The Legion of Merit includes the following degrees:
An Act of Congress (Public Law 671 - 77th Congress, Chapter 508, 2d Session) on July 20, 1942, established the Legion of Merit and provided that the medal "shall have suitable appurtenances and devices and not more than four degrees, and which the President, under such rules and regulations as he shall prescribe, may award to (a) personnel of the Armed Forces of the United States and of the Government of the Commonwealth Philippines and (b) personnel of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations who, since the proclamation of an emergency by the President on 8 September 1939, shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services". The medal was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 40 dated August 5, 1942. Executive Order 9260, dated October 29, 1942, by President Franklin Roosevelt, established the rules for the Legion of Merit and required the President's approval for award. However, in 1943, at the request of General George C. Marshall, approval authority for U.S. personnel was delegated to the War Department. Executive Order 10600, dated March 15, 1955, by President Dwight Eisenhower, revised approval authority. Current provisions are contained in Title 10, United States Code 1121.
The Legion of Merit was the first American decoration awarded to citizens of other nations. Awardees included:
The Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit Medal is, on a wreath of Green laurel joined at the bottom by a Gold bow-knot (rosette), a domed five-pointed White star bordered Crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a Gold ball. In the center, a Blue disk encircled by Gold clouds, with 13 White stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the United States Coat of Arms. Between each point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 2 15/16 inches. The words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" are engraved in the center of the reverse. A miniature of the decoration in Gold on a horizontal Gold bar is worn on the service ribbon.
The Commander of the Legion of Merit Medal is, on a wreath of Green laurel joined at the bottom by a Gold bow-knot (rosette), a five-pointed White star bordered Crimson, points reversed with v-shaped extremities tipped with a Gold ball. In the center, a Blue disk encircled by Gold clouds, with 13 White stars arranged in the pattern that appears on the United States Coat of Arms. Between each star point, within the wreath are crossed arrows pointing outwards. The overall width is 2 1/4 inches. A Gold laurel wreath in the v-shaped angle at the top connects an oval suspension ring to the neck ribbon that is 1 15/16 inches in width. The reverse of the five-pointed star is enameled in White, and the border is Crimson. In the center, a disk for engraving the name of the recipient surrounded by the words "ANNUIT COEPTIS MDCCLXXXII." An outer scroll contains the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA." The service ribbon is the same as the ribbon for the degree of Commander, except the ribbon attachment is Silver. The neck ribbon for the degree of Commander is 1 15/16 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 1/16 inch White 67101; center 1 13/16 inches Crimson 67112; and 1/16 inch White.
The Officer of the Legion of Merit Medal is the same as the degree of Commander except overall width is 1 7/8 inches and the pendant has a suspension ring instead of the wreath for attaching the ribbon. A Gold replica of the medal, 3/4 inch wide, is centered on the suspension ribbon.
The Legionnaire of the Legion of Merit Medal and the Legion of Merit Medal issued to U.S. personnel is the same as the degree of Officer, except the suspension ribbon does not have the medal replica.
The ribbon for all of the decorations is 1 3/8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 1/16 inch White 67101; center 1 1/4 inches Crimson 67112; and 1/16 inch White. The reverse of all of the medals has the motto taken from the Great Seal of the United States "ANNUIT COEPTIS" (He [God] Has Favored Our Undertakings) and the date "MDCCLXXXII" (1782) which is the date of America's first decoration, the Badge of Military Merit, now known as the Purple Heart. The ribbon design also follows the pattern of the Purple Heart ribbon.