Today in history, President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order establishing the Medal of Freedom in 1945. The Medal of Freedom (replaced by the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963), is the highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It is awarded to individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Recipients of the award are selected by the president of the United States, with the assistance of the Distinguished Civilian Service Awards Board, an advisory group created in 1957.
The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform. U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. (pictured below) was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.
Read below President Truman’s official Executive Order (9586) for the Medal of Freedom:
By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States and as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows: There is hereby established a medal to be known as the Medal of Freedom with accompanying ribbons and appurtenances for award to any person, not hereinafter specifically excluded, who, on or after December 7, 1941, has performed a meritorious act or service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of a war against an enemy or enemies and for which an award of another United States medal or decoration is considered inappropriate. The Medal of Freedom may also be awarded to any person, not hereinafter specifically excluded, who, on or after December 7, 1941, has similarly aided any nation engaged with the United States in the prosecution of a war against a common enemy or enemies. The Medal of Freedom shall not be awarded to a citizen of the United States for any act or service performed within the continental limits of the United States or to a member of the armed forces of the United States. The Medal of Freedom and appurtenances thereto shall be of appropriate design, approved by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy, and may be awarded by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, or the Secretary of the Navy, or by such officers as the said Secretaries may respectively designate. Awards shall be made under such regulations as the said Secretaries shall severally prescribe and such regulations shall, insofar as practicable, be of uniform application. No more than one Medal of Freedom shall be awarded to any one person, but for a subsequent act or service justifying such an award a suitable device may be awarded to be worn with the medal. The Medal of Freedom may be awarded posthumously.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
THE WHITE HOUSE,
July 6, 1945