United States Medal for Merit
The Medal for Merit was, during the period it was awarded, the highest civilian decoration of the United States, awarded by the President of the United States to civilians for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services ... since the proclamation of an emergency by the President on September 8, 1939". It was created by Public Law 77-671 and its awarding codified by Executive Order 9286—Medal for Merit on December 24, 1942, later amended and restated by Executive Order 9857A of May 27, 1947. Created during World War II, and awarded to "civilians of the nations prosecuting the war under the joint declaration of the United Nations and of other friendly foreign nations", the medal has not been awarded since 1952.
The first medals were awarded to John C. Garand and Albert Hoyt Taylor on March 28, 1944.
The Medal for Merit is currently listed as seventh in order of precedence of U.S. civilian decorations, below the Silver Lifesaving Medal and above the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.
Civilians of foreign nations could receive the award for the performance of an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act or acts in furtherance of the war efforts of the Allies against the Axis Powers. The first person, not an American citizen, to receive this medal was the British spymaster William Stephenson, who had the code name of "Intrepid" during World War II. Some writers consider Stephenson to be one of the real life inspirations for the fictitious character "James Bond".
A confidential inquiry by the White House staff as to whether King George VI of the United Kingdom should be awarded this medal was carried out, but this medal was not awarded to him because the King had not met the American criteria for eligibility. All proposed awards were considered by the Medal for Merit Board, consisting of three members appointed by the President, of whom one was appointed as the Chairman of the Board. This medal cannot be awarded for any action relating to the prosecution of World War II after the end of hostilities (as proclaimed by Proclamation No. 2714 of December 31, 1946), and no proposal for this award for such services could be submitted after June 30, 1947. The last medal of this type was awarded in 1952 after a long delay in processing.