The Cross consists of a 1½ inch cross patee, on which is superimposed a four bladed propeller projecting slightly beyond the ends of the cross. In the angles of the cross are five sunrays forming a square typifying the glory and splendor of the deed for which the Cross is awarded. The medal is suspended from a red, white and blue ribbon. The medal was awarded to each member of The Distinguished Flying Cross Society by direction of the President of the United States.
The Distinguished Flying Cross, created by Congress 80 years ago, is America’s oldest military aviation award.
The Distinguished Flying Cross was designed by Elizabeth Will and Arthur E. Dubois both working at the Army’s Institute of Heraldry.
The cross symbolizes sacrifice, and the propeller symbolizes flight. The combination of those symbols makes clear that the DFC is an award for heroism or achievement for individuals involved in aviation. The ribbon reflects the national colors.
The reverse is blank and suitable for engraving the recipient’s name and rank.
Subsequent awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross are indicated by oak-leaf clusters for Army and Air Force personnel and by additional award stars for members of the Naval services.
In World War I, aircraft proved their value for reconnaissance and as weapons platforms. Pilots of those primitive flying machines showed both courage and endurance in carrying out air missions. To recognize their gallantry, the Distinguished Flying Cross was created.
The prime mover behind the DFC was Sen. Hiram Bingham of Connecticut. An air power advocate and veteran World War I pilot, Bingham used his position as a member of the Aircraft Board, to which President Calvin Coolidge had appointed him, to propose that Congress create an aviation award “for heroism or outstanding achievement.”
Bingham’s colleagues agreed and established the Distinguished Flying Cross on July 2, 1926. By law, the new decoration could be awarded to anyone in the Air Corps of the Army, Navy or Marine Corps after April 6, 1917, who “distinguished himself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.”
There were three interesting aspects to the law. First, DFC awards could be retroactive to the start of World War I, permitting the Army and Navy to recognize aviators who had been among the earliest pioneers. Second, the decoration was not restricted to combat heroism. Instead, the focus was aerial achievement, in war or peace. The DFC could be awarded to fliers who were setting distance and endurance records. Third, a military decoration had been created for the first time to have an identical medal, ribbon and award criteria for all service branches.
The first Distinguished Flying Cross award citations were presented to the Pan American Flight crew on 2 May, 1927 by President Coolidge, for their five ship, 22,000 mile flight. 5 weeks before the medal was struck.
The first recipient of the DFC medal was Charles A. Lindbergh, then a captain in the Army Reserve on 11 June, 1927. The award recognized his 1927 transatlantic crossing in the Spirit of St. Louis.
But the earliest aviation event for which the new award was presented was Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. Because the law permitted only awards for aerial events after 1917, Congress passed special legislation by the President and Act of Congress, to Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright (posthumous), Washington D.C., Feb. 23, 1929 and authorized the Wrights’ DFC.
Although the law states a recipient must be “serving” with the military, a number of awards were made to early civilian aviation pioneers, one being Amelia Earhart. Awards to civilians came to an end when President Calvin Coolidge signed an executive order prohibiting them in 1927.
No one knows how many DFC’s were awarded but The Distinguished Flying Cross Society has over 6,200 recipient members with possibly thousands more eligible to join our prestigious and elite Society.
During wartime, members of the Armed Forces of friendly foreign nations serving with the United States are eligible for the D.F.C. It is also given to those who display heroism while working as instructors or students at flying schools.
On 3 Jun 2004, the Secretary of the Air Force authorized the use of the “V” device, to represent VALOR, on the DFC awarded for Heroism. The V device is intended to clearly distinguish and denote a DFC awarded for Heroism. Any Air Force Member (active duty, Guard, Reserve), or Veteran, who was awarded the DFC for Heroism on or after 18 September 1947 is authorized to wear the V device on the DFC.
