Tom Brokaw called them "The Greatest Generation." Many of us call them "father and mother," "grandfather and grandmother," and now "great grandfather and great grandmother." As the passing of time push their heroic deeds further back into the pages of history, there is a series of military medals that provide us with tangible reminders of how they saved us from scourge of world domination by the Axis and Japan. Today we call those tangible reminders "World War II service medals." On a more informal basis we could call them "every man's World War II medals" because the U.S. Government awarded them to almost all of the 16 million men and women who served in the armed forces during the war era. The American Defense Medal Although most Americans associate the beginning of World War II with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the war actually began a couple years before that for the American armed forces. On September 8, 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt declared a Limited Emergency Proclamation which coincided with the German attack on Poland just a week before that presidential action. On May 27, 1941 Roosevelt expanded his declaration to an Unlimited Emergency Proclamation. By this time the Axis powers had gained control of Europe. The Germans had conquered France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and the rest of Europe was allied with or under the control of Germany with the exception of the Swiss who were neutral. The U.S. military involvement under the Limited Emergency in Roosevelt's words "imposes on the United States certain duties with respect to the proper observance , safeguarding and enforcement of its neutral status and the strengthening of the national defense with the limits of peacetime authorizations." Cutting though the verbiage this presidential proclamation authorized the armed services to increase their enlisted manpower and call up the reserves to active duty. The Unlimited Emergency Proclamation expanded the armed forces mandate "to be put on a basis of readiness to repel any and all threats of aggression directed toward any part of the Western Hemisphere." On June 28, 1941 President Roosevelt authorized the American Defense Medal under Executive Order 8808. The medal was awarded to members of the military who were on active duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941. All members of the Army received the medal if they were on active duty for one year or more during the eligibility period. All members of the other services (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) received the medal for any length of service except reservists who served for less than ten days. The obverse design of the medal featured a full figure of Ms. Liberty in a long dress wearing a Liberty cap, bearing a sword and a shield. The reverse displayed words to the effect that the medal was issued to acknowledge service during the Limited and Unlimited Emergency Proclamations. The medal was suspended on a yellow ribbon with two thin red, white and blue stripes.