The Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal is the highest award
which can be bestowed upon members of the U.S. Merchant Marine. The medal is the service’s equivalent of the Medal of Honor/Navy Cross because merchant mariners, even those on inactive duty in the naval reserve, are not on active duty and therefore not eligible for the award of any military medals or awards.
It is awarded to any American merchant mariner who, on or after September 3, 1939, distinguished themselves by outstanding conduct or service in the line of duty. Regulations state that not more than one medal shall be issued to any one person, but for each succeeding instance sufficient to justify the award of a medal, they will be awarded a suitable insignia to be worn with the medal.
The names and citations for Kings Pointers who were awarded this medal are listed in the "Heroism" section.
The Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal was awarded to any merchant mariner who was commended by the Administrator of the War Shipping Administration/U.S. Maritime Administration for conduct or service of a meritorious nature, but not sufficient to warrant the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal.
The Mariner’s Medal is the U.S. Merchant Marine’s equivalent of the Military Purple Heart. The medal is awarded to any merchant mariner who, while serving in a ship during a war period, is wounded, suffers physical injury, or suffers through dangerous exposure as a result of an act of enemy of the United States.
The Merchant Marine Gallant Ship Citation Ribbon is awarded to the officers
and crew of a United States or foreign flagged vessel, which at the time of service, participated in outstanding or gallant action in marine disasters or other emergencies for the purpose of saving
life or property at sea. At the center of the ribbon is a silver seahorse device.
Nine ships, and their crews, were awarded the Gallant Ship Unit Citation
during World War II:
SS Adoniram Judson
SS Cedar Mills
SS Marcus Daly
SS Nathaniel Greene
SS Samuel Parker
SS Stanvac Calcutta
SS Stephen Hopkins
SS Virginia Dare
SS William Moultrie
The Combat Bar/Ribbon was awarded to members of the merchant marine who
served on a ship when it was attacked or damaged by an enemy or an instrument of war, such as a mine during the Second World War. This award is a ribbon bar only, without a medal. Further prescribed is the
issuance of a silver star, to be attached to such bar, to merchant marines who were forced to abandon ship when it was attacked or damaged. For each additional abandonment of ship, an additional star is attached.
The Victory Medal was awarded to merchant marines who served aboard merchant ships thirty days or more during the period between December 7, 1941, and September 3, 1945.
The Defense Ribbon was awarded to members of the merchant marine who
served aboard United States merchant ships between September 8, 1939,
and December 7, 1941.
The Atlantic War Zone Ribbon was awarded to merchant mariners that served aboard ships in the Atlantic war zone between December 7, 1941, and November 8, 1945.
This War Zone comprised the North Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean,
Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Barents Sea, and Greenland Sea.
The Mediterranean/Middle East War Zone Ribbon was awarded to merchant mariners that served aboard ships in the Mediterranean-Middle East war zone between December 7, 1941, and November 8, 1945.
This War Zone comprised the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Arabian
Sea, and Indian Ocean, west of eighty degrees, east longitude.
The Pacific War Zone Ribbon was awarded to merchant mariners who served aboard ships in the Pacific war zone between December 7, 1941, and March 2, 1946.
This War Zone comprised the North Pacific, South Pacific, and the Indian Ocean, east of eighty degrees, east longitude.
Presented to any service member of either the Philippine military or Allied armed forces, including merchant mariners, who participated in the defense of the Philippine Islands between December 8, 1941, and June 15, 1942.
Presented to any service member of either the Philippine military or an Allied armed forces, including merchant mariners, who participated in the liberation of the Philippine Islands between the dates of October 17, 1944, and September 2, 1945.
May be awarded to any person who was a prisoner of war after April 5, 1917 (the date of the United States entry into World War I). The person’s conduct, while in captivity, must have been honorable. This medal may be awarded posthumously to the surviving next of kin of the recipient.
Awarded by the Russian government upon the “Fiftieth Anniversary in the Victory of the Great Patriotic War” to U.S. merchant mariners who participated in the Arctic convoys to the city of Murmansk.
Awarded to merchant mariners who served for thirty days during the period between December 7, 1941, to September 3, 1945.
Prescribed as an identifying insignia to be issued to all merchant marine officers and crew.
A merchant marine service flag and a service lapel button are prescribed
for display by members of the immediate families of seamen serving in the American Merchant Marine during a war period. If the mariner symbolized is killed, or dies while serving, the white star will have been superimposed thereon by a gold star of smaller size so that the white forms a border. The service lapel button is of enameled metal, and its design is of
a miniature of the service flag.
A family member might wear a “son in service” pin that family members would wear to show support for a son, brother, or husband serving in the merchant marine during WWII.
This insignia is one of the oldest U.S. Navy officer warfare/breast insignia, second only to the "Wings of Gold" worn by Naval Aviators and the "Dolphin" insignia of the Navy's submarine force. It was worn by all Kings Point Cadet/Midshipmen during World War II and is worn by Kings Pointers to this day.