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 by Polish King Stanislaus II Augustus and is the oldest military decoration in the world still in use.
War Order of Virtuti Militari
Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari
|Awarded for||Virtue at War|
|Presented by||the President of Poland|
|Eligibility||Military personnel/ Military units|
|Motto||HONOR I OJCZYZNA|
(Honor and Fatherland)
|Status||In the award system but a wartime decoration only|
|Established||22 June 1792|
|Next (higher)||Order of the White Eagle|
|Equivalent||United 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. Some of the heroic actions recognized by an award of the Virtuti Militari are equivalent to those meriting the British Victoria Cross, the German Iron Cross, and the American Medal of Honor.
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.