When it comes to medals, said Lt. Col. Nancy Lee, "the Air Force has its own philosophy." "We fought the air campaign from remote locations," said Lee, who helped manage the thousands of nominations for awards from Allied Force.

"The senior leadership strongly believed we fought this from home bases," said Lee, who sat in all five of the Air Force's boards that reviewed all top-level award nominations like the Bronze Star. "The way we're fighting our wars is different now."

The conflict, she said, "was not Vietnam, where we set up our wings in Vietnam. It was not Desert Storm, where we flew from Riyadh."

Plus, Lee said, when it comes to the Bronze Star, there is "nothing in the criteria that limits it to a geographic area."

That might be true, said Senior Master Sgt. Fred Klock, who heads up the Air Force's Awards and Decorations department at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, but "historically, it's always been associated with combat. It's only been given when people are engaged with enemy." In this case, said Klock, "it sounds like a liberal definition of 'engaged with enemy' was being applied."

Klock said this is an issue the Air Force will have to come to grips with in the coming years. "Hopefully it's not diluting the medal, but this is something the Air Force is wrestling with as we move to an expeditionary force. Everything doesn't fit into a neat little box anymore."

But he's not convinced the Bronze Stars for Kosovo were inappropriate. "Hopefully, it's giving them recognition for a hard job done well."

Historically, he concedes, the Meritorious Service Medal is usually reserved for just that kind of award outside of combat zones. Barbara Wilson agrees. Wilson is the head of the Navy's Medals and Decorations department at the Pentagon. "The MSM is the Bronze Star equivalent outside the combat zone," she said.

Any Bronze Star awarded for the same thing would be "inappropriate," she said.

"The regulations are clear: heroic or meritorious service in connection with combat operations," says Wilson, quoting the Navy's policy. "That means you have to be in a combat zone."

Medals always are awarded on a case-by-base basis, she said, but for a Bronze Star being awarded outside of the combat zone, "there would have to be an exception to policy."

Navy Capt. Steve Honda, spokesman for Ellis, argues all 69 of the Bronze Stars given to sailors in Naples, Italy, were appropriate.

"These are all people who were directly involved in the operation," Honda said. "When these awards were vetted, it was done in accordance and in the spirit of our awards manual. We were going by the guidance." Plus, said Honda, defining the combat zone could be open to interpretation.

"If you want to define the combat zone as those who received tax exclusion and hostile fire pay, people in Italy qualified," he said.

Several of the officers might have traveled into the combat zone aboard ship or in Macedonia or Albania, Honda said, but he could not be certain. Regardless, Clinton recently announced the creation of the Kosovo Campaign Medal to recognize service members involved in Allied Force. Those who qualify for it include troops who served in areas already considered the combat zone, plus the rest of the Balkans and Italy as well.

While that might lend support to the Bronze Stars being awarded to the Navy and Air Force people who spent the war in Italy, it will make it tough for the dozens of service members in Germany, England, Spain and the United States who will inevitably have to answer the tough question of how they got a Bronze Star for fighting in Kosovo, but were not officially part of the Kosovo campaign.

Reference #2

European Stars and Stripes
 June 5, 2000

Bronze Star: Top-Heavy Honor?

In airstrikes, most given to senior officers

(Second of two parts)

By Jon R. Anderson, Stars and Stripes

In Vietnam, the Bronze Star was sometimes referred to as the "Officers' Good Conduct Medal." Often, say veterans, it was doled out to the brass for doing little more than their jobs. Veterans of last year's 78-day air blitz against Yugoslavia might say the same thing about the Bronze Stars awarded from their short conflict.

Of the 185 Bronze Stars awarded by the Air Force in the nine months since the war ended, eight out of every nine medals have gone to officers, mostly lieutenant colonels and above. The trend in the Navy was largely the same. The Army, which had the most troops living and working in the combat zone, awarded no Bronze Stars.

"Almost anyone who was in the combat zone in Vietnam got a Bronze Star," said one Army general in Europe, "especially the officers."

"It kind of meant you were there," he added, "a recognition of what you might call the fear factor."

Still, he said, "with all of the hullabaloo over awards after Desert Storm, you'd think people would be smarter about it." The findings are part of a Stars and Stripes review of Bronze Stars awarded during Operation Allied Force.

