The Croix de Guerre may be awarded either as an individual award or as a unit award to those soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy. The medal is awarded to those who have been "mentioned in dispatches", meaning a heroic deed or deeds were performed meriting a citation from an individual's headquarters unit. The unit award of the Croix de Guerre with palm was issued to military units whose members performed heroic deeds in combat and were subsequently recognized by headquarters.
The Croix de Guerre medal varies depending on which country is bestowing the award and for what conflict. Separate French medals exist for the First and Second World War.
For the unit decoration of the Croix de Guerre, a fourragère (which takes the form of a braided cord) is awarded; this is suspended from the shoulder of an individual's uniform.
As the Croix de Guerre is issued as several medals, and as a unit decoration, situations typically arose where an individual was awarded the decoration several times, for different actions, and from different sources. Regulations also permitted the wearing of multiple Croix de Guerre, meaning that such medals were differentiated in service records by specifying French Croix de Guerre, French Croix de Guerre (WWI), etc.
French Croix de Guerre
French Croix de guerre des TOE
There are three distinct Croix de Guerre medals in the French system of honours:
The Croix was created by a law of April 2, 1915, proposed by French deputy Émile Briant. The Croix reinstated and modified an older system of mentions in dispatches, which were only administrative honours with no medal accompanying them. The sculptor Paul-André Bartholomé created the medal, a bronze cross with swords, showing the effigy of the republic.
The French Croix represents a mention in dispatches awarded by a commanding officer, at least a regimental commander. Depending on the officer who issued the mention, the ribbon of the Croix is marked with extra pins.
a bronze palm for those who had been mentioned at the army level.
a silver palm stands for five bronze ones.
a silver-gilt (gold) palm for those who had been mentioned at the Free French Forces level (World War II only).
The French Croix de guerre des TOE was created in 1921 for wars fought in theatres of operation outside France. It was awarded during the Indochina War, Korean War, and various wars in the decades that followed. It is the only version of the Croix de Guerre still considered active, though it has not been presented since the Kosovo War in 1999.
The coat of arms of Leuven, featuring a French Croix de Guerre presumably to commemorate acts of heroism during the sacking of the city by Germany in 1914
The Croix can be awarded to military units, as a manifestation of a collective Mention in Despatches. It is then displayed on the unit's flag. A unit, usually a regiment or a battalion, is always mentioned at the army level. The Croix is then a Croix de Guerre with palm. Other communities, such as cities or companies can be also awarded the Croix.
When a unit is mentioned twice, it is awarded the fourragère of the Croix de Guerre. This fourragère is worn by all men in the unit, but it can be worn on a personal basis: those permanently assigned to a unit, at the time of the mentions, were entitled to wear the fourragère for the remainder of service in the military.
Temporary personnel, or those who had joined a unit after the actions which had been mentioned, were authorized to wear the award while a member of the unit but would surrender the decoration upon transfer. This temporary wearing of the fourragère only applied to the French version of the Croix de Guerre.
In the United States military, the Croix de Guerre was accepted as a foreign decoration. It remains one of the more difficult foreign awards to verify entitlement. The Croix de Guerre unit and individual award were often presented with original orders only and rarely entered into a permanent service record. The 1973 National Archives Fire destroyed most of the World War II personnel records which are needed to verify a veteran's entitlement to the Croix de Guerre award. However, foreign unit award entitlements can be checked and verified through official unit history records. Veterans must provide proof of service in the unit cited at the time of action in order to be entitled to the award. Individual foreign awards can be checked through foreign government (France) military records.
Regarding the United States in WWI, on April 10, 12, and 13, 1918, the lines being held by the troops of the 104th Infantry Regiment, of the 26th "Yankee" Division, in Bois Brûlé, near Apremont in the Ardennes, were heavily bombarded and attacked by the Germans. At first the Germans secured a foothold in some advanced trenches which were not strongly held but, thereafter, sturdy counterattacks by the 104th Infantry - at the point of the bayonet - succeeded in driving the enemy out with serious losses, entirely re-establishing the American line. For its gallantry the 104th Infantry was cited in a general order of the French 32nd Army Corps on April 26, 1918. In an impressive ceremony occurring in a field near Boucq on April 28, 1918, the 104th Infantry's regimental flag was decorated with the Croix de Guerre by French General Fenelon F.G. Passaga. "I am proud to decorate the flag of a regiment which has shown such fortitude and courage," he said. "I am proud to decorate the flag of a nation which has come to aid in the fight for liberty." Thus, the 104th Infantry became the very first American unit to be honored by a foreign country for exceptional bravery in combat. In addition, 117 members of the 104th Infantry received the award, including its commander, Colonel George H. Shelton.
