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TITLE
Legion of Merit (Legionnaire)
 
DESCRIPTION
Legion of Merit (Legionnaire)

The Legion of Merit consists of: "A wreath of Green laurel joined at the bottom by a Gold bow-knot (rosette), a five-pointed White star bordered Crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a Gold ball. In the center, a Blue disk encircled by Gold clouds, with 13 White stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the United States Coat of Arms. Between each star point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 1 7/8 inches. An oval suspension ring attaches the pendant to the neck ribbon. The reverse of the five-pointed star is enameled in White, and the border is Crimson. In the center, a disk for engraving the name of the recipient surrounded by the words 'ANNUIT COEPTIS MDCCLXXXII.' An outer scroll contains the words 'UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.'"
United States Army regulations

3.2" L x 2" W
 
CONTEXT
The Legion of Merit is awarded by degree, with divisions for Chief Commander, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire/Legion of Merit.

"The Legion of Merit is awarded to all members of the Armed Forces of the United States without reference to degree for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The performance must have been such as to merit recognition of key individuals for service rendered in a clearly exceptional manner. Performance of duties normal to the grade, branch, specialty or assignment, and experience of an individual is not an adequate basis for this award. For service not related to actual war the term "key individual" applies to a narrower range of positions than in time of war and requires evidence of significant achievement. In peacetime, service should be in the nature of a special requirement or of an extremely difficult duty performed in an unprecedented and clearly exceptional manner. However, justification of the award may accrue by virtue of exceptionally meritorious service in a succession of important positions.
The Legion of Merit was the first American decoration awarded to citizens of other nations. Awardees included:
(1) Chief Commander - China's Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek was a first recipient.
(2) Commander - Brazil's Brigadier General Amaro Soares Bittencourt was first to receive this or any of the degrees.
(3) Officer - first to receive the Officer degree were Colonel Johanes K. Meijer of the Royal Netherlands Army, Major Herbert J. Thompson of the British Army, and Major Stephan M. Dobrowalski of the Polish Army.
(4) Legionnaire/Legion of Merit - First award to Lieutenant Anna A. Bernatitus, heroic Navy Nurse who served at Bataan and Corregidor."
United States Army regulations
 
CREDIT
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution