Book Review: The Medal of Honor: The Evolution of America's Highest Military Decoration


by Dwight S. Mears

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2018. Pp. viii, 312. Illus., append., notes, biblo., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0700626654

A History of the Nation’s Highest Decoration

Dr. Mears, a retired Army major and former professor of History at USMA has written the most complete history of the Medal of Honor, and the development of America’s “Pyramid of Honor”. The book is divided into two parts. The first, and longer section, traces the history of the origins and development of military awards from the early Republic to the present, a surprisingly complex and often contentious process.

The second part covers various special cases; belated awards (Alonzo Cushing, Theodore Roosevelt), special awards (Lindbergh, Adolphus Greely), rescinded and restored awards (Mary Walker, William Cody), and awards that resulted from inquiries into racial or religious discrimination.

Mears unfortunately doesn’t mention known incidents in which a deed undoubtedly merited the Medal of Honor, but for which no eyewitness accounts could be found. In addition, he doesn’t mention that that at least one award seems to have been made against evidence, albeit for legitimate military reasons; it appears that one submarine commander was awarded the decoration for a series of impressive sinkings in the Pacific, despite the fact that code breaking had revealed that not all of the ships in question had sunk, a step taken to protect the fact that the U.S. had broken the Imperial Navy’s codes.

Despite these omissions, The Medal of Honor is an excellent book.


Note: The Medal of Honor is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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