References:US Army web site about US military
decorations and medals, including graphics.
Obtaining records from the National Archives and Records Administration
Relatives can request replacement medals from NARA
Download Standard Form 180 (SF-180) to send to NARA
Height of Valor index
Bronze Star Medal for Valor index
Distinguished Flying Cross index
Except for the Medal of Honor, the Department of Defense never made centralized lists of persons who were awarded military medals during the Vietnam War. In most cases, the awards were recorded only in each casualty's personnel records. Since 1991 a team of volunteers have worked thousands of hours creating the Coffelt Database of Vietnam War Casualties. They have pored over books and thousands of documents requested from the government and other sources. The Coffelt Team also records the unit of assignment and circumstances of death.
From 2002 to 2013 the Coffelt database also recorded the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star for Valor, Bronze Star for Meritorious Service or Achievement, Purple Heart, Air Medal, and Good Conduct Medal for each Vietnam War casualty. During that period The Virtual Wall used the Coffelt database for information about medals. In August, 2013 The Virtual Wall began keeping its own database for those awards.
We assume some medals that all casualties would have been awarded, specifically the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Many, but not all, casualties had earned the Purple Heart Medal. The death must have been the result of enemy action. Death by sickness or accident, for example, do not qualify for the Purple Heart. Some memorial pages on The Virtual Wall may show a Purple Heart Medal awarded because the casualty had been injured sometime before the incident that caused his death.
When worn on a uniform, multiple awards of a medal are indicated on the medal by adding leaf clusters or numbers to the medal. On The Virtual Wall we can not indicate multiple awards because there would be too many combinations of graphics and the database field for each medal can contain only yes or no, not a count.
The Virtual Wall does not show ribbons that would be worn on the right breast pocket, including unit citations and foreign medals. Among the foreign medals that we do not show on The Virtual Wall are the Vietnam Gallantry Cross and the Vietnam Military Merit Medal.
In August, 2013 The Virtual Wall began to also record and display the Army Commendation, Marine Corps and Navy Commendation, and Air Force Commendation medals. We do not show Expert, Sharpshooter, or Marksman badges.
If you know of a medal not yet shown on the memorial page of a person who died in Vietnam we want to add that information to our database and properly display the medals.
Since we do not have the authority to issue medals, we therefore need proof. Either:
Documentation in the forms above can be sent to us by email or to the postal address at the bottom of this page. We need photographic copies of original documents, not transcriptions of the text. The best document to send us will be named "General Orders" since that is the actual authority for the award and contains other information about the incident. Citations and Award Certifcates will be accepted in lieu of the General Orders.
A photograph of a military grave marker that shows the award, usually abbreviated, is sufficient proof because the awards are verified by the Veterans Administration before insciption. If sending us a photograph of a grave marker, please tell us the name of the cemetery, city, and state.
If we have found proof of an award or somebody like you has already sent proof to us, it will be in our database. If you know of an award that we have not yet found, we ask you to find the proof and send it to us. The Virtual Wall is run by a handful of part-time volunteers. We have been backlogged since 1997, so we ask your help to properly record the legacy of your friend or relative. A statement from you like "I know he earned the Silver Star." is not sufficient proof without supporting documents.
A photograph of the medals or possession of medals is not proof they were awarded or who they were awarded to because all medals except for the Medal of Honor can be purchased at military or commercial stores.
Due to privacy laws, next-of-kin are allowed to get more detailed records from the government than we can. If you know of a medal but do not have proving documents, you can request copies from the National Archives web site, then send copies to us. You can also Download Standard Form 180 (SF-180), print it, complete it, and mail it to the address on the form.
Please click here to send us the information and documents by email. Please tell us the casualty's full name and other identifying information, the award, your name and relationship, some circumstances of the award, and how you know about the award. On receipt of the documentation we will consider its strength and decide if it satisfies our criteria.
We are very backlogged at this time, so we can not promise how long it may take.
If you send copies of documents by US Mail, please send to the address below:
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