1. Description: On a Bronze medal, 1 ¼ inches in diameter, an eagle displayed with inverted wings standing on a sword and palm branch, all beneath the inscription "NATIONAL DEFENSE". On the reverse is a shield taken from the Coat of Arms of the United States with an open wreath below it, the right side of oak leaves and the left side of laurel leaves.
2. Ribbon: The ribbon is 1 3/8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 7/16 inch Scarlet 67111; 1/32 inch White 67101; 1/32 inch Old Glory Blue 67178; 1/32 inch White; 1/32 inch Scarlet; center ¼ inch Golden Yellow 67104; 1/32 inch Scarlet; 1/32 inch White; 1/32 inch Old Glory Blue; 1/32 inch White; and 7/16 inch Scarlet.
3. Criteria: a. The National Defense Service Medal was awarded for honorable active service for any period between 27 June 1950 and 27 July 1954; between 1 January 1961 and 14 August 1974; between 2 August 1990 and 30 November 1995 and between 11 September 2001 and a closing date to be determined. For the purpose of the award, the following persons will not be considered as performing active service:
(1) Guard and Reserve forces personnel on short tours of duty to fulfill training obligations under an inactive duty training program.
(2) Any person on active duty for the sole purpose of undergoing a physical examination.
(3) Any person on temporary active duty to serve on boards, courts, commissions and like organizations or on active duty for purposes other than extended active duty.
(4) A one time only exception, for members of the Army National Guard and United States Army Reserve, who were part of the selected reserve in good standing, was authorized, per executive orders 12778, dated 18 October 1991, for the period 2 August 1990 to 30 November 1995.
b. The National Defense Service Medal may be awarded to members of the Reserve Components who are ordered to Federal active duty, regardless of duration, except for the categories listed above. Any member of the Guard or Reserve who, after 31 December 1960, becomes eligible for the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal or the Southwest Asia Service Medal is also eligible for the National Defense Service Medal.
c. To signify receipt of a second or subsequent award of the NDSM, a bronze service star will be worn on the service ribbon by U.S. Army personnel so qualified. Second or third award of the NDSM is authorized for soldiers who served in one or more of the four qualifying time periods. It is not authorized for soldiers who met the criteria in one time period, left active duty and returned during the same period of eligibility.
d. Cadets of the U.S. Military Academy are eligible for the NDSM, during any of the inclusive periods listed above, upon completion of the swearing-in ceremonies as a cadet.
e. The NDSM may be issued posthumously.
4. Components: The following are authorized components:
a. Medal (regular size): MIL-DTL-3943/234. NSN 8455-00-281-3214 for set which includes regular size medal and ribbon bar.
b. Medal (miniature size): MIL-DTL-3943/234. Available commercially from certified manufacturers.
c. Ribbon: MIL-DTL-11589/97. NSN 8455-00-264-1478.
d. Lapel Button: MIL-DTL-11484/185. Available commercially.
5. Background: a. The National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) was established by President Eisenhower per Executive Order 10448, dated 22 April 1953, for service between 27 June 1950 and a date to be announced. On 17 June 1954, the Chief of Staff approved establishment of 27 July 1954 as the termination date for award of the NDSM. Executive Order 11265, dated 11 January 1966, amended Executive Order 10488, to include a termination date and authorized the Secretary of Defense to establish periods of eligibility subsequent to 31 December 1960. Eligibility for award, commencing with the period after 31 December 1960, was established by DOD Directive 1348.7, dated 1 April 1966, and terminated effective 15 August 1974, per letter from Manpower and Reserve Affairs, subject: Termination of Eligibility for the National Defense Service Medal, dated 30 June 1974. The NDSM was again authorized by memorandum, dated 20 February 1991, from Secretary of Defense Cheney for active service on or after 2 August 1990 with no termination date established. The termination date was later established as 30 November 1995. The NDSM was reinstated by memorandum from The Deputy Secretary of Defense, dated 26 April 2002, from 11 September 2001 to a termination date to be determined in the future.
b. The Heraldic Division, Quartermaster General’s Office, was requested to provide proposed designs for the NDSM and designs created by Mr. T. H. Jones were submitted to the G1 on 26 May 1953. A committee appointed by DOD, which included representatives of all services, met on 27 May 1953 and 3 June 1953 and selected the design for final approval. The eagle, our National emblem, together with the shield of the Coat of Arms of the United States is used to symbolize the defense of the United States. The combination of oak and palm leaves signify strength and preparedness.
c. Order of precedence and wear policy for medals awarded to Army personnel is contained in AR 670-1. Policy for awards, approving authority and supply of medals is contained in AR 600-8-22.