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or World War 2, 1939-1945


Summary of United States Maritime-related Medal of Honor Recipients by Year and Service






US Navy 16 (1 flag rank) 8 (2 flag rank) 4 7 7 42
serving with Marine Corps         7 7
Naval non-combat   1 - POW     1 - diver 2
Naval Aviation   3 1 flying boat sqdn 1+1 flying boat sqdn   6
US Marine Corps 1 7 7 23 32 70
Marine Aviation 1 5 5     11
US Coast Guard   1       1
US Army Air Corps*   2 1 1   4
US Army*   2       2






*related to naval operations e.g. General Doolittle of the "Doolittle Raid"

Different criteria apply to the award of the Medal of Honor and the Victoria Cross in maritime operations. Thus, while the Medal of Honor would be awarded to the US services in the following left-hand column, the British equivalents might receive other awards or the role would be performed by the British Army or RAF:

US Navy British naval commanders of flag rank received other awards
Naval non-combat British equivalent is the George Cross which was also awarded to civilians, including the island of Malta
Naval Aviation Flying boat squadrons were operated by RAF Coastal Command
US Marine Corps Most of their roles were played by the British Army; again distinguished British Army senior commanders received other awards
Marine Aviation Role performed by RAF
US Coast Guard Role performed by RN

Comment -
Britons tend to think the US awarded more gallantry medals than Britain. I wanted to see how true this is, especially with such revered awards as the Congressional Medal of Honor in the United States, and the Victoria (and George) Cross in Britain and Commonwealth countries.

Straight-forward comparisons are not easy, but after allowance is made for the different award criteria in the US and Britain, the respective sizes of their armed forces, and the differences that do exist in values and culture, I am struck by two things:

1. The numbers of awards to naval forces in the two countries are not too dissimilar, thus:

Royal Navy less: Fleet Air Arm (2), Royal Marines (1) 21 awards of the Victoria Cross in 72 months
US Navy plus US Coast Guard (1) less: commanders of flag rank (3), serving onshore with Marine Corps (7), Naval non-combat (2), Naval Aviation (6), Marine Corps (81) 40 awards of the Medal of Honor in 45 months

2. Many great naval campaigns, battles and actions resulted in few or even no awards of the Victoria Cross or the Medal of Honor. For example one each in the Battles of the Atlantic, Midway and Leyte Gulf and the Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa, none at Normandy:

Royal Navy
Examples Victoria Cross Awards: No awards:
Battle of the Atlantic one armed merchant cruiser (AMC) action e.g. hundreds of convoy actions
Mediterranean surface warships one light cruiser under aircraft attack e.g. many Malta convoys and other surface actions
Auxiliary warships four including the above AMC action e.g. hundreds of minesweepers etc
Coastal forces one MGB in Raid on St Nazaire e.g. hundreds of MTB's, MGB's, ML's etc.
Invasions one during French North Africa landings e.g. Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, Walcheren
Royal Marines one in action in Italy e.g. Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, Walcheren