“The Navy and Marine Corps’ Medal of Honor is our country’s oldest continuously awarded decoration, even though its appearance and award criteria has changed since it was created for enlisted men by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles on 16 December 1861. Legislation in 1915 made naval officers eligible for the award.
Although originally awarded for both combat and non-combat heroism, the Medal of Honor today is presented for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.
The design of our highest military decoration is rooted in the Civil War. The central motif is an allegory in which Columbia, in the form of the goddess Minerva uses the shield of the republic to put down the figure of Discord, plainly a reference to the unfolding split in our nation. The design is encircled by 34 stars, representing the states of the Union at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War.” (Naval History and Heritage Command)
Information was taken from the Naval History and Heritage Command. If you want to learn more about Medal of Honor Recipients in the U.S. Navy visit the Naval History and Heritage Command at www.history.navy.mil/.