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Prisoner of War Medal

Note: This page is presented as a courtesy for readers. Application procedures may be found in the military directives of the respective services. Please contact your Service Casualty Office for more information. We are displaying portions of the Army directive below. Former POWs from other services must apply for the medal in accordance with the guidelines of their respective services. Do not send applications to DPMO.

Prisoner of War Medal Instituted: 1985

Dates: All

Devices: (Silver Star, Bronze Star)

Notes: Gold and Silver Star attachments apply only to USN, USMC and USCG. Bronze and Silver Oak Leaf attachments apply only to Army and USAF.

Eligibility: The POW Medal is authorized by Public Law 99-145 (Nov. 8, 1985), as amended by Public Law 101-89 (Nov. 29, 1989), and codified at section 1128, title 10, United States Code. The POW Medal is authorized for any person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Armed Forces, was taken prisoner and held captive after April 5, 1917. The POW Medal is to be issued only to those U.S. military personnel and other personnel granted credible U.S. military service who were taken prisoner and held captive:

  1. while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States

  2. while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force

  3. while serving with friendly forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing force in which the United States is not a belligerent party

  4. by foreign armed forces that are hostile to the United States, under circumstances which the Secretary concerned finds to have been comparable to those under which persons have generally been held captive by enemy armed forces during periods of armed conflict.


[There are a number of qualifications and restrictions that apply to the POW Medal, as reflected in the following text from the current U.S. Army regulation applicable to Military Awards. For members of other Services, please verify the applicable qualifications and restrictions in the current edition of the parallel regulation or direction of your respective military Service]

From: Paragraph 2-9, Army Regulation 600-8-22, Military Awards, December 11, 2006

  1. The Prisoner of War Medal is authorized by Public Law 99-145, 10 USC 1128, as amended by, 10 USC 1128, 1989. It is authorized for any person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Armed Forces, was taken prisoner and held captive after 5 April 1917.
  2. The POW Medal is to be issued only to those U.S. military personnel and other personnel granted creditable U.S. military service, who were taken prisoner and held captive-

    1. While engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.
    2. While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.
    3. While serving with friendly forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
    4. By foreign armed forces that are hostile to the United States, under circumstances which the Secretary concerned finds to have been comparable to those under which persons have generally been held captive by enemy armed forces during periods of armed conflict.

  3. U.S. and foreign civilians who have been credited with U.S. military service which encompasses the period of captivity are also eligible for the medal. The Secretary of Defense authorized on January 27, 1990, the POW Medal for the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Recognized Guerrilla Unit Veterans who were held captive between December 7, 1941, and September 26, 1945.

  4. For purposes of this medal, past armed conflicts are defined as World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam Conflict, Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia Conflict and Somalia. Hostages of terrorists and persons detained by governments with which the United States is not engaged actively in armed conflict are not eligible for the medal. For the procedures to award the POW Medal for Afghanistan and Iraq see subparagraph j.

  5. Any person convicted of misconduct or a criminal charge by a U.S. military tribunal, or who receives a less than honorable discharge based upon actions while a prisoner of war, or whose conduct was not in accord with the Code of Conduct, and whose actions are documented by U.S. military records is ineligible for the medal. The Secretary of the Army is the authority for deciding eligibility in such cases. Cases involving questionable character of service or misconduct during captivity will be processed through the receiving command channels to HQ, USA HRC, ATTN: AHRC–PDO–PA, Alexandria, VA 22331–0481, for coordination with the Repatriation and Family Affairs Division and final decision by the Secretary of the Army.

  6. No more than one POW Medal will be awarded. For subsequent award of the medal, service stars will be awarded and worn on the suspension and service ribbon of the medal. A period of captivity terminates on return to U.S. military control. Escapees who do not return to U.S. military control and are recaptured by an enemy do not begin a new period of captivity for subsequent award of the POW Medal. (Service stars are described in chap 6 [of AR 600-8-22].)

  7. The POW Medal may be awarded posthumously.

  8. The primary next of kin of eligible prisoners of war who die in captivity may be issued the POW Medal regardless of the length of stay in captivity.

  9. Personnel officially classified as MIA are not eligible for award of the POW Medal. The POW Medal will only be awarded when the individual's prisoner of war status has been officially confirmed and recognized as such by the Department of the Army. Likewise, the return of remains, in and of itself, does not constitute evidence of confirmed prisoner of war status.

  10. The following rules apply for processing award of the POW Medal:
    1. Active Military Personnel. Award of the POW Medal to military personnel on active duty in an active war will be processed by the HQ, USA HRC (AHRC–PDO–PA).
    2. Veterans, retirees and their next of kin. All requests for award of the POW Medal for past armed conflicts will be initiated by former POWs or their next of kin, using a personal letter. The following documents, as applicable, should be submitted with POW Medal applications to assist in validating the award:
      • Army separation documents
      • casualty reports
      • messages/letters/telegrams sent home
      • unit journals
      • diaries
      • sworn eyewitness statements or affidavits
      • photos, ID Card, or other documents taken or obtained while in captivity
      • news clippings and other evidence in support of the request

      Applications or personal letters should be forwarded to the National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132–5100 (Soldiers who retired or were discharged after 1 October 2002 and the next of kin of Soldiers who died after 1 October 2002 should send their requests to:

      U.S. Army Human Resources Command
      ATTN: AHRC–CC–B
      1 Reserve Way
      St. Louis, MO 63132–5200

    3. Statutory and regulatory time limits pertaining to award of the POW Medal do not apply. Award of the POW Medal may be awarded at anytime after submission of documented evidence that all criteria have been met.
    4. The POW Medal. This medal is classified as a service medal, as such no orders are issued to announce its approval.


  11. The steps for processing award of the POW Medal to active Army Soldiers during actual wartime or their primary next of kin are in table 2–1 [in AR 600-8-22].