Created in 1869, the Good Conduct Medal may be presented to any active member of the United States military who demonstrates three uninterrupted years of honorable behavior in service. Infractions or any disciplinary action cause the three-year clock to start over. In wartime, one year of such behavior may be sufficient for the award. There is a Good Conduct Medal for the Navy (established in 1869), the Marine Corps (1896), the Coast Guard (1923), the Army (1941), and the Air Force (1963).
In 1945, the required term of qualifying service for Marines was reduced from four years to three.
The medal and ribbon for each branch’s version of the award have undergone a number of changes over time. The Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal Ribbon WWII features a gunner next to a naval gun; the scene appears over an anchor and is surrounded by a chain; the words “UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS” and “SEMPER FIDELIS” appear around the rope border of the image. The reverse of the medal includes a blank space upon which the name of the recipient is to be engraved and the words “FIDELITY,” “ZEAL,” and “OBEDIENCE” decorate the outer edge.
The medal is joined to the ribbon by a rifle, and the ribbon itself is dark red with a thin dark blue stripe in the center.
Service stars may be issued to signify subsequent instances of the award.