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"V" Device
Valor device
Awarded by United States
Type Ribbon device
Status Currently in use
First awarded 1945

The "V" device is miniature bronze letter "V" which may be worn on certain medals and ribbons issued to members of the United States Armed Forces.[1] The Army and Air Force refer to it as the "V" Device, while the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard refer to it as Combat Distinguishing Device or Combat "V".[2][3][4][5] The 14 inch "V" with serifs must be authorized for wear in order to be worn on certain decorations and awards.

Criteria and wearEdit

The criteria vary between the services:

  • Army – the device is worn solely to denote "participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy".[2]
  • Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard – the device 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 device 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, and on the Outstanding Unit Award and Organizational Excellence Award to indicate the unit participated in direct combat support actions.[3]

Although a service member may be cited for valor and heroism in combat many times and be awarded several awards authorizing the "V" device, only one may be worn on the same award. For example, if a soldier was awarded a Bronze Star Medal on three occasions, twice with the "V" device, he would wear one "V" device with two bronze oak leaf clusters on the suspension and service ribbon of the medal. Similarly, in the Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard, the Combat "V" would be worn with two gold 516 stars. In such cases, the "V" is worn in the position of honor to the right of the other devices on the ribbon from the wearer's perspective. Further, with regard to the Medal of Honor, the Department of Defense, Manual of Military Decorations and Awards, 2010 currently specifies, "for each succeeding act that would otherwise justify award of the Medal of Honor, the individual receiving the subsequent award is authorized to wear an additional Medal of Honor ribbon and/or a "V" device on the Medal of Honor suspension ribbon."[6]

The "V" device or "combat distinguishing device' must be specifically authorized on the award citation for the decoration or unit award in order to be worn on the award. An Air Force citation for an individual award authorized the "V" will have "with Valor" after the name of the decoration while the certificate for the decoration will have the word "VALOR" written below the name of the decoration. Similarly, an Air Force unit award authorized the "V" will have, with "V" Device, written on the certificate for the award.[3][7]

Example of "V' devices on service ribbonsEdit

The following examples show the "V" device on various service ribbons, either worn alone or in conjunction with other devices on the ribbon:

Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Legion of Merit with Combat "V"
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross with "V" Device and one bronze oak leaf cluster indicating a total of two awards.
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" and two gold 516 inch stars indicating a total of three awards.
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Joint Service Commendation ribbon.svg
Joint Service Commendation Medal with "V" Device and three bronze oak leaf clusters indicating a total of four awards.
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement ribbon.svg
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat "V" and four gold 516 inch stars indicating a total of five awards.
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg
Outstanding Unit Award with "V" Device

Decorations and awardsEdit

The "V" device may be worn on the following decorations and unit awards:

Army personnel[2] Navy and Marine Corps personnel[4] Air Force personnel[3] Coast Guard personnel[5]
Medal of Honor Medal of Honor Medal of Honor Medal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal Legion of Merit Distinguished Flying Cross Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal Distinguished Flying Cross Bronze Star Medal Air Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal Bronze Star Medal Air Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal Air Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal Coast Guard Commendation Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal Air Force Commendation Medal Coast Guard Achievement Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Air Force Achievement Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Outstanding Unit Award
Organizational Excellence Award


In 1944, the Army authorized the "V" Device as an attachment to be worn on the Bronze Star Medal. The "V" device was first worn to denote an award for valor in 1945. The Secretary of the Navy authorized the Combat "V" for the Legion of Merit[8] and the Bronze Star Medal on February 13, 1946. The device is currently authorized for certain decorations and awards to denote valor in combat, combat participation, or combat support participation.

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.[9]

In 2011, updated regulations concerning the Medal of Honor specified that the "V" Device (or Combat "V"), 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 is the first use of the "V" device for a Medal of Honor. As there has not been a living repeat Medal of Honor recipient since the era of World War I, the use of the "V" device in this fashion has yet to be implemented in practice.

Notable recipientsEdit


See alsoEdit

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