Can there be a higher honor as an American than to be awarded the bronze star medal? It truly is one of the greatest distinctions an armed service member can receive, and it is reserved for only the finest of our men and women in uniform. It is the dream of every young cadet, from the time he or she played army as a child up until the day of enlistment, and the highest respect is paid to those who have achieved this American dream. It is rare, and only given for those who have earned the utmost respect from their fellow soldiers. Something to be cherished and passed down as heirloom from one generation to the next. Today, we will look into this fascinating subject in my article titled the bronze star: what is it?
You may earn the bronze star one of three ways. There is the bronze star for merit, the bronze star for achievement and the bronze star for valor. While Bronze Stars are only somewhat common, those with V devices, for combat gallantry, are much more rare. Only one in 40 Bronze Stars are awarded with a V-device, for those who did well under fire at extreme personal risk. When the medal is given by the Army and Air Force for acts of valor in combat, the V-device is authorized for wear on the medal. When the medal is awarded by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard for acts of valor or meritorious service in combat, the combat V is authorized for wear on the medal.
The Bronze Star Medal, or BSM, dates back to World War II. Today, it is the fourth-highest ranking award a service member can receive for a heroic and meritorious deed performed in an armed conflict. For those who receive the BSM, it is a signal of their sacrifice, bravery and honor while serving their country. The Bronze Star Medal was authorized in 1944 by President Roosevelt. There was no “V” device at the time of inception. The concept of the medal came from General George Marshall with the intent of awarding it to those who fought on the ground, particularly the infantry. He wrote that the infantry “lead miserable lives of extreme discomfort and are the ones who must close in personal combat with the enemy.” This led to the Bronze Star Medal being awarded, retroactively back to 1941, 395,380 times during WWII according to the Army Institute of Heraldry. The Bronze Star Medal was also awarded to any soldier with a Combat Infantry Badge or a Combat Medic Badge.
Moving to other wars after WWII, we saw 30,359 BSMs being awarded in Korea. At that time, the Army did not appear to track how many were awarded with valor. The first war to track the “V” device separately was Vietnam with 170,626 BSMs with valor and 549,343 for Achievement/Service. Now Operation Iraqi Freedom, from 2003 to 2010, saw 99,886 Bronze Star Medals awarded in OIF for Achievement/Service. In addition to those, there were only 2,459 awarded for valor.
A good example of a recipient of a bronze star medal is the story of staff sergeant Lucien Adams. He was awarded the medal for “ conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 28 October 1944, near St. Die, France. When his company was stopped in its effort to drive through the Mortagne Forest to reopen the supply line to the isolated third battalion, S/Sgt. Adams braved the concentrated fire of machine guns in a lone assault on a force of German troops. Although his company had progressed less than 10 yards and had lost 3 killed and 6 wounded, S/Sgt. Adams charged forward dodging from tree to tree firing a borrowed BAR from the hip. Despite intense machine gun fire which the enemy directed at him and rifle grenades which struck the trees over his head showering him with broken twigs and branches, S/Sgt. Adams made his way to within 10 yards of the closest machine gun and killed the gunner with a hand grenade.” Truly an American hero we honor the memory of staff sergeant Adams, and salut his exceptional bravery, truly unrivaled. May he rest in peace.