The MOH is the highest and most prestigious
US military medal. It is awarded by the President of the United States in the
name of Congress, and for that reason it is often referred to as the
Congressional Medal of Honor. (Congress awards its own medals of honor, the
Congressional Gold Medal and Congressional Silver Medal—the nation's highest
awards that do not involve combat).
The Medal of Honor—whether the Air Force,
Army, or Navy version—by law is only awarded for military action involving
armed conflict. Specifically, the MOH may be awarded to members of the US Armed
Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at
the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty under any of the
1. While engaged in an action against an
enemy of the United States.
2. While engaged in military operations
involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.
3. While serving with friendly foreign
forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which
the United States is not a belligerent party.
The Air Force and its predecessor
organizations awarded the Army MOH until April 14, 1965, when the Secretary of
the Air Force approved the design of an Air Force MOH.
According to USAF, the first US Air Service
airman to receive an MOH was Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker for action on Sept.
25, 1918. (However, the confusion of demobilization derailed the paperwork,
preventing its immediate approval; the President presented the award on Nov. 6,
1930.) The second US Air Service airman to be recommended for the MOH was Lt.
Frank Luke, for action on Sept. 29, 1918; his was a posthumous award in 1919,
so some sources list Luke as the first airman recipient.
Maj. Bernard F. Fisher was the first airman
to receive the Air Force MOH, presented Jan. 19, 1967, for action in Vietnam on
March 10, 1966.
As of May 17, 2013, 60 airmen have received
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Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who died fighting for their country, just like A1C William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescueman who took part in more than 250 rescue missions before he was killed at the age of 21. His selflessness and valor in the Vietnam War earned him an Air Force Cross and, eventually, a Medal of Honor.
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