In World War II, the 320th Bombardment Group received the Croix de Guerre avec Palme for action in preparation for and in support of Allied offensive operations in central Italy, April–June 1944. It was the first American unit in this war to be awarded the citation. Members of the 440th AAA AW Battalion (Anti-Aircraft Artillery - Automatic Weapons) of the U.S. Army also received the Croix de Guerre avec Palme (unit award) for stopping the German Ardennes counter-offensive in holding the town of Gouvy, Belgium for 41⁄2 days at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge on December 16, 1944. Gouvy is midway between St. Vith and Bastogne. Commanding Officer of the 440th, Lt. Col. Robert O. Stone, and Pfc. Joseph P. Regis, also received an individual award of the Croix de Guerre avec Palme. On June 21, 1945, French General De Gaulle presented the following citation to the 34th United States Infantry Division: "A 'division d'elite', whose loyal and efficient cooperation with French divisions, begun in TUNISIA, was gloriously continued throughout the Italian campaign, in particular during the operations of BELVEDERE when the 34th Division, despite the difficulties of the moment, displayed most courageous efforts in support of the operations of the 3rd Algerian Division. This citation bears with it the award of Croix de Guerre with Palm." Soldiers of the US Army 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment "Geronimos" were awarded the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, For Service in the Southern France campaign. The 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters by the Germans they killed, were as a unit awarded this medal. 171 members were personally awarded the medal along with the nations highest award, the Legion of Honor. The 509th Unit colors bear the Streamer embroidered "MUY EN PROVENCE".
On March 30, 1951, the President of the French Republic, Vincent Auriol, pinned not only the Croix de Guerre with Palm but also the Legion of Honour on the flag of the Brigade of Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy in recognition of historic contributions of the Naval Academy, particularly the contributions of alumni to victory in World War II. The flag of the Brigade of Midshipmen does not display streamers for either award, nor do Midshipmen wear the fourragère, despite apparent entitlement to do both.
Today, members of several US Army and Marine Corps units that received the fourragère for combat service during World Wars I and/or II are authorized to wear the award while assigned to the unit. Upon transfer from the unit the individual is no longer authorized to wear the fourragère. Wearing of the decoration is considered ceremonial only and it is not entered as an official military individual or unit award in the service member's permanent service records.
Units currently authorized to wear the French fourragère are:
2nd Infantry Division "Indianhead" – For service during WW I with the I Corps, US First Army, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)
3rd Infantry Division "Marne Division" – For service during WW I with the III Corps, US First Army, AEF & in WW II with VI Corps, US Seventh Army, Sixth US Army Group, AEF
4th Cavalry Regiment "Raiders" – For service during WW II as the 4th Cavalry Group (Mechanized) VII Corps, US First Army, Twelfth US Army Group, AEF
28th Infantry Regiment "Lions of Cantigny" – For service during WW I in the 2d Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, I Corps, US First Army, AEF (Regiment deactivated as of 9 April 2015)
369th Infantry Regiment "Harlem Hellfighters" – For service during WW I in the French 16th and 161st Divisions (Regiment reorganized and re-designated as of 20 July 2007 as the 369th Sustainment Brigade, 53d Troop Command, New York Army National Guard)
Note: Only members of the above named USMC units, including attached Navy personnel, are authorized to wear the French Fourragère for their unit's service during WW I as the 4th Marine Brigade, of the US Army 2d Infantry Division, I Corps, US First Army, AEF:
Individuals in World War I
Albert J Perron (World War I) 5724, private, Awarded French Croix de Guerre with palm, order no. 11.722 "D" dated November 19, 1918, General Headquarters, French Armies of the North and Northeast, with the following citation: "He displayed great courage during the night of October 4, 1918. With the aid of a comrade he carried the wounded from the first-aid station to the ambulance a distance of 500 meters under a violent bombardment."
