The Air Force Cross was originally established by Act of Congress (Public Law 193, 65th Congress approved July 9, 1918) as the Distinguished Service Cross. Public Law 86-593, approved by Congress on July 6, 1960, amended Title 10 of the United States Code by authorizing the Air Force to present a distinctive version of the Distinguished Service Cross to Air Force recipients.


The effective date of the Air Force Cross is July 6, 1960; however, awards based on earlier actions may be made after that date if the recommendations for them have not been acted on or have been lost.


The Air Force Cross is the second highest decoration awarded by the Air Force and is given for extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor. It may be awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S Air Force, distinguishes himself by extraordinary heroism (1) in action against an enemy of the United States; (2) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or, (3) while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. Like the Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Force Cross is presented in the name of the President, although the Air Force itself actually controls this award.


The Air Force Cross is worn after the Medal of Honor and before all other decorations.


Additional awards of the Air Force Cross are denoted by Oak Leaf Clusters.


The Air Force Cross was designed by Eleanor Cox and sculpted by Thomas Hudson Jones, both of the Army's Institute of Heraldry.


The first Air Force Cross was awarded posthumously to Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. for service during the Cuban Missile Crisis.



A bronze cross with an oxidized satin finish. Centered on the cross is a gold-plated American bald eagle, wings displayed against a cloud formation encircled by a laurel wreath finished in green enamel. The design is based on that of the distinguished Service Cross; the eagle and cloud formation are taken from the seal of the Air Force.


The reverse of the Air Force Cross is blank for engraving the recipient's name.


The ribbon to the Air Force Cross is the same as that of the Distinguished Service Cross, except the central shade of blue is lighter (to distinguish it from the Distinguished Service Cross).

Click here for enlisted recipients of the Air Force Cross

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