Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)

Last updated
Distinguished Flying Cross
TypeMilitary Decoration
Awarded for"Heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight"
Presented by
StatusCurrently awarded
Established2 July 1926 [5]
First awarded2 May 1927
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Service ribbon
Next (higher) Legion of Merit [6]
Next (lower)

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is a military decoration of the United States Armed Forces. The medal was established on July 2, 1926, and is currently awarded to any persons who, after April 6, 1917, distinguish themselves by single acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. Both heroism and extraordinary achievement are entirely distinctive, involving operations that are not routine. [6] [7] The medal may be awarded to friendly foreign military members in ranks equivalent to U.S. Pay Grade of O-6 and below, in actual combat in support operations.



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 were 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] and USC 10, 9279. 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, Air Force, and Space Force, and gold and silver 516 Inch Stars for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

The Army, Air Force, Space Force, Navy, and Marine Corps may authorize the "V" device for wear on the DFC to denote valor in combat. The services can also award the DFC for extraordinary achievement without the "V" device.

On January 7, 2016, a Secretary of Defense memorandum standardized the use of the "V" device as a valor-only device across the services. The Department of Defense published "DOD Manuals 1348.33, Volumes 1-4, DOD Military Decorations and Awards" which unified the criteria for awards. DOD 1348.33. "Army Regulation 600-8-22, Military Awards" authorizes use of the "V" Device with the DFC for combat valor and the "C" Device for meritorious service or achievement under combat conditions.

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 a civilian for his entire career with NASA, requiring an act of Congress to award the medal.

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 Service Cross (United States) United States Army service cross medal

The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is the United States Army's second highest military decoration for soldiers who display extraordinary heroism in 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 Army Distinguished Service Cross is equivalent to the Navy and Marine Corps' Navy Cross, the Air Force and Space Force's Air Force Cross, and the Coast Guard Cross. Prior to the creation of the Air Force Cross in 1960, airmen were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

A group is a military unit or a military formation that is most often associated with military aviation.

Sons of the American Revolution Lineage society

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

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, Lieutenant Colonel Leon Robert Vance Jr.

Colonel (United States) Military rank of the United States

In the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space 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, an officer previously required at least 22 years of cumulative service and a minimum of three years as a lieutenant colonel before being promoted to colonel. With the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, military services now have the authorization to directly commission new officers up to the rank of colonel. The pay grade for colonel is O-6.

Riverside National Cemetery Veterans cemetery in Riverside County, California

Riverside National Cemetery (RNC) is a cemetery located in Riverside, California, dedicated to the interment of United States military personnel. The cemetery covers 1,250 acres (510 ha), making it the largest cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration. It has been the most active cemetery in the system since 2000, based on the number of interments.

Weapon systems officer Air officer in charge of armaments

A Weapon Systems Officer (WSO), nicknamed "Wizzo", is an air flight officer directly involved in all air operations and weapon systems of a military aircraft.

Barrancas National Cemetery Historic veterans cemetery in Escambia County, Florida

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 2021 had over 50,000 interments.

Mustang is a military slang term used in the United States Armed Forces to refer to a commissioned officer who began their career as an enlisted service member prior to commissioning as an officer, a limited duty officer (LDO), or chief warrant officer (CWO). The British army equivalent is temporary gentleman. Mustang officers are generally older, and 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.

Harrison Thyng United States Air Force general and flying ace

Brigadier General Harrison Reed Thyng was a fighter pilot and a general in the United States Air Force (USAF). He is notable as one of only six USAF fighter pilots to be recognized as an ace in two wars. On retiring from the military, Thyng became a New Hampshire candidate to the United States Senate.

AirSols was a combined, joint command of Allied air units in the Solomon Islands campaign of World War II, from April 1943 to June 1944. It was subordinate to the Allied but U.S.-led Commander, South Pacific Area, itself part of Pacific Ocean Areas. AirSols superseded and absorbed the Cactus Air Force, which controlled Allied air units in the Solomons during 1942–43. AirSols was made up of United States Navy (USN), United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and the Thirteenth Air Force, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) forces.

Military Order of Foreign Wars U.S. veterans and hereditary association

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 Military contributions of Hispanic Americans

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 included in the general white population census count. Separate statistics were kept for African Americans and Asian Americans.

Chesley G. Peterson

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 and Latinos 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.

William T. Whisner Jr.

William Thomas Whisner Jr. was a career officer and pilot in the United States Air Force, retiring as a colonel with 30 years of military service. He was a fighter ace with Army Air Forces over Europe in World War II and a jet fighter ace with the Air Force in the Korean War.

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, Petty Officer Doug Hegdahl, who fell overboard from a naval vessel. Most U.S. prisoners were captured and held in North Vietnam by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN); a much smaller number were captured in the south and held by the Việt Cộng (VC). A handful of U.S. civilians were also held captive during the war.


  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". Archives.gov (National Archives and Records Administration). Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  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.
  20. "Douglas MacArthur – Distinguished Flying Cross, Awarded for Actions During Korean War". Hall of Valor Project. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  21. "Valor awards for James Francis Hollingsworth". militarytimes.com. Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  22. Chad Garland, Trump awards Distinguished Flying Cross to guardsmen who helped rescue hundreds from wildfires, Stars & Stripes (September 15, 2020).

Further reading