Anthony Funicella (World War I) 101462, private, company B, 5th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd Division. French Croix de Guerre with bronze star, under Order No. 13.296 "D", dated February 7, 1919, General Headquarters, French armies of the East with the following citation: "On October 4, 1918 near Somme-Py, he carried messages under a violent bombardment with the greatest contempt for danger and a bravery which was worthy of all praise rendering valuable service to his battallion commander." Residence at enlistment 619 Wardell Ave, Clairton, Pa
Sgt. Henry Johnson served with the 369th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters or the Black Rattlers, the regiment consisted entirely of African Americans excepting their officers. Henry Johnson was the first American alongside Needham Roberts to receive the Croix de Guerre. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with special citation and a golden palm for bravery in fighting off a German raiding party. Also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart (1996), the Distinguished Service Cross (2002), and the U.S. Army Medal of Honor (2015) for his actions in the battle.
James Henry Legg, Jr was awarded Croix de Guerre with a Bronze Star for his contributions at Blanc Mont in October 1918.
Lt. Fred Becker, the University of Iowa's first All-American left school to enlist prior to his senior season. Commissioned in the Army and assigned to a Marine platoon. KIA at Soissons, July 1918. Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and France awarded him the Croix de Guerre.
Thomas Ricketts - Private, Royal Newfoundland Regiment - awarded the Croix de Guerre with Golden Star in 1919 for heroism on October 14, 1918.
Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave DSO & Bar (August 28, 1890 – July 28, 1971) was the Canadian signatory to the Japanese Instrument of Surrender at the end of World War II.
Father John B. DeValles, a chaplain with the Yankee Division, he was known as the "Angel of the Trenches" for his valiant deeds in caring for both Allied and German soldiers on the battlefields of France. Fr. DeValles was injured in a mustard gas attack while attending to a fallen soldier and died two years later.
Cpl. George C. Doneworth, 84th Co., 3rd Bn., 6th Marines, USMC. Wounded four times in battle, including mustard gas, a bayonet through his thigh while jumping a German machine gun nest, a spinal injury (unbeknownst to him except for pain) from a broken piece of frozen ground hurled by a nearby artillery shell burst, and lastly a close-range rifle shot from a German soldier resulting in major head trauma at Belleau Wood on June 6, 1918; Col. Albertus Catlin had been shot that same day and place. That final head-wound in the eye socket, exiting at the temple near the ear, knocked him unconscious, and after being left for dead and waking later in the day near sunset, covered in blood, he walked back to U.S. lines and took two German prisoners while enroute. Upon arrival at the first friendly machine gun emplacement, he collapsed and was evacuated to a field hospital. Awarded the French Fourragère of the Order of the Legion of Honor for gallantry by a French General officer, an all-red in color rare award by the French. He was also awarded the Purple Heart and two wound stripes, and medals for Chateau Theirry COTE-204, the Ainse Defensive Sector (with 4 stars), and the 2nd Division Regulars, U.S. Army. Spent 3 years in hospital in France, Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. When recovered, he returned to his home in Harrison, OH and created the first American Legion Post where he became Commander. He lived to the age of 88.
Dorothie Feilding, a British volunteer nurse awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery in the field.
Maud Fitch, a volunteer ambulance driver from Eureka, Utah, was awarded the Croix de Guerre with a gold star for her courage rescuing wounded soldiers under heavy fire.
George L. Fox, awarded the Croix de Guerre for his service on the Western Front. He was also one of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives when the troopships USAT Dorchester was hit by a torpedo and sank on February 3, 1943, during World War II.
Major Edwin L. Holton was awarded the Croix de Guerre for distinguished service as deputy commissioner of the American Red Cross in France in charge of re-education and rehabilitation of the disabled soldiers. He had a staff of 60 Red Cross Officials assisted by 15,000 workers. The staff he supervised helped 136,000 disabled soldiers of the 200,000 American wounded in WWI.
William F Howe, Commanding Officer of 102nd Field Artillery Regiment on the Western Front
Bugler James A. Irwin of Company H, 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze star under order number 11.602 "D" dated November 15, 1918, General Headquarters, French Armies of the North and Northeast. Irwin "acted courageously in the engagements of June 7 and 8, 1918. As liaison agent with the battalion commander he displayed great courage and much presence of mind, succeeding under violent artillery and machine gun fire in carrying messages where others had been unable to go."
