Croix de guerre

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This article is about a French military decoration. For the Belgian decoration known as the Croix de guerre or Oorlogskruis, see War Cross (Belgium).
Croix de Guerre
Croix-De-Guerre-Francis-Browne.jpg
Awarded by  France
Type Military decoration
Eligibility Military personnel only, often bestowed to members of allied countries
Awarded for individuals who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces.
Campaign World War I
World War II
Other wars not fought on French soil
Status Active
Description A bronze cross with swords
Statistics
Established April 2, 1915
CroixdeGuerreFR-BronzePalm.png Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with palm (France) - ribbon bar.png

Streamer FCDG WWII.png
Croix de Guerre avec Palme ribbon bars and streamer
(1914–1918 & 1939–1945)

The Croix de Guerre (English translation: Cross of War) is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts. The Croix de guerre was also commonly bestowed on foreign military forces allied to France.[1]

The Croix de guerre may either be awarded as an individual or unit award to those soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy. The medal is awarded to those who have been "mentioned in despatches", meaning a heroic deed or deeds were performed meriting a citation from an individual's headquarters unit. The unit award of the Croix de guerre with palm was issued to military units whose men performed heroic deeds in combat and were subsequently recognized by headquarters.

Appearance[edit]

The Croix de guerre medal varies depending on which country is bestowing the award and for what conflict. Separate French medals exist for the First and Second World War.

For the unit decoration of the Croix de guerre, a fourragère (which takes the form of a braided cord) is awarded; this is suspended from the shoulder of an individual's uniform.

As the Croix de guerre is issued as several medals, and as a unit decoration, situations typically arose where an individual was awarded the decoration several times, for different actions, and from different sources. Regulations also permitted the wearing of multiple Croix de guerre, meaning that such medals were differentiated in service records by specifying French Croix de guerre, French Croix de guerre (WWI), etc.

French Croix de guerre[edit]

There are three distinct Croix de guerre medals in the French system of honours:

Ribbon Awards
Ruban de la Croix de guerre 1914-1918.png Croix de guerre 1914–1918 (for World War I service)
Ruban de la croix de guerre 1939-1945.PNG Croix de guerre 1939–1945 (for World War II service)
Croix de Guerre des Theatres d'Operations Exterieurs ribbon.svg Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures (TOE) for wars other than World War I and World War II not fought on French soil[2]

Furthermore, the French collaborationist government created two croix during World War II. These croix are illegal and wearing them is outlawed.

Ribbon Awards
Croix de Guerre Vichy ribbon.svg Croix de guerre (Vichy France) (for World War II service)
Croix de Guerre Vichy LVF ribbon.svg Croix de guerre de la Légion des Volontaires Français (for World War II service)

The Croix was created by a law of April 2, 1915, proposed by French deputy Émile Briant. The Croix reinstated an older system of mentions in dispatches, which were only administrative honours with no medal. The sculptor Paul-André Bartholomé created the medal, a bronze cross with swords, showing the effigy of the republic.

The French Croix represents a mention in dispatches awarded by a commanding officer, at least a regimental commander. Depending on the officer who issued the mention, the ribbon of the Croix is marked with extra pins.

  • Mentioned in Despatches :
    • a bronze star for those who had been mentioned at the regiment or brigade level.
    • a silver star, for those who had been mentioned at the division level.
    • a silver gilt star for those who had been mentioned at the corps level.
    • a bronze palm for those who had been mentioned at the army level.
    • a silver palm stands for five bronze ones.
    • a silver gilt palm for those who had been mentioned at the Free French Forces level (World War II only).
French Croix de guerre des TOE

The French Croix de guerre des TOE was created in 1921 for wars fought in theatres of operation outside of France. It was awarded during the Indochina War, Korean War, and other wars up to the Kosovo War in 1999.

When World War II broke out in 1939, a new Croix de guerre was created by Édouard Daladier. It was abolished by Vichy Government in 1941, which created a new Croix de guerre. In 1943 General Giraud in Algiers created another Croix de guerre. Both Vichy and Giraud Croix were abolished by General de Gaulle in 1944, who reinstated the 1939 Croix.

