arcdream (arcdream) wrote,

Black Devils Brigade: Promotions and Decorations (Posted by Allan Goodall)

Those of you who now own Black Devils Brigade realize that there wasn't a whole lot left out of that hefty tome. In fact there were a few things left out.

The one item that caused me the most flip flopping was this essay on promotions and decorations.

I decided to leave it out of the book mostly for space reasons. It would have added another couple of pages at least to an already big book.

Without further introduction, I present the sidebar on Promotions and Decorations in a "little bit more polished than first draft" form.

Decorations and Promotions

In business, excellent performance is rewarded with promotions, raises, and bonuses. In combat excellent performance is likewise rewarded with promotions and medals. And just like business, these rewards are doled out not only on merit, but on favoritism and politics, too.

The following are guidelines for promoting characters and issuing medals for meritorious actions in combat.


The FSSF Talent Section usuconsists of one 1st lieutenant, one staff sergeant, two or more sergeants (usually of technical rank), with the rest corporals, or privates. No Talent landing in Naples had a rank lower than corporal. That changed as Talents manifested and joined the section.

Frederick favors a 1st Lieutenant as the leader of the Talent Section, as the unit usually reports directly to a battalion or regimental commander and exhibits a high degree of independent action. A lieutenant in charge of the section could be promoted to captain. This likely wouldn't happen until 1944, and it would be due to a major display of leadership ability. If enough Talents manifest and survive in the Force for an additional Talent section to form, the senior lieutenant could be promoted to captain as Talent commander. If the Talent Section's lieutenant is killed or cashiered due to injury, a sergeant will be promoted to 1st lieutenant. As in business, promotions are as much about filling a position or attaining a number of years of seniority as they are about rewarding performance.

If the staff sergeant is killed or wounded, his position will be filled by a sergeant (or a corporal, if casualties were heavy). In this case, the soldier might fill the position for a while before a promotion (if any) is confirmed.

The technician grades are for men with specific technical abilities, like radio operators, mechanics, navigators and medics. A technician fifth grade (T/5) wears the chevrons of a corporal and is addressed as "corporal". A technician fourth grade (T/4) is equivalent to a sergeant, and technician third grade (T/3) the equivalent to a staff sergeant. Forcemen are only promoted to technician grades if they completed specialist training. This includes Talents (Talent training does not qualify for a technician rank).

Soldiers are recommended for promotions and decorations by their commanding officers. In the case of the Talent Section, this duty falls on the 1st lieutenant, or the enlisted man commanding in his absence. American battlefield promotions amongst the Talents must be approved by the Force's commanding officer (for most of the Force's existence, this was Frederick). Canadian battlefield promotions must go through the ranking Canadian officer, the man in administrative command of the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. Prior to Monte Majo, this was Col. Williamson. Afterwards, it is Col. Akehurst. Akhehurst was wounded prior to Monte Majo and didn't return until the Force was shifted to Anzio. In his absence, the ranking Canadian is Lt. Col. Tom Gilday.


In order to receive a decoration (medal), the soldier's commanding officer has to write a citation. The citation is then forwarded up the chain of command, depending on the level of gallantry and the medal to be awarded. Canadians were cited for American awards, which American authorities awarded without reservation. There were no Canadian-specific medals during the war (exception: the Memorial Cross). Instead, Canadians were eligible for British decorations. Astoundingly, no one set aside British medals for Canadian gallantry as part of the FSSF. Canadians weren't awarded medals from their own nation until November, 1944.

The most common U.S. Army medals, in order of merit, are:

Army Medal of Honor (also known as the Medal of Honor, or Congressional Medal of Honor): This is the nation's highest award. It goes to soldiers in action against an enemy for acts of bravery or self sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty. The act for which the medal is awarded must be so extraordinary as to distinguish the soldier from his comrades, and there must be incontestable proof of the action. The soldier's life must have been at risk. The medal is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress. When a soldier is in a combat theatre, the award is given by the general commanding his army or – if available – the general commanding the army group.

Note that a PC receiving the Medal of Honor will likely be pulled from the front line as soon as the citation is sent to Washington for confirmation. It took four months for Audie Murphy to receive his Medal of Honor after the precipitating incident in January 1945, but he was moved to a support position with his regiment almost immediately.

The award was considered so important for morale purposes that recipients were typically pulled from the front lines and sent stateside, usually to tour the country to drum up support for war bonds. A recipient could request a return to combat duties. One such man was Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, who received the Navy Medal of Honor for his actions on Guadalcanal. His request for a combat assignment was granted. Basilone died on 19 February, 1944 in action on Iwo Jima. He received the Navy Cross posthumously for his actions there.

There were over 400 Medals of Honor awarded during World War II, almost 300 of which were given to soldiers. As an indicator of the extreme achievement necessary to receive this award, about 60% of those awarded during World War II were done so posthumously. In spite of the hazardous nature of medic duty, there was an unwritten bias against medics receiving the Medal of Honor.

Army Distinguished Service Cross: Second only to the Medal of Honor, it is awarded to soldiers displaying extraordinary acts of heroism not justified for the Medal of Honor. The soldier must have been in action against the enemy, and his life must have been at risk. This is the highest award that can be given to non-American soldiers. This is awarded by the president or – if the soldier is in theatre – the army or army group commander.

Army Distinguished Service Medal: It is given to individuals who distinguish themselves with exceptionally meritorious service to the country in a duty of great responsibility. It can be awarded for combat and non-combat service. The president awards the medal. Foreigners can receive it, and it is often given to commanders of allied armies.

Silver Star: The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry during military actions against an enemy of the U.S. The heroism, though of lesser criteria than the Medal of Honor, must have been performed with distinction. The medal must be approved at a divisional level.

