The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States armed forces for valor in the face of the enemy.
The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States not justifying one of the two higher awards - the service crosses (Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross), the second-highest military decoration, or the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration. The Silver Star may be awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the armed forces, distinguishes himself or herself by extraordinary heroism involving one of the following actions:
In action against an enemy of the United States
While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force
While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
The Silver Star is the successor decoration to the Citation Star which was established by an Act of Congress on July 9, 1918. On July 19, 1932, the Secretary of War approved the Silver Star to replace the Citation Star. The original Citation Star is incorporated into the center of the Silver Star, and the ribbon for the Silver Star is based closely on the Certificate of Merit Medal.
Authorization for the Silver Star was placed into law by an Act of Congress for the U.S. Navy on August 7, 1942 and an Act of Congress for the U.S. Army on December 15, 1942. The current statutory authorization for the Silver Star is Title 10 of the United States Code (10 U.S.C. § 3746).
The Department of Defense does not keep extensive records of Silver Star awards. Independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the award was established. Colonel David Hackworth is the record holder for most Silver Stars awarded to a single person. He earned ten Silver Stars for service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, in addition to two Distinguished Service Crosses.