Distinguished Flying Cross
TypeMilitary Decoration
Awarded for"Heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight"
Presented by
StatusCurrently awarded
Established2 July 1926[5]
First awarded2 May 1927
Service ribbon
Next (higher)Legion of Merit[6]
Next (lower)

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.[6][7] The medal may be awarded to friendly foreign military members in ranks equivalent to the U.S. paygrade of O-6 and below in combat in support operations.


LTG Ray Odierno presents Distinguished Flying Crosses to Army aviators in Iraq
As part of a twilight tattoo event at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., held on honor of the Army's 242nd birthday, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, left, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, present a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for Army Capt. James E. Miller to Miller's great-grandson, Byron Derringer, center, June 14, 2017.

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 I

The only Distinguished Flying Cross for World War I service was posthumously awarded on June 14, 2017, when 95th Aero Squadron Commander and Army Captain James Ely Miller was recognized for his actions on March 9, 1918, which made him the first American aviator serving with an American unit to die in that war.[8]

World War II

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.[9] 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.[10] On December 28, 1944, Aleda Lutz became the first military woman to receive the DFC, which she received posthumously.[11]


The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Section 12 of the United States Army Air Corps Act enacted by Congress on July 2, 1926,[12] as amended by Executive Order 7786 on January 8, 1938[7] and USC 10, 9279. This act provided for the award to be given to any person who distinguishes themselves "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, Air Force, and Space Force, and gold and silver 516 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.

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.[13] The act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 25, 2014.[14]

Notable recipients of the DFC

This is not a complete list, as it does not include individuals who are known only for receiving the DFC.

Note: the rank indicated is the highest ever held by the person.


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.

Political figures


Foreign citizens


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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2012-02-16.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Production publication" (PDF). static.e-publishing.af.mil. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-01-27. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  4. ^ "Info" (PDF). media.defense.gov. 2017.
  5. ^ "Executive Order 4601". Archives.gov (National Archives and Records Administration). Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Department of Defense Manual 1348.33-V3" (PDF). US Department of Defense. 23 November 2010. pp. 17–18, 50. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 22, 2011. 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. ^ "First fallen aviator of World War I honored with Distinguished Flying Cross". www.army.mil. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 2023-01-05.
  9. ^ Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal Criteria in the Army Air Forces in World War II
  10. ^ George McGovern's WWII Diary
  11. ^ Iskra, Darlene M.. Women in the United States Armed Forces: A Guide to the Issues. United States, ABC-CLIO, 2010.
  12. ^ 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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link), Appendix 5, p. 127.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ "CARL ALLY | Aviation Week Network". aviationweek.com. Retrieved 2024-05-23.
  16. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress March 1, 1933.
  17. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 2, 1932.
  18. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 11, 1932.
  19. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress July 11, 1932. Died in a plane crash with Will Rogers.
  20. ^ Awarded by Act of Congress in 1949 and presented in 1952.
  21. ^ a b Awarded by Act of Congress December 18, 1928.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ "Valor awards for James Francis Hollingsworth". militarytimes.com. Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2016.

Further reading