In early publicity shots Ernie Bilko's medal ribbons can clearly be seen as being only two rows. Later on, they even appear with a few purple hearts in there! Finally, it seems the 'powers-that-be' settled for the insignia below. By the last series these were the decorations that adorned the uniform of the master sergeant.
So what exactly are these ribbons?
Combat Infantry Badge
Criteria: (1) In 1943, the Combat Infantryman Badge was awarded to infantrymen, including officers, and, in May 1944, eligibility for the award specified only the enlisted men and officers of infantry regiments and subordinate infantry units (however, General Joseph Stilwell did not meet these requirements but was awarded the CIB due to an act of Congress); per AR 600-70 (24 September 1951) the eligibility comprehended soldiers of Ranger infantry companies, and commissioned officers, who, although not of the infantry branch, had commanded an infantry unit, of regimental or smaller size, for at least 30 days. Later, in 1969, Change 19 to AR 672-5-1 (20 June 1969) clarified an officer’s eligibility, requiring that he must hold colonel rank or grade, or below; Change 19 also defined the eligible categories of Vietnam War combat service.
(2) The recipient soldier must have been personally present — and under hostile fire — whilst serving primary duty, in either an assigned infantry or a special forces unit, that was actively fighting the enemy in ground combat; said unit might be either of brigade-size or smaller. For example, soldiers with an infantry MOS (military occupational specialty), who are members of a rifle squad organic to a cavalry platoon, in a cavalry troop, would be eligible for the CIB. Battle or campaign participation-credit, alone, is insufficient; the unit must have fought the enemy in active ground combat in that assigned-duty time.
(3) Soldiers with a non-infantry or special forces MOS are ineligible — regardless of the combat circumstance. The soldier’s infantry or special forces MOS or SSI (secondary skill indicator) need not be his primary duty MOS, so long as he had been properly trained in either infantry or special forces tactics, possesses the appropriate skill code, and is serving in that specialty when fighting in active ground combat, as described above. Unit commanders are not authorized to make any exceptions to this policy.
(4) A Combat Infantryman Badge will not be awarded to either general officers or to the soldiers of a headquarters company of units larger than brigade-size.
Bronze Star Medal Ribbon
Criteria: A U.S. Armed Forces individual military decoration and the fourth-highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service. Awarded to a member of the military who, while serving in or with the military of the United States after December 6, 1941, distinguished him 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. To be eligible for the Bronze Star Medal, a military member must be getting hostile fire/imminent danger pay, during the event for which the medal is to be awarded.
Army Commendation Medal Ribbon
Criteria: A mid-level award presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service. Awarded by local commanders, allowing for a broad interpretation of the criteria for which the medal may be awarded. For actions where such performance was in direct contact with an enemy force, the Valor device ("V" device) is authorized as an attachment to the decoration. The Army Commendation Medal is typically awarded to junior officers and enlisted personnel as an end-of-tour award.
Army Good Conduct Medal Ribbon
Criteria: Awarded to any enlisted member of the United States Army who completes three consecutive years of "honorable and faithful service.” Such service implies that a standard enlistment was completed without any non-judicial punishments, disciplinary infractions, or court martial offenses. If a service member commits an offense, the three-year mark "resets" and a service member must perform an additional three years of discipline free service before the Good Conduct may be authorized. During times of war, the Army Good Conduct Medal may be awarded for one year of faithful service. The medal may also be awarded posthumously, to any soldier killed in the line of duty. To denote additional decorations of the award, a series of Good Conduct Knots are provided as attachments to the decoration. Service for the Army Good Conduct Medal must be performed on active duty and the medal is not awarded to members of the Army reserve or National Guard who are not federalized to active service. For those Reserve and Guard members who satisfactorily perform annual training and drill duty, however, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal may be awarded in lieu.
American Defense Medal - WW II Ribbon
Criteria: Army: Authorized to any military member who performed duty between September 8, 1939 and December 6, 1941. Members of the United States Army were required to perform at least one year of duty, during the above time period, while United States Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and United States Marine Corps personnel were awarded the medal for any length of service during the eligible time frame.
American Campaign Medal - WW II Ribbon
Criteria: Awarded to service members performing either one year of consecutive duty between December 7, 1941 to March 2, 1946 within the continental borders of the United States, or performing 30 days consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days of duty outside the borders of the United States but within the American Theater of Operations. The American Theater was defined as the entirety of the United States to include most of the Atlantic Ocean, a portion of Alaska, and a small portion of the Pacific bordering California and Baja California.
