see it clearly

Congressional Gold Medal

There have been more than 300 Congressional Gold Medal recipients since 1776. The first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor was General George Washington on March 25, 1776. It is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States Congress.

Congressional Gold Medal Recipients

Congressional Gold Medal

The first medals were awarded to military people involved in the Revolutionary War. Since that time, the medal has been given for many different reasons, most often being awarded to an individual who has accomplished something outstanding that adds to the welfare of the nation, although you do not have to be an American citizen to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

It is also awarded for an event, like the First Successful Trans-Atlantic Flight, awarded in 1929, or to an institution, like the American Red Cross, awarded the medal in 1979. Sometimes a group of individuals will win, like the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team or the Surviving Veterans of the American Civil War, who received the award in 1956.

Congressional Gold Medal recipients who were scientists or inventors include the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, and Robert Goddard. Some of the actors and media leaders who were awarded the medal include Bob Hope, Walt Disney, John Wayne, Danny Thomas, and Frank Sinatra. Singers, writers, and composers given the medal include George Cohan, Irving Berlin, Robert Frost, Marion Anderson, Fred Waring, Louis L'Amour, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Harry Chapin, Aaron Copeland, and Charles Schulz.

Other Recipients

In 2000, the Congressional Gold Medal was presented to the Navajo Code Talkers. They were partially responsible for the success of the United States in World War II. Philip Johnston, a World War I veteran and Navajo speaker, heard a story during WWI about the Germans being fooled when listening to Choctaw Indians speaking on the radio. He thought the same could be done with the Navajo language, which is very complex. In 1942, 29 Navajos were inducted into the Marines as code talkers. An unbreakable code was developed, just in case an enemy could speak Navajo. This was tested and more code talkers were trained, resulting in 420 by the end of the war.

Some medals have been awarded for acts of heroism, many of them being water rescues. This was the case for Ronald Boucher from Vermont, who was the youngest person to receive the Congressional Medal. When he was 11 years old, he rescued five playmates who had fallen through the ice on Lake Champlain while they were skating. He hauled them out of the water with his jacket and skates. The story made headlines and a Vermont representative to Congress introduced legislation that lead to his award in 1941.

In the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s, there was a group of nine teenagers in Little Rock Arkansas who made a stand against segregation. These nine African American children were admitted to an all-white school, Little Rock Central High School, and arrived in September of 1957 with an armed escort from the U.S. Army. They endured a year of taunting by many white students and were punished more severely for minor discipline issues by the administration. This turned out to be one of the most significant events during the Civil Rights movement. They were later awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

In 2010, more than 1000 women who served as Army pilots from 1942 to 1944 were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Their job was to replace men so they could serve in the war overseas. They were the first women pilots of war planes made by Americans. Their duties included taking planes from the factories to bases all over the U.S., ferrying personnel, testing planes, and training others. They were stationed at 120 bases and flew 60 million miles in every kind of plane used at the time. Thirty-eight of the women lost their lives in service to their country.