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Valor Medals Timeline

The Medal of Honor has undergone several changes since its creation in 1861. Beginning in the 1990s, Department of Defense leaders, as well as Presidents and Members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle, have united in a series of bipartisan efforts to ensure no veteran deserving a Medal of Honor was forgotten. Principally, these reviews have been for members of various groups who were denied the Medal of Honor owing to discrimination that existed when they performed their heroic actions. Unfortunately, World War 1 has been largely excluded from these reviews.


  • June 1897
  • 06/26

    Modern Medal of Honor Criteria Established


    The US Army establishes most of what will become the modern criteria for a Medal of Honor, including the need for eyewitness testimony, an act that demonstrates "gallantry and intrepidity" above and beyond the call of duty, and a requirement that someone other than the awardee submit the recommendation. The first statute of limitations is established, dictating how much time may elapse between an act and submission for a Medal of Honor.

  • October 1916
  • 10/16

    First Systematic Review Begins


    A board of five retired general officers convenes to review every Medal of Honor granted between the Civil War and the 1915 intervention in Haiti. In their report, released in 1917, 911 Medals of Honor are struck for not adhering to modern standards.

  • April 1917
  • 04/06

    The United States Enters World War 1


    Americans from all walks of life respond to the call to arms. General Pershing leads the American Expeditionary Force to France.

  • July 1918
  • 07/09

    "Pyramid of Honor" is born


    An Act of Congress eliminates the former Certificate of Merit for soldiers and creates the Distiguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Silver Star. Consequently, the Medal of Honor becomes distinctive as the only award bestowed in the name of Congress at the President's behest. This was the most dramatic change in military awards in American history, and it occured during wartime.

  • November 1918
  • 11/11

    Armistice Day


    World War 1 ends. Confusion about the criteria underpinning the new valor awards means only 4 Medal of Honors have been awarded by the time the guns fall silent.

  • February 1919
  • 02/02

    Pershing's Systematic Review Concludes


    Pershing orders a review of Distinguished Service Cross recipients to determine if any were wrongly denied the Medal of Honor. Over 100 additional recipients are indentified, including Sergeant Gerald York. Their actions warranted the award, yet they were overlooked due to mistakes or confusion regarding the new awards. Zero African-Americans and few members of other minorities are included. This endures as the only systematic review of WW1 Valor Awards.

  • November 1921
  • 11/11

    World War 1 Statute of Limitations Expires


    Three years after Armistice Day, the Statute of Limitations for submitting further Medal of Honor recommendations expires. Theoretically, no additional medals can be awarded without a change in the law.

  • June 1924
  • 06/02

    Indian Citizenship Act Signed Into Law


    Congress extends American citizenship to all Native-Americans residing in the United States. While Congress will go on to authorize systematic reviews of Valor Medals for Asian, African, Hispanic, and Jewish-Americans who served in WW2 and beyond, the passage of this act before those conflicts but after WW1 creates a unique discrepancy. This warrants the inclusion of Native Americans in any systematic study of WW1 veterans impacted by discrimination.

  • October 1925
  • 10/30

    War Department "Memo on Use of Negro Manpower" Released


    The War Department releases its official report on the use of African-American troops in World War One. It upholds segregation, compares African Americans unfavorably to other "members of the human family", recommends that in the next war no African-American officers be initially accepted for service, and suggests that no segregated unit above battalion strength be organized. In contrast, two African-American combat divisions served in World War One.

  • September 1929
  • 09/26

    First Challenge to the Pershing Review


    Michael Valente, an Italian-American immigrant, receives the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War 1 over a decade after the end of that conflict.

  • September 1945
  • 09/02

    VJ Day


    World War Two ends. Over 700,000 African-Americans served during the conflict in the US Armed Forces, and again not a single one receives a Medal of Honor.

  • July 1948
  • 07/26

    US Military Segregation Abolished


    President Truman signs Executive Order 9981 abolishing segregation on the basis of race, color, religion, or nation of origin.

  • April 1991
  • 04/24

    Freddie Stowers Receives the Medal of Honor


    The Department of the Army discovers a "misplaced" Medal of Honor recommendation for Corporal Freddie Stowers, an African-American doughboy with the 371st Infantry Regiment. Seventy-three years after he was killed in action on the Western Front in 1918, President George H.W. Bush presents Stowers' Medal of Honor to his two surviving sisters. Stowers is the first African-American from either World War to receive the Medal of Honor.

  • January 1993
  • 01/01

    African-American World War Two Review Begins


    The Department of the Army, through contract MDA903-93-C-0260, commissions a team assembled by Shaw University to study African-American units from WW2 to determine if any members were overlooked for the Medal of Honor. After reporting no African-Americans had been nominated, the Army authorizes the study group to conduct a systematic review of Distinguished Service Cross recipients to identify any who were improperly denied the Medal of Honor.

  • February 1996
  • 02/10

    Asian-American World War Two Review Begins


    An amendment to the Fiscal Year 1996 National Defense Authorization Act mandates the Departments of the Army and the Navy conduct investigations into Asian-Americans who received the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross in World War Two to determine if any were eligible for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor.

  • January 1997
  • 01/13

    African-American World War Two Review Culminates in 7 Awards


    The Shaw Study recommends 10 African-American individuals be considered for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor, including one who did not receive the Distinguished Service Cross. The Department of the Army upgrades 7, and President Bill Clinton awards them their Medals of Honor.

