Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)

Last updated
Distinguished Flying Cross
Awarded by the
Department of the Army [1]
Department of the Navy [2]
Department of the Air Force [3]
Department of Homeland Security [4]
TypeMilitary medal (Decoration)
Awarded for"Heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight"
StatusCurrently awarded
Established2 July 1926 [5]
Next (higher) Legion of Merit [6]
Next (lower)Army: Soldier's Medal
Navy and Marine Corps: Navy and Marine Corps Medal
Air Force: Airman's Medal
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Service Ribbon

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." [6] [7]



LTG Ray Odierno presents Distinguished Flying Crosses to Army aviators in Iraq Odierno presents DFCs army mil-2007-11-14-093424.jpg
LTG Ray Odierno presents Distinguished Flying Crosses to Army aviators in Iraq

The first award of the Distinguished Flying Cross was made by President Calvin Coolidge on May 2, 1927, to ten aviators of the U.S. Army Air Corps who had participated in the 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. The award had only been authorized by Congress the previous year and no medals had yet been struck, so the Pan American airmen initially received only certificates. Among the ten airmen were Major Herbert Dargue, Captains Ira C. Eaker and Muir S. Fairchild, and 1st Lt. Ennis C. Whitehead.

Charles Lindbergh received the first presentation of the actual medal about 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. 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 Commander Richard E. Byrd, USN for his trans-Atlantic flight from June 29 to July 1, 1927, from New York City to the coast of France. Byrd and his pilot Machinist Floyd Bennett had already received the Medal of Honor for their historic flight to the North Pole on May 9, 1926.

Numerous recipients of the medal earned greater fame in other occupations; a number of astronauts, actors, and politicians have been Distinguished Flying Cross recipients, including President George H. W. Bush. DFC awards can be retroactive to cover notable achievements back to 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 to receive the DFC on July 29, 1932, when it was presented to her by Vice President Charles Curtis in Los Angeles 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 that was engaged in, and the missions that were accomplished. In the Pacific, commissioned officers were often awarded the DFC, while enlisted men were given the Air Medal. In Europe, some crews received it for their overall performance through a tour of duty. The criteria used was however not consistent between commands or over time. [8] Individual achievement could also result in the medal being awarded. For example, George McGovern received one for successfully completing a bombing mission after his aircraft lost an engine, and then landing it safely. [9]


The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Section 12 of the United States Army Air Corps Act enacted by Congress on July 2, 1926, [10] as amended by Executive Order 7786 on January 8, 1938. [7] This act provided for award to any person who distinguishes himself "by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight" while serving in any capacity with the Air Corps. [7]


The Distinguished Flying Cross was designed by Elizabeth Will and Arthur E. DuBois. [7] The medal is a bronze cross pattee, on whose obverse is superimposed a four-bladed propeller, 1 11/16 inches in width. Five rays extend from the reentrant angles, forming a one-inch square. The reverse is blank; it is suitable for engraving the recipient's name and rank. The cross is suspended from a rectangular bar.

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. [7]


Additional awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross are shown with bronze or silver Oak Leaf Clusters for the Army and Air Force, and gold and silver 516 Inch Stars for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps may authorize the "V" device for wear on the DFC to denote valor in combat; Navy and Marine Corps, Combat "V". The Army does not authorize the "V" device to be worn on the DFC (even though the Army awards the DFC "for single acts of heroism" or "extraordinary achievement" while participating in aerial flight). The other services can also award the DFC for extraordinary achievement without the "V" device.

DFC National Memorial Act

In July 2014, the United States Senate passed the Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act. The act was sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer, to designate the Distinguished Flying Cross Memorial at March Field Air Museum adjacent to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California as a national memorial to recognize members of United States Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves by heroism in aerial flight. [11] The act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 25, 2014. [12]

Notable recipients of the DFC

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


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.

Political figures


Foreign citizens


United States Air Force, Army Air Forces and Army Air Corps

United States Marine Corps

United States Navy

United States Coast Guard

United States Army

See also

Related Research Articles

Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom) military decoration of the United Kingdom

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 to other ranks, of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".