Major General Charles E. Kilbourne who was also the first American to win the United States' three highest medals for bravery.
American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918), a sergeant and intelligence observer with the 69th Volunteer Infantry, 42nd Rainbow Division, was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre for service.
Henri de Lubac, a Roman Catholic Jesuit novice serving in the Third Infantry Regiment, who was severely wounded in the head on 1 November 1917 while fighting near Verdun. He later became an influential Catholic theologian and Cardinal.
Lawrence Dominic McCarthy, was also an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Gustave A. Michalka, with two of his men he captured a machine gun by assault and killed the crew. By his bravery and prompt action he avoided losses in his platoon.
Sgt. Palmer O. Narveson, along with two other men, was separated from his company near Bellicourt, France. He demolished a machine gun nest and reducing a second hostile position. He continued to advance, refusing to be evacuated, despite wounds and suffering the effects of gas.
Harold W. Roberts was awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze palm for his valor in the Battle of Meuse River-Argonne Forest, in which he died, near the town of Exermont, France. He was also awarded the Medal of Honor, the French Military Medal, and the Italian War Cross (all posthumously).
Needham Roberts served with the 369th Infantry Division, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters or the Black Rattlers, a regiment consisted entirely of African Americans excepting their commanding officers. Roberts was the first American alongside Henry Johnson to receive the Croix de Guerre.
Donald Swartout, American Jackson, Michigan, intelligence pfc, Comp I, 128th Infantry, 32d Div. French Croix de Guerre with bronze palm," dated March 15, 1919, General Headquarters, French Armies of the East Marshal Petain for carrying important messages between Juvigny and Terny Sorny while wounded.
Herbert Ward, artist, sculptor and African explorer, awarded the Croix de Guerre while serving with the British Ambulance Committee in the Vosges
Edwin "Pa" Watson, served in France. Earning the U.S. Army Silver Star and the Croix de Guerre from the French government.
William A. Wellman, American fighter pilot in the Lafayette Flying Corps, awarded Croix de Guerre with two palm leaves, 1918
Samuel Woodfill, an American infantry lieutenant who disabled several German machine-gun nests and killed many enemy combatants with rifle, pistol and pickaxe. He was awarded the American Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre.
Virginia Hall Goillot DSC, Croix de Guerre, MBE(April 6, 1906 – July 8, 1982), code named Marie and Diane, was an American who worked with the United Kingdom's clandestine Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in France during World War II. The objective of SOE and OSS was to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers, especially Nazi Germany. (SOE)and (OSS) agents in France allied themselves with resistance groups and supplied them with weapons and equipment parachuted in from England. After World War II Hall worked for the Special Activities Division of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Ralph Chamberlain, returned on two separate occasions to an active mine field to rescue several badly injured soldiers. Awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm Leaf for bravery and services rendered to Belgium.
Maurice Bambier, French politician and former Mayor of Montataire, awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his services during the Dunkirk evacuation.
Marcel Bigeard, highly decorated French general and veteran of World War II, French Indochina and Algeria; received both the Croix de Guerre 1939–1945 and the Croix de guerre TOE with a total of 25 citations, including 17 palms.
Robert M. Blackburn, American, Fighter pilot, Des Moines, Iowa, 405th Fighter Group, flew over 117 missions over enemy territory, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air medal with 21 Oak Leaf Clusters, purple heart, Silver Star, shot down near Dortmund, Germany, and killed after capture by SS Officer on March 25, 1945 [War Department].
Mary E. Blanshard (Hall), British-born, saboteur, spy. Engaged in work with French Resistance.
Tony Halik Polish pilot in RAF; after being the only Polish/RAF pilot shot down over France, he joined the French resistance.
Virginia Hall American spy who operated in occupied France. The Gestapo considered her "the most dangerous of all Allied spies". Awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme.
Bob Hoover, Army Air Corps pilot and USAF test pilot
John Howard, awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1944 for his valor. When his ship struck a mine off the French coast, killing the captain, Howard took over command and fought valiantly to save his ship and crew, even jumping into the sea to rescue wounded sailors.
Noor Inayat Khan, a wireless operator in the French section of the SOE. She was flown to occupied France in June 1944 and operated until mid. October. Captured and tortured, she was eventually executed at Dachau concentration camp on 13 September 1944; awarded the George Cross posthumously.
