|Vietnam Service Medal|
|Awarded by Department of Defense|
|Eligibility||Members of the U.S. Armed Forces|
|Awarded for||Service in geographical theater areas of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia from 4 July 1965 through 28 March 1973 and the evacuation of Saigon (USN, USMC, and USAF) from 29-30 April 1975.|
The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal was issued for initial operations in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 July 1958 through 3 July 1965, and may be exchanged for the VSM.
|Established||8 July 1965 - Executive Order 11231|
28 November 1967 - Amended, E.O. 11382
2 February 2003 - Amended, E.O. 13286
|First awarded||4 July 1965|
Retroactive to 1 July 1958
|Last awarded||30 April 1975|
|Next (higher)||Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal|
|Next (lower)||Southwest Asia Service Medal|
|Related||Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal|
Vietnam Civilian Service Award
Merchant Marine Vietnam Service Medal
Service ribbon and campaign streamer
The Vietnam Service Medal is a military award of the United States Armed Forces established on 8 July 1965 by order of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The medal is awarded to recognize service during the Vietnam War by all members of the United States Armed Forces provided they meet the award requirements.
The Vietnam Service Medal (VSM) was awarded to all members of the United States Armed Forces serving in Vietnam and its contiguous waters or airspace thereover, after 3 July 1965 through 28 March 1973. Members of the United States Armed Forces in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, or airspace thereover, during the same period and serving in direct support of operations in Vietnam are also eligible for the award.
The Vietnam Service Medal is retroactive to 1 July 1958 and supersedes and replaces the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal which was issued for initial operations in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from that date through 3 July 1965. Defense Department regulations do not permit the simultaneous presentation of both the Vietnam Service Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, for the same period of service in Vietnam, however the AFEM may be exchanged for the VSM upon request from a service member. Veterans of the Vietnam War may exchange the AFEM for the VSM and have military records updated to reflect the difference by contacting the National Personnel Records Center, which is the current agency that provides record corrections reflecting an AFEM conversion to the Vietnam Service Medal.
Though the Mayaguez incident is often referred to as the last battle of the Vietnam War, U.S. military personnel who participated in it are not eligible for the Vietnam Service Medal by virtue of participating that battle alone, as the eligibility period for the medal ended in April 1975, a few weeks before the battle took place. Instead of the VSM, the AFEM is authorized for military members who participated in that battle. A congressional bill was introduced in 2016 to award veterans of the Mayaguez battle the VSM, but the bill was referred to a committee, effectively ending it.
South Vietnam also issued its own service medal for the Vietnam War, known as the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. This is a separate military award which was accepted by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. military in accordance with DoD 1348 C7. Six months of service in support of South Vietnamese military operations was the general U.S. requirement for the award.
The Vietnam Service Medal is a rounded bronze shaped medal, 1 inches in diameter with a green, yellow, and red suspension ribbon. The obverse side of the medal consists of a figure of an oriental dragon (representing the subversive nature of the conflict) behind a grove of bamboo trees located above the inscription "REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM SERVICE". On the reverse, a crossbow (representing the ancient weapon of Vietnam) facing upwards with a ready to be fired lighted torch of the Statue of Liberty, above an arched inscription "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".
The service ribbon of the medal is 1 inches wide and consists of the following vertical stripes: three narrow ( inch) strips of red with wider ( inch) stripes of yellow in the center, flanked by even wider ( inch) stripes of yellow on each side and narrow -inch stripes of primitive green on the ends. The yellow (yellow is traditionally the imperial color of Vietnam) with red stripes (the red represents the three ancient Vietnamese empires of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China) resembles the former flag of South Vietnam. The green border on each side alludes to the jungle of that country.
One inch bronze service star is authorized for each campaign under the following conditions:
1. Assigned or attached to and present for duty with a unit during the period in which it participated in combat.
2. Under orders in a combat zone and in addition meets any of the following requirements:
a. Awarded a combat decoration.
b. Furnished a certificate by a Commanding General of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that soldier actually participated in combat.
c. Served at a normal post of duty (as contrasted to occupying the status of an inspector, observer, or visitor).
d. Aboard a vessel other than in a passenger status and furnished a certificate by the home port commander of the vessel that he or she served in the combat zone.
e. Was an evadee or escapee in the combat zone or recovered from a POW status in the combat zone during the time limitations of the campaign. POWs will not be accorded credit for the time spent in confinement or while otherwise in restraint under enemy control.
The U.S. Department of Defense established thirty military campaigns during the Vietnam War which covered all U.S. service branches. In 2010, the Department of Defense consolidated the original list of campaigns from the original thirty to a list of eighteen by combining the U.S. Air Force campaign list with the other armed services. The U.S. Army, and U.S. Coast Guard recognize seventeen " bronze service stars (also known as campaign stars; 3 silver stars and 2 bronze stars) on the Vietnam Service campaign streamer. Additionally, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force recognize Operation Frequent Wind (29-30 April 1975).