Distinguished Service Cross (United States) US Army medal for gallantry

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Army for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree that they are above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations, but which do not meet the criteria for the Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross is equivalent to the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, and the Coast Guard Cross.

Chief warrant officer is a military rank used by the United States Armed Forces, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Pakistan Air Force, the Israel Defense Forces, the South African National Defence Force, the Lebanese Armed Forces and, since 2012, the Singapore Armed Forces. In the United States Armed Forces, chief warrant officers are commissioned officers, not non-commissioned officers (NCOs) like in other NATO forces.

A group is a military aviation unit, a component of military organization and a military formation. The terms group and wing differ significantly from one country to another, as well as between different branches of a national defence force.

Air Force Distinguished Service Medal Military award of the United States Air Force

The Air Force Distinguished Service Medal was created by an act of the United States Congress on July 6, 1960. The medal was intended as a new decoration of the United States Air Force to replace the policy of awarding the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Air Force personnel.

Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Commissioning source for USAF officers

The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) is one of the three primary commissioning sources for officers in the United States Air Force, the other two being the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and Air Force Officer Training School (OTS). A subordinate command of the Air University within the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), AFROTC is aligned under the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. The Holm Center, formerly known as the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools (AFOATS), retains direct responsibility for both AFROTC and OTS.

Sons of the American Revolution Nonprofit organization

The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution is an American congressionally chartered organization, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. A non-profit corporation, it has described its purpose as maintaining and extending "the institutions of American freedom, an appreciation for true patriotism, a respect for our national symbols, the value of American citizenship, [and] the unifying force of 'e pluribus unum' that has created, from the people of many nations, one nation and one people."

Vance Air Force Base US Air Force base near Enid, Oklahoma, United States

Vance Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located in southern Enid, Oklahoma, about 65 mi (105 km) north northwest of Oklahoma City. The base is named after local World War II hero and Medal of Honor recipient, Lt Col Leon Robert Vance Jr.

Colonel (United States) Military rank of the United States

In the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, colonel is the most senior field grade military officer rank, immediately above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general. It is equivalent to the naval rank of captain in the other uniformed services. By law, a colonel must have at least 22 years of cumulative service and a minimum of three years as a lieutenant colonel before being promoted. The pay grade for colonel is O-6.

Weapon systems officer flight crew of combat aircraft tasked with operating weapons and other systems

A Weapon Systems Officer is an air flight officer directly involved in all air operations and weapon systems of a military aircraft.

Frank A. Armstrong US Air Force general

Frank Alton Armstrong Jr. was a lieutenant general of the United States Air Force. As a brigadier general in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, he was the inspiration for the main character in the novel and subsequent film, Twelve O'Clock High. After the war, he held a variety of senior leadership positions prior to and following the establishment of the USAF as an independent service in 1947. Promoted to major general in 1950, he advanced to lieutenant general in 1956 and retired at that rank in 1962.

Barrancas National Cemetery United States historic place

Barrancas National Cemetery is a United States National Cemetery located at Naval Air Station Pensacola, in the city of Pensacola, Florida. It encompasses 94.9 acres (38.4 ha), and as of the end of 2005, had 32,643 interments.

Mustang is a military slang term used in the United States Armed Forces to refer to a commissioned officer who began his or her career as an enlisted service member prior to commissioning. Mustang officers are generally older, theoretically more experienced than their peers-in-grade who have entered the military via commissioning from one of the service academies, Officer Candidate School, or the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Military Order of Foreign Wars fraternal order

The Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States (MOFW) is one of the oldest veterans' and hereditary associations in the nation with a membership that includes officers and their hereditary descendants from all of the Armed Services. Membership is composed of active duty, reserve and retired officers of the United States Armed Services, including the Coast Guard, National Guard, and allied officers, and their descendants, who have served during one of the wars in which the United States has or is engaged with a foreign power.

Hispanic Americans in World War II

Hispanic Americans, also referred to as Latinos, served in all elements of the American armed forces in the war. They fought in every major American battle in the war. Between 400,000 and 500,000 Hispanic Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, out of a total of 16,000,000, constituting 3.1% to 3.2% of the U.S. Armed Forces. The exact number is unknown as, at the time, Hispanics were not tabulated separately, but were generally included in the general white population census count. Separate statistics were kept for African Americans and Asian Americans.

