Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)

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Distinguished Flying Cross
Awarded by United States Military
Type Military medal (Decoration)
Awarded for "Heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight"
Status Current
Established 2 July 1926[1]
Next (higher) Legion of Merit[2]
Next (lower) Army – Soldier's Medal[3]
Navy & Marine Corps – Navy and Marine Corps Medal
Air Force – Airman's Medal
Coast Guard – Coast Guard Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
LTG Ray Odierno presents Distinguished Flying Crosses to soldiers in Iraq.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918."[2]


The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Section 12 of the Air Corps Act enacted by the United States Congress on July 2, 1926,[4] as amended by Executive Order 7786 on January 8, 1938.

The first award of the Distinguished Flying Cross was made by President Calvin Coolidge on May 2, 1927, to ten aviators of the Air Corps who had participated in the U.S. Army Pan American Flight, which took place from December 21, 1926 to May 2, 1927. Two of the airmen died in a mid-air collision trying to land at Buenos Aires on February 26, 1927, and received their awards posthumously. Since the award had only been authorized by Congress the previous year, no medals had yet been struck, and the Pan American airmen initially received only certificates. Among the ten airmen were Major Herbert A. Dargue, Captains Ira C. Eaker and Muir S. Fairchild, and 1st Lt. Ennis C. Whitehead.

Charles Lindbergh received the first presentation of the medal little more than a month later, from Coolidge during the Washington, D.C. homecoming reception on June 11, 1927, from his trans-Atlantic flight. The medal had hurriedly been struck and readied just for that occasion. Interestingly, the 1927 War Department General Order (G.O. 8), authorizing Lindbergh's DFC states that it was awarded by the President, while the General Order (G.O. 6) for the Pan American Flyers' DFC citation notes that the War Department awarded it "by direction of the President." The first Distinguished Flying Cross to be awarded to a Naval Aviator was received by then-Commander Richard E. Byrd, for his flight on May 9, 1926, to and from the North Pole. Both Lindbergh and Byrd also received the Medal of Honor for their feats.

Numerous military recipients of the medal would later earn greater fame in other occupations—several astronauts, actors and politicians (including former President George H. W. Bush) are Distinguished Flying Cross holders.

DFC awards could be retroactive to cover notable achievements back until the beginning of World War I. On February 23, 1929, Congress passed special legislation to allow the award of the DFC to the Wright brothers for their December 17, 1903 flight. Other civilians who have received the award include Wiley Post, Jacqueline Cochran, Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhart, and Eugene Ely. Eventually, it was limited to military personnel by an Executive Order issued by President Coolidge.

During World War II the medal's award criteria varied widely depending on the theater of operations, aerial combat, and the missions accomplished. In Europe some bomber crews, often the sole survivors of their wing or group, received it for completing a tour of duty of twenty-five sortees; elsewhere different criteria were used.[5]

During wartime, members of the Armed Forces of friendly foreign nations serving with the United States are eligible for the Distinguished Flying Cross. It is also given to those who display heroism while working as instructors or students at flying schools.

Colonel Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski, USAF, received 13 Distinguished Flying Crosses—the most earned by any individual. He is followed by Admiral Stan Arthur, USN, with 11 DFCs.


The Distinguished Flying Cross was designed by Elizabeth Will and Arthur E. DuBois. The medal has a bronze cross pattee, with rays between the arms of the cross. On its obverse is the image of a propeller with four blades, with one blade in each arm of the cross. In the re-entrant angles of the cross are rays that form a square. The cross is suspended by a rectanglular bar and centered on this is a plain shield. The reverse is blank, and it is suitable for engraving the winner's name and rank.

The suspension and service ribbon of the medal has a narrow red center stripe, flanked on either side by a thin white stripe, a wide stripe of dark blue, a narrow white stripe and narrow dark blue at the edge of the ribbon.

Additional awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross are shown with oak leaf clusters for the Air Force and the Army, and by 5/16 inch stars for the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard.

The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, may authorize the "V" device for wear to denote valor in combat. In the Army, the Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded exclusively for heroism in combat whereas the other services can award the medal for "extraordinary achievement". The "V" device is not authorized to be worn by the Army.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Executive Order 4601". U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33-V3". US Department of Defense. 23 November 2010. pp. 17–18, 50. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference WP9JUL12 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ Mooney, Charles C. and Layman, Martha E. (1944). "Organization of Military Aeronautics, 1907-1935 (Congressional and War Department Action)". Air Force Historical Study No. 25. AFHRA (USAF). Retrieved 14 Dec 2010. , Appendix 5, p. 127.
  5. ^ Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal Criteria in the Army Air Forces in World War II

External links[edit]