Skip to main content
Related Content
Document Type
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials
  • NHHC

Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Cross was established by Congress on 2 July 1926 and may be awarded to any Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard personnel, while serving in the capacity of the Armed Forces, who distinguish themselves for heroism or outstanding achievement while participating in aerial flight. Designers: Elizabeth Will and Arthur E. DuBois. Photographed during World War II. National Archives photograph. Catalog#: 80-G-K-13532.

The Distinguished Flying Cross traces its roots to World War I when military aviation was first used in combat. Aviation added a completely new dimension to war and with it, a new arena for feats of valor and heroism. On 2 July 1926, the Distinguished Flying Cross was established by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge on 28 January 1927. Congress would later amend the act on 30 July 1937 to give the U.S. Coast Guard the authority to award the Distinguished Flying Cross. President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented the amendment on 8 January 1938. 

U.S. Army Corps reservist Captain Charles A. Lindbergh was the first to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross on 11 June 1927 for his May 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis. Wilbur and Orville Wright later received the decoration for an earlier event—the first manned powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina—on 18 December 1928. Orville’s was awarded posthumously, as he died in 1912. 

The Distinguished Flying Cross may be awarded to any servicemember, while serving in the capacity of the Armed Forces, who distinguish themselves for heroism or outstanding achievement while participating in aerial flight. For heroism, the act must involve action in the face of danger and well above the actions of others under similar circumstances. For extraordinary achievement, the act must be so exceptional that it clearly sets apart the individual from his or her colleagues. 

The Army’s Institute of Heraldry’s Arthur E. DuBois and Elizabeth Will designed the Distinguished Flying Cross medal. It has a four-bladed propeller in the reentrant angles of the cross, with rays between the arms of the cross. The reverse side of the medal is blank, leaving space for the recipient's rank and name. The ribbon is primarily blue, with a narrow band of red, bordered by white stripes. The edges of the ribbon are outlined in white and blue bands. For subsequent medals, stars are authorized for wear for the naval services. In order of precedence, the Distinguished Flying Cross is after the Legion of Merit and before the Navy/Marine Corps Medal. 



Borch, Fred L. and McDowell, Charles P. Sea Service Medals: Military Awards and Decoration of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2009. 

Further Readings

Additional Resources

Selected Navy Distinguished Flying Cross Recipients

Selected Imagery

Award Card, Distinguished Flying Cross

Award Card (combined images of front and back of card), Distinguished Flying Cross, Lieutenant (j.g.) George Herbert Walker Bush, USNR.

Major John H. Glenn

Secretary of the Navy Thomas S. Gates Jr. awards the Distinguished Flying Cross to Major John H. Glenn, U.S. Marine Corps, circa 1957. National Archives photograph. Catalog#: 80-G-1021194. 

Captain Richard H. Truly's decorations

A view of Captain Richard H. Truly's decorations. They include the Naval Astronaut Wings, the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Truly was the commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Space Command, 1 October 1983. National Archives Identifier: 6383280.

Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross presented to Charles A. Lindberg. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph. Catalog#: NH 115601.

Lieutenant Commander Clarence W. McClusky, Jr.

Lieutenant Commander Clarence W. McClusky Jr., Air Group Commander, USS Enterprise (CV-6) received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz at an awards ceremony held on Enterprise's flight deck at Pearl Harbor, 27 May 1942. Official U.S. Navy photograph now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog#: 80-G-23590.

Lieutenant Shane Osborn

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld looked on as U.S. Army General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, salutes U.S. Navy Lieutenant Shane Osborn after awarding him the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Meritorious Service Medal at an awards ceremony on Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, 18 May 2001. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bob Houlihan. National Archives Identifier: 6702326.

Published: Mon Jun 10 14:23:12 EDT 2024