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. 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.
Distinguished Flying Cross
"Heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight"
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 First Lieutenant 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. The DFC may be retroactively awarded to recognize notable accomplishments made at any time after the beginning of American participation in 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 IIEdit
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. Individual achievement could also result in the medal being awarded. For example, George McGovern received one for the successful completion of a bombing mission in which his aircraft lost an engine and then was landed safely.
The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Section 12 of the United States Army Air Corps Act enacted by Congress on July 2, 1926, as amended by Executive Order 7786 on January 8, 1938 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.
The Distinguished Flying Cross was designed by Elizabeth Will and Arthur E. DuBois. 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.
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 5⁄16 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.
Major Deke Slayton, USAF: one of the original seven American astronauts, NASA chief astronaut and docking module pilot for the Apollo-Soyuz mission.
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.
Colonel Kim Campbell, USAF: for successfully completing her mission supporting ground troops over Baghdad in April 2003 and successfully landing her A-10 back at base despite sustaining severe damage to her aircraft.
Captain Kenneth H. Dahlberg, USAAF: business executive and figure in the Watergate scandal, recipient of two DFCs.
Captain Joseph Elsberry, Member of the Tuskegee Airmen. Destroyed three enemy aircraft over France in a single mission on July 12, 1944, and a fourth aircraft in July 20, 1944, becoming the first African American fighter pilot to do so.
Captain Hawthorne C. Gray, USAAC: died during altitude record breaking balloon ascent in 1927.
Captain Joseph Kittinger, USAF: seven DFCs, served three tours in Vietnam and holder of the highest free-fall parachute jump record for 52 years.
^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.
^"Official Website of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer: Press Releases - Boxer Praises Senate Passage of the Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act". Archived from the original on 2014-11-01. Retrieved 2014-11-01.
^"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.
^AIR FORCE HISTORICAL RESEARCH AGENCY. "TUSKEGEE AIRMEN CHRONOLOGY." DANIEL L. HAULMAN. 24 November 2015. Page 65. http://www.spiritof45.org/TUSKEGEE%20AIRMEN%20CHRONOLOGY.pdf
^"Douglas MacArthur – Distinguished Flying Cross, Awarded for Actions During Korean War". Hall of Valor Project. Archived from the original on 2020-07-30. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
^"Valor awards for James Francis Hollingsworth". militarytimes.com. Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
Spink, Barry L. (4 March 2010). "Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal Criteria in the Army Air Forces in World War II in Rough Chronological Sequence" (PDF). Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Distinguished Flying Cross.
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