If you go to Wikipedia and most Medal of Honor related websites, you hear about the three (3) Medal of Honor designs – Army, Navy, and Air Force. However, if you read this section of Wikipedia’s Medal of Honor article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medal_of_Honor#Authority_and_privileges, scroll down a bit, you learn about a fourth Medal of Honor category:
The four specific authorizing statutes amended July 25, 1963:
- Army: 10 U.S.C. § 3741
- Navy and Marine Corps: 10 U.S.C. § 6241
- Air Force: 10 U.S.C. § 8741
- Coast Guard: 14 U.S.C. § 491 A version is authorized but it has never been awarded.[Note 1]
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) (naval service) (Air Force) (Coast Guard), distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
I read about the Coast Guard Medal of Honor version a while back and the fact it has never been awarded, but lost the link during a laptop switch. This isn’t the link, but it adds some more information: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Medal_of_Honor
The Coast Guard Medal of Honor, which was distinguished from the Navy medal in 1963, has never been awarded, partly because the U.S. Coast Guard is subsumed into the U.S. Navy in time of declared war. No design yet exists for it.
I was going to do this next part as a separate post, but decided to add it to this post.
If I asked you to name the first U. S. Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor, you might give one of several answers if you have some knowledge of the Medal of Honor and the Coast Guard:
- Douglas Munro – Douglas Albert Munro – Only Member of the Coast Guard Awarded the Medal of Honor
- Marcus Hanna – https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/19577/marcus-aurelius-hanna
- None of the above.
All of the answers hold a kernel of truth.
Starting with #3: I covered this above when I noted the Coast Guard has a Medal of Honor, but from most reports, it has never been designed and during times of declared war, the Coast Guard falls under the Navy.
Moving onto #2, Marcus Hanna was not a member of the Coast Guard when his actions led to him being awarded the Medal of Honor. He was also not a member of the Navy. During the War Between the States, he joined the Navy, but after his tour was up, he enlisted in the Army and it was during his time in the Infantry that his actions led to being awarded the Medal of Honor. So, how does he count as being a Coast Guard member in this scenario. After the war, he asked for and was allowed to join the Coast Guard.
Which leads to #1, Douglas Munro was a member of the Coast Guard at the time of his actions that led to being awarded the Medal of Honor. It was during World War II and as such, he was under the Navy. Also, at that time, the Coast Guard did not have its own version.