During World War II, generally, only decorations such as the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Purple Heart were manufactured. Brass was restricted to the manufacture of munitions, so campaign medals were mainly issued as ribbon bars, and soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen were not given medals but only ribbon bars to pin on their uniforms. Most of the campaign medals were unavailable to veterans until several years after the war. By then, most service personnel had been discharged from the Armed Forces and returned to civilian life.
The photograph to the right is a good example of what was available for veterans to wear home. His two campaign ribbons (European-African-Middle Eastern and Asiatic Pacific Campaigns) are 1/2 inch high old style ribbons missing his campaign stars while his Victory ribbon and Good Conduct Medal are the standard 3/8 inch height of the Army and Air Force World War II ribbons. Unless the veteran went through the process of writing the government and asking for their medals, World War II veterans never received their actual campaign or Victory medals. In fact, several World War II awards were not approved until several years after the war. The approval of the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service to combat infantrymen and combat medics was not authorized until almost the end of 1947. The Victory and Occupation Medals were not manufactured until mid-1946, by which time many of the personnel authorized them had long since left the Armed Forces.
That is the reason you seldom see WW II veterans wearing their medals or displaying them. Not that they weren’t proud of their service for they were very, but you can’t wear medals you did not have.
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