Congress authorized the creation of the Silver Star as a U.S. Navy military award On August 7, 1942. Four months later, on December 15, 1942, Congress extended that authorization to create a U.S. Army decoration. Congress also made these medals of America available for award to civilians. The Secretary of War had approved the Silver Star as a replacement for the military medals called Citation Stars almost ten years earlier. When the Silver Star was created, the old Citation Star was included as the center decoration in these new US military medals.
The Silver Star is awarded to American service persons for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, when the actions being rewarded are considered less heroic than would justify awarding the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross. These military ribbons and medals are awarded to U.S. Armed Forces personnel for distinguishing themselves by extraordinary heroism involving action against an enemy of the United States, or in a conflict with a foreign force; and, while serving with a friendly foreign force in a conflict against an armed force belligerent to the United States.
The Silver Star is the third highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy to a member of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Silver Starís equivalent at the unit level is the military medals known as the Valorous Unit Awards. The Department of Defense estimates that 150,000 Silver Star medals may have been awarded since this military medals creation.
The Silver Star is often awarded to Air Force pilots when they become aces for having five or more confirmed kills in combat. Four nurses became the first female recipients of the Silver Star while serving in Italy in 1944, and the next female recipient of the Silver Star was in Iraq in 2005. In 2007, three more nurses were posthumously awarded the Silver Star for their service in World War I.
The order of precedence that has been established for the proper display of all military awards dictates that Silver Stars are worn below the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and the Air Force Cross; and above the Bronze Star with a Valor Device and the Defense Superior Service Medal. The U.S. Army and Air Force denote additional military awards of the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Clusters, while Silver and Gold stars are used by the Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
The Silver Star is generally available as a military award for all branches of service and can be worn as traditional full size military medals and mini medals, military ribbons and lapel pins. They are available as traditional slide-on, full size military medals or mini-medals, and slide-on military ribbons. In more recent times the sleek new thin military medals, mini-medals and the ultra thin military ribbons have garnered a wide following with military personnel who have realized the importance of always looking their best to enhance their chances of advancement in their respective military services.