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Prominent DFC Members

Wilbur & Orville Wright

The earliest event for Distinguished Flying Crosses being awarded goes to Orville and Wilbur Wright for the first heavier-than-air flight at Big Kill Devil Hill in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on 17 December 1903. The 605-pound Wright Flyer traveled 120 feet in twelve seconds under the controls of Orville Wright and paved the way for all others to follow.  Since the law permitted only awards for aerial events after 1917, Congress passed special legislation on 23 February 1929 to award the Distinguished Flying Cross to
Wilbur Wright (posthumously) and Orville Wright. Citation reads:“…By his vision, perseverance, courage, and skill, Orville Wright, in collaboration with his brother, Wilbur Wright, designed, constructed, and operated the airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on 17 December 1903, made the first successful flight under its own power and carrying a human operator thereby making possible  achievements which are now stirring the emotions and pride of this world.”

95th Aero Squadron Commander, Captain James Ely Miller - U.S.A.A.C. (WWI)

In August of 1917, Colonel Raynal Bolling appointed Captain Miller to be the first commander of the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center (3rd AIC) in Issoudun, France.  The 3rd Aviation Instruction Center became the premier flight training center during World War I and would develop into the largest flying training center in the world. Captain Miller introduced Eddie Rickenbacker into his social circle of friends thereby being the first to open the doors to aviation for a man not born of privilege.  Captain Miller taught Rickenbacker to fly. As part of Captain Miller’s legacy, Captain Miller, as the first commander of the 3rd Air Instructional Center, laid the cornerstone for all aviation training.  June 14, 2017 highlights two historical aspects of Captain Miller’s valor and heroism; Miller, posthumously received the first Distinguished Flying Cross ever being presented to a recipient from World War I, for which the award was originally intended. Additionally, Miller, by his sacrifice, became the first U.S. airman, eligible for the Purple Heart, to die in air-to-air combat against any enemy, while serving in the armed forces of the United States.

Brigadier General Charles A. Lindbergh - U.S.A.A.C.R./U.S.A.F.R. (MOH)

Charles A. Lindbergh, the daring “Lone Eagle,” gained international prominence for his solo flight across the Atlantic. Lindbergh was hailed as a hero and was presented the DFC medal on 11June 1927 by President Calvin Coolidge. His citation included the following description of his historic accomplishment, “The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Charles Augustus Lindbergh for extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight and in recognition of his courage, his skill and his resourcefulness in piloting unaccompanied the Spirit of St. Louis from New York City across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris, France, on 20 - 21 May 1927, a distance of 3,600 miles, the longest non-stop flight ever made by man.” He also received the Medal of Honor. Although Lindbergh received the first actual DFC medal, the Pan American Good Will pilots received the first DFC citations and ultimately received DFC medals.

Amelia Earhart Putnam

In June 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, but as a passenger. Nevertheless, she gained national celebrity status and realized the power she possessed to advance women‘s aviation role. She eventually soloed across the Atlantic on the fifth anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by a joint resolution of Congress. The citation read: “…the resident of the United States is authorized to present the Distinguished Flying Cross to Amelia Earhart Putnam for displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at risk of her life, by her non-stop flight in her plane, unnamed, from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Londonderry, Ireland, on 20 May 1932, by which she became the first and only woman, and the second person, to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a plane in solo flight, and also establish new records for speed and elapsed time between the two continents.”

General James H. Doolittle - U.S.A.A.C. /U.S.A.F. (MOH)

Jimmy Doolittle received his initial DFC as a first lieutenant for a one-stop flight from Pablo Beach, Florida to San Diego, California between 4-5 September 1922. The flight took only twenty-two hours and thirty minutes. The citation stated that, “the flight was an extraordinary achievement with the equipment available at the time.” Lieutenant Doolittle received a second DFC for a series of acceleration tests in a Fokker PW 7 pursuit airplane in 1924 at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. The DFC citation commended
Doolittle for putting, “…the airplane through the most extreme maneuvers possible in order that the flight loads imposed upon the wings of the airplane under extreme conditions of air combat might be ascertained.” However, it was his attack on Tokyo, the Doolittle Raid, that was his most prestigious accomplishment and for this historic mission, he received the Medal of Honor and each of his men received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Lieutenant Junior Grade/President George H. W. Bush - U.S.N.

Lieutenant junior grade Bush was flying a TBF Avenger on 2 September 1944, while on a mission to attack Japanese installations on Chichi Jima. For that mission, he received
the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation reads: “He led one section of a four-plane division which attacked a radio station. Opposed by intense anti-aircraft fire, his plane was hit and set afire as he commenced his dive. In spite of smoke and flames from the fire in his plane he continued in his dive and scored damaging bomb hits on the radio station, before bailing out of his plane. His courage and complete disregard for his own safety, both in pressing home his attack in the face of intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire, and in continuing in his dive on the target after being hit and his plane on fire, were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Colonel Charles E. McGee - U.S.A.A.F./U.S.A.F.

