The medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the military of the United States after December 6, 1941, distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. Awards may be made for acts of heroism, performed under circumstances described above, which are of lesser degree than required for the award of the Silver Star. Awards may also be made to recognize single acts of merit or meritorious service. The required achievement or service while of lesser degree than that required for the award of the Legion of Merit must nevertheless have been meritorious and accomplished with distinction.
The Valor Device or "V" device represents valor and does not denote an additional award.
Only one may be worn on any ribbon.
The Air Medal had been adopted two years earlier to raise airmen's morale. President Roosevelt authorized the Bronze Star Medal by Executive Order 9419 dated February 4, 1944, retroactive to December 7, 1941. This authorization was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 3, dated February 10, 1944.
As a result of a study conducted in 1947, the policy was implemented that authorized the retroactive award of the Bronze Star Medal to soldiers who had received the Combat Infantryman Badge or the Combat Medical Badge during World War II. The basis for doing this was that the badges were awarded only to soldiers who had borne the hardships which resulted in General Marshall's support of the Bronze Star Medal. Both badges required a recommendation by the commander and a citation in orders.
The Executive Order was amended by President John F. Kennedy, per Executive Order 11046 dated August 24, 1962, to expand the authorization to include those serving with friendly forces. Such an honor has been presented but three times: