The Military Medal is the highest French military honor for Non-Commissioned Officers and soldiers. It may be granted in recognition of outstanding service to general officers.
Often called “the Non- Commissioned Officer (NCOs’) Legion of Honor,” the Military Medal is the third highest French decoration in the order of precedence, after the Order of the Legion of Honor and the Order of Liberation.
- Being enlisted in the armed forces for at least eight years
- Having been cited in army dispatches
- Having been wounded in combat or on duty
- Having been distinguished by an act of courage and devotion
In addition, any application must be based on established merits.
The Military Medal may be awarded to foreigners.
For the general public, this decoration is often associated with the military ceremonies that take place notably in the courtyard of the Invalides, in the presence of the President of the Republic, to honor deserving soldiers or soldiers killed in foreign operations, as in recent decades in Chad, Afghanistan or Mali.
The Military Medal by the numbers
3,000 soldiers receive the Military Medal every year
More than a million soldiers and NCOs were decorated in a century and a half of existence
165,000 living military personnel, often veterans, hold the Military Medal
More than 10,000 women have received the Military Medal since 1859
10 emblems of regiments are decorated
The Military Medal in history
The Military Medal was established by the Prince President, future Napoleon III, 50 years after the Legion of Honor, on January 22, 1852. He thereby intended to honor the merits of his best troops and to expand the resources at its disposal to reward his soldiers.
Initially, the new yellow and green ribbon raised more suspicion than enthusiasm from soldiers. Everything changed with the second induction ceremony, on May 10, 1852. That day, Louis Napoleon decorated 1,705 soldiers and NCOs in front of 80,000 soldiers and a huge crowd of Parisians gathered on the Champ de Mars.
But above all, that day, he displayed great acumen in pinning the decoration onto the uniforms of two new Marshals of France, as a "supreme reward." This initiative, later extended to generals and Admirals for exceptional services, ensured the prestige of the Military Medal forever.
This is highly symbolic: the humblest soldiers and greatest war leaders are gathered on an equal footing under the same motto: "Valor and Discipline." Since then, the history of the Military Medal has merged with that of the major conflicts of the twentieth century:
- World War I: 950.000 medals awarded, most posthumously
- World War II: 300,000 medals
- Indochina War: 12,000 medals
- Algerian War: 38,000 medals
Famed Medal holders
- Grand Marshals and Generals: Joffre, Foch, Gallieni, Leclerc, de Lattre de Tassigny, Juin, Lyautey
- Foreign Generals: Pershing, Eisenhower, Marshal Montgomery
- Exceptionally, Heads of State and Government: Sir Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt
- War heroes: Airman Georges Guynemer, resistance fighter Jean Moulin
- The pennant of the 3rd company of the 1st RCP (Parachute Chasseur Regiment), decorated in Lebanon in 1983, after the loss of 58 soldiers in an attack.
Awarding and administering the Military Medal
The Medal is proposed by the Ministry of Defense and approved by the Council of the Order of the Legion of Honor, which is also involved in disciplinary matters. These decisions are then submitted to the President of the Republic, who signs the award decrees.
Two cohorts are inducted each year:
- April: active duty military personnel
- November: military reservists and veterans
The latest cohorts
The Military Medal, made in silver, is 28 mm in diameter.
It bears on the obverse the effigy of the Republic with the epigraph "French Republic" and on the reverse, "Valor and discipline” in the center of the medallion. At the top is a trophy of arms.