Examples of the gallantry for which the Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded:
First Lieutenant Joseph W. Geary, Jr., is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement in aerial flight. On 7 October 1944, Lieutenant Geary was navigator-observer of a B-24 type aircraft that was flying lead ship in a Group formation on an extremely vital and important mission to bomb the enemy oil refinery at Vienna/Winterhafen, Austria. This high priority enemy target produced large quantities of aviation fuel and its destruction was of great importance. Enroute to the target the formation experienced an intense and extremely accurate barrage of heavy type flak which shot down five (5) of our aircraft and severely damaged twenty-seven (27) others. During this barrage Lieutenant Geary’s ship was hit by numerous bursts of flak which made inoperative the #2 engine, severed hydraulic and fuel lines and partially severed the rudder control cables. The co-pilot was seriously wounded at the same time but the pilot, showing great skill, was able to lead the formation over the target, inflicting grave damage on the enemy installations. Then when the ship was forced to leave the formation and the navigator went to the flight deck to replace the wounded co-pilot, Lieutenant Geary took over the navigating duties. Showing superior professional skill, Lieutenant Geary then plotted the most direct course to an emergency field, successfully avoiding the numerous flak installations that covered the enemy territory. The aircraft finally reached a friendly field with only sixty (60) gallons of fuel left. Lieutenant Geary supervised the crew in preparing for a crash landing which was successfully done. To Lieutenant Geary’s exceptional skill and coolness in a hazardous situation must be given the credit for the safe return of the crew and the wounded co-pilot. By his extreme skill and devotion to duty, Lieutenant Geary has reflected great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States. Joe Geary is a member of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society.
Major John E. Appel is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary service while participating in aerial flight as an F-4D Phantom Aircraft Commander in Southeast Asia on 25 May 1970. On that date, Major Appel was assigned to attack anti-aircraft artillery positions which posed a serious threat to friendly air operations. Despite intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire Major Appel delivered his ordinance precisely on target, destroying three hostile anti-aircraft artillery weapons. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Appel reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
#2) Major John E. Appel is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for outstanding achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-4E Aircraft Commander in Southeast Asia on 2 November 1971. On that date, Major Appel led a flight of two F-4E fighter-bombers into hostile territory to attack and destroy three separate targets. Despite marginal weather and incessant hostile ground fire, Major Appel successfully destroyed one truck, one storage area, and one road segment. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Appel reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
#3) Major John E. Appel is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while participating in aerial flight as an F-4D Aircraft Commander in Southeast Asia on November 6, 1970. On that date, while conducting an air strike against a group of revetted anti-aircraft artillery sites Major Appel’s aircraft was struck by defending ground fire. Despite the threat to his life, Major Appel pressed the attack and successfully destroyed three hostile weapons. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Appel reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force. #4) Major John E. Appel is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while participating in aerial flight as an F-4E Aircraft Commander in Southeast Asia on September 11, 1971. On that date, Major Appel led a flight of two F-4E fighter bombers against a heavily fortified storage and supply complex. Despite intense hostile ground fire and adverse weather conditions, with complete disregard for his own safety, Major Appel precisely delivered his ordinance on target, resulting in several secondary explosions and the destruction of numerous supply structures and bunkers, thus hampering the opposing force’s logistical and offensive capability. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Appel reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force. John Appel is a member of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society.
Captain Armando Espinoza, United States Marine Corps, is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while participating in aerial flight as a Helicopter Aircraft Commander in a two-plane section of CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters while attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 26B, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3D Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 10 April 2003. Captain Espinoza provided multiple day and night casualty evacuation missions in support of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines’ attack into Baghdad. His ability to tactically maneuver his helicopter in urban areas and maintain flawless situational awareness, helped render the enemy’s attack ineffective. Landing under enemy fire, he loaded casualties while the lead aircraft provided suppressive fires. He departed the zone while returning fire and conducting evasive maneuvering enroute. He made four repeated trips in order to ensure the evacuation of all wounded personnel. His leadership, situational awareness, and calm presence under fire ensured the safe evacuation of 28 Marines and a family of seven Iraqi nationals. By his superb airmanship, inspiring courage, and loyal devotion to duty in the face of hazardous flying conditions, Captain Espinoza reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. Armando Espinoza is a member of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society and just completed his fourth combat tour in Iraq.