Obverse: Centered on a gilt disc is a representation of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Massachusetts under full sail on a moderate sea. In a circle surrounding the ship are the words “U.S. COAST GUARD” in the upper portion and “DISTINGUISHED SERVICE” in the lower. The Massachusetts was built in 1791 and was the first revenue cutter. As a forerunner of a long line of similar vessels which rendered distinguished service to U.S. maritime history, it was considered to be a fitting symbol to use on this medal.
Reverse: The Coast Guard seal centered, and below the seal (following the lower contour of the medal), a streamer upon which the recipient’s name may be engraved.