croix de guerre (English translation:
Cross of War) is a military decoration of both France and Belgium, where it is
also known as the Oorlogskruis (Dutch).
It was first created in 1915
in both countries 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
, again in World War II
, and in
other conflicts. The croix de guerre was also commonly bestowed to
foreign military forces allied to France and Belgium.
The croix de guerre may either be bestowed as a unit award or to
individuals who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving
combat with enemy forces. The medal is also awarded to those who
have been "mentioned in
", meaning a heroic deed was performed meriting a
citation from an individual's headquarters unit. The unit award of
the croix de guerre was issued to military commands who performed
heroic deeds in combat and were subsequently recognized by
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, and the French medals are
different in appearance from the Belgian design.
For the unit decoration of the croix de guerre, a fourragère
is awarded which is suspended
from the shoulder of an individual's uniform.
Because the croix de guerre is issued as several different 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
, Belgian croix de guerre
, French croix de
Croix de guerre
There are four distinct croix de guerre
medals in the
French & Belgian system of honours :
was created by a law of April
, proposed by 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
- 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
- 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).
The croix des guerres des TOE was created in 1921 for overseas
wars. It was awarded during Indochina
, Korean War
, and up to Kosovo War
In 1939 a new croix de guerre was created by Édouard Daladier
. It was abolished by
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
1944, who reinstated the 1939 croix.
The croix de guerre takes precedence between the ordre national du Mérite
the croix de la valeur
, the World War I croix being senior to the World War
II one, itself senior to TOE croix.
Belgian croix de guerre or Oorlogskruis
The Belgian croix de guerre also included attachments, pinned into
the ribbon, to designate the degree of citation:
- a bronze lion for those who had been cited at the regiment
- a silver lion for those who had been cited at the brigade
- a gold lion for those who had been cited at the division
- a bronze palm for those who had been cited at the army level. A
silver palm is used for five bronze ones and a gold one for five
The croix de guerre
referred with the different type of attachment, such as the
croix de guerre avec palme et étoile
(War Cross with palm
and star) or the croix de guerre avec palme et lion
Cross with palm and lion).
The multiple attached pins can also designate the number of croix
de guerre citations earned, but displayed with only one medal. Some
soldiers earned more than 10 or 20 croix de guerre citations.
The croix can be awarded to military units, as a manifestation of a
collective Mention in
. 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
. 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
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.
United States issuance
In the United States
, the croix de guerre was commonly accepted as a
foreign decoration. In the modern age, however, it remains one of
the most difficult foreign awards to verify entitlement. This is
since the croix de guerre was often presented with original orders,
only, and rarely entered into a permanent service record. The unit
award was virtually never entered into U.S. records, especially
since in most cases it was considered a temporary decoration which
was surrendered when an individual departed a unit. An added
complication is that the 1973 National Archives Fire
destroyed a large number of World War II personnel records, meaning
that there are very few sources from which to verify a veteran's
entitlement to the croix de guerre.
Today, members of United States 5th
and 6th Marine
, the Army's 2nd Infantry Division
the Army's 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment
and the 1st BN U.S.
28th Infantry Regiment
are authorized to wear a fourragère
signifying that brigade's award of three croix de guerre during the
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.
Individuals in World War I
- Cher Ami, An American homing pigeon
wounded in World War I.
- Hobey Baker, an American fighter
pilot in World War I.
- William A. Wellman, American fighter pilot in the
Lafayette Flying Corp awarded Croix de Guerre with two palm leaves,
- Lieutenant (later Temporary Captain) Harold Llewellyn Bassett, Royal
Engineers, French Bronze with Palm, Jan 1916? (London Gazette 28
- Dennis Walaker, awarded the croix
de guerre on 22 February 1916 by the French President, the 2nd by
HM the King of Belgium on 11 March 1918.
- Stanley Melbourne Bruce,
1st Viscount Melbourne and later Prime Minister of Australia,
during the First World War in 1917.
- Eugene Bullard, wounded in the
1916 battles around Verdun, was awarded the croix de guerre for his
- Georges Carpentier, Aviator
during the war as well as a world champion boxer.
- Father John B. DeValles, A chaplain with the Yankee
Division, he was known as the "Angel of the Trenches" for his
valiant deeds in caring for both Allied and German soldiers on the
battlefields of France. Fr. DeValles was injured in a mustard gas
attack while attending to a fallen soldier and died two years
- T/Lieutenant Hugh Ravensford Dixon, 121st Field Company R.E.
was awarded the croix de guerre with palm for his part in the
bridging of the River Lys on 19 October 1918.
- Thomas J. Evans, part of the 1st Battalion Welsh
was awarded the cross on 31 July 1917 after the attack on Pilkem Ridge near Ypres.
- George L. Fox, awarded the croix de guerre for his
service on the Western Front during World
War I. He was also one of the Four Chaplains who gave their
lives when the troopships USAT Dorchester was hit by a torpedo and
sank on February 3, 1943, during World War II.
