Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals
|Awarded by United States Coast Guard|
|Awarded for||Rescuing, or endeavoring to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water.|
|Established||20 June 1874|
|Total awarded||600+ Gold Lifesaving Medals
1,900+ Silver Lifesaving Medals
Gold Lifesaving Medal
Silver Lifesaving Medal
The Gold Lifesaving Medal and Silver Lifesaving Medal are U.S. decorations issued by the United States Coast Guard. The awards were first established by Act of Congress, 20 June 1874; later authorized by 14 U.S.C. § 500. These decorations are two of the oldest medals in the United States and were originally established at the Department of Treasury as Lifesaving Medals First and Second Class. The Department of the Treasury initially gave the award, but today the United States Coast Guard awards it through the Department of Homeland Security. They are not classified as military decorations, and may be awarded to any person.
The Lifesaving Medals were first authorized in an Act (18 Stat 125, 43rd Congress) that furthered the United States Life-Saving Service. The Secretary of the Treasury was directed to, amongst other provisions of the act, to create "medals of honor", to be distinguished as life-saving medals of the first and second class, and bestow them upon any persons who endanger their own lives in saving, or endeavouring to save lives from perils of the sea, within the United States, or upon any American vessel.
The Lifesaving Medals have had three designs in their history. The original design in 1874 was "non-portable" and could not be worn by the recipient, but rather displayed much like a trophy. In 1882 the design was changed so that the medal was suspended from a two inch wide ribbon. The ribbon was red for the Gold Lifesaving Medal and light blue for the Silver Lifesaving medal. Finally on 4 August 1949 the medals and ribbons were reduced in size so that they were more proportionate to medals awarded by the U.S. Armed Forces. The ribbons were also redesigned to have multiple colors.
The laws governing the awarding of medal were amended over the years, and is currently awarded by the Coast Guard. The Commandant of the Coast Guard makes the final determination in authorizing the award.
"The Gold Lifesaving Medal or the Silver Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water. The rescue or attempted rescue must either take place in waters within the U.S. or subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or one or the other of the parties must be a citizen of the U.S. or from a vessel or aircraft owned or operated by citizens of the U.S."
The Lifesaving Medal is issued in two grades, being silver and gold. "The Gold Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to an individual who performed a rescue or attempted rescue at the risk of his or her own life, and demonstrates extreme and heroic daring. The Silver Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to an individual who performed a rescue or attempted rescue where the circumstances do not sufficiently distinguish the individual to deserve the medal of gold, but demonstrate such extraordinary effort as to merit recognition. If neither the Gold nor Silver Lifesaving Medal is appropriate, then a Certificate of Valor or an appropriate Coast Guard Public Service Award may be considered."
Until the mid-20th century, the Lifesaving Medal was often bestowed upon members of the military; however in recent times the decoration has become somewhat rare. This is due primarily to the creation of a variety of additional military decorations that are often considered more prestigious than the Lifesaving Medal. The United States Navy often issues the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, instead of the Lifesaving Medal, for sea rescues involving risk of life. "Military personnel serving on active duty would normally not be recommended for Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals; however, military personnel may be recommended for a Lifesaving Medal if the act of heroism was performed while the individual was in a leave or liberty status. In all other circumstances, a military award should be considered." The Lifesaving Medal is authorized for wear on U.S. military uniforms.
The Lifesaving Medal is unusual among U.S. medals because it is actually struck from precious metal, silver or gold, depending on the grade. Most other medals are struck from inexpensive alloys.
Since 1874, more than 600 Gold Lifesaving Medals and more than 1,900 Silver Lifesaving Medals have been awarded. There have been fewer awards of the Lifesaving Medals than there have been of the Medal of Honor.
Gold Lifesaving Medal
- 27 Liverpool lifeboat men (wreck of the Ellen Southard)
- Vice Admiral Harry G. Hamlet, U.S. Coast Guard - While in command of USS Marietta in the Bay of Biscay on 28 April 1919, rescued a crew of 47 persons from the sinking USS James.
- Sergeant Marcus Hanna (lighthouse keeper) - Only person to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Gold Lifesaving Medal
- Joshua James - Legendary lifesaver
- James Larsin - Fisherman and Wisconsin state legislator
- Ida Lewis (lighthouse keeper)
- Rasmus Midgett
- Captain Henry C. Mustin
- Sheppard Shreaves, for rescuing Henry Breault
- Lenny Skutnik
- Arland D. Williams, Jr.
- Richard Etheridge, Benjamin Bowser, Dorman Pugh, Theodore Meekins, Lewis Wescott, Stanley Wise, and William Irving of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station, for rescue of the crew from the E.S. Newman on 11 October 1896. Awarded gold medals posthumously on 5 March 1996.
- Benjamin Dailey - Keeper of the Cape Hatteras Lifeboat Station, lead the rescue of the crew of the Ephraim Williams.
- William Babb, for the 1885 rescue of the American schooner A.C. Maxwell
Silver Lifesaving Medal
- Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd - Organized first flights over the North Pole and South Pole
- Vice Admiral Charles E. Larkin, USCG
- Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz - Commander of the Pacific Fleet during World War II
- General George S. Patton - Commander of 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry
- Vice Admiral Joseph K. Taussig, Jr.
- Mikol Sullivan
- Soldier's Medal
- Navy and Marine Corps Medal
- Airman's Medal
- Coast Guard Medal
- Awards and decorations of the United States government
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- Mary McCann - General Slocum disaster; 1904
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- Gold Lifesaving Medal Awardees of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, Lighthouse Service, Revenue Cutter Service and Coast Guard
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- Gold Lifesaving Medal