Lifesaving Medal

Lifesaving Medal
Lifesaving Medal
Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals
Awarded by United States Coast Guard
Country  United States
Eligibility United States military or civilians
Awarded for citizens of the United States, military or civilian, who rescues, or endeavors to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other peril of water
Established 20 June 1874
Total awarded 600 Gold Lifesaving Medals
1,900 Silver Lifesaving Medals
Gold Lifesaving Medal ribbon.svg
Gold Lifesaving Medal
Silver Lifesaving Medal ribbon.svg
Silver Lifesaving Medal

The Gold Lifesaving Medal and Silver Lifesaving Medal are civil and military decorations of the United States Coast Guard which was first established by Act of Congress, 20 June 1874; later authorized by Title 14 of the United States Code Section 500-501 (14 USC 500–501). These decorations are two of the oldest medals in the United States and were originally established at the Department of Treasury Lifesaving Medals First and Second Class. The Department of the Treasury initially gave the award, but today the United States Coast Guard awards it through the Department of Homeland Security.[1]



The Lifesaving Medals may be awarded to any member of the U.S. military, or to a U.S. civilian, who rescues, or endeavors to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other peril of water. The rescue or attempted rescue must take place in waters within the United States, waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction, or one of the parties involved must be a citizen of the United States or be from a vessel or aircraft owned or operated by citizens of the United States.[2]

The Lifesaving Medal is issued in two grades, being silver and gold. The Gold Lifesaving Medal is authorized if the individual attempting the rescue did so at extreme peril and risk of life. For all other rescues, the Silver Lifesaving Medal is authorized.

The Lifesaving Medals have had three designs in their history. The original design in 1874 was as a "table medal" without a ribbon and could not be worn by the recipient. In 1882 the design was changed so that the medal was suspended from a two inch wide ribbon. The ribbon was red for the Gold Lifesaving Medal and light blue for the Silver Lifesaving medal. Finally on 4 August 1949 the medals and ribbons were reduced in size so that they were more proportionate to medals awarded by the U.S. Armed Forces. The ribbons were also redesigned to have multiple colors.

Until the mid-20th century, the Lifesaving Medal was often bestowed upon members of the military; however in recent times the decoration has become somewhat rare. This is due primarily to the creation of a variety of additional military decorations that are often considered more prestigious than the Lifesaving Medal. The United States Navy often issues the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, instead of the Lifesaving Medal, for sea rescues involving risk of life.

Famed life-saver Joshua James wearing the Gold Lifesaving Medal among other awards

The Coast Guard is the ultimate award authority for the Lifesaving Medal and issues the decorations to members of all military branches as well as civilians. Famous recipients of the Lifesaving Medal include Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and General George S. Patton.

The Lifesaving Medal is unique among U.S. medals because it is actually struck from precious metal, silver or gold, depending on the grade. Most other medals are struck from inexpensive alloys.

Multiple awards of the Lifesaving Medal are denoted by award stars on the decoration’s ribbon and a gold clasp, inscribed with the recipient’s name, is worn on the actual medal.

Since 1874, more than 600 Gold Lifesaving Medals and more than 1,900 Silver Lifesaving Medals have been awarded.

Notable recipients

See also


  1. ^ Historical Timeline – 1800 through 1899
  2. ^ (PDF) Medals and Awards Manual. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard COMDTINST M1650.25D. May 2008.  Chapter 4.
  3. ^ Sub Hero
  4. ^ "Captain Joshua James, USLSS". Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz". Retrieved 18 July 2011. 
  6. ^ Emily Yoffe (August 4, 2002). "Afterward – Page 9 – New York Times". The New York Times (New York: NYTC). ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 5, 2011. "In a dusty glass-fronted case on the piano bench, Skutnik keeps the palm-size Carnegie Medal for heroism and the Coast Guard's Gold Lifesaving Medal" 

External links

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