Gauthiot, French Orientalist, linguist, and explorer,
interrupted his exploration of the Pamir Mountains in July 1914 to return home to serve as a captain
in the infantry. He received the croix de guerre before he
was mortally wounded at the Second Battle of Artois in May
- George Hedges No.9540,1st
Battalion East Surrey Regiment,1914-1918.
- Frank H. Hullinger, awarded Croix de Guerre for
bravery. Also awarded with Hullinger was Earl Sleeth. Both
"volunteered under violent bombardment to insure liaison of its
advance post, which was attacked by a strong enemy detachment." -
cited from The Chicago Tribune, along with the book WITH THE HELP
OF GOD AND A FEW MARINES (p. 48-49)
- Lieutenant-Colonel Harold
- Henry Lincoln Johnson
served with the 369th Infantry Division, better known as the Harlem
Hellfighters or the Black Rattlers, a regiment consisted entirely
of African Americans excepting their commanding officers.
- American poet Joyce Kilmer
(1886-1918), a sergeant and intelligence observer with the 69th
Volunteer Infantry, 42nd Rainbow Division, was posthumously awarded
the croix de guerre for service during World War I.
- William March, American writer,
awarded the croix de guerre with palm.
- Isabel Weld
Perkins, awarded the croix de guerre for Red Cross volunteer work.
- Joseph Edny Powell, awarded
the croix de guerre in 1918 by then CIC, later Marshal Pétain, for
valor. His company "Le Terrible" was H Company, the first to occupy
Germany after breaking the Hindenburg
Line in September, 1918.
- Eddie Rickenbacker, Captain
and flying ace of the 94th Aero Squadron,
United States Army Air
Service, during World War I; also
recipient of the U.S. Medal of
- James M. Sellers, Marine
awarded the croix de guerre for heroism at Belleau Wood
- Jess William Snyder, Major,
United States Army, American Expeditionary Force
(the first American unit to enter WWI) was awarded the Croix de
Guerre with palm and silver star, concurrently with a Purple Heart and U.S. Silver Star, France 1918.
- Laurence Stallings, American
- Milunka Savić, was awarded
the French croix de guerre with palm. She is the only woman in the
world awarded with this medal.
- Sir Norman Stronge,
8th Baronet, was awarded the Belgian croix de guerre.
- Leslie R. Taber, an American pilot in the Lafayette
Flying corp who flew in 1917 as a fighter and bomber pilot. He also
served in the US Navy as a Naval Aviator after the US entered the
war and won the Navy Cross.
- Stephen W. Thompson, American aviator, was awarded the croix de
guerre with palm. He is credited with the First aerial victory
by the U.S. military.
- Major Frederick Lawrence
Wall, Australian Army Medical Corps, served in France during
- Samuel Woodfill, an American
Major in WWI who disabled several German machine-gun nests and
killed many enemy combatants with rifle, pistol and pickaxe. He was
awarded 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 during
World War I.
Maraglia of the 305th
Infantry Regiment was awarded the croix de guerre for his valor
in the Battle of Meuse
River-Argonne Forest,France during
World War I.
Individuals in World War II
- Władysław Anders,
Polish general, commander of the 2nd
Polish Corps 1943-1946.
- Vera Atkins, part of the French
section of the SOE.
- Josephine Baker, American-born
dancer, actress, and singer, for her work in the French Resistance during World War
- Samuel Beckett, awarded the croix
de guerre by General Charles de
Gaulle in March, 1945.
- Marcel Bigeard, highly decorated
French general and veteran of World War II, French Indochina and
Algeria; received both the croix de guerre 1939-1945 and the croix
de guerre TOE with a total of 25 citations, including 17
- Thomas A. Cassilly, was awarded the French croix de
guerre during WWII while in the US Army, retired from the US
Foreign Service in 1972 and taught at Montclair State University
and Manhattanville College.
- Frederick Walker Castle,
U.S. Army Air Forces general and posthumous recipient of the Medal
- Lionel Guy D'Artois, a Canadian
Army officer and SOE
agent. Awarded the croix de guerre for service with the Interior French Forces in occupied
France, during World War II.
- Guy de Rothschild, awarded the
croix de guerre for his military valor during World War II.
- Philippe de Rothschild,
awarded the croix de guerre for his service with the Free French Forces during World War
- Gabriel Brunet de Sairigné,
French colonel who participated with the Free French Forces to the East African Campaign
(in Eritrea and Syria), the
Tunisia Campaign, the Allied invasion of Sicily , the
Operation Dragoon and the campaign
- Avery Cardinal Dulles,
S.J., awarded the croix de guerre
for his liaison work with the French navy during World War II.
- Ben F. Ellis, Georgia recipient for gallant and heroic
action in battle.
