Given for service in the Second World War
By David L. Burrows
With the 100th Anniversary of United States entry into WWI, many collectors are discovering or renewing their interest in medals issued to veterans by local towns, cities, counties, and organizations. While issuing medals to members of the armed services by local entities was quite popular following WWI, by the time end of the Second World War, the practice of issuing local medals had diminished, probably due to the cost of the medals and the large number of those who served. While reliable references estimate that nearly 1,500 different local medals were issued for service during WWI period, only about 140 different medals were issued for service in WWII.
STATE ISSUE MEDALS
Sixteen “state” medals were issued during WWI. Following WWII, however, only 6 states issued a medal for WWII service: Alaska, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Furthermore, while WWI State medals were given to any resident who served honorably during WWI, the WWII state issues were more specific and limited. In some cases, they were presented only to specific veterans.
The Alaska Territorial Guard Medal was issued to the Alaska National Guard members called into federal service — mostly native Alaskans. The Missouri WWII Veterans Recognition Medals was authorized in 2002 and awarded to every veteran who served on active duty.
The New Mexico WWII issue was the New Mexico Bataan Medal and awarded only to members of the 200th Coast Artillery whose members fought in the Philippines and participated in the infamous Death March after being forced to surrender. Rhode Island’s WWII medals were for only the State Guard and the State Guard Reserve. Similarly, the Washington State Guard medal was issued only to members of the State Guard of 3,462 members. The Vermont National Guard medal, on the other hand, was issued to all members of the Vermont National Guard who served during WWII, making it very close to a “true” state-issued medal.
New York produced a true WWII state medal. It was meant to be awarded to any citizen of the State who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII. The State Legislature authorized it on April 4, 1945, and a prototype was manufactured. Unfortunately, due to the large number of New York veterans and the cost that would be incurred in giving each a medal, it was felt that Federal government awards were adequate, and the medal never went into full production nor were any issued. Interestingly, a few prototypes were made (one illustrated in this article). It seems that modified designs of the prototypes were made and sold as local medals for the WWII veterans of Utica, New York, and South Fork, Pennsylvania.
WWI MEDALS ADAPTED FOR WWII VETERANS
Many examples of WWII service medals used designs that previously were used for WWI service medals. A large number of medals were made by Whitehead & Hoag Co, Bastian Brothers, and Robbins Company. Often local manufacturers provided medals for specific towns and cities. A common Whitehead & Hoag design is the WH5 (as designated in the Richard L. Planck’s State, County, City, and Organization Medals for World War One. Third, Revised Edition [Fort Myer, Virginia: Planchet Press, 1995]). It was also used as a WWII issue by Barnstable and Northbridge, Mass., as well as the Pennsylvania communities of New Bethlehem, New Kensington, Arnold, and Lower Burrell Township.
Another Whitehead & Hoag design (Planck’s WH6) was used for medals by Wayne County, Penn., Weehawken, New Jersey, and a silver version issued to the veterans of Lakewood and Lacey Township, New Jersey. A rather unusual variation of this design was used by the Pittsburgh 7th Ward Selective Service Board and awarded upon the induction of a resident in that ward. Known examples are found named the appropriate induction date. Since these WWII versions of WWI designs were used, collectors should always check the reverses of the medal to correctly identify the issuing agent and correct war.
“VETERAN OF WWII” MEDAL
Bastian Brothers Company of Rochester, New York had been a prolific maker of local medals following WWI. The company created a unique WWII design depicting a soldier with rifle in an amphibious landing with the inscription “Veteran of World War II.” It has been seen in bronze, silver, and gold variations. Known medals were issued by communities that include Closter, New Jersey; Batavia, Olean, and Rome, New York; Hindsdale, New Hampshire; and the Cincinnati (Ohio) Aerie no. 142 Fraternal Order of Eagles, An interesting variation of this design was awarded by a Local Union 843 using a scene with Statue of Liberty instead of the amphibious landing. This variation was made by Gessinger Co., Newark, New Jersey, and borrowed a design similar to that used by Bastian. Other locations may have used this design but remain to be discovered.
Bastian Brothers also designed another WWII specific medal with a striking design of a winged lady of Victory atop the globe of the earth holding a sword and shield. The planchet is clearly marked “World War II” across globe. An ornate Victory brooch with Eagle and shield complements the design of the planchet. One known example was issued by St. Marys, Penn., and another by the Milk Wagon, drivers, Chaffeurs & Dairy Employees Local Union No. 98, Cincinnati, Ohio. Fortunately for collectors, these unique WWII designs are easier to spot.
ORGANIZATION ISSUED MEDALS
Many veterans organizations, military societies, fraternal organizations, and churches awarded special WWII medals or clasps for membership medals that recognized WWII service. The United Daughters of the Confederacy issued a WWII service medal clearly marked “1941-1945.” Made by Medallic Arts Company, the first cross issued in 1946. By 1991 12,217 medals were issued.
The Sons of Union Veterans issued a war service medal specifically for WWII service. It is denoted by a special clasp on the medal’s ribbon. Similarly, the Sons of the American Revolution awarded a war service medal with a World War II clasp.
A French American friendship society based in New England called the “L’ Union St. Jean-Bastiste D’Amerique” issued a medal for veterans of the society who had served in WWII. St. Anthony’s Church in Dunmore, Penn., issued a special cross designed by Whitehead Hoag often used during WWI (Planck’s WH13) but that was still available for WWII Service medals.
Some communities have decided to belatedly honor their WWII veterans with special ceremonies. In 1998, Camden County, New Jersey, issued a special service medal for all honorably discharged veterans involved in recent armed conflicts including WWII. Morris County Freeholders of New Jersey issued a commemorative WWII medal instituted in 2000. In April 2006, York, Pennsylvania, issued a similar, large medal for WWII “Heroes of York County.”
Today, collectors have the opportunity to find more recent issues as well as a variety WWII medals with a one-of-a-kind design to complete their collection. While this represents one of the lesser known areas of medal collecting, there are ample opportunities to discover additional awards that remain unknown to collectors.