The Air Medal (AM) is given to military personnel for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight; awards may also be given to acknowledge single acts of merit or heroism. The AM is mainly intended to recognize those personnel who are on current crew member or non-crew member flying status which requires them to engage in aerial flight on a regular and frequent basis in the pursuit of their primary duties. However, the AM may also be granted to other particular individuals whose combat obligations require regular and frequent flying in other than a passenger status, or individuals who complete a specifically noteworthy act while performing the function of a crew member but who are not on flying status. These individuals must accomplish a distinct contribution to the operational land combat mission or to the mission of the aircraft in flight. The AM was established on May 11,1942 and was awarded retroactive to September 8, 1939.
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps possess two types of Air Medals: "individual" for singular meritorious acts and "strike/flight" for participation in sustained aerial flight operations. Bronze Strike/Flight numerals denote "strike/flight" awards and for "individual" AM's the valor device may be authorized. The U.S. Coast Guard issues the Air Medal with subsequent awards denoted by gold and silver stars. There are no additional devices authorized on the Coast Guard AM. The U.S. Army denotes the AM by awarded numerals displayed on the medal and ribbon. The U.S. Army and Air Force also award the Air Medal with a Valor device for acts of heroism. The Air Force does not utilize numerals on the AM. Subsequent awards are annotated with the traditional oak leaf clusters.