The pilots gas masks doughboys with mules Mule Rearing Riveters pilots in dress uniforms African American Soldiers 1 African American Officers

Valor Medals Timeline

The Medal of Honor has undergone several changes since its creation in 1861. Beginning in the 1990s, Department of Defense leaders, as well as Presidents and Members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle, have united in a series of bipartisan efforts to upgrade Valor Medal awards. Principally, these reviews have been for members of various groups who were denied the Medal of Honor owing to discrimination that existed when they performed their heroic actions. Unfortunately, World War 1 has been largely excluded from these reviews.



  • June 1897
  • 06/26

    Modern Medal of Honor Criteria Established


    The US Army establishes most of what will become the modern criteria for a Medal of Honor award, including the need for eyewitness testimony, an act that demonstrates "gallantry and intrepidity" above and beyond the call of duty, the requirement that someone other than the awardee submit the recommendation. The first statute of limitations is established, dictating how long an action is eligible to be formulated into a Medal of Honor nomination after it has occured.

  • October 1916
  • 10/16

    First Systematic Review Begins


    A board of five retired general officers convenes to review every Medal of Honor granted between the Civil War and the 1915 intervention in Haiti. In their report, released in 1917, 911 Medals of Honor are struck for not adhering to modern standards.

  • April 1917
  • 04/06

    The United States Enters World War 1


  • July 1918
  • 07/09

    "Pyramid of Honor" is born


    An Act of Congress eliminates the former Certificate of Merit for soldiers and creates the Distiguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Silver Star as a series of lesser valor awards. Consequently, the Medal of Honor becomes distinctive as the only valor award bestowed in the name of Congress at the President's behest. This was the most dramatic change in military awards in American history, and it occured during wartime.

  • November 1918
  • 11/11

    Armistice Day


    World War 1 ends. Confusion about the criteria underpinning the new valor awards means only 4 Medal of Honors have been awarded by the time the guns fall silent.

  • February 1919
  • 02/02

    Pershing's Systematic Review Concludes


    Pershing orders a review of Distinguished Service Cross winners to determine if any were instead eligible for the Medal of Honor. Over 100 additional winners are indentified. Their actions warranted the award, yet they were passed over owing to vagaries or confusion about the changing standards. This number includes zero African-Americans and few members of other minorities. This remains the only systematic review of World War 1 Veteran's Valor Awards ever authorized.

  • November 1921
  • 11/11

    World War 1 Statute of Limitations Expires


    Three years after Armistice Day, the Statute of Limitations for submitting further Medal of Honor recommendations exipres. Theoretically, no additional medals can be awarded without a change in the law.

  • October 1925
  • 10/30

    War Department Memo on Use of Negro Manpower


    The War Department releases its official report on the use of African-American troops in World War One. It upholds segregation, compares African Americans unfavorably to other "members of the human family", recommends that in the next war no African-American officers be initially accepted for service, and suggests that no segregated unit above battalion strength be organized (two African-American combat divisions served in World War One).

  • September 1929
  • 09/26

    First Challenge to the Pershing Review


    Michael Valente, an Italian-American immigrant, receives the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War 1 over a decade after the end of that conflict.

  • July 1948
  • 07/26

    US Military Segregation Abolished


    President Truman signs Executive Order 9981 abolishing segregation on the basis of race, color, religion, or nation of origin.

  • April 1991
  • 04/24

    Freddie Stowers receives the Medal of Honor


    The Department of the Army discovers a "misplaced" Medal of Honor recommendation for Corporal Freddie Stowers, an African-American soldier with the 371st Infantry Regiment. Seventy-three years after he was killed in action on the Western Front, President George H.W. Bush presents Stowers' Medal of Honor to his two surviving sisters. Stowers is the first African-American from either World War to win the Medal of Honor.

  • January 1993
  • 01/01

    African-American World War Two Review Begins


    The Department of the Army commissions a study from a team assembled by Shaw University into the African-American segregated units that served in World War Two to investigate if any of their members had been overlooked for the Medal of Honor. When it was discovered that no African-Americans had been nominated, the Army authorizes the study group to conduct a systematic review of Distinguished Service Cross winners to identify any who may have been improperly denied the Medal of Honor.

  • February 1996
  • 02/10

    Asian-American World War Two Review Begins


    An amendment to the Fiscal Year 1996 National Defense Authorization Act mandates the Departments of the Army and the Navy conduct investigations into Asian-Americans who won the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross in World War Two to determine if any were eligible for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor.

  • January 1997
  • 01/13

    African-American World War Two Review Culminates in 7 Awards


    The Shaw Study recommends 10 African-American individuals be considered for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor, including one who did not win the Distinguished Service Cross. The Department of the Army upgrades seven, and President Bill Clinton awards them their Medals of Honor.

  • June 2000
  • 06/21

    Asian-American World War Two Review Culminates in 22 Awards


    President Bill Clinton awards 22 Asian-American veterans, including Senator Daniel Inouye, their Medals of Honor.

  • December 2001
  • 12/28

    Jewish and Hispanic American Review Begins Without World War One


    Congress authorizes a review of all Jewish and Hispanic Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, and Air Force Cross winners between 1941 and 2001, as well as any other names submitted in consultation with the Jewish War Veterans of America and other Veterans Service Organizations within a year of passing the Act. Those veterans likewise had to serve in World War Two or later. World War One was completely excluded.

  • December 2011
  • 12/31

    Jewish American Review partially expanded to World War One


    Congress authorizes an extension of the 2001 review to cover Jewish-American winners of the Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross in World War One, provided supporting material for the upgrade of the award are received by the Secretary within one year.

  • March 2014
  • 03/18

    Jewish and Hispanic American Review Culminates in 24 Awards


    Preisdent Obama awards 24 Medals of Honor to veterans of World War Two, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This includes 17 Jewish-Americans, 2 Hispanic-Americans, and 1 African-American initially excluded from their award owing to their race, as uncovered by the study authorized in 2001.

  • June 2015
  • 06/05

    Henry Johnson and William Shemin awarded Medals of Honor for World War 1 Service.


    William Shemin, a Jewish-American World War 1 Veteran, recieves the Medal of Honor per the 2011 review. Additionally, Henry Johnson, an African-American member of the 369th "Harlem Hellfighters" in World War 1, recieves the Medal of Honor, despite having recieved no American award during his service in World War One. He did, however, recieve the French Croix de Guerre with Palms during the conflict, and a Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. The total number of Medal of Honor Winners from World War 1 now stands at 121.

  • June 2018
  • 06/20

    Valor Medals Review Task Force Established


    Amid the Centenary of American involvement in World War 1, a group of volunteers organizes the Valor Medals Review Task Force to institute a review of Distinguished Service Cross winners from World War 1 similar to the reviews undertaken for World War 2 and subsequent wars.

Valor Medals Review

Task Force

For media inquiries, please contact

For all other requests, please contact

“The President may award, and present in the name of Congress, a medal of honor of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who while a member of the Army or naval service, distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”            -US Code


"Pershing" Donors

Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo

Starr Foundation Logo