The Croix de guerre takes precedence between the Ordre national du Mérite and the Croix de la Valeur Militaire, the World War I Croix being senior to the World War II one, itself senior to TOE Croix.

Unit award[edit]

The coat of arms of Leuven, featuring a French Croix de guerre presumably to commemorate acts of heroism during the sacking of the city by Germany in 1914.

The Croix can be awarded to military units, as a manifestation of a collective Mention in Despatches. It is then displayed on the unit's flag. A unit, usually a regiment or a battalion, is always mentioned at the army level. The Croix is then a Croix de guerre with palm. Other communities, such as cities or companies can be also awarded the Croix.

When a unit is mentioned twice, it is awarded the fourragère of the Croix de guerre. This fourragère is worn by all men in the unit, but it can be worn on a personal basis: those permanently assigned to a unit, at the time of the mentions, were entitled to wear the fourragère for the remainder of service in the military.

Temporary personnel, or those who had joined a unit after the actions which had been mentioned, were authorized to wear the award while a member of the unit but would surrender the decoration upon transfer. This temporary wearing of the fourragère only applied to the French version of the Croix de guerre.

The 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment of the British Army was awarded the French Croix de guerre with palm for its gallant defence of Bois des Buttes on 27 May 1918, the first day of the Third Battle of the Aisne

United States acceptance[edit]

In the United States military, the Croix de guerre was accepted as a foreign decoration. It remains to be one of the difficult foreign awards to verify entitlement. The Croix de guerre unit and individual award were often presented with original orders only and rarely entered into a permanent service record. The 1973 National Archives Fire destroyed most of the World War II personnel records which are needed to verify a veteran's entitlement to the Croix de guerre award. However, foreign unit award entitlements can be checked and verifyed through official unit history records. Veterans must provide proof of service in the unit cited at the time of action in order to be entitled to the award. Individual foreign awards can be checked through foreign government (France) military records.

In World War II, the 320th Bombardment Group received the Croix de Guerre avec Palme for action in preparation for and in support of Allied offensive operations in central Italy, April–June 1944. It was the first American unit in this war to be awarded the citation.[3] Members of the 440th AAA AW Battalion (Anti-Aircraft Artillery - Automatic Weapons) of the U.S. Army also received the Croix de Guerre avec Palme (unit award) for stopping the German Ardennes counter-offensive in holding the town of Gouvy, Belgium for 412 days at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge on December 16, 1944. Gouvy is midway between St. Vith and Bastogne. Commanding Officer of the 440th, Lt. Col. Robert O. Stone, and Pfc. Joseph P. Regis, also received an individual award of the Croix de Guerre avec Palme. On June 21, 1945, French General De Gaulle presented the following citation to the 34th United States Infantry Division: "A 'division d’elite', whose loyal and efficient cooperation with French divisions, begun in TUNISIA, was gloriously continued throughout the Italian campaign, in particular during the operations of BELVEDERE when the 34th Division, despite the difficulties of the moment, displayed most courageous efforts in support of the operations of the 3rd Algerian Division. This citation bears with it the award of Croix de Guerre with Palm."

Today, members of United States 5th Marine Regiment and 6th Marine Regiment, the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, the Army's 3rd Squadron - 4th Cavalry Regiment, the Army National Guard's 369th Infantry Battalion "Harlem Hellfighters", and the Army's 1st Battalion - 28th Infantry Regiment, are authorized to wear a fourragère signifying that brigade's award of three Croix de guerre during World War I, but only while that individual is assigned to the unit. The wearing of the decoration is considered ceremonial and the fourragère is not entered as an official military award in permanent service records.

