To be awarded the West Indies Campaign Medal, a service member must have performed sea duty in the West Indies between the dates of May 1, 1898 and August 16, 1898. The award was a one time decoration only and there were no devices authorized for multiple engagements or combat participation. The decoration was rarely bestowed, since most Navy and Marine Corps personnel received the Sampson Medal for West Indies service, and Navy regulations prohibited the bestowal of both the Sampson Medal and West Indies Campaign Medal for the same period of duty.
The West Indies Campaign Medal was declared obsolete by the U.S. Navy in 1913, following a diplomatic request by Spain that the United States discontinue service medals which displayed Spain’s national colors. As a result, those who had previously received the West Indies Campaign Medal were permitted to exchange the decoration for the Spanish Campaign Medal.