What is a Bronze Star?: Everything You Need to Know

What is a Bronze Star?

Members of the United States Armed Forces who perform a heroic act, achievement, or service often receive the Bronze Star Medal. The medal was first an idea of Colonel Russell P. Reeder’s, and Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized it on February 4, 1944. Today, the decoration is still awarded.

Rudolf Freund of Bailey, Banks and Biddle, the company responsible for the Silver Star Medal, designed the Bronze Star. It consists of a five-pointed bronze star that measures 1 ½” (38mm) overall. The design includes a smaller five-pointed star in the center measuring 3/16’ (4.8mm). On the reverse, you will see “Heroic or Meritorious Achievement” in a circle with space for the recipient’s name.

Introduced two years before, the Air Medal recognized the efforts of Air Force troops, but army forces felt overlooked. The introduction of the Bronze Star Medal ensured they, too, were commemorated for their efforts.

What is a Bronze Star Awarded For?

Military awards have a long history dating back thousands of years. The Romans were careful to reward their military heroes with accolades, including medals called phalerae. The practice was reintroduced in the 18th century. The first award, the United States’ Badge of Military Merit, came in 1782. The Medal of Honor followed in 1863. Medals are a way of celebrating and recognizing someone’s military career in a formalized and structured way.

Originally, heroic actions against the enemy not deemed not quite sufficient for the award of the Silver Star got the Bronze Star. You can find a full list of soldiers who have shown such bravery to be awarded the Bronze Star at the American War Library.

Today, to receive a Bronze Star, you must have performed an act of heroism or high achievement. This includes going above and beyond in normal service (as long as it is not in an aerial context). These acts may be:

  • While engaged with the enemy in some way
  • Involved in an operation where they come up against an opposing force (such as terrorists and other groups)
  • Serving with allies and other friendly forces in armed combat against an opposing force to which the USA is not a belligerent party (so they aren’t officially fighting them)

What is a Bronze Star Medal?

The medal hangs from a 1 ⅜” (35mm) ribbon. This ribbon is red with a narrow 1/32” (1mm) white border and in the center is a ⅛” (3mm) ultramarine stripe, again outlined with 1/32” (1mm) white lines.

There are three different types of Bronze Star Medal: one for Valor, Merit, or Achievement.

To distinguish from those who won a Bronze Star for valor, as opposed to those who won for merit, they get a small bronze “V” on the ribbon. The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth highest military decoration for valor. There are far fewer Bronze Star Medals with the “V” added than without since it is one of the highest honors obtainable for service in the military.

If someone in the Army or Airforce gains multiple Bronze Star Medals, they’ll receive an oak leaf cluster to add to their medal. If they are in the Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard, they’ll get a 5/16” (8mm) golden star. At the award of a fifth medal, the oak leaf cluster is silver instead.

What is a Bronze Service Star?

There is another bronze star army medal currently in use by the United States Military, the Bronze Service Star. The Bronze Service Star (also called Campaign Star or Battle Star) is small – just 3/16” (4.8mm) across. It shows a soldier has an additional award to the “main” one.

You may find them attached to:

  • Expeditionary medals like the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Service medals like National Defense Service Medal
  • Armed Forces Service Medal
  • Unit awards like the Presidential Unit Citation
  • Campaign medals like the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and others.

What is a Bronze Star Given For?

To get a Bronze Star, you must show extreme bravery in the face of extraordinary circumstances, or be meritorious in your work in a conflict. Soldiers (both past and present) receive their medals during ceremonies on Memorial Day.

A recipient’s family can obtain a Bronze Star if the recipient is no longer able to receive it. A soldier can also obtain one for an act that took place in the past. Soldiers don’t often get these awards; another person must request the medal for the honoree, with attested evidence of the event. It also includes meritorious service in a conflict.

For example, the Platoon Leader of the 1837th Transportation Company in Iraq received a Bronze Star. For his outstanding expertise, performance, and commitment to the mission in a hostile environment. He was a credit to the US Army.

What is a Bronze Star Medal Recipient?

Many thousands of brave men and women have been awarded the medal since its inception. For example, nearly 400,000 were given to World War 2 veterans, nearly 720,000 for the Vietnam conflict, and over 100,000 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Many well-known people have received it, including:

  • Military personnel: Omar Nelson Bradley, Jessica Lynch, John McCain, Norman Swartzkopf, William Westmoreland, and Chuck Yeager.
  • Actors: James Arness, Charles Durning, Henry Fonda, Audie Murphy (twice), and Mickey Rooney.
  • Writers: Dominick Dunne, Ron Kovik, and Rod Serling.
  • Politicians: Spiro Agnew, Bob Dole, Alexander Haig, John Kerry and Colin Powell.

Those who win this medal have shown outstanding bravery – a level we can all aspire to emulate. You can see some of the faces of the Bronze Star for valor recipients at the Hall of Valor Project.

Presenting a medal can do wonders for everyone, boosting morale, raising self-confidence, recognizing a huge achievement, and gives anyone an immense feeling of worth and value. At Perfect Crafts & Gifts, you’ll find the perfect medal for you, whether it is a bronze star or not. You can see our full range of medals here.