The Legion of Merit: This medal is primarily intended for foreign nationals who performed outstanding service to the United States, but could be given to American citizens. It is awarded to those who performed their duties in an exceptional manner. There are four grades to the medal: Chief Commander (goes to a head of state), Commander (awarded to the equivalent of a Chief of Staff general officer), Officer (given to a colonel or higher ranking officer), and Legionnaire (awarded to everyone else). American nationals receive an unnamed degree, though the physical medal is the same as that given for the Legionnaire degree. It is awarded by the president. Prior to September 19, 1942, instead of receiving this medal, a soldier meeting the Legion of Merit criteria would have received the Purple Heart.

The Soldier's Medal: Awarded to Americans or friendly nationals who distinguished themselves with heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy. The recipient must have voluntarily risked life or put themselves in personal danger. Although not the only criteria, it is often given for saving another's life.

Bronze Star: This medal is for meritorious service or heroism while in action against the enemy. The recipient must have distinguished himself, though the criteria for the Bronze Star are less than that for the Silver Star. The medal must be approved at a regimental level. The Bronze Star was not awarded until February 1944, but it could apply to any service after December 6, 1941.

Purple Heart: Originally intended for many forms of meritorious service, on September 19, 1942 and thereafter the Purple Heart was awarded strictly to personnel killed or wounded by enemy action.

Good Conduct Medal: Given to soldiers who demonstrated exemplary service beyond that of his fellow comrades while serving in the army for at least a year (prior to 1943 it was for three years service). It was also awarded to those killed by enemy action prior to fulfilling the period of service. The award must be recommended by the commanding officer, and is given after termination of service.

Canadian Forcemen are eligible to receive British decorations. These were given out very sparingly. The Canadian officers in the Force were biased against decorations. In their minds, Canadian Forcemen volunteered for hazardous duty, so their appearance within the Force was recognition enough. A total of 67 American medals for bravery (Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star) were issued to Canadians in the Force, but only 17 British medals were awarded.

The most common British army medals that a Canadian Forceman would likely receive, in order of merit, are:

Victoria Cross (VC): This is the British Commonwealth's highest award. As per the official requirements, it is awarded "for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy." Three witnesses to the act are required, though this has occasionally been waved. The award can go to any soldier, regardless of rank, and can be awarded posthumously.

The application for the award is made at the regimental level. The award is granted by the British Monarch (King George VI) in an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Recipients are allowed to use the letters "VC" at the end of their names.

An act worthy of the Medal of Honor would likely be worthy of the Victoria Cross, though the "VC" is harder to receive. During World War II, only 182 were awarded to 181 individuals among all the Commonwealth nations participating in the war.

George Cross (GC): Equivalent to a Victoria Cross in rank, the George Cross is awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger." It is awarded to civilians as well as members of the military. In the case of military action, it would be for heroism not in the face of the enemy or where a purely military award would not apply. It was instituted on September 26, 1940 at the height of the London Blitz. Like the Victoria Cross, it is awarded by the monarch.

Distinguished Service Order (DSO): It is given to commissioned officers only "for distinguished services during active operations against the enemy". It was instituted to reward individual instances of meritorious or distinguished service in combat. Recipients are known as Companions of the Distinguished Service Order, and can use "DSO" at the end of their names. The award is given in a ceremony by the British monarch. This is roughly equivalent to the American Distinguished Service Cross.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM): This is the other ranks' equivalent of the DSO, awarded to soldiers below the rank of commissioned officer.

George Medal (GM): Established in January 1941, it is awarded to civilians, or to military personnel in a non-combat situation, for "acts of great bravery". According to the Royal Warrant that created the medal, "The Medal is intended primarily for civilians and award in Our military services is to be confined to actions for which purely military Honours are not normally granted." It is awarded by the British monarch.

Military Cross (MC): This medal is awarded to warrant officers and commissioned officers of the rank of major or less "for gallantry during active operations against the enemy." This medal cannot be awarded posthumously. The award is usually given by the British monarch. It is roughly equivalent to the American Silver Star.

Military Medal (MM): This is the lower ranks' equivalent of the MM, awarded to soldiers below the rank of warrant officer.

Mentioned in Despatches: It is a military award for gallantry or conspicuous service. It literally means that a soldier performed an action so noteworthy that he was mentioned by name in reports sent to upper echelons by a senior officer. While the recipient did not receive a medal, he did receive a certificate and was allowed to wear a bronze oak leaf on the medal awarded for participating in a particular campaign. This honour is roughly equivalent to an American Bronze Star.

Memorial Cross: This is a Canadian medal, rather than a British medal, also known as the Silver Cross, and – during this time period – the Mother's Cross. It is not awarded to soldiers. Rather, it is given to the mother, widow, or next of kin of a member of the Canadian Forces who lost their life in active service.

Chivalric Orders: There are a number of chivalric orders in Britain that a Canadian PC could, theoretically, be invited to join due to gallantry in the field. Some of these orders confer knighthood, though most only do so at the very highest degrees of the order. Only one Forceman was awarded entry to one of these orders (other than the Distinguished Service Order). That Canadian was Major John "Jack" Biscoe, who became a Member (the lowest rank in the order) of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). This was for his activity throughout the war, with the FSSF, and in Canadian units in Europe and the Pacific after the FSSF was disbanded.

Since there is no specific medal, Canadian Forcemen can be "Mentioned in Despatches" from the start of the campaign. Otherwise, they will have to wait until after November 1944 to receive their British medal, even if their gallant act occurred much earlier. There is one exception, and that is listed at the end of Chapter 4, Scene 9.

The GM should encourage players to write the citations for the other PCs, if the players are so inclined.

Tags: allan goodall, black devils brigade, godlike
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