- Frantz Fanon,
awarded the French croix de guerre by Raoul
Salan for service in the French Free Forces in North Africa and Alsace.
- Carl Gustav Fleischer,
Norwegian general, who won the first major victory against the
Germans in World War II.
- Stephen Galatti, Director of
AFS, American Field
Grevemberg, United States lieutenant colonel, later
superintendent of the Louisiana state
- Tony Halik Polish pilot in RAF, after
being the only Polish/RAF pilot shot down over
France, he joined the French resistance
- John Howard ,
awarded the croix de guerre in 1944 for his valor in World War II.
When his ship struck a mine off the French coast, killing the
captain, Howard took over command and fought valiantly to save his
ship and crew, even jumping into the sea to rescue wounded
- Agnès Humbert, art historian,
was awarded the croix de guerre with silver gilt palm, for heroism
in her work for the French
Resistance during World War II.
- Arthur Jessup, a Canadian major
with the Governor
General's Foot Guards received the Belgian cross de guerre with
bronze palm during the campaign to liberate Belgium in World War II. Major Jessup would return to
Canada after the War and eventually become an Ontario Supreme Court
- Noor Inayat Khan, a wireless
operator in the French section of the SOE.
- Curtis E. LeMay, was awarded the French croix de
guerre with palm; Belgium croix de guerre with palm.
- Jean Mayer, future
president of Tufts
University, awarded for his courage and bravery during World
- General Dragoljub
Mihailovic, Serbian Chetnik leader, awarded by Charles de
Gaulle during World War II.
- Audie Murphy, the most decorated
U.S. Army soldier during WWII, received the French croix de guerre
twice (with palm) and the Belgian croix de guerre once, as well as
the Medal of Honor.
- Leonard W. Murray, Canadian admiral, awarded the
croix de guerre with bronze palm for his role in the Battle of the
- John B. Oakes, future editor of the editorial page of
the New York Times, awarded
for his counter-espionage activities with the O.S.S. during World
- Marcel Oopa, Polynesian
- George S. Patton, U.S. Army general during World War
II. Awarded for leading U.S.
Third Army during the liberation of France.
- Frank Perconte, member of
Parachute Infantry Regiment.
- Col. David E. Pergrin, awarded the croix de guerre
for his help in the Battle of the
Bulge during World War II.
- Harry Peulevé, a wireless
operator and organiser in the French Section of the SOE.
- Abbé Pierre (1912-2007), French
priest and founder of Emmaus.
- Col. William Wilson
Quinn, G2 Officer of the U.S. 7th Army during WWII. Awarded the
croix de guerre with palm for participating in the battle of
France, and later retired as Lt. Gen. William Wilson "Buffolo Bill"
Quinn. He planned the invasion of Southern France and also
predicted a battle of the Battle of the Bulge.
- Robert Rosenthal of the
Air Force of the USAF, in World War II.
- Guy de Rothschild, French Army, Free
- Desmond J. Scott, a New Zealand fighter pilot and
Group Captain who flew for the RAF
during the Second World War. He was awarded both the Belgian and
the French croix de guerre.
- Jan Smuts, South African Prime
Minister during World War II.
- George Reginald Starr, of
the SOE, during World
- James Stewart, American
actor awarded the croix de guerre with palm in 1944 by Lt. Gen.
Henri Valin, Chief of Staff of the
French Air Force, for his role in the liberation of France. He
retired from the United States Air Force Reserve a Brigadier
- Violette Szabo, a British
SOE who underwent intense training and was
eventually sent into the field. Her first mission was a success,
but during her second mission she was captured. Eventually sent to
a concentration camp, she was brutally tortured for information and
- Fernand Van Geert, ship's
officer, rescued 12 passengers from a torpedoed Belgian freighter
in the North Atlantic. He secured a compass from the burning ship
before returning to the lifeboat which he then commanded for 9 days
in open waters. His actions and moral leadership were
- Nancy Wake of the SOE was the highest decorated
Allied servicewoman of World War II. Awarded the croix de guerre
three times for service with the French maquis.
- F. F. E.
Yeo-Thomas, member of RF Section
of the SOE during World
War II. He was a Special
Operations Executive Liaison officer working with the Bureau Central de
Renseignements et d'Action (BCRA) of the Free French forces to
organise and co-ordinate resistance in both Vichy and Occupied
- Cpl. Edwin Allison Hosford, a rifleman
of the North Shore Regiment (New Brunswick), Canadian Infantry, for
heroism at Carpiquet, France in July 1944 during World War II.
During the First World War a homing
named Cher Ami
saved the lives of many French soldiers by carrying a message
across enemy lines in the heat of battle. Cher Ami was shot in the
chest and the leg, losing most of the leg to which the message was
attached, but continued the 25 minute flight avoiding shrapnel and
poison gas to get the message home. Cher Ami was awarded the French
'Croix de Guerre
' for heroic