Leadership: October 31, 2001


The Silver Star, the nation's third-highest award for combat valor, began in the Spanish American War. At the time, there were only two awards for valor, the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. A soldier who was "cited for gallantry in combat" got to wear a tiny 3/16-inch silver star on the campaign ribbon for that war. The practice continued through World War I. After a study by the War College said that soldiers regarded the award as too small, General MacArthur (then Chief of Staff) issued an order in 1932 that the star would be centered on a bronze pendant and hung from a ribbon. This design evolved into the current medal, which is a bronze star with the original tiny silver star centered on it. MacArthur also brought back the Purple Heart. Created by George Washington as the nation's only medal for valor during the Revolution, it had not been awarded in a century. MacArthur brought it back for the Army only and used it for honors currently noted by the Distinguished Service Medal. It was converted into a medal given in recognition of combat wounds and expanded to all of the services in 1942.--Stephen V Cole


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