The Medal of Honor was first issued during the Civil War, and since it was the only military award for valor during that war, 1,527 medals were awarded. By the time of the Spanish American War, there were more earned medals available for distribution, and the Medal of Honor became the supreme honor. During the military action in Vietnam, a much longer conflict than the Civil War, 238 medals were awarded. The excellent introduction to this new biographical reference includes an interesting history of the award, with a discussion of our attitudes about military medals since the American Revolution.
The work contains 3,399 biographical entries; the final entry is for a soldier killed in Somalia. Information given in all but a few entries includes rank, service unit, birthday, place of birth, date of death, place of death, cemetery, date the person entered service, military unit, battle or place of action for which the award was given, date of action, General Order Number for the medal, and complete citation explaining the reason for awarding the medal. Arrangement is by war and then by names of recipients in alphabetical order. There are 24 sections, including a section for unknown soldiers. Appendixes add to the reference value, including a list by state of enlistment and birth, foreign-born winners arranged by country of birth, statistical tables of winners arranged by war, a surprisingly lengthy bibliography, and an index of names. Unfortunately, citations to books or articles concerning events or individuals are not included in individual entries.
Most of the information contained here, including the appendixes, can be located in government documents, the last major compilation being prepared by the Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863^-1978, (96th Congress, 1st session, Senate Committee Print No.3). The federal publication does not include death date (if person survived the action), place of death (stateside), or place of burial. The Senate publication contains a better history of the medal's design and how it has evolved over time. There is also a calendar of congressional acts, revised regulations, and statutes relating to the history of the Medal of Honor. But the new Facts On File compilation is more up-to-date and contains a more readable history for laypersons.