Army ribbons spotlight military service at a glance

Question: My father was in the Army during World War II and had these on his uniform. What do they mean?Answer: Those are “ribbon bars” and they serve as a colorful shorthand resume of the wearer’s military career. The ribbons pictured were custom-made in the post-WW II era and sewn on your father’s uniform, unlike the standard “pin back” version issued by the military. Each of the bars is divided into three sections, and each section represents a medal earned during your father’s time in the service.

From left to right on the top bar:

U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal — Awarded to enlisted personnel only, generally for three years of “honorable and faithful service,” though that time was generally shortened during WW II.

American Campaign Medal — Awarded to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who served one year of consecutive duty, from Dec. 7, 1941, to March 2, 1946, in North and South America and its surrounding territories and waters.

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal — Awarded to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces for service in the Pacific Theater from Dec. 7, 1941, to March 2, 1946. The two bronze Battle Stars represent major military campaigns in which your dad participated.

From left to right on the bottom bar:

Philippine Liberation Medal — Awarded by the Republic of the Philippines to military personnel (not just the U.S. personnel) who participated in the liberation of the Philippine Islands from Oct. 17, 1944, to Sept. 2, 1945.

WW II Victory Medal— Awarded to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces for service from December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946. There was no requirement for a minimum time in service. More WW II Victory medals were awarded than any other medal during WW II.

Army of Occupation Medal — Awarded to all members of the U.S. Army who served in an occupation capacity in Europe or Asia, following WW II. The Navy and Marine Corps had their own version known as the Navy Occupation Service Medal. (Technically the Philippine Liberation Medal should be last in order of precedence since it’s awarded by a foreign government. But since your father had just survived WW II and the ribbon bar was probably made overseas while he was performing occupation duty, this is certainly an excusable, and quite common, oversight.)

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Steve Corbo

A founding member and corporate secretary of the Italian American Veterans Museum, Steve Corbo is the museum’s curator and a military consultant for Fra Noi. He has served for 25 years as president of S.A. Corbo & Associates Inc., providing professional liability insurance to health care providers. The son and nephew of World War II veterans and a passionate military historian for over 50 years, he has written and published articles on a variety of topics, including military history, and serves as the military consultant for Fra Noi, the Chicago-area Italian-American magazine.

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