The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918."
Distinguished Flying Cross
Awarded by the Department of the Army Department of the Navy Department of the Air Force Department of Homeland Security
Military medal (Decoration)
"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 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, and the missions 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 performances throughout a tour of duty, and different criteria were used elsewhere.
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. 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 and Air Force, and gold and silver 5⁄16 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.
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 ineligible for the DFC as he was a civilian for his entire career with NASA.
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.
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur: Chief of Staff of the United States Army (1930-1935), commander of the Southwest Pacific Area (1942-1945) and commander of United Nations forces in Korea (1950-1951). DFC awarded for one inconclusive aerial reconnaissance mission in 1950.
Alfonza W. Davis (November 23, 1919 - October 30, 1945) was the first African-American aviator from North Omaha, Nebraska to be awarded his "wings." He was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a recipient of the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Unit Citation. Davis was assumed to be dead after going missing on or about July 30, 1945 over the Adriatic Sea.
Ashley Chadbourne McKinley (June 23, 1896 in Marshall, Texas – February 11, 1970) was an accomplished American aerial photographer and colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps who helped pioneer aviation at subzero temperatures. He accompanied Richard E. Byrd as an aerial photographer on his expedition to the South Pole.
Clarence W. Dart, Sr. (6 December 1920 – 17 February 2012) was a World War II fighter pilot and member of the Tuskegee Airmen. During World War II, he flew a total of 95 missions, and was shot down twice, earning two Purple Hearts. He was also the recipient of the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters. Dart collectively, not individually, received a Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on 29 March 2007. Dart died 17 February 2012 in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was 91.Clarence was Emeritus on The Salvation Army Saratoga Springs, New York Advisory Board in which he has served since November 11, 1963.
Cyril Filcher Homer (April 29, 1919 – August 10, 1975) was a United States Army Air Force fighter ace who was credited with shooting down 15 aircraft during World War II. His P-38 Lightning aircraft was named "Uncle Cy's Angel".
Downey is an Irish surname that means in English “belonging to a fort”. The name is found from ancient times in areas of Ireland’s modern County Galway, southwest Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Ulster and Leinster and is believed to be the surname of three distinct families. In Ulster, Downey (I. O’Duibheanaigh) were the chiefs of the Ulaid petty-kingdom of Cinel Amhalgaidh, now known as Clanawley in County Down, Northern Ireland.
Jack Tarleton Bradley (June 6, 1918 – August 24, 2000) was a United States Army Air Force fighter ace who was credited with shooting down 15 aircraft during World War II and was commanding officer of the 353rd Fighter Squadron. He retired from the Air Force in 1962 as Colonel.
James Murrell "Jake" Jones (November 23, 1920 – December 13, 2000) was a first baseman in Major League Baseball who played between 1941 and 1948 for the Chicago White Sox (1941–42, 1946–47) and Boston Red Sox (1947–48). Listed at 6'3", 197 lb., Jones batted and threw right-handed. He was born in Epps, Louisiana.
James Ralph "Jim" Dunbar (July 17, 1930 – May 14, 2018) was an American competition rower and Olympic champion. He was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana. At the 1952 Summer Olympics, he and his teammates, all members of the U.S. Naval Academy's Crew Team, captured the gold medal in the men's eight rowing competition (Coxed eights) for the U.S. in Helsiknki, Finland.
Following his Olympic win, Dunbar graduated from the United States Naval Academy and joined the U.S. Air Force where he spent his career as a fighter pilot, retiring as a full colonel in 1982. He flew an F-105 Thunderchief in combat in the Vietnam war, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He has stayed connected to the sport of rowing by coaching high school rowing teams, including the J.E.B. Stuart High School Crew Team in Fairfax County, Virginia. He has also raised money for local rowing teams and was involved in choosing the site for rowing competition in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
James Sullins Varnell, Jr. (December 9, 1921 – April 9, 1945) was a United States Army Air Force fighter ace who was credited with shooting down 17 aircraft during World War II; he was the top ace of the 52nd Fighter Group.
John Thomas Chain Jr. (born December 11, 1934) is a retired U.S. Air Force General. He is also a director of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, ConAgra Foods, Inc., and Kemper Insurance Co., as well as holding other corporate offices.
General Joseph James Nazzaro (March 21, 1913 – February 5, 1990) was commander in chief of Pacific Air Forces with headquarters at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command.
Venero Frank "Benny Eggs" Mangano (September 7, 1921 – August 18, 2017) was the underboss of the Genovese crime family. Since boss Daniel "Danny the Lion" Leo was imprisoned in 2007, Mangano was the family's senior leader outside prison. The nickname "Benny Eggs" came from his mother running an egg farm. He was released from prison on November 2, 2006, after serving a 15-year sentence for extortion.
Brigadier General William Albert Matheny, (June 5, 1902 – August 8, 1973) a native of Carrington, North Dakota, entered the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet in February 1928, two years after his graduation from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a degree in electrical engineering.
He was awarded the William H. Cheney Award in 1929 following his graduation from pilot training and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps. The Cheney Award is presented by the chief of staff annually for an act of valor, extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice and humanitarian interest, performed during the preceding year in connection with aircraft.
General Matheny served with distinction during World War II in the Asiatic-Pacific theater of operations, taking part in the Central Pacific campaigns. He was decorated by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Pacific Fleet commander, for his outstanding service in the Pacific theater during World War II. In early 1948 he assumed command of the U.S. Air Force Advisory Group in Greece.
General Matheny entered the Air Defense Command in June 1950, with his assignment as commanding officer of the 28th Air Division of the Western Air Defense Force at Hamilton Air Force Base, California, and subsequent reassignment to the command of the 34th Air Division, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Prior to his assignment as chief of staff Allied Air Forces Northern Europe with headquarters at Kolsas, Norway, General Matheny commanded the 31st Air Division, Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
He was rated as a command pilot and aircraft observer. He was a graduate of the National War College in Washington, D.C., attended by high level military officers of all branches of the service and their counterparts in government service. General Matheny's decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Soldier's Medal for heroism and numerous campaign and service ribbons.
He was a member of the first group of Air Corps pilots to ever attempt to fly military aircraft (Keystone Bombers) from the United States (Langley Field) to Panama. While the flight was successful, Lieutenant Matheny's plane did crash in the jungle on the last leg of the flight to France Field, Panama; it was during this incident that he received the Cheney Award.
Matheny died on August 8, 1973.
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