The 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 I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts. The Croix de guerre was also commonly bestowed on 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 despatches", 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 headquarters.
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 guerre, Belgian Croix de guerre, French Croix de guerre (WWI), etc.
French Croix de guerre
There are five distinct Croix de guerre medals in the French system of honours :
Croix de guerre 1914–1918 (for World War I service)
Croix de guerre 1939–1945 (for World War II service)
Croix de guerre (Vichy France) (for World War II service)
Croix de guerre de la Légion des Volontaires Français (for World War II service)
Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures (TOE) for wars other than World War I and World War II not fought on French soil
The Croix was created by a law of April 2, 1915, proposed by French 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 level.
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 corps level.
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).
French Croix de guerre des TOE
The French Croix de guerre des TOE was created in 1921 for wars fought in theatres of operation outside of France. It was awarded during Indochina War, Korean War, and other wars up to Kosovo War in 1999
When World War II broke out in 1939, a new Croix de guerre was created by Édouard Daladier. It was abolished by Vichy Government 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 in 1944, who reinstated the 1939 Croix.
The Croix de guerre takes precedence between the Ordre national du Mérite and the Croix de la Valeur Militaire, the World War I Croix being senior to the World War II one, itself senior to TOE Croix.
Belgian Croix de guerre or Oorlogskruis
Belgian Croix de guerre (WWII), or Oorlogskruis
Belgian Croix de guerre (WWII), or Oorlogskruis with Palm
There are three distinct Croix de guerre medals in the Belgian system of honours :
Belgian Croix de guerre (for World War I service)
Belgian Croix de guerre (for World War II service)
Belgian Croix de guerre (since 1954)
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 level
a silver lion for those who had been cited at the brigade level
a gold lion for those who had been cited at the division level
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 silver ones.
The Croix de guerre or Oorlogskruis would be 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 (War 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 ten or twenty Croix de guerre citations.
The coat of arms of Leuven, featuring a French Croix de guerre. Presumably to commemorate the sacking of Leuven by the Germans in 1914.
The Croix can be awarded to military units, as a manifestation of a collective Mention in Despatches. 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 guerre. 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 military.
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 military, 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 because 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 Marine Regiment and 6th Marine Regiment, the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, the Army's 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st BN U.S. 28th Infantry Regiment, and the National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade Separate Brigade 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
Hobey Baker, an American fighter pilot.
Lieutenant (later Temporary Captain) Harold Bassett, Royal Engineers, French Bronze with Palm, Jan 1916? (London Gazette 28 January 1919).
Bl. Daniel Brottier, beatus in the Roman Catholic Church; acted as a military chaplain during the war.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Melbourne and later Prime Minister of Australia, in 1917.
Eugene Bullard, wounded in the 1916 battles around Verdun, was awarded the Croix de guerre for his heroism.
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 later.
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 Guards. He was awarded the cross on 31 July 1917 after the attack on Pilkem Ridge near Ypres.
Dorothie Feilding, a British volunteer nurse awarded the Croix de guerre for bravery in the field.
George L. Fox, awarded the Croix de guerre for his service on the Western Front. 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.
Robert 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 1916.
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 Iremonger
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.
Arthur Jefferson Lane, an Australian private in the 60th Battalion, Recommendation date: 30 September 1917 (Polygon Wood), Killed in Action 25 April 1918 (Villers-Bretonneux).
Charles Lolah, a Passamaquoddy Indian from Pleasant Point reservation, Maine, who heroically fought and died in the Battle of Xivray-Marvoisin on 16 June 1918.
Henri de Lubac, a Roman Catholic Jesuit novice serving in the Third Infantry Regiment, who was severely wounded in the head on 1 November 1917 while fighting near Verdun. He later became an influential Catholic theologian and Cardinal.
Batista Maraglia of the 305th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Croix de guerre for his valor in the Battle of Meuse River-Argonne Forest, France.
William March, American writer, awarded the Croix de guerre with palm.
Lawrence Dominic McCarthy, was also an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Harry Morton, Lieut. Colonel, 1st and 15th Bns Sherwood Foresters DSO MC, awarded for many brilliant military qualities and exceptional services in Flanders during September and October 1917.
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 Honor.
James E. Rieger, Major (later Colonel), led a key attack during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
Milunka Savić, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 with Palm. She is the only woman in the world awarded with this medal for service in World War I.
James M. Sellers, U.S. 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 writer.
Sir Norman Stronge, 8th Baronet, was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
Leslie R. Taber, an American pilot in the Lafayette Flying Corps 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.
John Tovey, Royal Navy, later became a senior naval commander and an Admiral of the Fleet.
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.
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.
Major Frederick Lawrence Wall, Australian Army Medical Corps, served in France during WWI.
Edwin "Pa" Watson, served in France. Earning the U.S. Army Silver Star and the Croix de Guerre from the French government.
