This mail-order volume created such a stir in publishing circles that Little Brown entered an agreement to distribute it to bookstores and libraries. It's oversized, well written without unnecessary flag-waving and copiously illustrated with photographs, full-color paintings, newspaper headlines and specially-designed military maps. It will grace any coffee table or bookshelf. Many of the awards were for enormous heroism under fire, but a number were granted for idiosyncratic reasons. Over 300 Civil War soldiers got the medal simply because they volunteered to remain on duty guarding Washington for four days after their terms of enlistment expired. The very first awards went to a group of soldiers engaged in a classic Keystone Kop caper. Their mission was to pose as civilians and commandeer a locomotive in Georgia, bring it north to Tennessee while dynamiting the bridges along the way. Although nary a bridge was so much as damaged, the government awarded the Medal of Honor to all but one of the soldiers (he had enlisted under an assumed name). In 1897, specific standards were finally established which required recipients to demonstrate ""most distinguished gallantry in action"" based on ""incontestable proof of the action."" During WW I, three other medals were created to honor brave deeds not ""above and beyond the call of duty."" Thus we meet Medal of Honor winners such as Sergeant York, Eddie Rickenbacker, Audie Murphy, Charles (Commando) Kelly and a host of others whose heroism was truly extraordinary. In 1973, President Ford presented Medals of Honor to three former Vietnam POW's. One was Commander James Bond Stockdale, a Navy pilot who had deliberately gashed his wrists in order to stop the constant torture he feared might force him to reveal that he knew that the Gulf of Tonkin attack had been a fraud. In the words of the writers, ""Public notice of the presentation was scant.