Bernard Knox, English-born classicist and author, who served with the U.S. Army during WWII and was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme for his service with the French Resistance during Operation Jedburgh.
Edmond J. Moran, led tug fleet on D-Day, one of the most influential figures in 20th-century U.S. shipping history.
Audie Murphy, American actor; most decorated U.S. Army soldier during the war, was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre avec Palme" three times and the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm once, as well as the American Medal of Honor.
Colonel Jimmy Stewart being awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm in 1944
George Scales, British farmer/Commanding Officer LCT-7011 awarded the Croix de Guerre during D-Day. Presented to him in 2007 by French Attache Naval, Capitaine de Vaisseau Jean Nicolas Gauthier of the Ministere de la Defense.
Desmond J. Scott, New Zealand fighter pilot and Group Captain who flew for the RAF. He was awarded both the Belgian and the French Croix de Guerre.
Major Edward Cecil Scott, A Battery Commander, 5 Canadian Anti-Tank Regiment, for actions taken during the Battle of the Falaise Pocket
James Stewart, American actor awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm in 1944.
Violette Szabo, a British SOE agent who was sent into occupied France. Her first mission was a success, but during her second mission she was captured and tortured. Eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, she was executed on 5 February 1945 (at age 23); awarded the George Cross posthumously.
James Tracey, 3191945 Private in the 6th (Border) Battalion - King's Own Scottish Borderers; At Evrecy, in July 1944, he was with his CO (Lieutenant-Colonel J.G. Shillington) on a visit to a forward Convoy when a shell exploded nearby severely wounding the CO. Pte Tracey, though wounded himself by the blast, showed great presence of mind, tended to his CO's wounds and got him back to the Regimental Aid Post in his carrier then returned to Battalion HQ to report before going back himself. Awarded the Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star.
Matt Urban, highly decorated American combat soldier with awards including the Medal of Honor and 7 Purple Hearts
Nancy Wake of the SOE was the highest decorated Allied servicewoman of the war. Awarded the Croix de Guerre three times for service with the French maquis.
Jack M. Greener, Medic, K Company - 409th Regiment (103rd Infantry). In addition to the Croix de Guerre he received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star with Silver Oakleaf Cluster
Colonel Donald J. Richardson earned Croix de Guerre with gold star. Commander of the 2nd battalion, 304th infantry of the 76th division, also receiving silver star, bronze star with oak leaf cluster, purple heart and Legion of Merit after his death in 1965. Served as Colonel in Korea, 8th Army, and later as senior military advisor in the Connecticut National Guard.
First Sgt. Edward J. Stone of the US Army 40th General Hospital in Paris was awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze star two times for his service during World War II.
Glenn Wayne Ferguson an American while serving in the French Foreign Legion during Desert Storm was awarded the Croix du Guerre TOE etoile du bronze was mentioned in dispatches at Brigade level.
Howard Warren Clark, USMA 1941, XX Corps, Patton's 3rd Army, Corps of Engineers, awarded French Croix de Guerre with Palm for valorous actions during assaults
During World War I, Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon with the 77th Division, helped save the lives of 194 American soldiers by carrying a message across enemy lines in the heat of battle. Cher Ami was shot in the chest and leg, losing most of the leg to which the message was attached, and blinded in one eye, but continued the 25-mile flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to get the message home. Cher Ami was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for heroic service. He later died from the wounds received in battle and was enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution.
^At the time of the Algerian War, Algeria was considered part of France and war actions labelled "law enforcement operations", so soldiers were awarded the Croix de la Valeur Militaire instead of the Croix de guerre des TOE.
^Brief History of the 26th Division in Pictures, published by the "Committee of Welcome" appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts, Hon. Calvin Coolidge, and the Mayor of Boston, Hon. Andrew J. Peters, Official Welcome Home Programme, April 25, 1919. Also, the Massachusetts State House mural "Decoration of the Colors of the 102nd United States Infantry," painted in 1927 by Richard Andrew. Also, the memorial honoring the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F., in Westfield, MA.
^"LTC Matt Urban" Honoring America's Most Decorated Combat Veteran, Congressional Record Extension of Remarks 107th Congress, May 24, 2001, Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office, Retrieved March 22, 2019 Congressional Record