Special Report

50 of the Most Decorated War Heroes in American History

Detailed Findings

Over time, there has been a loosening of the connection between American society and the military. Pew Research Center said in 2015 that the share of Americans serving in the military had declined to 0.4% of the population, from 0.5% in 2009. As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between it and the civilian population have become more removed. Even so, service members continue their commitment to service when they leave the military by contributing their time to build their communities.

Many of the war heroes on the 24/7 Tempo list who distinguished themselves include names familiar to Americans, such as Alvin York, Audie Murphy, James Doolittle, and Douglas MacArthur. All are among the roughly 3,500 Americans who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.


To determine the list of some of the most decorated military service members, 24/7 Tempo reviewed government lists of medal winners and other online sources and placed emphasis on medals of valor. All of the service members listed won the Medal of Honor, the highest award the nation can bestow on a member of any branch of the military. Nearly 3,500 Medals of Honor have been given to military personnel, with more than 600 given posthumously. Many of those on this list were also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest honor. We considered those who served in conflicts after the Civil War because many military awards at that time were bestowed for political reasons. We excluded foreign medals from the list since they were awarded for the same acts of heroism.