Medal for ground force

Those unfamiliar with the Bronze Star -the nation's fourth highest combat decoration - might make the mistake of thinking that because planes are piloted by officers, and this was, after all, an "air" campaign, that it's only natural for officers to get the most awards. But that's what Air Medals and Distinguished Flying Crosses are for. In fact, the Air Force has handed out more than 900 Air Medals and 111 DFC's - with more pending - not to mention 13 Silver Stars.

No, the Bronze Star isn't for flying. Criteria for the medal even rules it out, saying, "for heroic or meritorious service not involving participation in aerial flight." The Bronze Star was created during World War II for folks fighting on the ground who weren't eligible for the Air Medal and didn't quite deserve the Silver Star.

Officials say the unique nature of Allied Force -bombing from afar with planes coming in sometimes as far away as the United States - has led to the majority of the Air Force Bronze Stars going to people who were never in the combat zone. That's the first time in history that has happened en masse like that, say medals experts and military historians.

Looking for answers

Air Force officials are harder pressed, however, to explain why so few enlisted troops got the coveted award.

"Traditionally, the Air Force gives Commendation Medals to our young officers and enlisted," said Lt. Col. Nancy Lee, who helped managed the influx of awards nominations for the Air Force in Europe after the conflict.

Indeed, the Air Force doled out more than 3,700 Commendation Medals and a whopping 10,500 of the less-prestigious Air Force Achievement Medal. Plus, she added, "not every commander received a Bronze Star. Not every wing or group commander received a Bronze Star." But a lot of them did.

In fact, more than half of the Bronze Stars, 102 in all, went to commanding officers of everything from civil engineering squadrons to bomber wings. Of those in the enlisted ranks fortunate enough to get the medal, most were senior noncommissioned officers - 12 of the 25 enlisted awards went to chief master sergeants, the top of the enlisted chain.

Where colonels were getting Bronze Stars for putting up tent cities in Aviano, Italy, and giving briefings at Air Force headquarters at Ramstein, Germany, it took getting shot at deep inside Serbia while rescuing downed pilots for five of the enlisted airmen to get Bronze Stars - four of them pinning on the "V" Device for valor, the only Air Force personnel to earn that right.

Specific by design

The criteria set up by a United States Air Force Europe board to adjudicate all top-level awards for the conflict makes it hard for enlisted airmen to be considered. Lee explained USAFE wanted all medal awards to be consistent. The services took a beating after the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq for haphazard and seemingly random awarding of top medals, and they didn't want a repeat of that. Officially, the only criteria laid down by the Defense Department and the Air Force is that the Bronze Star is to be awarded for heroic or meritorious service to "any person engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States" or an "opposing foreign force."

But USAFE's 13-member awards board, which consisted of the top leaders of the air campaign, followed special guide-lines. Among them, said Lee, were three questions to be asked before a person would be eligible for the Bronze Star, including:

*Did their action contribute significantly to the combat operations?

*Without that person, would the operation have been as successful?

*Were they in charge?

While a "yes" to any one of the questions would open the door to consideration, each question also seems to have shut out virtually all junior and midrank enlisted. Although Lee said "none of our decorations say anything about rank," Bronze Stars are considered "a more senior medal. It all has to do with span of responsibility."

If that's the case, the span of responsibility should at least be mentioned in the criteria, some believe.

"Yeah, that bothers me," said one Air Force colonel, who was ordered to write up several of his people for Bronze Stars. "It shouldn't just be for officers."

Deserving recognition

For those in the Navy, the pattern was essentially the same: It went mostly to officers and, of those, mostly commanders. Of the 69 Bronze Stars awarded, all but five went to officers. And again, four of the five enlisted had to stick their necks out to get it.

Ashore as explosive disposal experts, the sailors were responsible for clearing minefields and dud bombs as NATO peacekeepers first rolled into Kosovo after the air campaign ended. They also each won the right to pin on the "V" Device, for valor.

The only other enlisted sailor to earn the Bronze Star was Chief Gregory McHone. According to his citation, McHone became the Navy's "first chief petty officer to assume the duties as a Battle Force Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile Officer," overseeing more than 150 launches of the cruise missile from 10 different platforms.

