The Military Cross
For extreme gallantry and risk of life...

By:  Marv Rodney

The Crosses are the second highest military decoration, and are awarded for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Crosses must be of such a high degree to be above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations involving extraordinary risk of life but not meeting the criteria for the Medal of Honor.  The Crosses include the Navy Cross which is awarded to members of the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard; the Army Distinguished Service Cross, and the Air Force Cross.

Army Distinguished Service Cross was enacted by Congress on July 9, 1918.  This medal is a 2” high bronze cross with an eagle on the center and a scroll below the eagle bearing the inscription, "FOR VALOR".  On the reverse side, the center of the cross is circled by a wreath with a space for engraving the name of the recipient.  Many, many notables including Alexander Haig, Douglas McArthur, Audie Murphy, and George Patton (2) have received this award.  Other service recipients include:  Curtis LeMay (USAC) and Lewis “Chesty” Puller (USMC), Eddie Rickenbacker, Wild Bill Donovan, Billy Mitchell, Joseph Stilwell, and Teddy Roosevelt.

The Navy Cross was enacted by Congress on April 6,1917.   The blue ribbon represents the naval service while the white depicts the purity of selflessness.  On the front is a sailing vessel known as a caravel which has always represented both the naval service and the tradition of the sea.  The laurel leaves and berries refer to achievement.   

The most recent recipient was Gunnery Sergeant John Mosser, USMC on December 18, 2009, for actions in Afghanistan.  A distinguished recipient is Jim Webb, current Virginia Senator and former Secretary of the Navy, who was a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps during Vietnam. Other well known recipients are Raymond Spruance, William Halsey, Ernest King, and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

The Air Force Cross was enacted by Congress on July 6, 1960. (Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947.)  The ribbon  of the Air Force Cross has a wide center stripe of Brittany blue with narrow stripes of white and red.  This medal features a bronze cross with an oxidized satin finish.  In the center of the cross is a gold-plated American bald eagle, with wings soaring against a cloud formation, (the same eagle is used in the Air Force Seal). The eagle is encircled by a laurel wreath in green enamel, edged in gold. The reverse of the cross is blank and suitable for engraving. 

The first recipient of the Air Force Cross was Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. who was awarded this medal posthumously for valor during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Another noteworthy recipient was Captain Charles B. “Chuck” DeBellevue, an F-4 Weapons System Officer, who was the most successful aviator in the Vietnam Theatre. Others awardees are Bud Day, James Risner, James Kasler and Duane Hackney.


(This article was first published in the ENDEAVOR news magazine, April 2011.  ENDEAVOR  can be viewed, in full, on this website.)

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 The Army Cross  








The Navy Cross









The Air Force Cross


Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia


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