Heraldry of the California State Military Forces
The Order of California
By Captain George J. Albert, Field Historian, California Center for Military History
Figure 1. Type 1 Order of California

The Order of California is the third highest award in the State’s pyramid of honor, and is the highest award for exceptionally meritorious service. It is presently awarded to both the military and civilians. A fourth variety of the medal is the California Memorial Medal, which has a different reverse and ribbon, but the same obverse, and is awarded to the family of a Guard member who dies while still a member of the National Guard.

Criteria for Award: This medal is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the state or Nation by a member of the California National Guard, State Military Reserve, or Naval Militia in a position of great responsibility. Qualifying service must have been within the scope of a special requirement or extremely difficult duty. The Order may also be awarded to civilians and members of other military services. Eligibility was made retroactive to include services rendered on or after 1 October 1977.

History: This award was first authorized by Change 5, dated 25 September 1978, to California Army National Regulation 672-1. The Statutory authority was granted in the 1982 Statutes, Chapter 616, Section 6, which was codified into the State’s Military Veterans Code as Section 642.1. The Award originated as a ribbon only, and remained as such through at least 1980. The medal is described and illustrated in the 1985 regulation, but there were several intervening regulations, which are unavailable for view, in which the medal could have been, and probably was introduced. The medal has been struck in four designs, or types. The type 2 medal replaced the more striking Type 1 medal on 1 October 1986. The ribbon was also changed from style A to style B. The current Type 3 medal began being awarded about 1990. It is believed that there is no difference between the Military and Civilian medals.

Figure 2. Ribbon Type 1 Order of California

Type 1 Description:  Gold base color. 1 ½ x 2 inch Obverse: A shield similar in design to that used by the United States, upon which appears an enameled blue chief with seven bars beneath it, enameled red and white, alternately. In the chief, a bear on all fours, facing left, with his legs extending down into the bars. The bear is enameled in very dark red. Reverse: plain. Style A ribbon equal parts red, green, white, yellow, and blue.

Appurtenances: A bronze Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC) is worn to denote subsequent awards. A silver OLC is worn in lieu of four bronze clusters.


Figure 3. Type 1 Order of California (Military) front and back (Authors collection)
Figure 4. Type 2 Order of California (Civilian) front and back (Authors collection)

Type 2 Description: Gold base color. 2 inch across, Obverse: Predominantly, the complete state seal of California encircled by a border with raised serrations. Reverse (Military): “Order of California Distinguished Service” Reverse (Civilian) plain. Military Ribbon: 3/16 inch yellow edges on light blue ribbon. Civilian Ribbon ½ Medium Blue ½ Golden Yellow.

Type 3 Description: Gold base color. 2 1/8 inch across, Obverse: Predominantly, the complete state seal of California encircled by a border with ¼” leaves slanted clock-wise and counter clockwise around center. Reverse: upper “Order of California” lower: “Distinguished Service”, center outline of State and rectangle for name. Ribbon: 3/16 inch yellow edges on light blue ribbon. It appears the Civilian ribbon has been dropped and is now used on the Governor’s Medal of Valor for Law enforcement Officers.


Figure 5. Type 3 Order of California (Military) front and back (Authors collection)
Figure 6. Then Colonel William H. Wade II (Current Adjutant General of California) receiving the Order of California (Type 3) in 2003
Figure 7. Brigadier General (CA) Hamilton, Commander of the California Center for Military History awards Colonel (CA) William Huss with the Order of California (Type 3) Military Division at Camp San Luis Obispo, October 2003.

When the award is given by the Military Department – the Military ribbon is used, as below where Assemblywoman Carol Liu, 44th Assembly District was awarded the Order of California on the military ribbon.

Figure 8. Assemblywoman Carol Liu, 44th District receives the Order of California Military (Type 3) 2003.

California Memorial Medal

Figure 9. California National Guard Memorial Medal Front and Back awarder to Sergeant First Class Charles Coon’s Family (Author's Collection)

Some noteworthy recipients of the Order of California:

Figure 10. Page 50, from “California National Guard Heritage Days Edition March 16-22, 1987, all three were awarded the Order of California.

Senator Jeff Denham (R-Merced) was presented with the "Order of California," by The Adjutant General of the California National Guard, Major General William H. Wade II.

I am indebted to Captain Gregory Ogletree for his kind permission to use much of the data contained in this article, which came from his book: Awards and Decorations of U. S. State Military Forces, (1988. Patriot Press. I am also indebted to S. G. (Yash) Yasinitsky, OMSA#1 for his support, information, and friendship over the years.

Written 30 April 2008, Posted 25 January 2009

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