Virtuti Militari

The War Order of Virtuti Militari (Latin: "For Military Virtue", Polish: Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari) is Poland's highest military decoration for heroism and courage in the face of the enemy at war. It was created in 1792[1][2] by Polish King Stanislaus II Augustus and is the oldest military decoration in the world still in use.[3]

Virtuti Militari
War Order of Virtuti Militari
Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari

Awarded forVirtue at War
Country Poland
Presented bythe President of Poland
EligibilityMilitary personnel/ Military units
(Honor and Fatherland)
StatusIn the award system but a wartime decoration only
Established22 June 1792
First awarded1792
Last awarded1989
Next (higher)Order of the White Eagle
EquivalentUnited States Medal of Honor
British Commonwealth Victoria Cross
Next (lower)Order of Polonia Restituta

It is awarded in five classes either for personal heroism or, to commanders, for leadership.[4] Some of the heroic actions recognized by an award of the Virtuti Militari are equivalent to those meriting the British Victoria Cross,[5] the German Iron Cross, and the American Medal of Honor.[6]

Soon after its introduction, however, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was destroyed in the partitions of Poland (1795), and the partitioning powers abolished the decoration and prohibited its wearing. Since then, the award has been reintroduced, renamed and banned several times, with its fate closely reflecting the vicissitudes of the Polish people. Throughout the decoration's existence, thousands of soldiers and officers, Polish and foreign, several cities and one ship have been awarded the Virtuti Militari for valor or outstanding leadership in war. There have been no new awards since 1989.[7]

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