Vietnam Service Medal

Vietnam Service Medal

Created by Executive Order 11213, July 8, 1965. It is awarded to all service members of the Armed Forces who between July 4, 1965 and March 28, 1973, served in the following areas of Southeast Asia: in Vietnam and the contiguous waters and airspace; in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia or the airspace thereof and in the direct support of military operations in Vietnam.

Personnel previously awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Vietnam between July 1958 and July 1965, may, upon request, exchange that medal for the Vietnam Service Medal (pictured below); however, no one is authorized to wear both medals solely for services in Vietnam.

The medal was designed by Thomas H. Jones, a sculptor and former employee of the Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army. Centered on the obverse of the medal is the figure of a dragon, behind a grove of bamboo trees. Below this design is the inscription, “Republic of Vietnam Service.” On the reverse of the medal is a cross-bow (the ancient weapon of Vietnam), surmounted by a lighted torch. Below this, along the outer edge are the words, “United States of America” in raised letters.

The ribbon has a thin stripe of red in the center, flanked on either side by a narrow stripe of yellow, thin stripe of red, wide stripe of yellow, and a narrow stripe of green at the edges, or predominately yellow with three red stripes at the center and green stripes at the edges. Campaign stars were worn on the ribbon to indicate the number of campaigns the recipients served in during their service in Vietnam.

There were 17 different campaign periods, but the first, which was called the Vietnam Advisory Campaign, covered the period from March 15, 1962 to March 7, 1964. During this time there were never more than a few thousand U.S. troops involved in Vietnam.

Authorized device: service star

Source: U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet

Vietnam Service Medal

  1. a. The Vietnam Service Medal (VSM) was established by Executive Order 11231, 8 July 1965. It is awarded to all members of the Armed Forces of the United States serving in Vietnam and contiguous waters or airspace thereover, after 3 July 1965 through 28 March 1973. Members of the Armed Forces of the United States in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, or the airspace thereover, during the same period and serving in direct support of operations in Vietnam are also eligible for this award.
  2. To qualify for award of the VSM an individual must meet one of the following qualifications:
    1. Be attached to or regularly serve for 1 or more days with an organization participating in or directly supporting military operations.
    2. Be attached to or regularly serve for 1 or more days abroad a Naval vessel directly supporting military operations.
    3. Actually participate as a crewmember in one or more aerial flights into airspace above Vietnam and contiguous waters directly supporting military operations.
    4. Serve on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days in Vietnam or contiguous areas, except that time limit may be waived for personnel participating in actual combat operations.
  3. No person will be entitled to more than one award of the VSM.
  4. Individuals qualified for the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for reason of service in Vietnam between 1 July 1958 and 3 July 1965 (inclusive) shall remain qualified for that medal. Upon request (unit personnel officer) any such individual may be awarded the VSM instead of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. In such instances, the Armed Forces Expeditionary will be deleted from the list of authorized medals in personnel records. No person will be entitled to both awards for Vietnam service.
  5. Vietnam and contiguous waters, as used herein, is defined as an area which includes Vietnam and the water adjacent thereto within the following specified limits: From a point on the East Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with China southeastward to 21° N. latitude, 108° 15E. longitude; thence, southward to 18° N. latitude, 108° 15E. longitude; thence southeastward to 17° 30N. latitude, 111° E. longitude; thence southward to 11° N. latitude; 111° E. longitude; thence southwestward to 7° N. latitude, 105° E. longitude; thence westward to 7° N. latitude, 103° E. longitude; thence northward to 9° 30N. latitude, 103° E. longitude, thence northeastward to 10 degrees 15N. latitude, 104° 27E. longitude; thence northward to a point on the West Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with Cambodia.
  6. The VSM may be awarded posthumously.
  7. The boundaries of the Vietnam combat zone for campaign participation credit are as defined in d. above.
  8. One bronze service star is authorized for each campaign under the following conditions:
    1. Assigned or attached to and present for duty with a unit during the period in which it participated in combat.
    2. Under orders in the combat zone and in addition meets any of the following requirements:
      1. Awarded a combat decoration.
      2. Furnished a certificate by a commanding general of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that he actually participated in combat.
      3. Served at a normal post of duty (as contrasted to occupying the status of an inspector, observer, or visitor).
      4. Aboard a vessel other than in a passenger status and furnished a certificate by the home port commander of the vessel that he served in the combat zone.
    3. Was an evader or escapee in the combat zone or recovered from a prisoner-of-war status in the combat zone during the time limitations of the campaign. The Vietnam campaigns are in appendix B. (Service stars are described in chap 6.)