Notable recipients[edit]

Individuals in World War I[edit]

Swartout commendation letter March 1919
  • Thomas Joseph Senn, Dispatch runner for the NZ Rife Brigade, Waihungarua, North Auckland, New Zealand. Awarded the Belgium Croix de Guerre, It was said that "being very fast and short, he didn't make an easy target. His dispatches were never lost and that he never lost his way, despite many a close call."[9]
  • John Tovey, Royal Navy, later became a senior naval commander and an Admiral of the Fleet.
  • Stephen W. Thompson, aviator, was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm. He is credited with the first aerial victory by the U.S. military.
  • Ludovicus Van Iersel, Dutch-American sergeant who won the Croix de guerre twice while serving in France.
  • Herbert Ward, artist, sculptor and African explorer, awarded the Croix de Guerre while serving with the British Ambulance Committee in the Vosges
  • Edwin "Pa" Watson, served in France. Earning the U.S. Army Silver Star and the Croix de Guerre from the French government.
  • William A. Wellman, American fighter pilot in the Lafayette Flying Corps, awarded Croix de Guerre with two palm leaves, 1918
  • Samuel Woodfill, an American infantry lieutenant who disabled several German machine-gun nests and killed many enemy combatants with rifle, pistol and pickaxe. He was awarded the American Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre.
  • Alvin C. York was awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze palm for his valor in the Battle of Meuse River-Argonne Forest near the town of Verdun, France. Also awarded the American Medal of Honor.
  • Oliver James George (M.M), CPL East Surrey Regiment. Volunteered in September 1914, and after serving at stations in England, he was sent to France in October of the following year. There he fought at St. Eloi and Ypres, but being wounded two months later was invalided home to hospital, returning to the front in April 1916. He was in action at Messines, but at Guillemont during the Somme offensive, received a second wound which necessitated his evacuation to England. Early in 1917 he was again in action this time at Nieupoort and in November was drafted to Italy. Returning to France two months afterwards, he served at Bapaume & on the Somme during the “retreat and advance” and for conspicuous gallantry while in charge of a “mopping up” section in an operation in Menin in October, which resulted in the capture of 28 prisoners and two officers was awarded the military medal and Croix de Guerre. Also serving with the army of occupation, he was demobilised in March 1919 and holds the 1914–1918 star and general service & victory medals. REF: Page 93 - National Roll of the Great War - Z2579
  • George Fawke, Royal Artillery, awarded Croix de Guerre by General Charles De Gaulle

Individuals in World War II[edit]

Colonel Jimmy Stewart being awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm in 1944.

Other recipients[edit]

During World War I Cher Ami, a Carrier pigeon with the 77th Division, saved the lives of 194 American soldiers by carrying a message across enemy lines in the heat of battle. Cher Ami was shot in the chest and leg, blinded in one eye, losing most of the leg to which the message was attached, but continued the 25-mile flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to get the message home. Cher Ami was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for heroic service. She later died from the wounds received in battle and was enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Institute of Heraldry Croix De Guerre
  2. ^ At the time of the Algerian War, Algeria was considered part of France and war actions labelled "law enforcement operations", so soldiers were awarded the Croix de la Valeur Militaire instead of the Croix de guerre des TOE.
  3. ^ Tannehill, Victor C. (1978). Boomerang, the story of the 320th Bomb Group. Racine, Wisconsin. ISBN 0-9605900-0-5. LCCN 79-105410. 
  4. ^ Blackmore, Kate, 'Armstrong, Millicent Sylvia (1888–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/armstrong-millicent-sylvia-9385/text16489, accessed 1 May 2012.
  5. ^ "Clarkson Crane 1894–1971"; Gay Bears: The Hidden History of the Berkeley Campus (2002); retrieved 2012-04-18.
  6. ^ GLBT Historical Society. "Finding Aid to the Clarkson Crane Papers (1997-46)"; website of the GLBT Historical Society; retrieved 2012-04-18.
  7. ^ Muskegon Chronicle
  8. ^ http://members.toast.net/jan.monnin/hagan/swartout,freeman/Swartout,%20Don%20army%20decoration%20letter.jpg
  9. ^ http://muse.aucklandmuseum.com/databases/Cenotaph/27825.detail?Ordinal=49&c_keyword_search=croix+de+guerre
  10. ^ National Pigeon Day. "History of Cher Ami". Retrieved 2011-03-31. 

External links[edit]