During WWII, Lieutenant McGee flew 136 missions but was not awarded a DFC. In Korea he received a DFC for a mission on 20 August 1950. Flying a P-51, he carried frag bombs, rockets and internal guns and worked with the ground troops to destroy
forces and equipment that had been moved in place against our ground forces. Major McGee received a second DFC on 17 December 1950. According to the citation, Major McGee and his flight leader penetrated deep into enemy occupied territory near Hwasan-dong, locating and destroying a large quantity of enemy and well camouflaged war material. On 25 January 1968, Lieutenant Colonel McGee was chosen for a specific reconnaissance mission in Vietnam flying the RF-4C. He flew a top priority, day reconnaissance over classified targets in a high threat target area. Because of the success of his reconnaissance and the strategic success of the mission, he was awarded his third DFC.

Brigadier General Joseph J. Foss - U.S.M.C./S.D.A.N.G. (MOH)

As a child, Joe Foss was inspired by Charles Lindbergh, so it was no surprise that he became a Marine pilot in 1942 and was sent to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. As the executive officer of VMF-121 flying Wildcats, Foss downed his first enemy Zero on 13 October 1942, and over the next seven days shot down five more Zeros and a bomber. For this impressive combat record, Captain Foss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross that was personally presented by Admiral Halsey. By the end of WWII, Joe had accomplished his twenty-sixth victory including the day he became the Marine Corps’ first “Ace in a Day.” Under his leadership, his group of aviators were credited with a combined total of seventy-two victories. During his Pacific combat tour, Foss met his inspiration, Charles Lindbergh. It was an event the Marine would never forget. In addition to the DFC, Foss also received the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt.
(Image: Brigadier General Foss (Left), Brigadier General Lindbergh (Right)) 

Colonel Steve N. Pisanos - U.S.A.A.F./U.S.A.F.

“The Flying Greek” is a book that captures your heart, imagination and sense of patriotism while telling the story of Steve N. Pisanos. The biography is filled with incredible adventures and romance. It’s a work that only the best novelist could dare to dream of writing – but the story is actually true. Steve Pisanos became known as “The Flying Greek” while flying combat missions in WWII where he became an Ace but also had to crash land his P-51 in France due to an engine failure. After surviving the landing, he eventually made contact with the French underground. Instead of remaining in hiding, he went on missions with them blowing up trucks and killing German soldiers.  He also flew combat missions in Vietnam and received a total of five Distinguished Flying Crosses during the two conflicts. Steve has been the subject of several documentaries and was the ultimate Red, White and Blue Patriotic American.

Staff Sergeant Sid Zimman - U.S.M.C.

Sid Zimman joined the Marine Corps when he was just eighteen years old. He became a rear gunner on the SBD Dauntless dive-bomber. The plane was often nicknamed the “Slow but Deadly Douglas” which described the bomber and its very prominent role in the Pacific. The missions were primarily to dive and destroy targets, specifically gun emplacements. The runs began at 12,000 feet and they would roll over and dive at about 270 miles per hour with Sid facing backwards. The SBD could travel two miles in
about 26 seconds during the dive. Sid had always been proud that he helped save the lives of fellow Marines, however, on 6 June 1998 he found out he had been awarded two DFCs for his missions with Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 341. He is currently on another mission to educate people about the SBD and its importance during WWII and is a very popular speaker.

Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Coleman - U.S.N./U.S.M.C.

Jerry Coleman enlisted in the Navy V-5 program but in pre-flight Joe Foss inspired Coleman with his combat tales which motivated Jerry to become a Marine aviator. He flew the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber with VMSB-341 out of Green Island.
Coleman flew fifty-seven missions in the battles for the Solomon Islands and the Philippines. He received a DFC for a period of combat in March 1945 and a second DFC for military operations in April/May 1945. After the war ended, he resumed his baseball career. Coleman played second base for the Yankees and had won the World Series over the Giants when he traded his Yankee pinstripes for Marine greens. He flew Corsair attack planes in Korea…sixty-three missions overall. He was the only major
league baseball player to see combat in both wars. He always felt that his five years as a Marine was the most important part of his life.

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale - U.S.N. (MOH)

Jim Stockdale’s skills as a Navy pilot earned him a spot in the Naval Test Pilot School.  He eventually went on to combat in Vietnam. Commander Stockdale received a DFC for repelling North Vietnamese torpedo boat attacks against a US ship on 2-4 August 1964, and for a retaliatory air strike 5 August 1964. This was the first air strike against North Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. He was awarded a second DFC and multiple Silver Stars for his heroism in combat. On 9 September 1965, Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam. He spent the next seven years of his life in the Hoa Lo Prison, known as the Hanoi Hilton. As the senior naval prisoner of war, he demonstrated exceptional courage by enduring agonizing torture, organizing the American POW resistance and establishing a code of conduct for the men in the
infamous prison. For his heroism, Admiral Stockdale was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976.

Brigadier General Robin Olds - U.S.A.A.F./U.S.A.F.

