The Victoria Cross (VC) was introduced on 29th January 1856 by Queen Victoria. She decided upon the award to reward the bravery shown by soldiers in the Crimean War. It was originally designed to recognise valour in the face of the enemy and was open to all service personnel of the British Empire (and then the Commonwealth). On the 26th June 1857, Queen Victoria personally attended a huge event in Hyde Park, where she invested 62 of the 111 Crimean War recipients of the VC. Official policy at first excluded the award of the VC to soldiers who had died during the action. In 1902, in an exception to this policy, 6 men were awarded the VC posthumously for their actions in the Second Boer War. Finally, in 1907, the policy was reversed and duly VC's were sent to the next of kin of the 6 men who were mentioned in the London Gazette before the policy was reversed as worthy of a VC.
Since 1991, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have created their own gallantry awards for their honours system. These are known as the Victoria Cross for Canada, Victoria Cross for Australia and Victoria Cross for New Zealand. Since their introduction, the awards have been given out 5 times (to December 2016) to Willie Apiata of New Zealand, and Mark Donaldson, Ben Roberts-Smith, Daniel Keighran and Cameron Baird of Australia. I have included these men in my website as I personally feel their actions are worthy of being part of it, though they are never counted in the official number of VC's awarded.
At the time of going to press (December 2016), there are 6 living recipients of the original VC award, and 4 living recipients of the new VC for Australia and New Zealand. John Cruikshank, Bill Speakman, Rambahadur Limbu, Keith Payne, Johnson Beharry and Joshua Leakey are the living recipients of the VC, and the fore-mentioned Apiata, Donaldson, Roberts-Smith and Keighran are the living recipients of the new VC for Australia or New Zealand.
The largest collection of VC's held in the world is the Lord Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum in London which contains the joint collections of the Museum itself and the 200 VC's (as of October 2016) owned by Michael Ashcroft. The second largest is the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia which holds a large number of all the Australian VC's ever awarded. VC's demand a high price when they are brought up for auction. The reputed record price paid was for the VC and medal group of Noel Chavasse VC and Bar, which was sold to Michael Ashcroft for a reported £1.5 million. Recently, John Duncan Grant's VC was sold for £408,000 at auction.
The George Cross was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI. At this time, during the height of the Blitz, there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage. The existing awards open to civilians were not judged suitable to meet the new situation, therefore it was decided that the George Cross and the George Medal would be instituted to recognise both civilian gallantry in the face of enemy action and brave deeds more generally.
The medal was designed by Percy Metcalfe. The Warrant for the GC (along with that of the GM), dated 24 September 1940, was published in the London Gazette on 31 January 1941.
The GC replaced the Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM); all holders of the EGM were instructed to exchange their medals for a GC, a substitution of awards unprecedented in the history of British decorations. This substitution policy ignored holders of the Albert Medal (AM) and the Edward Medal (EM), awards which both took precedence over the EGM. The anomaly was rectified in 1971, when the surviving recipients of the AM and the EM became George Cross recipients and were invited to exchange their medal for the George Cross. Of the 64 holders of the Albert Medal and 68 holders of the Edward Medal eligible to exchange, 49 and 59 respectively took up the option.
Since its inception in 1940, the GC has been awarded 413 times, 411 to individuals and two collective awards to Malta and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There have been 161 original awards including both collective awards and 245 exchange awards, 112 to Empire Gallantry Medal recipients, 65 to Albert Medal recipients and 68 to Edward Medal recipients. Of the 159 individuals who received original awards, 86 have been posthumous. In addition there were four posthumous recipients of the Empire Gallantry Medal whose awards were gazetted after the start of the Second World War and whose awards were also exchanged for the GC. All the other exchange recipients were living as of the date of the decisions for the exchanges.
On 3 August 2015 the London Gazette announced the latest award of a George Cross to Colour Sergeant Kevin Howard Haberfield of the Royal Marines, the award to be dated 22 November 2005. There was no citation. Haberfield is one of the currently 19 living recipients of the George Cross. A recipient of the George Cross, Peter Norton GC is the current Chairman of the VC/GC Association.
In 2015, the medal group of Violette Szabo was purchased by Michael Ashcroft for £250,000.
The Medal of Honor is the United States of America's highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress to U.S. military personnel only. There are three versions of the medal, one for the Army, one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force. Personnel of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version.
