Created by Executive Order 11213, July 8, 1965. It was awarded to all service members of the Armed Forces who between July 4, 1965 and March 28, 1973, served in the following areas of Southeast Asia: in Vietnam and the contigous waters and airspace; in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia or the airspace thereof and in the direct suport of military operations in Vietnam.
Personnel previously awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionay Medal for service in Vietnam between July 1958 and July 1965, may, upon request, exchange that medal for the Vietnam Service Medal; however, no one is authorized to wear both medals solely for services in Vietnam.
There were 17 different campaign periods, but the first, which was called the Vietnam Advisory Campaign, covered the period from March 15, 1962 to March 7, 1964. During this time there were never more than a few thousand U.S. troops involved in Vietnam.
The following is a list of Department of Defense (DoD) recognized military campaigns associated with eligibility for the Vietnam Service Medal, provided a member meets the award eligility criteria listed below: Vietnam Advisory Campaign: 15 March 1962 - 7 March 1965
Vietnam Defense Campaign: *4 July 1965- 24 December 1965
Vietnam Counteroffensive Campaign: 25 December 1965- 30 June 1966 Vietnam
Counteroffensive Phase II: 1 July 1966- 31 May 1967
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase III: 1 June 1967- 29 Jan 1968 Tet Counteroffensive: 30 January 1968- 1 April 1968
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase IV: 2 April 1968- 30 June 1968
Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase V: 1 July 1968 - 1 November 1968 Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase VI: 2 November 1968 - 22 February 1969 Tet '69 Counteroffensive: 23 February 1969-8 June 1969
Vietnam Summer-Fall 1969: 9 June 1969 - 31 October 1969
Vietnam Winter-Spring 1970: 1 November 1969 - 30 April 1970
Sanctuary Counteroffensive: 1 May 1970 - 30 June 1970
Vietnam Counteroffensive VII: 1 July 1970 - 30 June 1971
Consolidation I: 1 July 1971 - 30 November 1971
Consolidation II: 1 December 1971 - 20 March 1972
Vietnam Cease-Fire Campaign: 30 March 1972 - 28 January 1973
Note: Asterisk (*) indicates the effective eligibility date for the VSM which began 4 July 1965, however the entire period for the Vietnam Defense Campaign is 8 March 1965 - 24 December 1965.
The medal was designed by Thomas H. Jones a sculptor and former employee of the Institute of Heraldy, U.S. Army. Centered on the obverse of the medal is the figure of a dragon, behind a grove of bamboo trees. Below this design is the inscription " Republic of Vietnam Service." On the reverse of the medal is a cross-bow (the ancient weapon of Vietnam), surmounted by a lighted torch. Below this, along the outer edge are the words "United States of America" in raised letters.
The Ribbon has a thin stripe of red in the center, flanked on either side by a narrow stripe of yellow, thin stripe of red, wide stripe of yellow, and a narrow stripe of green at the edges, or predominately yellow with three red stripes at the center and green stripes at the edges. Campaign stars were worn on the ribbon to indicate the number campaigns the recipients served in during their service in Vietnam.