The Croix de Guerre (sometimes lowercase in French, Croix de guerre, meaning "Cross of War") is a military decoration of both France and Belgium, where it is also known as 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 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 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 three distinct Croix de Guerre
medals in the French system of honours :
The Croix was created by a law of April 2 1915, 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 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 steeds 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 War, Korean War, and up to Kosovo War in 1999.
In 1939 a new croix de guerre was created by PM 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
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 (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 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 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 Marine Regiment or 6th Marine Regiments, 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 First World War, 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.
Luxembourg War Cross
During the Second World War, a decoration known as the Luxembourg War Cross
was issued to those members of the Allied forces who had performed combat duty in Luxembourg
during the liberation of Europe. The decoration was frequently referred to as the Luxembourg Croix de guerre
or simply as the Croix de Guerre. This was, however, a separate award from the French and Belgian versions of the Croix de Guerre with different criteria for issuance.
Also, in World War II two African-Americans were awarded this medal for heroism, becoming the first Americans to receive such a distinction.
- Major Frederick Lawrence Wall, Australian Army Medical Corps, served in France during WWI.
- (Ben F Ellis)Georgia recipient for gallant and heroic action in battle.
- General Dragoljub Mihailovic Serbian Chetnik leader, awarded by Charles de Gaulle during World War II.
- George S. Patton U.S. Army general during World War II. Awarded for leading U.S. Third Army during the liberation of France.
- Jan Smuts South African Prime Minister during World War II.
- 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.
- 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.
- William Birdwood was awarded 1st Croix de Guerre on 22 February 1916 by the French President, the 2nd by HM the King of Belgium on 11 March 1918.
- 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.
- Sir Norman Stronge, 8th Baronet was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
- Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Melbourne and later Prime Minister of Australia, during the First World War in 1917.
- Frederick Walker Castle, U.S. Army Air Forces general and posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor
- 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.
- Jean Mayer, future president of Tufts University, awarded for his courage and bravery during World War II.
- 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 War II.
- George Reginald Starr, Special Operations Executive during World War II
- F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas, member of RF Section of the Special Operations Executive during World War II. He was an SOE 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.
- Isabel Weld Perkins was awarded the Croix de Guerre for red Cross volunteer work during World War I.
- Henry Lincoln Johnson, African-American awarded the Croix de Guerre during World War I.
- William March, American writer, awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm during World War I.
- 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.
- Samuel Beckett was awarded the Croix de Guerre by Gen. Charles de Gaulle in March, 1945.
- Frantz Fanon was awarded the French Croix de Guerre by Raoul Salan for service in the French Free Forces in North Africa and Alsace.
- Curtis E. LeMay, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with palm; Belgium Croix de Guerre with palm.
- Jimmy 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.
- Josephine Baker, American-born dancer, actress, and singer, for her work in the French Resistance during World War II.
- Robert Rosenthal of the Eighth Air Force of the USAF in World War II.
- Joseph Edny Powell was 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 Hindenberg Line in September, 1918.
- Guy de Rothschild was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his military valor during World War II.
- Philippe de Rothschild was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his service with the Free French Forces during World War II.
- Laurence Stallings, American writer, awarded the Croix de Guerre during World War I.
- Alvin C. York was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palme en bronze for his valor in the Battle of Meuse River-Argonne Forest near the town of Verdun, France during World War I.
- 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.
- Col. David E. Pergrin was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his help in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
- John Howard (American actor) was 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 sailors.
- Władysław Anders Polish General, commander of the 2nd Polish Corps 1943-1946.
- Avery Robert Cardinal Dulles, S.J. was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his liaison work with the French navy during World War II.
- Nancy Wake of the Special Operations Executive was the highest decorated Allied servicewoman of World War II. Awarded the Croix de Guerre three times for service with the French maquis.
- 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.
- Carl Gustav Fleischer, Norwegian General who won the first major victory against the Germans in World War II.
- George L. Fox, 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. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his service on the Western Front during World War I.
- 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.
- Abbé Pierre (1912-2007) French priest and founder of Emmaus
- Hobey Baker, an American fighter pilot in World War I.
- 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 Special Operations Executive (SOE).
- Vera Atkins, part of the French section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lesie R. Taber, An American pilot in the Laffeyette 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.
- 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.