  • June 2000
  • 06/21

    Asian-American World War Two Review Culminates in 22 Awards


    President Bill Clinton awards 22 Asian-American veterans, including Senator Daniel Inouye, their Medals of Honor.

  • December 2001
  • 12/28

    Jewish and Hispanic American Review Begins Without World War One


    Congress authorizes a review of all Jewish and Hispanic Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, and Air Force Cross recipients between 1941 and 2001, as well as any other names submitted in consultation with the Jewish War Veterans of America and other Veterans Service Organizations within a year of the Act's passing. Those veterans likewise had to serve in World War Two or later. World War One was completely excluded.

  • December 2011
  • 12/31

    Jewish American Review Partially Expanded to World War One


    Congress authorizes an extension of the 2001 review to cover Jewish-American recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross in World War One, provided supporting material for the upgrade of the award were received by the Secretary within one year. This is not consistent with the systematic nature of previous studies.

  • March 2014
  • 03/18

    Jewish and Hispanic American Review Culminates in 24 Awards


    Preisdent Obama awards 24 Medals of Honor to veterans of World War Two, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This includes 17 Jewish-Americans, 2 Hispanic-Americans, and 1 African-American initially excluded from their award owing to their race, as uncovered by the study authorized in 2001.

  • June 2015
  • 06/05

    Henry Johnson and William Shemin Awarded Medals of Honor for World War 1 Service


    William Shemin, a Jewish-American WW1 veteran, recieves the Medal of Honor per the 2011 review. Additionally, Henry Johnson, an African-American member of the 369th "Harlem Hellfighters" in WW1, recieves the Medal of Honor. While Johnson recieved no American awards during the conflict, he did recieve the French Croix de Guerre with Palms. The total number of Medal of Honor recipients from World War 1 now stands at 121, including 5 double-recipients.

  • June 2018
  • 06/20

    Valor Medals Review Task Force Established


    Responding to a request from the Commissioners of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, its staff and volunteers organize the Valor Medals Review Task Force to begin planning for a systematic review of World War 1 Veterans akin to those undertaken for World War Two and subsequent conflicts.

  • 07/25

    VFW Endorses Task Force


    The Veterans of Foreign Wars enacts Resolution 308 at their 119th National Convention, endorsing the Valor Medals Review Task Force and its efforts.

  • August 2018
  • 08/29

    Research Team Established


    The Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars (the permanent operating arm of the United States World War One Centennial Commission) concludes a memorandum of understanding with the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War. After a national search, the Commission and Foundation elect to partner with the Robb Centre to complete the research objectives of the Task Force, supplemented by volunteers.

  • 08/30

    American Legion Endorses Task Force


    At the 100th National Convention of the American Legion, Resolution 109 is passed, endorsing the Valor Medals Review Task Force and its efforts.

  • September 2018
  • 09/14

    Congressional Black Caucus Veteran's Braintrust Endorses Task Force


    After a briefing for the Veteran's Braintrust, its membership elects to endorse the Valor Medals Review Task Force and its efforts.

  • October 2018
  • 10/08

    Public Unveiling at the Association of the US Army's Annual Meeting


    The President of Park University and the Public Affairs Officer of the United States World War One Centennial Commission introduce three of the principal scholars involved in the Task Force; Dr. Dwight Mears, Dr. Jeffrey Sammons, and Dr. Timothy Westcott. They introduce the Task Force's objectives and research plans.

  • 11/08

    Task Force Participation in Armistice Centennial Commemorations


    As part of the weeks' worth of centennial ceremonies organized by the Commission, several retired flag officers and the grandson of Sergeant York speak in support of the Valor Medals Review Task Force.

  • 11/13

    Task Force Reorganization


    Responding to an increasing number of volunteers, the Task Force reorganizes from ad-hoc working groups into its current structure, comprised of three standing subcommittees. More details can be found on the "Who We Are" tab.

  • March 2019
  • 03/14

    American GI Forum Endorsement


    The American GI Forum, a Veteran's Service Organization dedicated to Hispanic veterans, endorses the Valor Medals Review Task Force and its efforts.

  • April 2019
  • 04/18

    Authorizing Language Announced


    Members of the 116th Congress announce bipartisan legislation authorizing the Valor Medals Review. S. 1218 is authored by Senator Van Hollen (D-MD) and co-sponsored by Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Duckworth (D-IL) & Scott (R-SC). H.R. 2249 is authored by Representative Hill (R-AR) and co-sponsored by Representatives Cleaver (D-MO), Graves (R-MO) & Houlahan (D-PA). Each was submitted for inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act.

  • 04/18

    The Military Coalition Endorsement


    The Military Coalition, comprising 32 Veterans' Service Organizations and advocacy groups, issues a letter of endorsement for S. 1218, H.R. 2249, and the Valor Medals Review Task Force and its efforts. A full list of TMC members can be found here: http://www.themilitarycoalition.org/tmc-members.html


Valor Medals Review

Task Force

For media inquiries, please contact chris.christopher@worldwar1centennial.org

For all other requests, please contact valor.medals@worldwar1centennial.org

“The President may award, and present in the name of Congress, a medal of honor of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who while a member of the Army or naval service, distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”            -US Code


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