The Combat Action Ribbon was established on February 17, 1969, by Secretary of the Navy John H. Chafee and announced by SECNAVNOTE 1650 of February 17, 1969. The Annual Defense Authorization Bill (Public Law 106-65) signed into law by President Clinton on October 5, 1999, authorized the Secretary of the Navy to award the Combat Action Ribbon to members of the Navy or Marine Coprs who participated in combat during any period after December 6, 1941.
The Combat Action Ribbon originally took effect on March 1, 1961; however, with the passage of Public Law 106-65 (cited above), award of the Combat Action Ribbon may now be made retroactive to December 7, 1941.
The Combat Action Ribbon is a personal decoration awarded to members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard (when operating under the control of the Navy) in the grade of captain (or colonel in the Marine Corps) and below who have actively participated in ground or surface combat.
Personnel who earned the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge while a member of the Army may be authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon. The principal criterion is that the recipient must have participated in a bona fide ground or surface combat firefight or in an action during which he was under enemy fire and his performance while under fire was satisfactory.