The Army Distinguished Service Cross: 10 Things You Should Know About It

There are many civilians, and even a few military people that do not completely understand the Army Distinguished Service Cross. This award is highly respected, and anyone who has been awarded it has every right to be proud.

In today’s post, I have done some extensive research and I am going to provide you with some interesting information. These are 10 things you should know about the Army Distinguished Service Cross:

1: Second Highest Military Award. The Army Distinguished Service Cross is the 2nd highest award an Army officer or Soldier can attain. The only award that is higher is the esteemed Congressional Medal of Honor. The equivalents in the other service branches are the Navy Cross (Navy and Marines), the Air Force Cross, and the Coast Guard Cross.

2: No Comparison To The Distinguished Service Medal. While the Distinguished Service Medal is a huge honor to have given to you, it is not at the level of the Distinguished Service Cross. The main difference in my opinion is: you risk your life to earn the Cross, whereas the medal is given to those who provide meritorious service to the government.

I have noticed that many people think these two awards are the same. They are not!

3: When The Distinguished Service Cross Began. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson established the Distinguished Service Cross to overtake the Certificate of Merit. Later that year, Congress agreed and this high award was put into action. Some who were awarded the Certificate of Merit in previous wars had them upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.

4: Earliest Awards. I mentioned in #3 about Certificates of Merit being upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. The earliest of these were in the Indian Campaigns in which 7 awards were issued. Those lasted from 1861-1898.

5: Over 13,000 Distinguished Service Crosses. Since being established, over 13,000 of these prestigious awards have been awarded. The amount in each branch are:

  • Army-11,395

  • Air Force-1,117

  • Navy-67

  • Marines-417

  • Civilians-11

  • Foreigners-440

All of these have risked their lives and limbs in service to the United States of America.

6: How Does Someone Earn The Distinguished Service Cross? It is awarded to anyone serving the United States Army who shows extreme heroism while engaged against an enemy of the United States, but does not justify awarding the Medal of Honor. The act must be so noteworthy and of risk to their own lives that it sets that person apart from all others in the same unit.

7: 2 Famous People Who Were Awarded The Distinguished Service Cross. It probably isn’t something you have to know, but it is quite interesting all the same. These are 2 famous people you may not know were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross:

  1. The great actor Audie Murphy 1925-1971. In World War II, this actor who played in many westerns and the great movie: To Hell And Back, earned almost every award possible that a Soldier could possibly earn. He received both the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, along with many other awards.

  2. Alexander Haig 1924-2010 was a great politician. He served as Secretary of State under President Reagan, and as White House Chief of Staff under President’s Nixon and Ford. Haig was a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

8: Generals Who Were Awarded The Distinguished Service Cross. The United States has had some of her greatest leaders earn the Army Distinguished Service Cross. When a leader risks his/her life for their Soldiers, you know you reside in a great country. These are Generals who have been awarded the Cross:

  • 4 Star General Walton Walker: 1889-1950. Served in World War I, II, and Korea.

  • Major General William Mitchell: 1879-1936. Served in World War I.

  • Major General Robert Beightler: 1892-1978. Served in World Wars I and II.

  • 4 Star General William Hoge: 1894-1979. Served in World War I, II, and Korea.

  • 4 Star General William Momyer: 1916-2012. Served in World War II and Vietnam.

  • Lieutenant General Thomas Trapnell: 1902-2002. Served in World War II and Korea.

  • 4 Star General James Lindsay: 1932-Date. Served in Vietnam.

  • Lieutenant General William Tunner: 1906-1983. Served in World War II and Korea.

  • Brigadier General David “Tex” Hill: 1915-2007. Served in World War II and Korea.

  • Lieutenant General Richard Sutherland: 1893-1966. Served in the Pancho Villa Expedition, World Wars I and II.

  • 4 Star General Courtney Hodges: 1887-1966. It needs to be noted that he rose from private to general. He served in World War I and II.

  • 4 Star General Carl Spaatz: 1891-1974. Served in the Mexican Expedition, World Wars I and II.

  • Major General William Dean: 1899-1981. Served in World War II and Korea.

  • 4 Star General Mark Clark: 1896-1984. Served in World Wars I and II and in Korea.

  • Brigadier General Paul Tibbets: 1915-2007. Pilot of the Enola Gay that bombed Hiroshima. He served in World War II.

  • 4 Star General George Patton: 1885-1945. Served in the Mexican Revolution, World War I and II.

  • 5 Star General Douglas MacArthur:1880-1964. Served in the Mexican Revolution, World War I, II, and Korea.

distinguished service cross9: Foreign Recipients Of The Distinguished Service Cross. We must always remember that there have been non-citizens who have laid their lives on the line for the U.S. I authored a book about Puerto Ricans who have, but in all actuality, Puerto Ricans are citizens. In research, I discovered people of these nationalities have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross:

  • Soviet

  • British

  • Australian

  • New Zealander

  • French

  • Philippino

  • Vietnamese

  • Belgian

  • Italian

  • Romanian

10: Most Awards Of The Distinguished Service Cross. He won an amazing 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, but 1 was taken away…it was upgraded to the Medal Of Honor. Major Eddie Rickenbacker was one of the greatest fighter pilots the United States ever had. His service during World War I earned him a wide range of awards.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the Distinguished Service Cross is a very prestigious award. If you or someone you know has earned this honor, please tell us about it.  Just leave a comment below to do so.

I hope you learned something in this post…I know I learned a lot in researching for it.

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1 thought on “The Army Distinguished Service Cross: 10 Things You Should Know About It”

  1. There are many awards you can earn doing service for the US, and to me it is neat to hear about how you earn it, the history of it, and so on. It really just goes to show the work our soldiers put into keeping us safe. Amazing.

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