The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award for a military service member. It is awarded by Congress and presented by the president to military men and women who have performed acts of valor, courage, and bravery that distinguish them from others serving in the line of duty. About 624 Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously, meaning that the president gave the award to someone who has died. Nineteen military members have been awarded two medals for involvement in two different wars.
The award was created in 1861 at the beginning of the American Civil War, and approximately 3,500 people were awarded in the 160 years of its existence. Forty percent of all recipients were honored during the American Civil War.
The Medal of Honor is a very rare reward for someone to receive, and it seems to be becoming rarer and rarer. Over 1500 soldiers and other military personnel (such as nurses and chaplains) earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. During World War I, which lasted from 1914 until 1918, there were only 126 people who received the Medal of Honor. In the four years of U.S. involvement in World War II, there were 472 recipients, but in the Vietnam War, which lasted for twenty years, there were only 261. During the most recent wars that the United States has been engaged in, Iraq and Afghanistan, there have only been six and 18, respectively.
Given that so many Medals of Honor were given during the American Civil War to Union forces who fought for the North, the states that have the most Medal of Honor recipients are those that were part of the Union and actively involved in the Civil War during that time. Southern states that had seceded and western states that were not involved in the Civil War did not have recipients of the Medal of Honor during this time. After the Civil War, however, there is no correlation between states and Medal of Honor recipients beyond a state’s population; more populous states have more recipients than those with a lower number of people.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Medal of Honor Recipients Rate (per 100k)