Defense Superior Service Medal

U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons

U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons


The Defense Superior Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11904 on Feb. 6, 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford signed the order formally establishing this medal.



The DSSM (pictured above) is awarded by the Secretary of Defense to military officers who perform exceptionally with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, special or outstanding command in a defense agency or any other joint activity designated by the secretary. The service rendered will be similar to that required for award of the Legion of Merit. At the time of its creation it was decided that this medal would be obtained at the lowest possible cost and with as little involvement as possible.


For these reasons and because it would rank just below the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for similar service, it was decided to use the same design as the DDSM, except that it would be finished in silver rather than gold and the inscription on the reverse would be properly modified.



The medal was designed by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by Lewis J. King, Jr., both of the Institute of Heraldry. In the center is a silver-rimmed, light blue enameled pentagon. Surrounding this, at the top, are 13 five-pointed stars, and at the base is a wreath of laurel and olive leaves, superimposed on the pentagon and wreath, is an American eagle facing left with wings outstretched, holding three arrows in its talons. The reverse is inscribed at the top: “For Superior Service,” and on the pentagon: “From The Secretary of Defense To.”



The ribbon has a narrow center stripe of red, flanked on either side by equal stripes of white, light blue and gold.



Oak Leaf Cluster