"V" Device

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"V" Device
The "V" (Valor) device
Awarded by United States
Type Medal and Ribbon device
Awarded for to denote valor or meritorious service in combat
Status In use
First awarded 1945
Last awarded Current

The "V" Device (also the Combat Distinguishing Device or Combat "V"), is a miniature bronze or gold 14 inch letter "V" (valor) with serifs that is authorized by the United States Armed Forces as a medal and ribbon device for a defined set of decorations.[1] The "V" device if authorized, may be attached to the suspension and service ribbon of the medal.

The Army and Air Force refer to the "V" as the "V" Device. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard refer to the "V" as the Combat Distinguishing Device or Combat "V".[2][3][4][5] The criteria for and wear of the "V" device differs among the services.[6]

Criteria and wear

The "V" device must be specifically authorized in the award citation for wear on the decoration. Although a service member may be cited for heroism in combat and be awarded more than one decoration authorizing the device, only one "V" device may be worn on each award.[1] The "V" device may also be authorized for the Air Medal by all the services where heroism in aerial combat was involved on an individual mission. The criteria for the device vary between the services:

  • Army – the "V" is worn solely to denote "participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy".[2]
  • Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard – the "V" is worn to denote combat heroism or to recognize individuals who are "exposed to personal hazard during direct participation in combat operations".[1][4][5]
  • Air Force – the "V" is worn on the Bronze Star Medal to denote heroism in combat, on the Commendation Medal and Achievement Medal to denote heroism or being "placed in harms' way" during contingency deployment operations. Prior to January 1, 2014, the device was also authorized on Outstanding Unit Awards and Organizational Excellence Awards to indicate the unit participated in direct combat support actions.[3]

Army and Air Force

The bronze "V" is positioned to the right of any bronze or silver oak leaf clusters from the wearer's perspective, or positioned in center of the service ribbon if worn alone.[7][8] The following examples depict decorations that were awarded with the "V" Device in at least one instance:

"V" device, brass.png Distinguished Flying Cross
"V" device, brass.pngBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Bronze Star Medal
"V" device, brass.pngBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Joint Service Commendation Medal
"V" device, brass.pngSilver oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Army Commendation Medal
"V" device, brass.pngBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Air Force Achievement Medal

Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard

The bronze "V" (or gold anodized "V" for USN/USMC) for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, is always worn in the center of the service ribbon, while any gold or silver 516 Inch Stars are added in balance to the right and left of the "V" starting with the right side from the wearer's perspective.[9][10][11] A gold anodized "V" may be used to match gold anodized versions of the original decorations. The following examples depict decorations that were awarded with the Combat "V" in at least one instance:

Combat Distinguishing Device.png Legion of Merit
Combat Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).png Distinguished Flying Cross
Combat Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png Bronze Star Medal
Combat Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Combat Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).pngAward star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
"V" device, brass.png Award star (gold).pngAward-star-silver-3d.pngAward star (gold).png Coast Guard Commendation Medal

Medals and ribbons authorized the "V" device

The individual service branches authorize the "V" on different medals and ribbons:

Decorations Army[2] Navy and
Marine Corps[4]
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Yes Yes
Bronze Star Medal Yes Yes Yes Yes
Air Medal Yes Yes Yes
Joint Service Commendation Medal Yes Yes Yes Yes
Army, Navy-Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard
Commendation Medals
Yes Yes Yes Yes
Army, Navy-Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard
Achievement Medals
Yes Yes Yes


In 1944, the Army authorized a brass "V", for valor, as an attachment to be worn on the Bronze Star Medal.[12] The "V" ("V" Device) was first worn by Army personnel to denote an award for valor in 1945.[1] The Secretary of the Navy authorized the "V" (Combat "V") for the Bronze Star Medal and the Legion of Merit on February 13, 1946.

In 1996, the "V" device garnered public attention after the suicide of Admiral Jeremy Boorda, who was the Chief of Naval Operations of the Department of the Navy. The news media reported that his death by suicide may have been caused by a Navy investigation into whether he was wearing this device on the service ribbons of his uniform without authorization. Admiral Boorda had been wearing a Combat "V" on two decorations he was awarded during the Vietnam War as a weapons officer and executive officer aboard two naval ships off the coast of Vietnam. Although there were indications these devices were authorized to be worn on his Navy Commendation and Achievement Medals, the Department of the Navy Board For Correction of Naval Records determined after his death that both of the devices were not authorized to be worn.[13]

In 2011, updated DoD regulations concerning the Medal of Honor specified that the "V" device instead of the oak leaf cluster and 5/16 inch star, would be used to denote additional citations in the rare event of a second Medal of Honor recipient. This was the first authorized use of the "V" device for a Medal of Honor. As of August 26, 2015, there has not been a living repeat Medal of Honor recipient since the era of World War I, and the use of the "V" device for the MOH is no longer authorized, A second medal would be issued instead.[14]

Notable recipients

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33, Volume 3" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. 23 November 2010. p. 53. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Army Regulation 600–8–22 Military Awards" (PDF). United States Army. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "AFI 36-2803 Air Force Military Awards and Decorations Program" (PDF). 18 December 2013. p. 218. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 SECNAVINST 1650.1H
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "COMDTINST M1650.25D Medals and Awards Manual" (PDF). May 2008. pp. 1–15. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  6. Burgess, Lisa (October 26, 2006). "Pentagon reviewing ‘V’ device for consistency". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  7. "Department of the Army Pamphlet 670–1 Uniform and Insignia Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia" (PDF). United States Army. 31 March 2014. p. 237. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  8. "AFI 36-2903 Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel" (PDF). United States Air Force. 18 July 2011. p. 156. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  9. "CHAPTER FIVE IDENTIFICATION BADGES/AWARDS/INSIGNIA" (PDF). United States Navy Uniform Regulations. United States Navy, Bureau of Personnel. pp. 5–48. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  10. "Uniform Regulations COMDTINST M1020.6G" (PDF). United States Coast Guard. March 2012. pp. 3–100, 3–104. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  11. http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/uniforms/uniformregulations/chapter5/Pages/5301.aspx Navy Personnel Command > Support & Services > US Navy Uniforms > Uniform Regulations > Chapter 5 > 5301 - 5319 Awards (Downloaded January 2015): 5. Bronze Letter "V" (Combat Distinguishing Device). The bronze letter "V" may be worn on the following ribbons if the citation specifically authorizes the "V" for valor (heroism): Decorations awarded prior to 1974: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal. Decorations awarded after 1974: Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Navy Commendation Medal. Wear only one "V". Arrange gold, bronze or silver stars, or the oak leaf cluster indicating subsequent awards of the medal (except Air Medal <(see article 5319.7)>, in a horizontal line beside the "V" symmetrically in the center of the suspension ribbons of large and miniature medals (position as detailed below). Arrange them in a horizontal line on the ribbon bar with the "V" in the center and the first star to the wearer's right, the second to the wearer's left, and so on.
  12. "About the medals". Stripes.com. Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  13. Board for Correction of Naval Records
  14. "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33, Volume 1" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. 12 October 2011. p. 34. Retrieved 7 October 2012.