Everyone else to get the medal were the captains and executive officers of warships and squadrons as well as mostly senior staff officers within a variety of Navy commands. Among the top officers to get the nod were Adm. Daniel Murphy, the commander of 6th Fleet, and Rear Adm. William W. Copeland Jr., who commanded the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group.

Like the Air Force, Navy officials had little to say about the lack of enlisted sailors among those receiving the Bronze Star.

"The awards were given to personnel," said Navy spokesman Capt. Steve Honda, "who were deserving of recognition for sustained superior performance or specific meritorious achievement within the awards guidance spirit."

Is that to say that more enlisted sailors provided no "sustained superior performance" or "specific meritorious achievement"? "There were other awards given," said Honda. "Many others."

With flying medals largely reserved for pilots, most if not all of the 13 Distinguished Flying Crosses went to officers as well as the 545 Air Medals, not to mention two Silver Stars. Of the awards Navy officials have record of in Europe, that leaves 22 Meritorious Service Medals, 189 Navy Commendation Medals and 265 Navy Achievement Medals, all split between officers and enlisted.

What kind of message?

While few people will say they like it, for most such emphasis in awarding officers comes as little surprise.

"It's an old perennial problem -this issue between officers and enlisted," said Shelby Stanton, author of several books on military history as well as uniforms and decorations. In the end, he says, the unfortunate thing is the message it sends to the enlisted ranks.

"Is a junior enlisted man's valor or meritorious service any less than an officer's?" he asks, quoting the criteria for the Bronze Star from memory. "I'll tell you this: Any enlisted man dealing with hot ordnance on the flight line at an air base or on deck of an aircraft carrier is a hell of a lot more heroic than any jerk sitting behind a desk coordinating strike plans."

And one senior Bronze Star recipient agrees. "Frankly, I don't think most of the people who got it, deserved it," said the Allied Force veteran. "To be honest, I don't think I deserved mine."

Reference #3

European Stars and Stripes
June 5, 2000

Marshall's Plan: Boost Morale With Award For Ground Troops

By Jon R. Anderson

Gen. George C. Marshall, who virtually invented the Bronze Star during World War II, had some advice when awarding the medal. Lobbying President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the Allied liberation of Europe dragged on through the cold winter months of 1944, Marshall wrote that commanders needed a medal like the Bronze Star to recognize the hardships and sacrifice of the ground combat troops. He offered these suggestions to ensure the Bronze Star didn't stray from its intended purpose or get watered down:

"Make the award immediately at the time, so as to sustain or stimulate morale. There will be a minimum of misapplication if done in the field at the time. There are too many eyewitnesses present."

"Permit these young men who are suffering the hardships and casualties to enjoy their ribbons, which mean so much to them, while in uniform. They cannot wear them once they return to civilian attire."

"Keep a balance among the services involved in battle, the best to the man who is actually in the fighting. Something else, less impressive, to the men who labor behind the lines."

For Marshall, the Bronze Star was a matter of creating a balance between what the Army Air Forces were handing out and what the ground units could get. The Air Medal had been approved two years earlier to improve airmen's morale, but there was no equivalent for the grunts.

"The awards of the Air Medal have had an adverse reaction on the ground troops, particularly the infantry riflemen who are now suffering the heaviest losses, air or ground, in the Army, and enduring the greatest hardships," wrote Marshall in his memo to the president on Feb. 3, 1944. However, Roosevelt wasn't big on medals.

"I worry about the multiplicity of medals," Roosevelt had written the secretaries of the Army and Navy a month earlier as Marshall had begun his push for the new award.

"The danger of this proposed Bronze Star medal is that if it is to be awarded," wrote Roosevelt, "the whole tendency will be to give it to people who have merely gone through an operation with normal performance of duty - what they were expected to do - and with enough luck not to get wounded."

Roosevelt's biggest worry was that quantity of medals would dilute quality. "There is always the danger that we will cheapen the value of such things if we hand out too many of them."

Marshall countered, explaining "there is a definite and urgent need for the Bronze Star to provide the ground people with something corresponding with the Air Medal."

For Marshall it came down to morale. "The fact that the ground troops, infantry in particular, lead miserable lives of extreme discomfort and are the ones who must close in personal combat with the enemy, makes the maintenance of their morale of great importance."

In the end, Marshall's memo won Roosevelt over. The president signed off on the Bronze Star the next day, Feb. 4, with Executive Order 9419.