The DMZ War

1953 to Today

Could US POWs Be Alive in North Korea? Check Out Our Book

Are quantities limited? "No" for the KDSM but "yes" for the Cold War Certificate. We couldn't get an estimate from the Army of how many they have left, but we confirmed that once the current certificates are gone, they're gone.
How long does it take? That depends on workload and other issues. Please drop The DMZ War an email and tell us how long it took for you so we can update other veterans and families.
Does it cost anything? No (aside from a stamp and your time to find and fill out the documents). You or your loved one "earned" this by service to country.
What is this Web site and why are you providing this information? The DMZ War is a news and information Web site about the mission to secure the Korean Demilitarized Zone from 1953 until today. When we went to get our KDSM and Cold War Recognition Certificate we found the official information dispersed and confusing. This page is simply designed to make it easier for you by putting everything in one place and explaining it in simple English.

Thousands of veterans and current servicemembers are eligible for the Korea Defense Service Medal and/or Cold War Recognition Certificate but have never applied for them -- even though it's easy. 

Many surviving family members could get the award/s from the US military in memory of their deceased veteran. 

Here are simple instructions on how to get one or both. Don't wait, the number of Cold War Certificates is limited. [How long does it take? See examples below.*]

Let America Honor Your Service

Korea Defense Service Medal (KDSM)

The Korea Defense Service Medal (KDSM) was authorized by Section 543, National Defense Authorization Act, 2003. It is authorized for award to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who have served on active duty in support of the defense of the Republic of Korea.


Its symbolism:

Obverse:The four-clawed dragon is a traditional symbol of Korea and represents intelligence and strength of purpose. The sprig of laurel denotes honorable endeavor and victory, the bamboo refers to the land of Korea.

Reverse: The swords placed saltirewise over a map of Korea signify defense of freedom in that country and the readiness to engage in combat to that end. The circlet enclosing the device recalls the form of five-petal symbols common in Korean armory.

(see a close-up and learn more about the medal at the bottom of this page)



Cold War Recognition Certificate
In the 1998 National Defense Authorization Act, the Secretary of Defense approved awarding Cold War Recognition Certificates to all members of the armed forces and qualified federal government civilian personnel who faithfully and honorably served the United States any time during the Cold War era, Sept. 2, 1945, through Dec. 26, 1991.

Three Steps to Get the Medal/Certificate

Step 1: Confirm You're Eligible
Cold War Recognition Certificate: Anyone who worked for the U.S. Government at any time during the Cold War era, Sept. 2, 1945 through Dec. 26, 1991, is eligible, provided their service to the country was faithful and honorable. National Guard and Reservists are eligible. Contractors and volunteers are not eligible.
Korea Defense Service Medal (KDSM): It is authorized for award to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who have served on active duty in support of the defense of the Republic of Korea. The area of eligibility and period of eligibility are as follows: The area of eligibility encompasses all land area of the Republic of Korea, and the contiguous water out to 12 nautical miles, and all air spaces above the land and water areas. The period of eligibility is 28 July 1954 to a date to be determined by the Secretary of Defense.

Service members must have been assigned, attached, or mobilized to units operating in the area of eligibility for 30 consecutive or for 60 nonconsecutive days, or meet the following criteria:
  • Be engaged in combat during an armed engagement, regardless of the time in the area of eligibility.
  • Is wounded or injured in the line of duty and requires medical evacuation from the area of eligibility.
  • While participating as a regularly assigned air crewmember flying sorties into, out of, or within the area of eligibility in direct support of military operations. Each day that one or more sorties are flown in accordance with these criteria will count as one day toward the 30 or 60-day requirement.
  • Personnel who serve in operations and exercises conducted in the area of eligibility are considered eligible for the award as long as the basic time criteria is met. Due to the extensive time period for KDSM eligibility, the nonconsecutive service period for eligibility remains cumulative throughout the entire period.
Are Family Members Eligible to Get the Awards?
Yes -- detailed info provided for the Certificate (See Below)
The Army Told Us It Can Also be Done for the KDSM
(the instructions below are for the Certificate -- the Army told us next of kin can also get the KDSM. For detailed questions about that process, please contact the Army using the link provided further below. Because the KDSM is a US military medal, the rules for other services are probably similar.)


Who are considered the primary next of kin? If the veteran is deceased, his/her primary next-of-kin (PNOK) may apply for the certificate. If the veteran or federal employee was married, the primary next-of-kin is the spouse, children, or siblings, in that order of precedence. If the spouse is living, he/she must apply before the veteran's eldest son or daughter. If the veteran's eldest son or daughter applies, the request must explain that the spouse is deceased. If the veteran was not married, the PNOK is the veteran's father/mother, or brothers/sisters, in that order of precedence. If the veteran's parents are living, they must apply before the veteran's eldest brother or sister applies. If the veteran's eldest brother or sister applies, the request must explain that the parents are deceased.

Step 2: Get the Documents You Need

For the Certificate:

Find the right document + fill out the application.

Document: Any document which shows that the intended recipient was a U.S. government employee during the Cold War era will be accepted as proof. The document must contain the name of the recipient, the Social Security Number or Military Service Number or Foreign Service Number which was included in the request for the certificate, and a date showing at least one day of service within the range of 2 September 1945 and 26 December 1991. Examples of acceptable documents include a Leave and Earnings statement, DD214 or other Discharge Paper, or SF50 (Civilian Personnel Action Form.) Please send a copy of your supporting document, DO NOT SEND the original document. Original documents cannot be returned.

Application: Get the application from the Army site by clicking here (US residents, next of kin and international residents click here), or download the form for US residents at the bottom of this page

Interested in the history of the Cold War, plus Cold War books, TV and movies? Visit

For the KDSM:
Active-duty troops can go through their S-1.

Veterans need to complete and submit a Standard Form (SF) 180 (Request Pertaining to Military Records) to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)



If You Left Service Prior to 2002, Send Your Completed SF 180 to: :
National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
Military Personnel Records
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002

If You Left Service After 2002, Send Your Completed SF 180 to:

1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept 480
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5408
Good news! Unless there's a problem verifying your Korea service -- you should be done after this step. NPRC forwards to the appropriate folks and the KDSM will be sent to you.
Update: One of DMZ War's friends successfully submitted his KDSM application via email. See below.*

Step 3: Order It

For the KDSM:
In most cases, you're done if you've already sent your SF 180 to the NPRC during Step #2 (above)!


For the Certificate:

Mail your document (remember, send a copy, not the original) and application to:

Cold War Recognition Program
ATTN: AHRC-PDP-A, Dept 480
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5408

*How long does it take? Our friend Ed Willey -- click Mig on the Beach -- filled out the Cold War Recognition Certificate paperwork and mailed it Jan. 21st 2013. He received the certificate Jan. 31st. As for the KDSM, our friend Ed Hodakowski scanned his SF-180 and emailed it during June '14 to: (rather than using the official snail mail address above). He got his KDSM paperwork the next month; the actual medal took about four-and-a-half months to arrive. Note: As of March 2016 we're told the email process is not active.

Got More Questions or Want to Follow Up?

Visit the Military Web pages
Notice: When The DMZ War visits the sites below, we sometimes get a security warning on our browser. But these are the official Army and Air Force sites. It appears the military does not have some sort of certificate your browser may want.
 Learn the Meaning of the KDSM, Click Here