Robin Olds graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and completed pilot training in 1943. He began his combat flying WWII in a P-38 Lightning named “Scat I” and at the end of the war was flying a P-51 Mustang named “Scat VII.” He was credited with 107 combat missions and was a Double Ace with 12 aircraft shot down. During the Vietnam War in October 1966, Robin entered combat flying in Southeast Asia in “Scat XXVII,” a F-4 Phantom II. He completed 152 combat missions, including 105 over North Vietnam. Using air-to-air missiles, he shot down two Mig-17 and two Mig-21 aircraft over North Vietnam, two of these on one mission. He was a True Warrior and a Fighter Pilot’s Pilot.  His military Awards include the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 39 oak leaf clusters and numerous other awards.

Lieutenant Colonel Bruce P. Crandall - U.S.A. (MOH)

In January 1953, Bruce Crandall was drafted into the Army, and eventually flew helicopters. In Vietnam in 1965-66 he had command of 20 UH- I (Huey) helicopters and flew the lead helicopter on over 750 combat missions. He also volunteered to fly
medical evacuation flights because the responsible Medical Evacuation Unit refused to fly them due to the intense enemy fire in the pick-up zones. Two missions, 14 November 1965 and 31 January 1966 received special recognition. The 1965 missions
into LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley were recognized in a number of books about the battle especially “We Were Soldiers Once and Young.” For this, Bruce was ultimately awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush on February 26, 2007. His 1966 dramatic rescue mission was recognized by the Aviation and Space Writers Association for their first "Helicopter Heroism Award" and is ranked as the most outstanding rescue in the 20 years of the award.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ronald L. Tusi - U.S.N./U.S.A.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ronald L. Tusi (August 24, 1937 – August 6, 1974) enlisted in the Navy in 1956. He was attached to the Marine Corps as a medic, received advanced training in underwater demolition, and served as a Navy SEAL in action surrounding Santa Domingo, the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, and two tours as a SEAL in RVN. Ron Tusi left the Navy for the Army’s Warrant Officer Rotary Wing Aviators Course. During his five tours in the Republic of Vietnam, three as an Army Aviator, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, eight DFCs, three Bronze Stars (one with "V" device), Purple Heart, 80 Air Medals (four for valor), Army Commendation Medal /w "V" Device and 1 Bronze OLC plus numerous other awards. At the time of his Army Aviation Hall of Fame induction in 1983, CW2 Tusi's record of killing ten tanks with helicopters had never been equaled.
(Image: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ronald Tusi (Center))

Captain James A. Lovell - U.S.N.

Jim Lovell logged more than 7,000 hours of flight time as a Navy carrier pilot and test pilot. He made his first trip into space on the Gemini 7 spacecraft. The flight involved the first rendezvous of two, manned, maneuverable spacecraft. For this Jim was awarded a DFC. His next mission was Gemini 12. Captain Lovell was awarded a second DFC for this mission that proved that man had conquered many of the challenges posed by space travel. Lovell’s fourth and final space flight was his most memorable, Apollo 13,
which has been called the most successful failure. As spacecraft commander, Lovell was responsible for managing an explosion and getting the severely damaged craft back to earth. Captain Lovell reflected on his most challenging experiences while flying and noted that night carrier operations were among his most difficult, as they required as much or more skill than flying in space.

Commander Bruce E. Melnick - U.S.C.G

During his 20-year career with the U.S. Coast Guard, Bruce logged over 5,000 hours flight time, predominantly in the H-3, H-52, H-65, and T-38 aircraft. As a Coast Guard pilot, Melnick received numerous awards, including two DFCs. The first DFC was for the
rescue of 110 survivors of a fire on a passenger liner in the Gulf of Alaska in typical USCG rescue weather in that area, night eventually becoming day, heavy rain showers, and strong, turbulent winds. The second DFC was the rescue of the pilot of a downed
plane in the mountains above Icy Bay, Alaska. Weather was again a factor, but this time was coupled with mountainous terrain that made the successful rescue extremely hazardous. Bruce then was selected as an Astronaut and flew as a mission specialist on the Shuttle Discovery STS-41 and served as a flight engineer on STS-49 which was the first flight of the Shuttle Endeavour. He has logged more than 300 hours in space.

General Richard A. Cody - U.S.A.

Often referred to as a “soldier’s soldier” and an “aviator’s aviator,” Richard A. Cody spent twenty-seven of his thirty-six-year career in troop assignments, commanding at all levels. When he was a Lieutenant Colonel, Cody was with the first unit deployed to the Persian Gulf. He led the top-secret Apache helicopter raid against two critical radar sites in Iraq and fired the first shots of Operation Desert Storm to create a forty nautical mile wide radar free corridor to Baghdad. He was awarded the DFC for that mission. The citation included the following: “As Task Force Commander and AH-64 pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Cody’s heroic actions, flawless combat pilotage, and tactical expertise resulted in the simultaneous and complete destruction of Iraqi Early Warning and Ground Control Intercept Radar Sites.” The extraordinary combat mission opened the air assault on Iraq, saved untold American and Coalition Forces’ lives and immeasurably hastened victory. With over 5,000 flight hours, General Cody was an Army master aviator.