The Prisoner of War Medal was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald W. Reagan in 1986. The medal may be awarded to any person who was a prisoner of war after 5 April 1917, the date of the United States entry into World War I.
It is awarded to any person who was taken prisoner or held captive while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing armed force; or while serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The person’s conduct, while in captivity, must have been honorable. This medal may be awarded posthumously to the surviving next of kin of the recipient.