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What is the Navy Cross Medal?

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The Navy Cross medal was created shortly after World War I to recognize particularly heroic sailors. Prior to February 4th, 1919, there was only the Medal of Honor.

But how much do you really know about the Navy Cross medal’s history and what it means? Here’s what you need to know about this important award.

The History of the Navy Cross Medal

What is the Navy Cross medal? Originally, the Navy Cross was the third-highest decoration in the Navy, following the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the Medal of Honor.

On August 7th, 1942, Congress changed the order of precedence. The Navy Cross became the second-highest award behind the Medal of Honor.

On one side, the cross medal features a sailing ship framed by laurel leaves and berries. The opposite side has crossed anchors and “USN,” which stands for U.S. Navy.

The attached navy blue ribbon has a white stripe down the middle. The blue represents the Navy, while the white stands for purity of selflessness.

Who Can Receive the Navy Cross?

The Navy Cross is one of the highest honors that sailors, aviators, and Marines of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps can receive. If you’re interested in joining the Navy, you should know about this prestigious award.

The Navy Cross is awarded to exemplary sailors that have demonstrated extraordinary heroism or distinguished service. To receive the medal, the act of distinguished service must meet one of the following guidelines while in combat action:

  • Must occur against an enemy of the United States
  • While engaged in a military operation involved in conflict with opposing foreign forces
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces who are in an armed conflict where the U.S. is not a belligerent party

Additionally, the act must occur while the recipient is in danger or while facing great personal risk. It must stand out compared to the actions of others of equal experience, position, etc.

The Navy Cross has been awarded over six thousand times. Sadly, many of the recipients that demonstrated conspicuous heroism received the medal posthumously. The Navy Cross is certainly one of the most important Navy medals, and many would be proud to receive it.

Notable Recipients

There are many heroes and recipients of the Navy Cross throughout our history. However, here are some of the more well-known names.

Rear Admiral Roy Milton Davenport is the first recipient of the Navy Cross. He also has the highest number of them, having earned five during his years in the military.

Lenah Higbee worked as a nurse in the Navy, and she was the first woman to receive the award.

Doris “Dorie” Miller served as a cook for the Navy during Pearl Harbor and was the first black man to earn the award. He helped move the mortally wounded captain and manned an anti-aircraft gun to fire at incoming Japanese planes despite being untrained with the weapon.

You can view a full list of all recipients of the Navy Cross based on conflict/periods.

The Navy Cross Is One of the Highest Honors

Now you know a bit more about the Navy Cross medal, including its significance and some of the well-known recipients. As you can see, this medal is one of the highest honors someone can receive.

Are you inspired by these stories and the history of this medal? If you’re ready to serve your country, find the nearest Navy recruiter to learn more about what you can do.