Obverse: In the center of a silver medal 1-7/16 inches in diameter, a man is struggling in a heavy sea; hovering above him is the figure of a woman offering him one end of a long scarf. The entire scene is contained within a raised border. In the upper third of this border, following the contour of the medal, are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” in raised letters. In the bottom third, the words “ACT OF CONGRESS AUGUST 4, 1949.”
Reverse: The center of the reverse of the medal is blank and is encircled by a laurel wreath tied at its base with a bow. The wreath is contained within a raised border which bears the inscription in raised letters, “IN TESTAMENT OF HEROIC DEEDS IN SAVING LIFE FROM THE PERILS OF THE SEA.” At the bottom of the medal, separating the beginning and ending of the inscription, is a stylized laurel wreath.