The Distinguished Flying Cross Medal
The Distinguished Flying Cross medal is awarded to any officer or enlisted person of the armed forces of the United States for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. The heroism or achievement must be entirely distinctive, involving operations that are not routine. It is not awarded for sustained operational activities and flights. The DFC is the fourth highest award for heroism and the highest award for extraordinary aerial achievement.
The award was authorized by Act of Congress on July 2, 1926. Executive Order 4601 of March 1, 1927 established the rules and regulations pertaining to the award. The decoration could be awarded for actions after April 6th, 1917. The intent was to include deserving WWI aviators, though only one WWI aviator has received the DFC. And that award was through the efforts of his descendants years later.
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. Members are also authorized wear of Combat “C” and Valor "V" Devices (as applicable).
The Distinguished Flying Cross was designed by Elizabeth Will and Arthur E. DuBois. It is a bronze cross pattee, with rays between the arms of the cross. On the obverse is a propeller of four blades, with one blade in each arm of the cross and in the re-entrant angles of the cross are rays which form a square. The cross is suspended by a rectangular-shaped bar and centered on this is a plain shield. The reverse is blank and suitable for engraving the recipient's name and rank.
The ribbon has a narrow red center stripe, flanked on either side by a thin white stripe, a wide stripe of dark blue, a narrow white stripe and narrow dark blue at the edge of the ribbon.
With the medal design not yet completed, the first Distinguished Flying Cross award citations were presented to the Army Air Corps crews of the 1926-27 Pan American Goodwill Flight on 2 May, 1927 by President Calvin Coolidge, for their five ship, 22,000 mile flight.
President Coolidge presented the first Distinguished Flying Cross medal, on 11 June, 1927, to Captain Charles A. Lindbergh of the Army Corps Reserve for his solo flight of 3600 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. It was a feat which electrified the world, and made “Lindy” one of America’s most popular heroes.
The first Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to a Navy man was to Commander Richard E. Byrd of the Navy Air Corps for his flight across the Atlantic in the aircraft America in June 1927, not for his exciting flight to and from the North Pole as is widely reported. Both of these famous aviators also received the Medal of Honor.
The award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to aviatrix Amelia Earhart was the first such award to a civilian.
The executive order of March 1927 ruled that the Distinguished Flying Cross should not be conferred on civilians. However, a number of civilian aviation pioneers have been awarded the DFC by Acts of Congress, including Wiley Post, Jacqueline Cochran, Roscoe Turner, Glenn H. Curtiss, and Eugene Ely. 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.