Chesley G. Peterson United States Air Force Major General

Major General Chesley G. Peterson was a career officer in the United States Air Force, and a flying ace of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in World War II. As a fighter pilot in the European theater, he is best known for his time as the commander of the famous 4th Fighter Group during 1942–1943. At 23, he was the youngest colonel in the USAAF.

Hispanics in the United States Air Force can trace their tradition of service back to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), the military aviation arm of the United States Army during and immediately after World War II. The USAAF was the predecessor of the United States Air Force, which was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947, under the National Security Act of 1947. In the U.S., the term Hispanic categorizes any citizen or resident of the United States, of any racial background, of any country, and of any religion, who has at least one ancestor from the people of Spain or is of non-Hispanic origin but has an ancestor from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central or South America, or some other Hispanic origin. The three largest Hispanic groups in the United States are the Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the estimated Hispanic population of the United States is over 50 million, or 16% of the U.S. population, and Hispanics are the nation's largest ethnic minority. The 2010 U.S. Census estimate of over 50 million Hispanics in the U.S. does not include the 3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico, thereby making the people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race minority as of July 1, 2005.

Members of the United States armed forces were held as prisoners of war (POWs) in significant numbers during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1973. Unlike U.S. service members captured in World War II and the Korean War, who were mostly enlisted troops, the overwhelming majority of Vietnam-era POWs were officers, most of them Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps airmen; a relatively small number of Army enlisted personnel were also captured, as well as one enlisted Navy seaman who fell overboard from a naval vessel. Most U.S. prisoners were captured and held in North Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army; a much smaller number were captured in the south and held by the National Liberation Front. A handful of U.S. civilians were also held captive during the war.

Red Metal is a military thriller novel, written by Mark Greaney and Rip Rawlings and released on July 16, 2019. In the book, marine Lieutenant Colonel Dan Connolley and army Major Bob Griggs act to halt a Russian takeover of a Rare-earth metal mine in East Africa. Red Metal is Greaney’s first stand-alone novel and is Rawlings' debut novel. The book debuted on the New York Times, USA Today and Amazon bestseller's lists.


  1. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-01-11. Retrieved 2018-01-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2012-02-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Production publication" (PDF). static.e-publishing.af.mil. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-01-27. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  4. "Info" (PDF). media.defense.gov. 2017.
  5. "Executive Order 4601". U.S. National Archives and Records Administration . Retrieved 26 September 2012.External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. 1 2 "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33-V3" (PDF). US Department of Defense. 23 November 2010. pp. 17–18, 50. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 "Distinguished Flying Cross". The Institute of Heraldry: Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the ARMY. Archived from the original on 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  8. Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal Criteria in the Army Air Forces in World War II
  9. George McGovern’s WWII Diary
  10. Mooney, Charles C. and Layman, Martha E. (1944). "Organization of Military Aeronautics, 1907-1935 (Congressional and War Department Action)" (PDF). Air Force Historical Study No. 25. AFHRA (USAF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-27. Retrieved 14 Dec 2010., Appendix 5, p. 127.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-01. Retrieved 2014-11-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "Senator Boxer: President Obama Signs the Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act". senate.gov. Archived from the original on 23 November 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  13. Awarded by Act of Congress March 1, 1933.
  14. Awarded by Act of Congress July 2, 1932.
  15. Awarded by Act of Congress July 11, 1932.
  16. Awarded by Act of Congress July 11, 1932. Died in a plane crash with Will Rogers.
  17. Awarded by Act of Congress in 1949 and presented in 1952.
  18. 1 2 Awarded by Act of Congress December 18, 1928.
  19. Tribune, Chicago. "MORTON ARNOLD PIERCE, 78". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
  20. MacArthur, Douglas (1964). Reminiscences. Annapolis: Bluejacket Books. pp. 372–373. ISBN   1-55750-483-0. OCLC   220661276.
  21. "Valor awards for James Francis Hollingsworth". militarytimes.com. Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2016.