Navy Cross

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Navy Cross
Navy Cross.png
TypeService cross medal
Awarded forExtraordinary heroism in combat
Presented byUnited States Department of the Navy[1]
EligibilityUnited States Navy sailors and United States marines
StatusCurrently awarded
EstablishedAct of Congress (Public Law 65-253), approved on February 4, 1919.
First awarded1919
Totalc. 5,400 (as of December 2017)[2]
Navy Cross ribbon.svg
Next (higher)Medal of Honor
Next (lower)Department of Defense: Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Department of Homeland Security: Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal

The Navy Cross is the United States Naval Service's second-highest military decoration awarded for sailors and Marines who distinguish themselves for extraordinary heroism in combat with an armed enemy force.[3] The medal is equivalent to the Army's Distinguished Service Cross, the Air and Space Forces' Air Force Cross, and the Coast Guard Cross.

The Navy Cross is bestowed by the Secretary of the Navy and may also be awarded to members of the other armed services, and to foreign military personnel while serving with the U.S. Naval Service. The Navy Cross was established by Act of Congress (Public Law 65-253) and approved on February 4, 1919.


The Navy Cross was instituted in part due to the entrance of the United States into World War I. Many European nations had the custom of decorating heroes from other nations, but the Medal of Honor was the sole U.S. award for valor at the time.[4] The Army instituted the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal in 1918, while the Navy followed suit in 1919, retroactive to 6 April 1917. Originally, the Navy Cross was lower in precedence than the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, because it was awarded for both combat heroism and for "other distinguished service".[4] Congress revised this on 7 August 1942, making the Navy Cross a combat-only decoration that follows the Medal of Honor in order of precedence. Since the medal was established, it has been awarded more than 6,300 times.[4] It was designed by James Earle Fraser.[4] Since the 11 September 2001 attacks the Navy Cross has been awarded 47 times, with two of them having the name of the recipient held in secret.[5] One of those secret awardings was due to Marine Gunnery Sergeant Tate Jolly's actions during the 2012 Benghazi attack.[6]


The Navy Cross may be awarded to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces while serving with the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard (when a part of the Department of the Navy) who distinguishes themselves in action by extraordinary heroism not justifying an award of the Medal of Honor. The action must take place under one of three circumstances:

  1. In combat action while engaged against an enemy of the United States; or,
  2. In combat action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or,
  3. In combat action while serving with friendly foreign forces, who are engaged in armed conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The act(s) to be commended must be performed in the presence of great danger, or at great personal risk, and must be performed in such a manner as to render the individual's action(s) highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience, or position of responsibility. An accumulation of minor acts of heroism does not justify an award of the Navy Cross.

As originally authorized, the Navy Cross could be awarded for distinguished non-combat acts, but legislation of 7 August 1942 limited the award to acts of combat heroism. Past Navy Cross awards for merit, such as to 9th Chief of Naval Operations Fleet Admiral Ernest King, were unaffected by the change in criteria.


The Navy Cross originally was the Navy's third-highest decoration, after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. On 7 August 1942, Congress revised the order of precedence, placing the Navy Cross above the Distinguished Service Medal in precedence. Since that time, the Navy Cross has been worn after the Medal of Honor and before all other awards.

Additional awards of the Navy Cross are denoted by gold or silver 516 inch stars affixed to the suspension and service ribbon of the medal. A gold star would be issued for each of the second through fifth awards, to be replaced by a silver star which would indicate a sixth award. To date no one has received more than five awards.

Description and symbolism[edit]


Obverse: The medal is a modified cross pattée one and a half inches wide. The ends of its arms are rounded whereas a conventional cross patée has arms that are straight on the end. There are four laurel leaves with berries in each of the re-entrant arms of the cross. In the center of the cross, a sailing vessel is depicted on waves, sailing to the viewer's left. The vessel is a symbolic caravel of the type used between 1480 and 1500. Fraser selected the caravel because it was a symbol often used by the Naval Academy and because it represented both naval service and the tradition of the sea. The laurel leaves with berries refer to achievement.

