Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)

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."[6][7]

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

Service Ribbon


Odierno presents DFCs army mil-2007-11-14-093424
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.[8]


The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Section 12 of the United States Army Air Corps Act enacted by Congress on July 2, 1926,[9] 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.[10] The act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 25, 2014.[11]

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


  • Glenn Curtiss: Aircraft designer. Posthumously awarded in 1933.[12]
  • Amelia Earhart: Legendary aviatrix. First woman to receive the DFC by an act of Congress in 1932.[13]
  • Eugene Burton Ely: First person to make a ship-board landing in an aircraft. Posthumously awarded in 1933.
  • Harold Gatty: Navigator with Wiley Post on record-breaking around the world flight. Awarded in 1932.[14]
  • Wiley Post: Completed record-breaking around-the-world flight and was the first person to fly solo around the world. Awarded in 1932.[15]
  • Roscoe Turner: Flamboyant air racing champion. Presented in 1952. (Last award of the DFC to a civilian.)[16]
  • Orville Wright: Aviation pioneer. Awarded by Act of Congress on December 18, 1928.[17]
  • Wilbur Wright: Aviation pioneer. Posthumously awarded by Act of Congress on December 18, 1928.[17]

Foreign citizens

  • Wing Commander James Blackburn RAF: Distinguished British pilot during World War II.
  • Wing Commander A. Warburton, RAF: Distinguished British reconnaissance pilot during World War II.
  • Colonel Francesco De Pinedo, Italian Air Force: Completed the Four Continents Flight in a flying boat in 1927.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Dieudonné Costes, French Army: Completed around the world flight.
  • Lieutenant Commander Joseph Le Brix, French Navy: Completed around the world flight.
  • Commandant James Fitzmaurice, Irish Air Corps. Flew on first non-stop westward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on the Bremen.
  • Captain Hermann Köhl, German Army: Flew on first non-stop westward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Baron Ehrenfried Günther Freiherr von Hünefeld, German aristocrat: Flew on first non-stop westward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.


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


  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.
  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. ^ a b "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33-V3" (PDF). US Department of Defense. 23 November 2010. pp. 17–18, 50. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d e "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. ^ http://www.afhra.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130506-007.pdf
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-01. Retrieved 2014-11-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress March 1, 1933.
  13. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 2, 1932.
  14. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 11, 1932.
  15. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 11, 1932. Died in a plane crash with Will Rogers.
  16. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress in 1949 and presented in 1952.
  17. ^ a b Awarded by Act of Congress December 18, 1928.
  18. ^ Tribune, Chicago. "MORTON ARNOLD PIERCE, 78". chicagotribune.com. Archived from the original on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help). Retrieved 2019-02-03.
  19. ^ MacArthur, Douglas (1964). Reminiscences. Annapolis: Bluejacket Books. pp. 372–373. ISBN 1-55750-483-0. OCLC 220661276.
  20. ^ "Valor awards for James Francis Hollingsworth". militarytimes.com. Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2016.

External links

Alfonza W. Davis

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

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.

Charles R. Stimpson

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Clarence Dart

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 F. Homer

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Douglas Baker (aviator)

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Earl Hogan

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Eugene A. Valencia Jr.

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Jack T. Bradley

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James Dunbar (rower)

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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 S. Varnell Jr.

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John T. Godfrey

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Joseph J. Nazzaro

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Richard D. Hearney

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William A. Matheny

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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