By Buddy Blouin
Joining the U.S. Navy is a career unlike any other, and becoming a decorated war hero is the dream of many who enlist. While it’s never favorable to find yourself in a situation that will require bravery and heroism, it is important to have such traits and to exemplify them if the time comes. Sailors who exhibit extraordinary amounts of valor can be awarded the Navy Cross. This prestigious award has been earned over 6,300 times since its inception. Learn more about it and what it takes to become one of the Sailors worthy of such an honor.

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What Is the Navy Cross?

The Navy Cross medal is the second-highest award that Sailors serving in the U.S. Navy can earn. Only the Medal of Honor is a higher achievement, and because of this, the prestige of the Navy Cross cannot be overstated. The Navy Cross is equal to similar medals awarded in other branches of the military, such as the Distinguished Service Cross earned in the U.S. Army and the Air Force Cross, an award given by the U.S. Air Force. This medal is synonymous with the Navy; however, there have been cases where troops in other branches of the military, such as the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard, have earned the award. Members of foreign military forces have earned the honor, as well, including those fighting for South Vietnam and Italy.

How Do You Get the Navy Cross?

The Navy Cross meaning and the definition of how to receive the award have changed over the years. In its current form, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) description of medals, to earn the Navy Cross, you must meet the following criteria while showcasing extraordinary heroism:
  • You must be engaged in action against an enemy of the United States of America.
  • You must be engaging in military actions involving a conflict with a foreign opposition; or
  • Serving with friendly foreign forces while engaging in armed conflict against opposing armed forces to which the U.S. isn’t a belligerent party.
  • The actions that would qualify you for the Navy Cross will need to reach such a degree that they're high enough to be above any other U.S. combat decorations, but not of merit for the Medal of Honor.
To earn the Navy Cross, you’ll have to be placed in a situation of immense danger, putting yourself at great personal risk and going above and beyond your call of duty while serving in battle.

Notable Navy Cross Recipients

With thousands of crosses earned over the years, each and every recipient is a hero to America and mankind in general. However, here's a highlight of a few notable names who've served with valor and earned the award:
  • Rear Admiral Roy Milton Davenport

    has the most Navy Crosses out of anyone, having earned five in total during his military career. He was also the first recipient of the award.
  • Doris “Dorie” Miller

    , seen above, was a cook for the U.S. Navy during Pearl Harbor and was able to shoot down as many as four planes until running out of ammo. He was the first Black person to receive the award.
  • Lenah Higbee

    served the Navy as a nurse and was the first woman to win the Navy Cross. She is also the only woman to do so to this day while she was alive.
  • Sgt. John J. Lord

    would have his Bronze Star upgraded decades after serving the U.S. Marines in the Vietnam War for his bravery in leading his unit through an ambush after leadership became too injured to do so.
For a full list of the U.S. Navy’s Navy Cross recipients, click the link. This award continues to honor those who showcase the highest forms of valor and defend America even when the means to do so are outside of their normal scope of service.

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Image: U.S. Naval Historical Center




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