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal - WWII Ribbon
Criteria: Awarded to any member of the United States military who served in the Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945. There were twenty one official campaigns of the Pacific Theater, denoted on with a service star. The arrowhead device is authorized for those campaigns involving amphibious assaults. Credible campaigns for the Pacific Theater are as follows: Philippine Islands 7 Dec 41 - 10 May 42; Burma, 1942 7 Dec 41 - 26 May 42; Central Pacific 7 Dec 41 - 6 Dec 43; East Indies 1 Jan 42 - 22 Jul 42; India-Burma 2 Apr 42 - 28 Jan 45; Air Offensive, Japan 17 Apr 42 - 2 Sep 45; Aleutian Islands 3 Jun 42 - 24 Aug 43; China Defensive 4 Jul 42 - 4 May 45; Papua 23 Jul 42 - 23 Jan 43; Guadalcanal 7 Aug 42 - 21 Feb 43; New Guinea 24 Jan 43 - 31 Dec 44; Northern Solomons 22 Feb 43 - 21 Nov 44; Eastern Mandates 7 Dec 43 - 14 Jun 44; Bismarck Archipelago 15 Dec 43 - 27 Nov 44; Western Pacific 17 Apr 44 - 2 Sep 45; Leyte 17 Oct 44 - 1 Jul 45; Luzon 15 Dec 44 - 4 Jul 45; Central Burma 29 Jan 45 - 15 Jul 45; Southern Philippines 27 Feb 45 - 4 Jul 45; Ryukyus 26 Mar 45 - 2 Jul 45; China Offensive 5 May 45 - 2 Sep 45.
Philippine Liberation Medal Ribbon - World War II
Criteria: Awarded to any service member, of both Philippine and allied militaries, who participated in the liberation of the Philippine Islands between the dates of October 17, 1944 and September 2, 1945. To be awarded the medal, a service member must have served in the Philippines for at least thirty days during the eligible time period, or must have participated in one of the following actions: Participation in the initial landing operation of Leyte and adjoining islands from October 7 to October 20, 1944; or Participation in any engagement against hostile Japanese forces during the Philippine Liberation Campaign of October 17, 1944 to September 2, 1945. Personnel who are awarded the medal for participation in the above mentioned operations are authorized a service star to the Philippine Liberation Medal.
Philippine Independence Medal Ribbon
Criteria: Awarded to service members having previously received both the Philippine Defense Medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal. The service member must also have served on active military duty in the Philippines after July 4, 1946. The award criteria effectively awarded the medal to anyone participating in both the initial resistance against Japanese invasion and also in the campaigns to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation in 1945.
World War II (WWII) Victory Medal Ribbon
Criteria: Awarded to any member of the United States military who served on active duty, or as a reservist, between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946. The World War II Victory Medal was first issued as a ribbon, and was referred to simply as the “Victory Ribbon.” By 1946, a full medal had been established which was referred to as the World War II Victory Medal. There is no minimum service time limit for the issuance of the World War II Victory Medal, and the National Personnel Records Center has reported some cases of service members receiving the award for simply a few days of service. As the Second World War ended in August 1945, there are also cases of service members, who had enlisted in 1946, receiving the decoration without having been a veteran of World War II.
World War II (WWII) Occupation Medal Ribbon
Criteria: Awarded for 30 days consecutive service while assigned to: Germany (excluding Berlin) between 9 May 1945 and 5 May 1955; Austria between 9 May 1945 and 27 July 1955; Berlin between 9 May 1945 and 2 October 1990. Service between 9 May and 8 November 1945 may be counted only if the EAME Campaign Medal was awarded for service prior to 9 May 1945; Italy between 9 May 1945 and 15 September 1947 in the compartment of Venezia Giulia E. Zara or Province of Udine, or with a unit in Italy designated in DA General Order 4, 1947; Japan between 3 September 1945 and 27 April 1952 in the four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu; the surrounding smaller islands of the Japanese homeland; the Ryukyu Islands; and the Bonin-Volcano Islands; Korea between 3 September 1945 and 29 June 1949. Other special scenario awards may be applicable.
National Defense Service Medal Ribbon
Criteria: Awarded to anyone who serves on active duty in the United States military during a designated time period. In the fifty years since the creation of the National Defense Service Medal, it has been authorized for the following time periods; June 27, 1950 to July 27, 1954 for service during the Korean War; January 1, 1961 to August 14, 1974 for service during the Vietnam War; August 2, 1990 to November 30, 1995 for service during the Gulf War; September 11, 2001 to a date yet-to-be-determined for service during the War on Terrorism. As of 2005, it is the oldest service medal which is still issued to the active military.
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation with Army Frame
Criteria: A decoration of the Republic of the Philippines awarded to certain United States military units for actions both during and subsequent to World War II. The decoration was first created in 1946 and retroactively awarded to any U.S. military unit having served in the defense or liberation of the Philippine Islands.