The Air Medal was established by Executive Order 9158 on May 11, 1942 and amended by Executive Order 9242 on Sept. 11, 1942.
It is awarded to U.S. military and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight and foreign military personnel in actual combat in support of operations. Required achievement is less than that required for the Distinguished Flying Cross, but must be accomplished with distinction above and beyond that expected of professional airmen.
It is not awarded for peace time sustained operational activities and flights. Approval or disapproval authority is delegated to major command commanders or vice commanders for military and secretary of the Air Force for civilians and foreign military personnel. MAJCOMs will identify the missions and positions that qualify for this award. HQ USAF/XO must certify MAJCOM criteria.
This decoration is the same for all branches of the armed forces of the United States. The medal was designed by Walker K. Hancock, after an open competition, which also carried a cash award of $1,500 for the winning design.
The medal is a bronze compass rose of sixteen points with a fleur-de-lis design on the top point. On the obverse, in the center, is an eagle, swooping downward (attacking) and clutching a lightning bolt in each talon. The reverse has a raised disk on the compass rose, left blank for the recipient's name and rank.
The ribbon has a broad stripe of ultramarine blue in the center flanked on either side by a wide stripe of golden orange, and with a narrow stripe of ultramarine blue at the edge, the original colors of the Army Air Corps.