The Medal of Honor was created as a Navy version in 1861 named the "Medal of Valor", and an Army version of the medal named the "Medal of Honor" was established in 1862 to give recognition to men who distinguished themselves "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity" in combat with an enemy of the United States. Because the medal is presented "in the name of Congress," it is often referred to as the "Congressional Medal of Honor". However, the official name is the "Medal of Honor," which began with the U.S. Army's version. Within United States Code the medal is referred to as the "Medal of Honor", and less frequently as "Congressional Medal of Honor".
In 1990, Congress designated March 25 annually as "National Medal of Honor Day". Due to its prestige and status, the Medal of Honor is afforded special protection under U.S. law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture, which includes any associated ribbon or badge.
With the 19 double awards the Congressional Medal of Honor Society (CMOHS) total number of awards is 3516 which is two more than other sources. A total of 19 men have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. Fourteen of these received two separate medals for two separate actions, while five received both the Navy and Army Medals of Honor for the same action. As of June 2011, since the beginning of World War II, 851 Medals of Honor have been awarded, 523 (61.45%) posthumously. One has been awarded to a woman: Mary Edwards Walker.
Nineteen men have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. The first two-time Medal of Honor recipient was Thomas Custer (brother of George Armstrong Custer) for two separate actions that took place several days apart during the American Civil War.
Five "double recipients" were awarded both the Army and Navy Medal of Honor for the same action; all five of these occurrences took place during World War I. Since February 1919, no single individual can be awarded more than one Medal of Honor for the same action, although a member of one branch of the armed forces can receive the Medal of Honor from another branch if the actions for which it was awarded occurred under the authority of the second branch.
Arthur MacArthur, Jr. and Douglas MacArthur are the first father and son to be awarded the Medal of Honor. The only other such pairing is Theodore Roosevelt (awarded in 2001) and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
Five pairs of brothers have received the Medal of Honor:
1. John and William Black, in the American Civil War. The Blacks are the first brothers to be so honored.
2. Charles and Henry Capehart, in the American Civil War, the latter for saving a drowning man while under fire.
3. Antoine and Julien Gaujot. The Gaujots also have the unique distinction of receiving their medals for actions in separate conflicts, Antoine in the Philippine–American War and Julien when he crossed the border to rescue Mexicans and Americans in a Mexican Revolution skirmish.
4. Harry and Willard Miller, during the same naval action in the Spanish–American War.
5. Allen and James Thompson, in the same American Civil War action.
Another notable pair of related recipients are Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher (rear admiral at the time of award) and his nephew, Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher (lieutenant at the time of award), both awarded for actions during the United States occupation of Veracruz.
Since 1979, 85 belated Medal of Honor decorations were presented to recognize actions from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. In addition, five recipients who names were not included on the Army Medal of Honor Roll in 1917 had their awards restored.
A 1993 study commissioned by the U.S. Army investigated "racial disparity" in the awarding of medals. At the time, no Medals of Honor had been awarded to American soldiers of African descent who served in World War II. After an exhaustive review, the study recommended that ten Distinguished Service Cross recipients be awarded the Medal of Honor. On January 13, 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to seven of these World War II veterans, six of them posthumously and one to former Second Lieutenant Vernon Baker.
In 1998, a similar study of Asian Americans resulted in President Bill Clinton presenting 22 Medals of Honor in 2000. Twenty of these medals went to American soldiers of Japanese descent of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (442nd RCT) that served in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. One of these Medal of Honor recipients was Senator Daniel Inouye, a former U.S. Army officer in the 442nd RCT.
In 2005, President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to Tibor Rubin, a Hungarian-born American Jew who was a Holocaust survivor of World War II and enlisted U.S. infantryman and prisoner of war in the Korean War, whom many believed to have been overlooked because of his religion.
On April 11, 2013, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army chaplain Captain Emil Kapaun for his actions as a prisoner of war during the Korean war. This follows other awards to Army Sergeant Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. for conspicuous gallantry in action on May 10, 1970, near Se San, Cambodia, during the Vietnam War and to Army Private First Class Henry Svehla and Army Private First Class Anthony T. Kahoohanohano for their heroic actions during the Korean War.
As a result of a Congressionally mandated review to ensure brave acts were not overlooked due to prejudice or discrimination, on March 18, 2014 President Obama upgraded Distinguished Service Crosses to Medals of Honor for 24 Hispanic, Jewish, and African American individuals—the "Valor 24"—for their actions in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Three were still living at the time of the ceremony.