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Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)


Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)

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
Navy & Marine Corps – Navy and Marine Corps Medal
Air Force – Airman's Medal
Coast Guard – Coast Guard Medal

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][3]


  • History 1
  • World War II 2
  • Vietnam 3
  • Criteria 4
  • Appearance 5
    • Devices 5.1
  • DFC National Memorial Act 6
  • In popular culture 7
  • Notable recipients 8
    • Medal of Honor recipients 8.1
    • Astronauts 8.2
    • Political figures 8.3
    • Civilians 8.4
    • Foreigners 8.5
    • Army Air Forces and United States Air Force 8.6
    • United States Marine Corps 8.7
    • United States Navy 8.8
    • United States Army 8.9
  • Non-recipients 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


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 trans-Atlantic flight from June 29 to July 1, 1927 from New York City to the coast of France. Byrd, along with pilot Floyd Bennett, received the Medal of Honor for their historic flight to the North Pole on May 9, 1926 but they did not receive the DFC for that flight as the DFC had not yet been created.

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,Glenn H. Curtiss and Eugene Ely. Eventually, it was limited to military personnel by an Executive Order.

Amelia Earhart became the first woman and first civilian to receive the DFC on July 29, 1932 when it was presented to her by Vice President Charles Curtis in Los Angeles. Earhart received the decoration for her solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean earlier that year.

World War II

During World War II the medal's award criteria varied widely depending on the theater of operations, aerial combat, and the missions accomplished. In the Pacific oftentimes commissioned officers were awarded the DFC, while enlisted men were given the Air Medal. 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.[4]

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.


During the Vietnam War high ranking Army officers often received the DFC for directing combat operations from aircraft.


The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Section 12 of the

  • The Distinguished Flying Cross Society
  • Texas Military Veteran Video Oral Histories Digital Collection - Veterans Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross -- Newton Gresham Library, Sam Houston State University

External links

  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. ^ a b c d e "Distinguished Flying Cross". The Institute of Heraldry: Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the ARMY. Retrieved 2013-12-21. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress March 1, 1933.
  8. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 2, 1932.
  9. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 11, 1932.
  10. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress in 1949 and presented in 1952.
  11. ^ a b Awarded by Act of Congress December 18, 1928.
  12. ^


See also

  • Admiral John Thach, USN - Innovative aerial tactician.
  • Admiral John Henry Towers, USN - Pacific Fleet Air Force commander during World War II.
  • Captain Thomas J. Hudner, USN - Medal of Honor recipient.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Pappy Boyington, USMC - Medal of Honor recipient and legendary combat pilot.
  • Machinist Floyd Bennett, USN - Medal of Honor recipient and pilot of first plane to fly over the North Pole.

Several highly distinguished military aviators never received the DFC. These include the following -


United States Army

United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

Army Air Forces and United States Air Force



  • Lieutenant President of the United States.
  • Colonel Bruce Sundlun, USAFR - Business executive and Governor of Rhode Island.
  • Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton, USN - Prisoner of war during the Vietnam War and United States Senator.
  • Colonel Lloyd Bentsen, USAFR - United States Senator, Secretary of the Treasury and vice presidential candidate.
  • Captain John S. McCain, III, USN - United States Senator and presidential candidate.
  • Captain William Hathaway, USAAF - Prisoner of war during World War II and United States Senator.
  • Captain Joseph McCarthy, USMC - Controversial United States Senator.
  • Captain Jim Wright, USAAF - Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
  • First Lieutenant George McGovern, USAAF - United States Senator, presidential candidate and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • First Lieutenant John Ehrlichman, USAAF - Aide to President Richard Nixon and key figure in the Watergate scandal.
  • First Lieutenant Ted Stevens, USAAF - United States Senator.

Political figures

Note - Although astronaut Neil Armstrong's achievements as an aviator and an astronaut more than exceeded the requirements for the DFC, he was ineligible for the DFC as he was a civilian for his entire career with NASA.


Medal of Honor recipients

Note - the rank indicated is the highest held by the individual.

Notable recipients

In the popular TV series JAG, the lead character, Harmon Rabb (played by David James Elliott), was a US Navy aviator and a two-times recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In the movie Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian the character Amelia Earhart (played by Amy Adams) mentions that she received "the Flying Cross". In real life, Amelia Earhart did, in fact, receive the Distinguished Flying Cross and was the first woman and civilian to do so.

In popular culture

In July 2014, the United States Senate passed the Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act. The act was sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer, and seeks to designate the Distinguished Flying Cross memorial at March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California as a national memorial to recognize members of United States Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves by heroism in aerial flight.[6] To become effective, the act will require passage by the House of Representatives and be signed by the President.

DFC National Memorial Act

The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps may authorize the "V" device for wear to denote valor in combat; Navy and Marine Corps, Combat "V". The "V" device is not authorized for wear by the Army. In the Army, the Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded for single acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. The other services can also award the medal for "extraordinary achievement".

Additional awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross are shown with bronze or silver Oak Leaf Clusters for the Army and Air Force, and by gold or silver 5/16 Inch Stars for the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard.


The suspension and service ribbon of the medal is 1 3/8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 3/32 inch Ultramarine Blue 67118; 9/64 inch White 67101; 11/32 inch Ultramarine Blue 67118; 3/64 inch White 67101; center stripe 3/32 inch Old Glory Red 67156; 3/64 inch White 67101; 11/32 inch Ultramarine Blue 67118; 9/64 inch White 67101; 3/32 inch Ultramarine Blue 67118.[3]

The Distinguished Flying Cross was designed by Elizabeth Will and Arthur E. DuBois.[3] The medal is a bronze cross pattee, on which its obverse is superimposed a four-bladed propeller, 1 11/16 inches in width. Five rays extended from the reentrant angles, forming a one-inch square. The reverse is blank, and it is suitable for engraving the recipients' name and rank.The cross is suspended by a rectangular bar.



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