Reverse: In the center of the medal, a bronze cross pattée, one and a half inches wide, are crossed anchors from the pre-1850 period, with cables attached. The letters USN are evident amid the anchors.

The earliest version of the Navy Cross (1919–1928) featured a more narrow strip of white, while the so-called "Black Widow" medals awarded from 1941 to 1942 were notable for the dark color due to over-anodized finish. The medal is similar in appearance to the British Distinguished Service Cross.[4]

Service Ribbon

The service ribbon is navy blue with a center stripe of white identical to the suspension ribbon of the medal. The blue alludes to naval service; the white represents the purity of selflessness.

Notable recipients[edit]

United States Navy[edit]

United States Marine Corps[edit]

United States Army[edit]

United States Coast Guard[edit]

Non-U.S. recipients[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Navy and Marine Corps awards manual" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-09-18. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  2. ^ "Recipients of the Navy Cross". Archived from the original on 2017-12-09.
  3. ^ SECNAVYINST 2006, 1650.1H, P. 2--22&23
  4. ^ a b c d e "The Navy Cross". Naval History and Heritage Command. January 17, 2018. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  5. ^ Brook, Tom Vanden (5 December 2016). "Navy secretary recommends two Medals of Honor". NavyTimes. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  6. ^ Scarborough, Rowen (25 January 2014). "Delta Force commando who saved 'numerous lives' in Benghazi seige honored". Washington Times. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
    Brook, Tom Vanden (16 May 2016). "Navy SEALs' secret medals reveal heroism over last 15 years". NavyTimes. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Matthew Gene Axelson, Navy Cross". Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  8. ^ "80-G-20016 Lieutenant Commander William H. Brockman, Jr., USN". public2.nhhcaws.local.
  9. ^ "Clarence Dickinson - Recipient -".
  10. ^ "Chief Nurse Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee, U.S. Navy".
  11. ^ "Benjamin Vaughan McCandlish". Military Times. Gannett Government Media. 2011. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  12. ^ "Clarence McClusky - Recipient -".
  13. ^ "Valor awards for Donald L. McFaul | Military Times Hall of Valor". 2010-07-04. Archived from the original on 2012-06-17. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
  14. ^ "Admiral M'Namee Dead in Newport: Former Head of Mackay Radio, Adviser at 1919 Paris Peace Parley, in Navy 42 Years". The New York Times. New York City. The New York Times Company. 31 December 1952. p. 15. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  15. ^ "Jesse Naul Jr., decorated for extraordinary heroism in World War II combat, dies at 92". 15 April 2013. Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  16. ^ University of New Mexico NROTC Sun Line Vol.IV No.1 November 1965
  17. ^ "Shadow box". Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Navy Cross Recipients World War II; U.S Department of Defense Military Awards for Valor - Top 3" (PDF).
  19. ^ "Valor awards for Robert J. Thomas | Military Times Hall of Valor". 2010-07-04. Archived from the original on 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
  20. ^ "Wins Medal While Serving in Adriatic Sea". The Honolulu Advertiser. 1938-04-11. p. 15. Retrieved 2022-08-21 – via access
  21. ^ Cogswell, Julius. "Military Times Valor Awards for Julius Cogswell". Military Times Valor Awards. Military Times. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Gallagher Patrick 'Bob'".
  23. ^ Harrington, Myron. "Valor Awards for Myron Harrington". Military Times Wall of Honor. Military Times. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  24. ^ Hope, Edward. "Valor Awards for Edward B. Hope". Military Times Wall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  25. ^ "M. V. G. Greshilove (sic)". Military Times. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-06-08.


  • "Navy Cross". Service Medals and Campaign Credits of the United States. United States Navy. Retrieved July 10, 2007.
  • Dear, Murray (April 2015). "A Weekend's Leave in Auckland". Naval History. Annapolis, Maryland: U.S. Naval Institute. 29 (2): 46–47.
  • Larzelere, Alex (2003). The Coast Guard in World War I: An Untold Story. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-1-55750-476-0.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]