Second in precedence only to the Medal of Honor,
the Army Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is awarded for extreme heroism and extraordinary risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. It is equivalent to the Air Force Cross
, the Coast Guard Cross, and the Navy Cross
(Navy and Marine Corps).
Suggested by General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing (who would receive it in 1941) and introduced in 1918 by Woodrow Wilson, the medal was first awarded during World War I, but retroactive medals have been given for conflicts as far back as the Indian Wars of 1817-1898. Of the roughly 13,400 recipients to date, none is more notable than WWI ace pilot Eddie Rickenbacker, who received ten Distinguished Service Crosses, one later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
Two recipients during World War I would receive on the Medal of Honor in World War II: Major (later Brigadier General) Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of the former president; and Brigadier General (later General of the Army) Douglas MacArthur. Other prominent recipients of one or more DSC medals include Dwight F. Davis (WWI), Secretary of War during the Coolidge administration and founder of tennis's Davis Cup; Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. (Vietnam); Virginia Hall (WWII), a civilian spy with the Office of Strategic Services, now known as the CIA; soldier-turned-actor Audie Murphy (WWII); George S. Patton Jr. (WWII); and Alvin C. York (WWI), made famous by Gary Cooper in the film Sergeant York.
Marine Lieutenant General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller earned one DSC and five Navy Crosses. And Arthur S. Champeny is the only man to receive the DSC in three different conflicts: World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.
The DSC medal is a two-inch high bronze cross superimposed by an eagle with outstretched wings. A scroll reading "For Valor" runs below the eagle, and the recipient's name is engraved on the back. It was originally designed by J. Andre Smith, an U.S. Army artist. The medal hangs from a ribbon with a one-inch stripe of Imperial Blue in the middle flanked on either side by a 1/16th-inch stripe of white and a 1/8th-inch stripe of Old Glory Red. Subsequent awards are denoted by oak-leaf clusters.