William A. Wellman, American fighter pilot in the Lafayette Flying Corp awarded Croix de Guerre with two palm leaves, 1918
Samuel Woodfill, an American Major 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.
William Henry Galpin was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery in agreeing to continue helping local villagers bring in the harvest in Marseille, France, despite being under enemy shelling. A shell exploded over him, and the medal was sent home to his mother.
Oliver James George (M.M) CPL East Surrey Regiment He volunteered in September 1914, and after serving at stations in England, he was sent to France in October of the following year. There he fought at St. Eloi and Ypres, but being wounded two months later was invalided home to hospital, returning to the front in April 1916. He was in action at Messines, but at Guillemont during the Somme offensive, received a second wound which necessitated his evacuation to England. Early in 1917 he was again in action this time at Nieupoort and in November was drafted to Italy. Returning to France two months afterwards, he served at Bapaume & on the Somme during the “retreat and advance” and for conspicuous gallantry whilst in charge of a “mopping up” section in an operation in Menin in October, which resulted in the capture of 28 prisoners & 2 officers was awarded the military medal and Croix de Guerre. Also serving with the army of occupation, he was demobilised in March 1919 and holds the 1914-1918 star and general service & victory medals.
Source: National Roll of the greeat war. REF: Z2579
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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.
Maurice Bambier, French politician and former Mayor of Montataire, awarded the French Croix de guerre for his services around Dunkirk.
Josephine Baker, American-born dancer, actress, and singer, for her work in the French Resistance.
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 palms.
Frederick Charles Bothwell, Jr., Colonel, USAAF, Awarded Croix de Guerre avec Palme for service in enemy occupied Yugoslavia. Upon retirement was appointed Director of the New York State Civil Defense Authority.
Phil H. Bucklew, US Sailor and "Father of American Naval Special Warfare".
Thomas A. Cassilly, was awarded the French Croix de guerre 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 of Honor
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.
Philippe Daudy, journalist and novelist.
Guy de Rothschild, awarded the Croix de guerre for his military valor.
Philippe de Rothschild, awarded the Croix de guerre for his service with the Free French Forces.
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 of Alsace.
Avery Dulles, S.J., awarded the Croix de guerre for his liaison work with the French navy.
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.
Stephen Galatti, Director of AFS, American Field Service
Francis Grevemberg, United States lieutenant colonel, later superintendent of the Louisiana state police.
Tony Halik Polish pilot in RAF, after being the only Polish/RAF pilot shot down over France, he joined the French resistance
Cpl. Edwin Allison Hosford, a rifleman of the North Shore Regiment (New Brunswick), Canadian Infantry, for heroism at Carpiquet, France in July 1944.
John Howard (American actor), awarded the Croix de guerre in 1944 for his valor. 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 sailors.
Agnès Humbert, art historian, was awarded the Croix de guerre with silver gilt palm, for heroism in her work for the French Resistance.
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 Justice.
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.
Lt.Colonel Blair "Paddy" Mayne, British Special Air Service, Croix de Guerre with Palm. Awarded Légion d'honneur, awarded the Distinguished Service Order (U.K) four times.
General Dragoljub Mihailovic, Serbian Chetnik leader, awarded by Charles de Gaulle.
Paul de Montgolfier, fighter pilot for the French Air Force
Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. Army soldier during the war, 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 Atlantic.
Eileen Nearne, was a member of the UK's SOE. She served in occupied France as a radio operator under the codename "Rose".
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.
Marcel Oopa, Polynesian politician.
Peter J. Ortiz, Marine officer and member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
Origene Paquette, Jr., served as a First Lieutenant of the Counter Intelligence Corps in the Seventh Army.
George S. Patton, U.S. Army general. Awarded for leading U.S. Third Army during the liberation of France.
Andree Peel(1905–2010), French member of resistance.
Frank Perconte, member of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Col. David E. Pergrin, awarded the Croix de guerre for his help in the Battle of the Bulge.
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. 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 Eighth Air Force of the USAF.
Guy de Rothschild, French Army, Free French Forces
Col. Jimmy Stewart being awarded the Croix de guerre with palm, in 1944.
Desmond J. Scott, a New Zealand fighter pilot and Group Captain who flew for the RAF. He was awarded both the Belgian and the French Croix de guerre.
Jan Smuts, South African Prime Minister.
George Reginald Starr, of the SOE.
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 General.
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 finally executed.
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 commended.
Nancy Wake of the SOE was the highest decorated Allied servicewoman of the war. 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. 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 France.
Frank Harding Burchell, surgeon of the USS McLanahan received the Croix de guerre for saving the lives of his crew by performing emergency surgery after his ship the USS McLanahan was hit by a large caliber projectile fired by a shore battery which exploded 20 to 40 feet off her port quarter off the coast of San Remo, Italy in 1945.
Tony Rao US Army 94th infantry division
During the First World War a homing pigeon named Cher Ami (Dear friend) saved the lives of many American 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 service.